This week the readings from Spence cover a number of seismic events destroying old institutions and customs in society while laying the groundwork for new modern forms of politics, culture, and social relations including party-building and mass mobilization, anti-imperialism grounded in anarchism, communism, and feminism, and an ambivalent (love-hate relationship) with western culture, fashions, and commodities by Chinese youth.
For this week’s forum, I want you to think about this period of history in very personal terms. If you were a student in China during the May 4th and New Cultural Movement, which thinker or ideas do you imagine would have had the greatest impact on you?
Would you have gravitated toward Yan Fu or Liang Qichao in their search to borrow or translate ideas from around the world to strengthen China while preserving a space for tradition and unity?
Do you think you might have fallen in with Li Dazhao or Chen Duxiu—focusing on magazines, literary groups, and the study of the nation’s ills via theory, turning to communism as a framework for charting China’s fall into humiliation and road to recovery and modernity?
Or do you see yourself aligning with Lu Xun in his veiled anger at the shackles of Chinese traditional thought, social relations, customs while remaining skeptical of the promises made by modernization to end inequality, human cruelty, and immorality?
Perhaps you might have drifted toward the various feminist ideas circling society articulated by a young Mao Zedong, Qiu Jin, Lu Xun, and the audiences rushing to see Ibsen’s A Doll House, excited by ideas about female emancipation in the form of equal pay, education, and the end of arranged marriages and foot-binding.
Feel free to choose other authors, figures, and ideas not listed here, but please detail both why your choice and your thoughts as to why these forces became prevalent intellectual currents during this period in Chinese history.