May 4th Movement- Another Tian An Men Event of Great Significance

This is my last Tian An Men post this week.  Students, led by Beijing University students,  organized mass protests against the Treaty of Versailles in Tian An Men on May 4th, 1919.  Students and intellectuals were angered that China had been ignored at Versailles and taken Shandong from Germany and given it to Japan.

picture and story from Wikipedia

Thr movement emphasized Democracy and Science as opposed to Confucianism which they blamed for Chinese weakness.  It was a movement to choose to learn from the West. They also burned the residence of one of the Chinese negotiators at Versailles and Japanese products.

Imperial Examination System

Previously, China abolished the Imperial Examination System on Sept 2d, 1905.  This very narrow test which people studied for 20-30 years to try to be an official contributed to a narrow culture that made China unable to succeed in the modern world.

Qing Hua and Other Universities Started

The decision to abolish led to emphasis on developing a Western University System including many fledgling Universities like Beijing University. The US Goverment then put Boxer Rebellion funds toward building a University in China which is called Qing Hua University ,established in 1911.

The May 4th movement was a next step.  However, many leaders pushed back against this idea to learn from the West.  Chiang Kai-Shek emphasized Chinese methods and ways and pushed against the May 4th movement. Chairman Mao was more Nationalist than Communist and fought against Westernization though accepted the Western idea of Communism but only in a thoroughly Chinese way. He criticized those who could only parrot what the West had done.  He did love to destroy the old which made space for us today.

The May 4th Movement was an effort to move China closer to the West, so they could escape humiliation.

Without the May 4th Movement,  the gap between China and the West would be much higher.   The gap between China and the West is still great, but we can talk.

Some of us feel China next needs to abolish the National University Entrance Exam. It similarly has huge emphasis on memorization and does not develop critical thinking or the individual.  (This is not to say that the U.S.  SAT/ACT system is without fault.)

So the May4th movement still is not complete in China.  China will never be American, but it could be more open in the way it views the world which would bring them closer to us.  We actually should learn from them.   Then, we will not lose the good in China in the process.


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