Chinese Studies


The May Fourth Movement in the Press, 1919-1979

The spirit of the May Fourth movement of 1919 inspired following generations and was repetitiously used in relation to contemporary affairs. With its wide spectrum of themes, May Fourth can serve a kind of tool kit for many purposes. In 1920, commentators observed that the boycott of Japanese goods did not have an impact at all - mostly because foreign goods were always cheaper than Chinese ones. The preoccupation with May Fourth was also not universally positive. Wang Xizeng 王希曾 (in Zhongguo pinglun 中國評論) blamed in 1925 young people of "having transmuted into foreigners" and leaving China instead of dedicating their efforts to the building of the nation. China had not left the vicious circle of "palaver-travel-fighting" (Yi Jin 益噤 in Jingbao fukan 京報副刊 1925). Moreover, some potentates abused the goodwill of students for their purposes (Hu Sheng 互生 in Lida 立達 1925). Only the "revolutionary parties" (Guomindang and CPCh) would be able to revive and organize the spirit of May Fourth because students and professors, formerly fighting for freedom, had become loyal servants of the powers (Chen 辰 in Biance zhoukan 鞭策周刊 1932). While one group of thinkers voted from 1935 on for a "second or new May Fourth", others followed Chiang Kai-shek's New Life Movement and argued for a popularization of virtue and propriety to overcome the spiritual decadence having evolved after May Fourth (Xue Kang 學康 in Beifang gonglun 北方公論 1934).
The movement of "Criticize Confucius and Lin Biao" in 1974 'abused' May Fourth by hailing the Red Guards as proponents of the fight against bourgeois tradition. In 1979, May Fourth was used in propagandistic efforts against the "eight-legged essay of the Gang of Four" (Bang bagu 帮八股) and their practice of "transforming Marxist science into superstition". In the same year, the idea of the Four Modernizations was interpreted as a continuance of May Fourth, and their realization was symbolically laid into the hands of the youth. It can be observed that the terms "science" and "democracy", both having been buzzwords of May Fourth, skyrocketed in titles of journal articles during the late 1970s.

Demobilization Discourse and Practice 1912-1924

During the Yuan Shikai era, "demobilization" was mainly an instrument of Yuan to strengthen his own base of power, the Beiyang Army, while reducing the strength and fighting power of his opponents, the revolutionary armies supporting the Guomindang and the Republican idea in general. In early 1912, only ten per cent of troops had belonged to the Beiyang Army, in 1913, it was half. For this purpose, Yuan even obtained a "demobilization credit" (shanhou jiekuan 善後借款) of 20 million silver dollars from a foreign bank consortium. Yet there were also military units successfully resisting Yuan's attempts at usurping their command structure by his men, like in Sichuan. Of particular interest for politicians and the public as well was the institution of provincial military governor. Widely identified as the root of the evil of warlordism, military governors became after 1920 increasingly the target of open critique by business organizations. The military, they claimed, obstructed free trade and "abused" the taxes enterprises had to pay by "giving back guns for taking taxes". Appeals to boycot the payment of business tax or to deliver goods altogether (kangjuan bashi 抗捐罷市) were widespread. As an alternative for continuing military campaigns, the Shanghai businessmen offered to hire demobilized soldiers as workers (hua bing wei gong 化兵為工) - perhaps with the hidden agenda that greater human resource would effectively lower labour cost.

Military Reform in Tibet 1793

The invasion of the Nepalese Gurkha army of Tibet in 1788 and in 1791 again pointed out that there were critical defects in the military system of Tibet. The military restructuring of Tibet 1793 by the "Imperially Endorsed Twenty-Nine Statutes for the Internal Post-War Arrangements of Tibet" (Qinding Zangnei shanhou zhangcheng ershijiu tiao 欽定藏內善後章程二十九條) overhauling the Tibetan military system for an effective defence of borders. These measures were accompanied by a fundamental change in military culture in Tibet and saved the Qing government organisational and financial efforts. The 'undermilitarisation' of Tibet was converted into a military system with a small, but effective professional army standing under the command of the Tibetan central government. Thereafter, soldiers received regular and decent payment, carried out training, and were a body of troops with clear command structures. Their mission was to defend Tibet against future foreign intrusions.