Contributor Perspectives

What a Year of Notable Anniversaries Says About China's Future

Ian Morris
Board of Contributors
May 10, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
Guests leave a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of China's May Fourth Movement against Western imperialism on April 30, 2019, in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

Guests leave an April 30 ceremony in Beijing's Great Hall of the People marking the 100th anniversary of China's May Fourth Movement. President Xi Jinping spoke about the significance of the student-led protests against Western imperialism. 

(GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

This is a big year for anniversaries in China. Thirty years have passed since the Tiananmen Square uprising, 70 since the founding of the people's republic, a full 100 since the Treaty of Versailles sparked the May Fourth protest movement and 125 since the outbreak of a disastrous war with Japan. China will officially mark or minimize each of these anniversaries in a different way, but this week's centenary of the May Fourth protests -- rebranded as Youth Day by the Communist Party in 1949 -- is certainly getting the full celebratory treatment. China's 20th-century story does not fit neatly into a narrative of the May Fourth Movement delivered on April 30 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, but neither is it entirely consistent with anti-communist interpretations. In some ways, Xi is right that his current one-party regime is building on the heritage of the May Fourth Movement; in another, he is...

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