A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World (Making of the Modern World)
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In this powerful new look at modern China, Rana Mitter goes back to a pivotal moment in Chinese history to uncover the origins of the painful transition from pre-modern to modern. Mitter identifies May 4, 1919, as the defining moment of China's twentieth-century history. On that day, outrage over the Paris peace conference triggered a vast student protest that led in turn to "the May Fourth Movement." Just seven years before, the 2,000-year-old imperial system had collapsed. Now a new group of urban, modernizing thinkers began to reject Confucianism and traditional culture in general as hindrances in the fight against imperialism, warlordism, and the oppression of women and the poor. Forward-looking, individualistic, and embracing youth, this "New Culture movement" made a lasting impact on the critical decades that followed. Throughout each of the dramatically different eras that followed, the May 4 themes persisted, from the insanity of the Cultural Revolution to China's recent romance with space-age technology.
not understand what happened there in the past. Anyone who reads a newspaper will see that Chinese politicians are acutely conscious of their own history. The Communist leadership greeted the return of Hong Kong in as the ending of years of imperialist aggression in China; the Tian’anmen Square demonstrators compared themselves with students who had protested in that same spot years previously. This book starts with x one brief moment in Chinese history, a
nationalists such as Sun Yatsen. When Yuan Shikai seized control of the new republic, Sun fled to Japan. In Sun returned to regather his shattered Nationalist Party in the southern city of Canton. During a speech given in Shanghai that year, Sun declared: ‘If we want the Republic to be solid, we must first build its foundation. We need not look abroad for this foundation; we should seek it in the hearts of all the people of the nation.’47 Yet the future of Sun’s project looked bleak at that
inspired foreigner and Chinese alike with their visions of a young city in a hurry. Skyscrapers appeared in Shanghai earlier than anywhere else in China, along with the neon lights which the novelist Mao Dun incorporated on the first page of his novel Midnight to give the flavour of Shanghai in what he called a ‘Romance of China in ’. Near the start of the novel, one character, an old man being driven through the centre of the city in a ‘-model Citroen’ is increasingly startled by what he
Japan had made religious ritual an integral part of its nationalism, women were not declared equal under the Meiji constitution (unlike Turkish women, who could vote and be elected in the s, Japanese women had to wait until the American Occupation in to get the vote), and a remodelled version of the Japanese imperial past was embraced, not rejected, by the state. In other ways, too, the vision of Chinese nationalists such as Sun Yatsen was more like that of Kemal than Japan. In
news of the May Fourth events led to demonstrations, protests, and boycotts all across China’s cities, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Harbin among them. Yet the Beijing demonstrations which began at the Tian’anmen gate retained a particular significance and prestige, and the date May has a cultural resonance for educated Chinese that has lasted for the best part of a century. It was no coincidence that students and workers were gathered before the same gate years later on May , their