China and Inner Asia
In his seminal 1940 essay “On New Democracy,” Mao Zedong proclaimed, “since the May Fourth Movement things have been different.” Indeed, throughout the century since the demonstrations on 4 May 1919 historians have treated May Fourth and the New Culture Movement with which it is associated as a watershed in the history of Modern China. For Mao the movement’s primary significance lay in paving the road to Communism, but the significance of May Fourth has always been contested. Historians and politicians have assigned the movement a variety of meanings, from cultural renaissance to patriotic awakening, from the advent of Marxism to the celebration of liberalism. On the centenary of the Movement this panel proposes to reflect on its historical and symbolic significance in light of recent research and the ever-changing ways it has been commemorated. Questions we wish to address include: May Fourth as an object of discourse and its historiography (Wen-hsin Yeh); geographical aspects of the movement; the movement as accelerating the formation of new institutions such as the press (Timothy Weston); May Fourth in a trans-national context (Shakhar Rahav); the legacy of the movement for youth activism in the 1920s and beyond (Li Zhiyu); and the movement’s significance in light of China’s vying for global leadership in the twenty-first century (Selena Orly). To address these subjects our roundtable brings together scholars of diverse national background and reaching across different generations, from senior to junior scholars.