Chapter 5 Hu Shi and the May Fourth Legacy

In: Remembering May Fourth
  • 1 City University of Hong Kong
  • | 2 University of Pennsylvania

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Abstract

Among the leaders of the May Fourth Movement, Hu Shi was the one who was most aware of the movement’s historical significance. His emphasis, moreover, was not just on China, but the modern world led by the West, in which China was a junior but avid member. At his brief radical swing to the right in 1926 and 1927, he rhapsodized on the May Fourth Movement’s turn to politics and party discipline under the aegis of the Soviet Union and the Third International. As he turned conservative in the early 1930s, he reverted to his earlier position by emphasizing individualism and referred to the movement as a watershed that separates China’s “Victorian Age” from its “Age of Collectivism.” Toward the end of his life, he lamented that the meaning of this movement was hijacked by cunning and ruthless political parties. The fact that Hu Shi had always sought to situate the May Fourth Movement in a global, albeit Eurocentric, contexts—even when his political positions shifted—should lead us to follow his example and continue to (re)interpret the May Fourth Movement in its various historical and political contexts.

Remembering May Fourth

The Movement and its Centennial Legacy

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