Before and Beyond the May Fourth Movement of 1919

Before and Beyond the May Fourth Movement of 1919: Nationalist Mobilization in China and Canadian Chinatowns

Dr. Zhongping Chen

The May Fourth Movement derives its name from the Beijing student demonstration on May 4, 1919, and previous studies of the movement have also focused on its nationwide development and protest against the Paris Peace Conference's confirmation of Japanese takeover of the former German concession in the Shandong peninsula of China from 1914. In fact, nationalist mobilization against Japan's "twenty-one demands" to China, especially its attempt to keep the Shandong peninsula, had triggered Chinese protests at home and abroad, including Canadian Chinatowns, as early as 1915. In both China and Canadian Chinatowns, the nationalist mobilization culminated in a transpacific protest against the Paris Peace Conference’s Shandong settlement in mid-1919. It resulted first in China’s refusal to sign the Versailles Peace Treaty in June 1919, and then in Japan’s return of the Shandong peninsula to China at the Washington Naval Conference in 1921-22. A broad examination of the nationalist mobilization for the Shandong issue beyond its 1919 climax in the national context greatly expands scholarly understanding of its historical significance in the history of modern China and the transpacific Chinese diaspora.