China’s discomfiture at the Paris Peace Conference proved to be the last straw that broke the came’s back . The people had held high hopes ,but they were frustrated. The news of the Western Nation’s betrayal of the Chinese interests on the Shantung question reached China on April 30, 1919.Immediately there was a wave of protest.It was an explosion of public anger, an outburst of nationalism and a deep disappointment in the west. Several thousand students staged a mass demonstration against the traitors of the Versailles decision and organized a boycott movement of the Japanese goods. The government tried to repress the rioting but it only added fuel to the fire.
Causes of the Movement
- After the fall of the Manchu dynasty, there was no improvement in the situation. The warlords usurped power and ruled the country without regard to the interests of the people . The army indulged in loot and pillage of the villages .There was no peace in the country. The people were very much embittered.
- The rich people became richer and the poor people suffered a great deal. There was corruption and misuse of authority among the officials. The peasants were crushed under heavy taxation. With the concentration of wealth and lands in the hands of a few people, the peasant moved to urban areas in search of employment.
During the war, there was some measures of economic development. A number of textile mills came into existence. A central bank was established and a number of commercial banks came into being. A number of new industries also developed. But the natives had no control over the export trade. They had to face very stiff competition from foreign businessmen. The people of China now realized that only by controlling the economy they could improve their lot.
- In China, the working conditions of the labourers were miserable. Their wages were low and they had to work long hours .In addition they were addicted to opium and other vices. But during the war they came in contact with the French labourers who were well organized and enjoyed better working conditions . This created a new awakening among the Chinese labourers.
- The main source of strength of the movement was the students. They were inspired by the scholars and thinkers. The students realized that rejection of Western civilization would not be advantageous to the country. They thought that China should have a combination of the old and the new civilizations. A number of journals appeared and one of them, the New Youth,was very influential. This journal was founded by Chen-TuHsiu in 1915.Chen played an important part in the cultural revolution. He discredited the old Confucian standards and advocated new ideas.