Zhou En Lai A Life – Part 2

Chen Jian, Sabaree Mitra

Using Zhou En Lai’s life from 1898 to 1976 as a trajectory I will expound on seminal events in China’s history.

The May Fourth Movement was a consequential event in China’s history.

On 4 May 1919 more than 3,000 students took to the streets of Peking to protest against the Chinese government’s weak response to the secret pact by Britain, France and Italy supported by the Americans to hand over the defeated German’s ” rights” over Shandong to Japan.

The Versailles Peace Conference was where the decision was made.

The Chinese was hopeful, as one of the victors of WW1, that their contributions, [700,000 workers worked in factories and ports and helped in reconstruction in the battle zone with 3,000 lives lost in Europe – p 50] Xavier Paules, would be rewarded by the abolishing of Western occupation of China and the return of Western settlements to China.

Not only did these not happened, but instead Shandong was also handed to Japan.

Zhou had just returned to Tianjin from Japan only days earlier. He joined several hundred Tianjin students to rush to Peking and held sit- in protests in front of the Presidential Office.

In Jan 1920, Zhou led six thousand students to demonstrate in front of the Zhili provincial government office. He was arrested and was in prison for 6 months.

In my view, the May Fourth Movement was one of the catalysts for the formation of the Chinese Communist Party.

The students like Zhou saw that reforms put up by prominent reformers like Kang You Wei and Liang Qi Chao to the Guangxu Emperor had failed.

Democracy in the form of the various Republican governments was weak due to the many warlords operating in China.

They saw the success of the Russian communist’s revolution.

Many like Zhao, Mao and Deng Xiao Ping embraced this new radical form of government to, in Zhou’s words as a 19-year-old on the eve of his graduation from Nankai School in Tianjin ” Let us hope to meet at the time that China has risen again in the world.” [ p 29 Chen Jian].

Xavier Paules

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