China and Inner Asia
Over the past century, the legacy of May Fourth Movement has been debated and contested, appropriated and reevaluated in different historical and political contexts for various reasons and purposes. As one of the most decisive socio-political movements that shaped the history of modern China, the discourses as well as practices of May Fourth intellectuals have inspired generations of writers and activists to inquire their own past and future. But what does it mean to talk about the “May Fourth” in the twentieth-first century? How do the intellectual upheaval and literary revolution in the May Fourth period help us reflect on our reality and contemporary cultural politics, and initiate new dialogues among scholarly communities across disciplines? In particular, how do we make sense of and re-evaluate the conservative and reactionary voices that were often neglected in this movement that tends to emphasize the idea of progression and development? We invite the participants and audiences of this roundtable to re-contextualize and re-historicize May Fourth to reveal its contemporary and cosmopolitan significance.
Chih-ping Chou opens up the discussion by historicizing some of the key debates concerning the historical interpretations of May Fourth by foregrounding it as a site of political contestation between the Nationalist and Communist. Guy Alitto explores the historiographic conflation of the New Culture and the May Fourth Movement, discussing the dilemma of Chinese intellectuals at the time with regard to choosing their cultural stances. Daniel Fried, instead of focusing on the radicalism in the May Fourth period, draws our attention to the cultural conservatism and traditionalism at that time by highlighting the Critical Review(Xueheng) writers who rivaled with the more-known New Youth(Xin qingnian) ones. Zou Xin compares John Dewey’s and Hu Shi’s interpretations of May Fourth Movement to demonstrate how the boundary between the cultural and political was contested and why it is an issue that merits further investigation. Carlos Yu-Kai Lin highlights the role of English in facilitating the rise of May Fourth literary revolution and proposes the concept of Sinophone May Fourth to situate the studies of modern China in a transnational context.