US politician's May Fourth Movement speech mocked

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/6 20:48:40

Chinese netizens say distorted interpretation exposes unrealistic views of China

File photo: Xinhua

Despite great efforts US President Donald Trump's advisor Matt Pottinger made in his speech on the May Fourth Movement - delivering it in Putonghua and trying to link the movement to US values - Pottinger was faced with overwhelming mockery and criticism from Chinese analysts and netizens for his unrealistic illusions and incomprehension of Chinese society and his obvious purpose of provoking clashes within China.

The speech of US Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger to the Miller Center at the University of Virginia on May 4 local time was released immediately in both Chinese and English. Pottinger discussed the May Fourth Movement in China in 1919, highlighting a few Chinese heroes that he believes "embody the May Fourth spirit, then and now," criticized China for a lack of "democracy" and seemingly encouraged people to replace "one regime-centric model with another one."  

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told a press conference on Wednesday that Pottinger may think he knows Chinese people very well but judging from his speech, he knows little about China and has no knowledge of the May Fourth spirit, since he bears strong bias toward China. 

Although Pottinger delivered the more than 20-minute speech in fluent Putonghua, the content seemed not to impress the audience other than its form, as many netizens left sarcastic comments under the US Mission to China's tweet about the speech, like "Thanks for helping us review the May Fourth Spirit - its purpose is to protest hegemonism and to protect the motherland."

A netizen surnamed Huang said that "The US, which used to be dubbed as a 'lighthouse country for democracy', has had its light put out. Isn't it embarrassed to talk about science and democracy to young people in China? How hypocritical it is! Still using the propaganda of the VOA in the 1980s?"  

The May Fourth Movement occurred when the Chinese nation was in crisis, and it was a movement to resolutely fight imperialism and feudalism. The core of the May Fourth spirit was patriotism, Hua said. 

The May Fourth Movement started with mass student protests on May 4, 1919, against the then-government's weak response to the Treaty of Versailles, which  imposed unfair treatment on China and undermined the country's sovereignty after World War I. It then triggered a national campaign to overthrow the old order and promote new ideas, including science, democracy and Marxism. 

Pottinger's speech showed some US people still have the fantasy of disturbing China by causing confrontations and clashes within the country. They want to stir young people to seek so-called US democracy and cause domestic turbulence to interrupt China's development, Zhang Yiwu, a professor from Peking University, told the Global Times. 

"But his distorted interpretation of the May Fourth Movement has not only been mocked by Chinese people but also exposed his incomprehension of Chinese youths and society," Zhang said, noting Pottinger purposely neglected to say that the May Fourth Movement was a patriotic campaign, and he stressed several times that the movement was criticized by some people for being "unpatriotic" and "pro-American," which made his political purpose so obvious.

To link the US with the movement, Pottinger gave the highest praise to Chinese educator and scholar Hu Shih and P.C. Chang, who had closer ties with the US than other prominent figures during the movement, and indicated that the May Fourth spirit was led by US values. 

Pottinger also complimented coronavirus whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang as being among "civic-minded citizens who commit small acts of bravery," trying hard to paint him as a dissident. But the fact is Dr Li was a member of the Communist Party of China and he represented the new generation of Chinese young people who want to fight for their motherland, Zhang said. 

Zhang noted that the most "extreme" and groundless move Pottinger made was trying to link the spirit of the movement to the "American First" idea put forward by Trump. 

"Pottinger admires the populism advanced by Trump and pays high attention to US' national interests. To people like him, China does not deserve the right to protect its national interests and seek its own development path. And this is what Chinese people, especially the young people, cannot agree with," Said Zhang.

Zhang said that the US' terrible handling of the COVID-19 epidemic also offered many young people in China a vivid lesson. 

Pottinger, who studied China for years and once lived in China as a reporter, has been criticized by Chinese analysts for being one of the hardliners and pushing tough strategies toward China, especially during the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

Some US politicians, like Pottinger, who have a deep-seated Cold War mentality and ideological bias against China, would never give up the strategy of using peaceful evolution inside China, which China should be alert to, experts noted.


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