Friday, 4 May 2012

Has China changed after May Fourth Movement?

Yes and no. Today is May 4.  In 1919, the student movement in Peking (Beijing) had helped to change modern China in many ways: political, social, cultural and even the government. For more information, please visit

However, as compared to more than 5,000 years of Chinese history, what are the real significant changes over the past 100 years after the fall of Qing dynasty. From dynasty to no dynasty, from one man rule to one party rule, what really have changed?

Many attribute the Chinese achievement to economic development. For this, we are only looking at the recent history.  China is now the number two economy in the world. Not to forget, she used to be number one for several hundred if not thousand years in history.  Even the military weak Song dynasty, its economy could be as big as one-third of the world economy.

This is why people mentioned (and emphasised) about the Chinese century in 21st century.  If history is to repeat itself, then not only China will be number one economy in the world, a substantial percentage of world economic activities will also in the hand of Chinese.  No wonder Obama has to adopt practical diplomacy towards China. 

To have a better understanding of Chinese civilisation and achievements in the past, you may visit the following website for a 10-part series that took 8 years to produce.   

Economic performance is the most important and significant KPI for China so far.  Besides economy, it seems there is nothing China can show off to the world. However, based on historical data, China has a huge potential to grow and has many unexposed values.  It is an under value ‘share’ and commends a potential growth that is beyond our imagination, especially as suggested by Wen Jia Bao - economic restructure has to come with political restructure.

To China as a whole, the past 100 years as compared to Chinese history, the achievements so far are not that fantastic after all.  The political development has not achieved any breakthrough.  Even though one man rule has gone, the DNA of this practise still remains as the case of Bo Xilai and many others. Corruptions, suppression, inequality, cultural achievements and many other developments are no better than before.  It is not the golden era of China.

Chinese are used to be proud of their culture, literature, arts and music. However, we don’t see great writers, artists, or musicians after 1949. There were some famous ones in the first half of last century.  However, comparing to those great writers, artists, and even scientists, the last century as well as the 19th century were really the dark days in Chinese history.              

Ironically, Chinese believe in the turn of fortune(风水轮流转).  If you are down by 200 years, then you will be up for the next 200 years. That is why even fenshui also predicts the coming of Chinese century.

On the positive and optimistic side, China will under go changes. Change and adoption of changes, comprises are part of the Chinese philosophy and history. Politically, after so many bad practises of the Communists’ Party, it will be hard for Chinese people to see the same CPC again. We have seen in Taiwan the changes of the Nationalists. Perhaps, Taiwan can serve as a mirror to China – a step to modern China.

Many of the officials and party leaders in China today have power and authority even more than that of Qing and other dynasties and their ethics, however, is much worst and lower.  This certainly is not the condition for a golden era of China.  Chinese, inside and outside of China, are witnessing this and demand a change openly or quietly.  

May Fourth is also a new cultural movement.
Unfortunately, we see only the destruction caused by the Cultural Revolution. The introduction of simplified Chinese and Hanyu Pinyin may have helped more people to learn Chinese but it also creates a distance from learning the ancient wisdom. And the Confucius Institute has yet to produce any significant result.

Judging from the historical perspective, the current achievements of China or the ruling CPC is normal.  The country (not necessary the party) is on course towards a better tomorrow.  It may face another setback, like June 4, or cultural revolution, but the long term perspective is still positive. 

In years to come, the new norm for China is to see more and more achievements and influences in cultural, social, economic and even political developments.

The May Fourth Movement is just a beginning of a long march – in Chinese history we may not see significant changes in 100 years. But how many of us can live more than 100 years!  For this to happen, we will have to born at the right time. (生要逢时)

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