Spring 2019 is marked by a series of sensitive anniversaries for China: Beijing is visibly nervous that the 30th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen massacre could trigger protests. But it is also concerned about the 100th anniversary of the lesser known May 4 movement, which inspired the 1989 protests and called for greater participation and more transparency in political affairs.
Like in 1989, in 1919 it was mainly students who took to the streets—but as the protests continued, journalists, teachers, writers, and intellectuals joined them. They shouted slogans, chanted songs, and held banners, demonstrating against imperialism and for the Chinese right of self-determination. They also demanded freedom, equality, democracy, and education. It was the first purely political public demonstration in Chinese history. And of the two demands of the students—nationalism and democracy—one remains sorely unmet.