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May Fourth Movement's legacy still inspires the nation's youth

By Zou Shuo | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-06 08:52
Students from Peking University recite the joining oath of the Communist Youth League of China in front of the New Culture Movement Memorial of Beijing on Saturday to mark the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement.ZHU XINGXIN/CHINA DAILY

This year marks the 100th anniversary of an anti-imperialist, cultural and political movement which originated in a series of student protests in Beijing. Zou Shuo reports.

On May 4, 1919, thousands of students gathered in Tian'anmen Square, Beijing to defend the nation's sovereignty and criticize China's representatives at the Versailles Peace Conference in Paris, who many people regarded as traitors.

Despite being one of the victorious nations of World War I, China's demands for reparations were rejected by the conference. Instead, the peace treaty gave Japan sovereignty over formerly German-occupied territories in Shandong province, which China believed should have been returned as part of the post-war settlement.

The protests, which involved both intellectuals and the working classes, spread rapidly across China. The depth of feeling generated by the May Fourth Movement forced the government to acknowledge the widespread grievances and prompted its refusal to sign the Treaty of Versailles.

The movement was a turning point in China's post-imperial transformation, representing a significant rise in nationalist sentiment and leading to the birth of a new intellectual class.

Marxist thought, introduced by the intelligentsia and widely discussed in newspapers, and the ideas that emerged from the May Fourth Movement set the stage for the founding of the Communist Party of China in 1921.

The movement's legacy-patriotism, a progressive mindset and a belief in democracy and science-has been passed down for 100 years.

In a keynote speech delivered at a ceremony on Tuesday to reflect on the centenary of the May Fourth Movement, President Xi Jinping called on China's young people to uphold Marxist beliefs, follow the Party's leadership and devote themselves to the nation and the people.

Xi said the themes, direction and mission of the youth movement and young people in general must focus on upholding the CPC's leadership and working to realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.

He encouraged them to work hard to achieve both their own dreams and national rejuvenation. Despite higher living standards than at any time in the past, the nation's young people should not reject the good tradition of hard work, he said.

Here, we profile three young people who have inherited the legacy of the May Fourth Movement and had a major influence on their classmates, friends and the wider community.

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