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What to do after the ‘angry youth’
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16:40, May 04, 2009

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By Li Hongmei People’s Daily Online

On the day marking the 90th anniversary of the May Fourth Youth Movement, the term ‘fenqing’ or ‘angry youth’ would readily come up in conversation. And in all likelihood, people would still be reminded of the series of events in the epoch-making 2008, in which the term was coined and, ‘patriotism’ was again cooked up as a national passion. When people finally came up with the sensational term, they clearly took reference to the 1919 May Fourth Movement, when, under the banner of ‘democracy and science’ and with the theme of ‘patriotism’ highlighted in a burning national rage, around 3,000 students took to streets making demonstrations against a treaty, signed by the then Chinese authorities, humiliating the nation and forfeiting its sovereignty to foreign powers.

If viewed from the prism of the spirit embodied in the 1919 May Fourth Movement, the bygone century, in which the Chinese nation experienced so many ups and downs, would be unfolded before the world as a time when myth and reality truly occurred hand-in-hand in the country’s modern history; or rather, a time when both the pent-up creativity and imprisoned strong desire to destruct suddenly gushed out, well beyond anticipation and control. The set social conventions and authority were hence smashed almost overnight by the orgies of sentiments of the then ‘angry youth.’

Evidently, the young outbursts flowed into the torrents of nationalism and patriotism, propelling China’s social progress at the turn of last century. Even today, the May Fourth Spirit featuring valiantness and rebelliousness are still much admired and, will be always remembered by the Chinese people. And to varying degrees, 90 years ago, the Chinese social complex was molded by the youth movements and modeled after the determination of the youth sentiments. Throughout the whole 20th century, this passion might have faded away at times but never perish. That explains why it is so easily touched off and so widely fanned up at even the slightest provocation.

In retrospect of the historic campaign that erupted 90 years ago, today’s Chinese youth need to stand on a new height and look out at the outside world from a fresh perspective. In so doing, they would realize that the decisive elements leading China to breakthrough its bottleneck are not simply the romantic imaginations expressed in the forms of youth passion and national sentiments, but more like a symphony, a blend of homophonic as well as polyphonic music. It has to be combed through neatly with the rational thinking and then played in an orderly manner.

Nationalism is by no means a negative word if put to a good use. Likewise, patriotism is not confined only to a strong expression of the national sentiments or a record of destruction or rebellion. History may repeat itself, but the youth at the different historic junctures will have to always face ahead and turn out to be more mature and more prepared for future than their pioneers.

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