91 years ago today (May 4, 1919), students demonstrated in Beijing, protesting the shameful treatment of China by foreign powers, and the weak response of the Chinese government. Hence was born the May 4 Movement. The immediate cause that brought 3,000 students to Tiananmen was an agreement among the so called Allied Powers (Britain, France, USA, Italy and Japan) to transfer the German rights in Shangdong Province to Japan.
Consider this: a large number of countries owned very large chunks of land and assorted rights in China. And they traded these “rights” among themselves as if these were their properties. That was a good indicator of how weak China was.
Ultimately, we cannot stop other countries from exploiting us if we are so messed up ourselves. The students realized that as well. In a broad sense, the May 4 Movement strove to strengthen China through the paths of science and democracy. In this sense, we are still very far from achieving the twin goals.
Cai Yuanpei’s (蔡元培) tomb at Aberdeen Cemetery is an apt reminder of that.