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Written by (作者): Vincent R. Vinci 魏文深

 

“The May 4th Movement”, the name for the protests in Beijing against the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on May 4th, 1919 and its encompassing of the New Culture Movement, is often citied as one of the most influential?cultural and political movements of modern China. The movement, which challenged traditional Chinese Confucianism and values as detrimental to progress, opened the doors to diverse social and political ideologies to?take root, including anarchism and, more significantly, communism. Even though the movement was criticized and eventually squashed by the Nationalist Party’s New Life Movement, its roots had taken hold and contributed to the China we know today.

Following the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 and the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the Republic of China was formally established under the presidency of Yuan Shikai in 1912. After taking office however, Yuan proclaimed?himself Emperor of China and established his seat of power in Beijing. This sparked off a power struggle across China between various warlords who had taken control of large swaths of China and continually tried to encroach on their rivals’ territory. Furthermore, the ruling government under Yuan, the Beiyang, was primarily concerned?with domestic affairs, which allowed foreign powers to maintain their spheres of influence across the country. This set off a storm of criticism throughout China, primarily focused on traditional culture and the backward ideas?of Confucianism, which were blamed for the sorry state of the nation’s affairs.

The Shandong Problem & Protests

Criticism of China’s handling of external affairs and the country’s place in the world took hold as early as 1915 thanks to the New Culture Movement, as students and intellectuals across the country turned to new magazines like New Youth, published by future Chinese Communist Party (CCP) founder Chen Duxiu, and began to formulate a push towards social and political reform including the abandonment of Confucianism and other traditional practices. This push came to fruition following World War I. China had entered the war on the side of the Allies in 1917 under the promise that Shandong, then controlled by Germany, would be returned to China at the end of the war. When China attended the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 though, their demands were ignored and the Western powers decided to transfer control of Shandong to Japan.

On the morning of May 4th, 1919, over 3,000 students from 13 universities around Beijing marched on Tian’anmen, demanding the resignation of pro-Japanese officials, for the government to refrain from signing the Treaty of Versailles, and for a boycott of Japanese goods. Protests and boycotts spread throughout the country, which culminated with a general strike by businesses in Shanghai on June 5th, which nearly led to the collapse?of the Chinese economy. The government eventually gave in to the movement’s demands, dismissing pro-Japanese officials, reorganizing the cabinet, and refraining from signing the treaty.

Even though Japan did gain control of the Shandong Peninsula, the fact that the government didn’t sign the Treaty of Versailles was seen as a symbolic victory for the May 4th Movement, which led to a surge in its progress with the publication of over 400 periodicals focused on Western ideas, thought, reform, and a spread of the ideas of the New Culture Movement throughout the country.

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Birth of New Ideas

The spread of the May 4th Movement, which had grown to encompass the New Culture Movement, led to what has been referred to by scholars as a “Chinese Renaissance” during which there was an increase in scientific experimentation and studies as well as a spread of Western philosophical, social, and political thought. There were also an evolution in Chinese writing, which began to use more vernacular language – pioneered by Chinese writer Lu Xun – a shunning of patriarchal family structures in favor of more freedom and women’s rights, and even changes in journalism, which was changed to meet international standards.

Most significant in these changes was the spread of diverse political ideologies, including democracy, republicanism, anarchism, and socialism. The acceptance of these new ideologies soon led to the founding of the CCP in Shanghai in 1921. This ideological shift towards more leftist movements such as socialism was in part due to the perceived weakness of capitalist democratic governments, particularly the United States. When the other Western powers were able to dissuade the U.S. from its Fourteen Points at the Versailles Peace Conference, the Chinese saw this as a weakness in republican democracy, leading towards more people to accept far left ideologies as the answer to China’s woes.

Resistance & The New Life Movement

While new ideas and ways of thinking were widely accepted across China, with Western literature and thought even gaining ground in Chinese institutions of higher learning, there was much resistance from within the?Nationalist Party and from conservative critics. Chiang Kai-shek, who would come to power within the KMT in 1925 and who was a strong Confucianist and skeptical of Western thought and philosophy, denounced the May 4th Movement for its leftist ideas, seeing its acceptance of ideologies like communism as a genuine threat to Nationalist control. Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Xinhai Revolution, was also critical of the movement, saying it was demoralizing Chinese youth.

The Nationalists’ resistance to the May Fourth Movement culminated with 1934’s New Life Movement, which mainly aimed to debase growing factionalism and weaken the growing influence of the CCP by introducing?new and strict codes for living based upon Confucianism and authoritarianism. Namely, “four virtues” for guidance in daily life were introduced – li [ritual/decorum], yi [righteousness or duty], lian [integrity or honesty], and chi [sense of shame]. The four virtues encouraged good interactions with neighbors, following the rules and laws of the government, and smaller things like not littering, conserving energy, taking part in healthy activities – like athletics – over unhealthy vices and so on.

This attempt to distance the nation from its move towards communism was a complete failure. The strength and clear direction of the May Fourth Movement and, later, the CCP, was completely absent from the abstract moral rules of the New Life Movement. Even Western powers questioned its legitimacy, seeing moral reform as no substitute for political reform. Eventually, the movement was scrapped during the height of the Chinese Civil War. The seeds planted by the New Culture and May Fourth Movement had taken root and out of them had sprouted the flowers of communism, a new direction for China.

 

五四运动是1919年5月4日发生在北京的反对北洋军阀政府签订《凡尔赛合约》的爱国主义运动,通常与之后的新文化运动并称为中国近现代最具影响力的文化和政治运动之一。这场向中国传统儒家思想以及封建价值体系发起挑战的运动为多元社会和政治意识形态的诞生奠定了基础,包括无政府主义和更具重要意义的共产主义。虽然五四运动受到了批判并最终遭到国民党新生活运动的颠覆,但是这场运动为中国做出了巨大的贡献,已植根于人心。

随着1911年辛亥革命的爆发和清朝的覆灭,中华民国正式成立。袁世凯于1912年当选为首任中华民国大总统,他复辟称帝,改国号为中华帝国,将首都迁至北京。这引发了各地军阀之间的权利斗争,他们只想着如何保护自己的控制区或者扩大势力范围,袁世凯统治之下的北洋政府也只关心内部矛盾,而允许外国列强保留在中国的势力范围。此种局面引起了全国范围内主要针对传统文化和儒家落后思想的批判风潮,将它们视为导致腐朽内政的原因。

山东问题和抗议

其实早在1915年,新文化运动就已经在中国掀起了一场针对外交和国际地位的批评运动。全国各地的学生和知识分子受到如中共创始人陈独秀创办的《新青年》等进步杂志的影响,开始采取一系列推动社会和政治改革的措施,包括废弃儒家思想以及其他旧道德。这场运动在一战后走向成熟。1917年,在战后恢复山东主权的约定下,中国加入协约国参战。然而,在凡尔赛战后和平会议上,这一要求却被否决,西方列强将德国在山东攫取的一切权益转交日本接管。

1 9 1 9 年5月4日清晨,北京十几所学校3000余名学生向天安门广场行进,要求政府惩办亲日派官僚,拒绝在巴黎和约上签字,联合抵制日货,并逐渐演变为全民运动。1919年6月5日,上海工人开始大规模罢工,把这场运动推向高潮,中国经济几乎陷入瘫痪。在强大压力下,北京政府被迫罢免亲日派官僚的职务,重组内政,中国代表也没有在和约上签字。

虽然日本取得了山东半岛的控制权,但是中国代表团终究没有在《凡尔赛合约》上签字,标志着五四运动的最终胜利。400多种传播西方思想的刊物如雨后春笋般涌现,新文化运动的思潮席卷全国。

新思潮的兴起

五四运动的思潮贯穿于整个新文化运动中,被学者们称为“中国的文艺复兴”。在此期间,中国的知识分子宣扬科学实验和研究,传播西方哲学、社会和政治思想。新文化运动还推动了白话文写作;反对父权、倡导自由和女权思想。这个时期,新闻报刊业也有所改变,达到了国际标准。

最重要的变化则是多元政治思想的传播,包括民主主义、共和主义、无政府主义和社会主义。这些新的政治思想被接纳之后,很快就促成了1921年中国共产党在上海的成立。由于资产阶级的民主政府存在明显的缺点,尤其是在美国,新的思想更趋向于左派运动,比如社会主义。当其他西方列强劝阻美国实施“十四点”原则时,中国将它看作是民主共和制度的缺陷,致使越来越多的人把共产主义视为中国未来的出路。

抵制和新生活运动

当新思潮和思维方式在中国被广泛接受,西方文学和思想甚至在中国高等院校获得一席之位时,却遭到了国民党和保守派评论家的抵制。1925年,蒋介石当选为中国国民党主席,他非常尊崇儒家思想,对西方思想和哲学持怀疑态度,谴责五四运动的左倾思想,把对诸如共产主义思想的接纳看作是对国民党统治的真正威胁。辛亥革命之父孙中山也对这场运动持批评态度,认为它会让中国青年堕落。

国民党对五四运动的抵制在1934年的新生活运动中达到巅峰,这场运动的主要目的在于通过引进新的、严格的、基于儒家思想和独裁主义的生活准则,削弱日渐激烈的党派之争和日益强大的中国共产党。也就是,将“礼义廉耻”(四维)作为日常生活指南,鼓励人们与邻居建立良好的人际关系,遵守政府的法律法规,还涉及到生活的细节,例如不乱扔垃圾、节约能源、参加体育运动等健康活动以及革除不健康的恶习等等。

这场试图让国家与共产主义背道而驰的运动无疾而终。五四运动以及此后建立的中国共产党的精神力量和明确方向是新生活运动的抽象道德规范所无法比拟的。甚至连西方国家都质疑新生活运动的合法性,认为道德改革无法替代政治改革。最终,在中国内战白热化期间,这场运动也宣告结束。新文化运动和五四运动的种子已经生根,并且开出了共产主义之花,从此成为中国的新方向。

 

Photo Credit | 图片来源:?wais.springbranchisd.com, datuopinion.com

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