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May Fourth Movement

May Fourth Movement (1919), first mass movement in modern Chinese history. On May 4, about 5,000 university students in Beijing protested the Versailles Conference (Apr. 28, 1919) awarding Japan the former German leasehold of Kiaochow (Jiaozhou), Shandong prov. Demonstrations and strikes spread to Shanghai, and a nationwide boycott of Japanese goods followed. The May Fourth Movement began a patriotic outburst of new urban intellectuals against foreign imperialists and warlords. Intellectuals identified the political establishment with China's failure in the modern era, and hundreds of new periodicals published attacks on Chinese traditions, turning to foreign ideas and ideologies. The movement split into leftist and liberal wings. The latter advocated gradual cultural reform as exemplified by Hu Shih who interpreted the pragmatism of John Dewey, while leftists like Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao introduced Marxism and advocated political action. The movement also popularized vernacular literature, promoted political participation by women, and educational reforms.

See Hu Shih, The Chinese Renaissance (2d ed. 1964); V. Schwarcz, Chinese Enlightenment Intellectuals and the Legacy of the May 4th Movement of 1919 (1986).

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