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The May Fourth Movement

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the upheaval in China in 1919 after humiliation in the Versailles Treaty and the sharing of ideas that led to the foundation of the Communist Party.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the violent protests in China on 4th May 1919 over the nation's humiliation in the Versailles Treaty after World War One. China had supported the Allies, sending workers to dig trenches, and expected to regain the German colonies on its territory, but the Allies and China's leaders chose to give that land to Japan instead. To protestors, this was a travesty and reflected much that was wrong with China, with its corrupt leaders, division by warlords, weakness before Imperial Europe and outdated ideas and values. The movement around 4th May has since been seen as a watershed in China’s development in the 20th century, not least as some of those connected with the movement went on to found the Communist Party of China a few years later.

The image above is of students from Peking University marching with banners during the May Fourth demonstrations in 1919.


Rana Mitter
Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford

Elisabeth Forster
Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Southampton


Song-Chuan Chen
Associate Professor in History at the University of Warwick

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

53 minutes

Last on

Thu 9 Dec 2021 21:30



Rana Mitter at the University of Oxford

Song-Chuan Chen at the University of Warwick

Elisabeth Forster at the University of Southampton


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Eva Shan Chou, ‘Learning to Read Lu Xun, 1918-1923: The Emergence of a Readership’ (The China Quarterly 172, 2002)

Tse-tsung Chow, The May Fourth Movement: Intellectual Revolution in Modern China (Harvard University Press, 1960)

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Vera Schwarcz, The Chinese Enlightenment: Intellectuals and the Legacy of the May Fourth Movement of 1919 (University of California Press, 1986)

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Jonathan D. Spence, The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution, 1895-1980 (Viking Press, 1981)

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Wen-hsin Yeh, Provincial Passages: Culture, Space, and the Origins of Chinese Communism (University of California Press, 1996)

Wen-hsin Yeh, The Alienated Academy: Culture and Politics in Republican China, 1919-1937 (Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1990)


May Fourth Movement – Wikipedia


  • Thu 9 Dec 2021 09:00
  • Thu 9 Dec 2021 21:30

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