Essay on the May 4th Movement
Geoffrey Lee 6. 16 Macedonia History Essay To what extent do you agree with the assertion that May 4th 1919 was one of the most significant dates in Chinese history. The May 4th movement in 1919 was a significant date in Chinese history to a very large extent. This essay will attempt to justify this claim by explaining the short-term effects of the M4M and more importantly the long-term effects. The year 1919 is a significant year as it was the year right after World War 1 (WW1) had ended; hence many war-settlement treaties were signed. One of these would be the Treaty of Versailles (TOV) which involved China.
The M4M was a movement that had begun from the rise of sentiments of democracy and nationalism. Previously, China had been ruled by a single ruler where traditional culture and Confucianism dominated the nation. However after WW1 and the influx of western ideas and ideologies, thus many youth in China begin to call for a demolition of the previous culture and Confucianism, and to replace it with a new culture and direction. This movement was headed by large forms of mass advertising through the use of the New Youth and many other magazines.
This increase of national sentiments led to the Chinese demanding that their government to oppose the Japanese 21 demands on Yuan Shikai’s government and it also saw the emergence of the new merchants and labour class. With all these demonstrations and national sentiments, China was in a period of disorder and lawlessness, which was similar to that during the warlord era in the 1800s. In the short-term, the M4M was a significant date in Chinese history to a small extent as it resulted in many strikes and demonstrations throughout China to occur.
Students demonstrated in the capital of Beijing while many other occupants such as shopkeepers, industrial workers and other urban employees joined in the strikes and demonstrated in other key cities in China such as in Shanghai. The demonstration also saw a nationwide boycott of Japanese goods in an attempt to show Yuan Shikai to reject the Japanese demands to make China a Japanese protectorate. Also, the government of China was forced into rejecting the terms of the TOV which angered the West. This resulted in massive violence throughout the nation which did the
Chinese no good and it aggravated ties between China and the West. In the long-term, the M4M was a significant date in Chinese history to a very large extent as it resulted not only in many cultural changes, but most importantly; it changed the political scene in China. The M4M gave birth to political activism where the people called for the end of a single ruler, but instead to have a democratic government. This surge of political activism was propelled by the education of the youths who believed that they would transform China.
The youths emphasized heavily on the destruction of China’s traditional culture which was based on Confucianism, and they assumed that Western thought and civilisation was the way forward. This led to the reorganisation of the Guomindang (GMD) which saw Sun Yatsen calling on the Soviet Union. This also led to the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP was founded as a result of the increased appeal of Marxism-Leninism, which proved to be very successful in the Soviet Union.
These 2 political groups would later take over the whole of the Chinese political scene and would later oppose one another in their attempt to dominate the Chinese government, which would result in massive killings of one another. However these 2 parties would combine forces during the World War 2 (WW2) period to fight off the Japanese imperialism which ensured that China would not fall into the hands of the Japanese. Hence this proved that the M4M was indeed a significant date in the history of China to the largest extent.
In conclusion, it can be agreed that the M4M was one of the most significant dates in the history of China simply due to the fact that it was through the M4M that both the GMD underwent a massive reform, and at the same time, the birth of the CCP was witnessed. The combination of these 2 factors proved to be significant as without the formation of either party, China would have suffered much more detrimentally in WW2 as it was only through the surge of nationalism of the Chinese, and the combined forces of the GMD and the CCO that China managed to fight off the Japanese.