WE shall have, some day, a history of China that pictures vividly the unique succession of the seasonal cycles in her national life: long winters of stagnation of thought and activity, following on days of real harvest; and followed, in turn, by the freshness of spring, when the sap of vitality crowds the blossoms out on every branch before the frost has disappeared. It is spring, though winds of violence scatter petal and seed pod, delaying, even destroying, much of the fruitage. Of no period will the historian say with such assurance as of today, "This was spring. Here China was young again."

To those who have felt the violence of the extremists and watched the withdrawal of the moderates, Young China means hot-headedness and irresponsibility. The term recalls to their minds noisy groups of youngsters, herded into line for a patriotic procession, ordered to shout slogans, compelled to carry banners with truly strange devices, keen to overthrow all order and discipline in school as well as government, "for patriotic reasons." Such radicalism, however, is only part of the picture. It is generally admitted that not over twenty percent of the student world supports the extremist program. It would be as unfair to limit the term Young China to the violent radicals as to designate only the vociferous and the immature when speaking of Young America or Young France.

The truer Young China is the group that is moved by the vitality of spring, crowding out the old stagnancy. It includes the thoughtless, to be sure; but it also includes even larger numbers of those thoughtful souls who understand something of what it means to build up a vigorous, self-dependent nation. It is the purpose of this study to inquire in some detail what Young China stands for, what are the forces that impel it and the pitfalls on its road, what its program is and what it holds of future promise.

Young China is, in the first place, the aroused portion of her citizens. To be sure, this means thousands of immature and ignorant boys and girls, scarcely out of primary school, forced to march in endless parades, compelled to sit through noisy gatherings where party slogans are taught them, then driven back again to their schools, to present long series of demands to their principals. Beginning with declarations that they are revolutionaries, anxious to participate in the great movement that will overthrow militarism everywhere, they insist on complete freedom of speech, on the presence of a student delegate with power to vote in all faculty meetings, on the approval of the Student Union in cases of major discipline, on the right to demand the removal of teachers, or even of the principal "when he shall have lost the confidence of a majority of his students." Obviously, since so much time is required to memorize the patter of the propagandists, curriculum work and the disciplinary elements of school life come in a poor second.

But in addition to these hot-heads there are countless mature men and women in every sphere of public life. "There was never a time in China," says a sober, world-travelled executive, "when people's hearts bounded with more hope than today. For the first time in many years, glimmerings of a possible solution to our problem are visible on the horizon. The atmosphere strongly reminds us of the revolutionary days of 1911. Expectancy and hope are in the air and a forward move is now possible." Even the self-seeking militarists of the north have discovered that they must indicate their own awakening by insisting on their readiness to defend China's cause against foreign Powers.

For, to be fair to aroused Young China, there has swept over the land a belief that the nation is in peril and that only concerted action can save it. So, however blind the following of these leaders, however selfish the motives of many of them, there is a sincerity in the attitude of Young China, the like of which has not been seen before.

Young China is, also, crusading China, no whit behind the Crusaders of old in the reckless pursuit of an ideal. To be sure, the quest often blinds even the true crusaders of today, making it possible for a small minority of agitators to intimidate their fellows. Starting bravely, they dare not fall by the wayside. So great is the power of the radical leaders that many a youth who refuses to keep up with the crowd is compelled to endure impossible indignities and mortifications. Many of them are beaten, crowned with high hats inscribed "Hound of the Imperialists;" ropes are tied around their necks and they are paraded through the streets to the accompaniment of derisive cries.

Still, there is a truer Young China. It consists of an alert, devoted group, which is seeking the unification of the nation and its liberation from inequitable foreign agreements, is honestly asking "What's wrong with China?" and trying to answer the question with a real patriotism. It subscribes, whole-heartedly, to the first of the three principles laid down by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, requiring everyone to subordinate himself to the welfare of the state and the people as a whole. As men watch this new spirit at work, they soon discover that the largest element in the success of the crusade is a great faith in the revolution, and particularly in its ability to bring about and to maintain stable government.

Again, Young China is discriminating. Time was when the Emperor expressed the national attitude by his tone of contempt for the foreigner. The "barbarians to the West" were not worthy to be admitted to the land as social equals. The thundering of guns and the quieter, but even more potent, influence of science dislodged the old conviction of superiority, and China went through a stage of admiration, almost adulation, slavishly copying the forms and fashions of the West. Today, a new spirit is abroad in the land. On the surface, attention appears to be directed largely to a decrying of Western imperialism, to an endeavor to overthrow foreign schools and hospitals. Beneath all this, however, is the new critical spirit which is testing impartially the old literary standards, the old religious traditions, the agelong family loyalties, as well as the influences from abroad, educational, political, social and religious.

One must admit that while the real spirit of inquiry and selective choice has arisen from an inner urge, there is, unquestionably, prompting from without as well. Men are saying everywhere in China, "We may not accept Russia's economic teaching, but her methods of revolution are the very best." Those who have come closest to Borodin appear certain that his counsel has been, not so much that China should imitate Russian communism, as that she should organize under party control, and enlist the laborer and farmer as well as the student, the merchant and the soldier. "Don't follow the West blindly," Russia seems to be saying to China today, "Find out what is best adapted to your own needs. Count on our help wherever you find we can give it. You will probably get what you desire all the more quickly if you can teach all the people some simple formulae." "Down with imperialism" is an easy slogan to learn and to shout in unison.

Most striking of all, Young China is a unifying force. Before the revolution of 1911 it worked underground. Secret societies were its method of organization. Pledged to work for the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty, their ultimate aim was to enlist the support of all classes of the people. When the outward label of monarchy was changed, they realized that their real task lay ahead. During the years up to 1919 it was the student class and the leaders of commerce who were enlisted, the influence of Dr. Sun Yat-sen becoming constantly more potent. A tremendous stimulus was given to the unification movement when Japan's "Twenty-One Demands" were discovered in 1915, students and merchants in many parts of the country joining in an effective protest. These groups became still further aroused and united in May 1919, when a nation-wide strike was effective in compelling China's delegates to withdraw from the Versailles conference and to refuse the treaty proposed there.

During the next six years, labor, which had hitherto had little part in the organized life of the nation and little chance to express itself, became increasingly involved. Today, it is one of the most powerful groups in the land and has to be reckoned with in every political situation. Its power was shown in the significant strike of seamen at Hongkong in 1923. The most explosive evidence of this new power of organization in China came, however, after the May 30th incident in Shanghai in 1925. By this time Young China had come to include all the student organizations throughout the land, large numbers of labor organizations, and a considerable fraction of the merchant class.

Young China has actively espoused the cause of labor during the past seven years, teaching the workman such phrases as "Fair Wages," "Shorter Hours," "The Dignity of Labor," conceptions he had never dreamed of before. Strikes have become a familiar weapon, and when strikers have suffered, as in the Shanghai mill incidents of 1925, Young China has taken up their cause and sought redress or reform. Far too often the methods used have been demonstrative rather than constructive. Mob violence has been released, followed by clashes with the police. These have resulted in still greater suffering and renewed demonstrations, a vicious circle that threatens to continue unless sober minds discover ways to break it. The fact remains that Young China has allied industry to itself, and can now order strikes or boycotts at will.

The newest campaign of education is designed to enlist the support of the farmers. One has only to bear in mind how vast a majority of the population they form to appreciate the significance of this latest development. The indoctrination is being carried on through rural schools, by groups of volunteer lecturers who go out into the country, and by bands of travelling players who give vivid presentations of the dangers to China's life, internal and external.

Add to all these elements the fact that the inclusion of women in all the social, educational and economic programs of Young China is rapidly increasing, and there arises a picture of China's new social democracy, in which all classes and both sexes are united in a common national cause.

In the last analysis, however, Young China means liberal China. Liberal in thought, to begin with. It is the mind of China, thinking in new channels and freed from traditional restraints. Says an ancient proverb, "All pursuits on earth are mean in comparison with that of learning." It is the scholar who has governed in the past, who has molded the thought of the common people and who has made of public opinion the irresistible force it has become. It is intellectuals who supply, today, the freedom, the initiative and the sustained dynamic force for the new forward movements, economic, literary and political. Today it is men such as Dr. Hu Shih and Dr. David Yui, who would be leaders of thought in any country, that are molding the opinion of the nation. Old China relied on the dictatorship of a Yuan Shih-kai or on the military prowess of tuchuns. The political leadership of today is passing rapidly to Young China. One of its chief concerns at this time of crisis is to keep the control of events in the hands of the moderates. The insistent demand of the extremists for power has followed as a natural sequence upon the admission, in 1921, of the communistic group as one wing of the Kuomintang, or People's Party. This group had gained a small following from the early days of Western contact onward, but had never occupied a position of any political importance. The Chinese are innately averse to the radical principles on which communism rests, but by 1921 the leaders of the Kuomintang were convinced that their party organization needed something that the radicals could give. It was understood that the moderates should formulate the party political program, while the extremists were to organize the technique of political propaganda. What could be more natural than that such a union should result in dangerous radical leadership in certain areas? The present party organization leaves every committee almost supreme in its own district. In places where uneducated workmen and immature students form a majority of the district committee, the program and the conduct of those in power is thoroughly communistic. The moderates everywhere regret that this is so, none more than the leaders of the Kuomintang itself. In places where communistic storms are wrecking institutions and working havoc with the constructive activities of the community, the moderates admit their helplessness for the moment and stand aside till the fury of the elements shall have spent itself.

In spite of the danger that the agitators may get out of hand now and then, Young China is working steadily ahead for the creation of a liberal public opinion. Through all the varied political activities of the past fifteen years, when military movements and cabinet changes have followed each other in kaleidoscopic sequence, success has invariably come to that side which had the approval of liberal public opinion. When President Yuan Shihkai appeared to be at the height of his power, had actually set the date for his own coronation as Emperor and had chosen the title and had the seals cut for the new dynasty which he was to inaugurate, a movement led by a single courageous general overthrew all his plans. Tsai Ao, then governor of Yunnan province, a fearless leader in the Young China Party, started the revolt which ended Yuan's hopes and set the seal of national disapproval on any further attempt at reviving imperial government.


The forces impelling Young China are varied and complex. In the first place, Young China is moved by a sense of responsibility. No other group cares about the nation's welfare. No other will undertake the task of safeguarding it. China's reconstruction would be left unachieved unless Young China strove for it. This alone would be a sufficient motive. But in addition to it, there is fast developing an intelligent loyalty which increases the ability to bear the burdens assumed.

It is frankly recognized that the core of the problem of national reformation is at home. The evils of militarism, the wrangling of political rivals, the prevalence of official greed, are not possible of concealment. On the contrary, they are attacked publicly. "The important thing," said a high official of the People's Party at a recent gathering, "is not the battles which have been won but the principles for which our armies have been fighting. We are fighting militarism first of all -- the militarism represented by Yuan Shih-kai, Wu Pei-fu and men of that stamp. We are fighting, also, the foreign imperialism which has supported all these militarists in their efforts to crush the people's revolution."

It is Young China, too, that has taken up the responsibility of reducing illiteracy. President Ray Lyman Wilbur was one of many at the Institute of Pacific Relations at Honolulu in 1925 who came away believing that no more significant movement had been reported there than the Mass Education Movement in China. Though less than seven years old, it has already demonstrated its effectiveness by adding literates to the population at the rate of several hundred thousand a year.

A second force is a sense of irritation. There is precisely the same stirring in the Young Filipino, the Young Egyptian and the Young Turk. Young China is trying to rid itself of external irritants, in particular. It knows that peace and order have disappeared, that education is suffering, that transportation is crippled -- all because of the plague of militarism. But it is the aggressiveness of the foreigner that rankles most today. In his report on the Shanghai incident of May 30th, 1925, Finley Johnson, the American judge in the Court of Inquiry, insisted that the anti-foreign feeling in China was not due, primarily, to the events of that regrettable day, but to a variety of political causes: loss of territorial sovereignty, and the usurping of powers, legislative, judicial, administrative and police, in Chinese territory, as well as "the failure on the part of the foreigners in China to realize that the Chinese people have made greater advancement during the past ten years in civics, in the fundamental principles of government and in the better understanding of individual rights under the law than they had made in any hundred years during their entire history."

One underlying reason for the irritation against the West is found in the belief that moral issues, so basic in Chinese philosophy, appear to be ignored frequently. The Chinese frankly admit that they do not live up to their own high standards; yet their chief concern is with human behavior, for the appraisal of which they possess a remarkable instinct. Their indignation over recent occurrences is not, in their own thought, primarily anti-foreign; it is moral. After living with the Chinese for many years I have come to believe that the sense of resentment against the West is strongest in those matters where the West appears to them to disregard their ideas of what is "right," "ethical," "reasonable from a moral standpoint."

A third force is a determination to preserve the national heritage at all costs. When China discovered that she was in danger of being outclassed by other nations because of their progress in science, there was a period of discouragement. Today, China has determined to build for herself the civilization she needs, using her own indigenous cultural materials and such as she chooses to borrow from without. Her political integrity she will not surrender. In the realm of the spirit, China is re-discovering a distinguished line of social reformers who "experimented with almost all the schemes for social improvement devised by men in any age," as well as many eminent statesmen and administrators and scholars who have enriched many fields of intellectual inquiry.

So, too, in the economic realm, China is determined that revenues that ought to be hers, banking profits that her own financiers ought to secure, shall no longer go to the foreigner. In the ordinary rivalries of business the Chinese merchant never had anything to fear; he was an adept there. He is through, as well, with consortiums and concessions which endanger his economic control. These purposes have largely arisen out of the general distrust of the Westerner that is, unfortunately, so prevalent.

Finally, the forces that have aroused Young China may be understood better by recalling certain innate and distinctive Chinese qualities. For example, there is their faculty of tenacious memory. The boy who could never forget the "four books and the five classics" which he had memorized so thoroughly as a child, now writes on blackboards and doorways, "Don't forget the national humiliation." On May 4th he writes, "Don't forget the day of disgrace." This was when China lost her cause at Versailles in 1919. On May 7th he writes, "Don't forget the Twenty-One Demands." On September 7th he writes, "Don't forget the signing of the Boxer Year protocol." And of course May 30th is a date burned into the heart of Young China, the anniversary of the Shanghai incident in 1925.

Another trait is confident belief in the principle of reciprocity. "As you would be done by" was taught long before the Christian era. It has made all Chinese love the method of arbitration. Whether the case at issue be the wage of the laborer, the boundaries of a plot of ground, or the political implications of a diplomatic controversy, every Chinese desires and accepts the principle of arbitration. To him this is a moral and equitable way of solving difficulties.

Still another fundamental influence is the prominence of the group rather than of the individual. Chinese thought has always been family thought, clan thought, village thought. Its essentially democratic character makes public opinion an exceedingly potent force. So, too, it is the family that arranges marriages, the clan that buys and sells property. The group, not the individual, creates benevolences, supports religion, fosters education. Little wonder, then, that there is such ready acceptance of the committee system insisted upon by the People's Party as a cardinal principle of government, at least for the time being. The transformation going on before us today is one of basic loyalties. All classes are being taught the meaning of national loyalty as something transcending the native devotion to family and clan.

Assemble these varied elements -- the sense of responsibility, the sense of irritation, the new spirit of determination; add to them those significant qualities of memory, of devotion to the principle of reciprocity, of group thought and action; create a series of situations in which all these factors are called into play at once; let the scholar lead as he has always done, however hot-headed many of his followers; teach the laborer and the farm-hand a few simple things about patriotic duty; and there is formed some conception of what is stirring Young China. Obviously, in addition to these psychological factors, other important elements are involved, such as the influence of modern science in education and industry and the influence of new tides of social and religious thought.


The most serious obstacle to Young China's progress is likely to be selfishness within its own ranks. Those who put self before their cause and personal gain before national welfare, as well as those who foster party jealousy and narrow provincialisms, are the real menace. Conspicuous for their self-seeking are the military adventurers who have lined their own nests with revenues squeezed out of the provinces. No greater tribute could be paid to the memory of Dr. Sun Yat-sen than that, in the very decade when so many other political leaders became personally wealthy, he died without wealth.

But selfishness is by no means confined to the militarists. Many of the most vocal of the younger leaders have tied themselves up with the Nationalist movement, confident that its success will bring them better positions and larger incomes. Another type of selfishness appears in narrow-minded provincials who attempt to confiscate the property of leaders from outside their provincial borders or to wreck institutions conducted by foreigners or by others than those belonging to their own immediate neighborhood. Such men ignore real values for passing gain. Their patriotism is likely to falter at the slightest sign of personal danger.

A second danger confronting Young China grows out of the yoking together of groups that can never work in harmony. Slogans consisting of complaints against the foreigner can scarcely form a stable bond of union between rival elements in government or in party organization. Yet that is exactly what we see today in the Kuomintang, where the moderate wing has yielded to many of the demands of the radicals in matters such as anti-British agitation, attacks on institutions conducted by Westerners, and the like, in order to hold the party together. Dangerous enough as a temporary expedient, continued yielding of this sort can scarcely fail to work harm to the party. In this same category lie the dangers likely to result from admitting to equal power with the moderates the unthinking among the workers. To permit labor to continue the levies on capital that have already begun may easily disrupt China's economic life, and, in the end, aggravate rather than improve the status of the laborer.

Still a third danger ahead is that Young China, in its warm advocacy of the democratic principle, shall develop without discipline. Allow the pupils of the higher normal schools in a province like Hunan, with its population of 25,000,000 people, to assume supervision of institutional discipline, penal, financial and administrative; allow the graduates of these schools to become the teachers in the primary schools and junior high schools throughout that province, themselves yielding, in turn, to the demands of their pupils of every grade and of all ages; and the provincial school system is not merely disorganized but breeds radicalism and license. Instead of being a constructive instrument, it is transformed into a subversive force in the social order.

This is not written to imply that Young China will be overwhelmed by these perils. On the contrary, they are discussed here in the belief that the human leadership which has developed during the past fifteen years is fully conscious of the obstacles in the path of progress and that it will deal with them frankly and courageously. The excesses have been, on the whole, those of vitality. Decadent individuals could never be so alert and active.


Nothing could give a clearer picture of the spirit of Young China than the program of intellectual endeavor planned by its constructive leaders. They are determined to bring information to the masses. "Eliminate illiteracy and make new citizens for China," is the watchword of the mass education movement, conceived, organized and developed by the younger group of the intellectuals. It is this same group that is responsible for the intellectual renaissance and the literary revolution. The former is best described, perhaps, as the awakening of a critical attitude towards facts and the determination to deal with these facts by the method of science. True as it is that this awakening has followed China's contacts with the West, the motive force comes, after all, from within. Little by little it will enable China to become, once more, supreme in the fields of her own cultural and social heritage.

The platform of the literary revolution may be summed up in the words of Dr. Hu Shih, one of its initiators:

Write only when you have something to say.

Write what you have to say and write it as it is said.

Write it in your own words, not in some one else's.

Write in the language of your own time.

One has only to visit a modern book-stall or a city news-stand to discover how this movement has opened wide the flood-gates of literary production. A vital part of the literary revolution is the rapid extension of the "national speech" movement to every locality where Chinese live. I had the opportunity, a few months ago, to observe Chinese schools as far from their home base as Singapore and Sumatra. The children in these schools were being taught the national speech and could converse fluently in it, though their elders still clung to the native dialects of the provinces from which they had emigrated. Could any program for national rehabilitation and wide spread unification be more effective than one which will extend China's cultural domain from Mongolia in the north to the Malay States near the equator and which will unite in one spoken language, in an almost continuous area, so large a proportion of the world's population?

Side by side with the school as effective parts of this program, are the press, the platform and the theatre, as well as quiet discussion groups and research in the university centres.

Another major emphasis in Young China's program is the modernizing of industry. On the one hand, new methods and equipment are being introduced with surprising rapidity; on the other, there are already looming large many of those industrial problems of which, till yesterday, China was unconscious, problems such as the regulation of hours, sanitary surroundings, the prevention of accidents, workers' compensation. Even more momentous are the changes consequent upon the employment of large numbers of workers, a system that eliminates the old human relation between master-worker and apprentice. Until labor can develop better leadership, can conquer the present illiteracy and ignorance, and can substitute corporate thinking for propaganda conducted by paid agitators, its lot will be difficult. But a number of organizations have already come into being to secure for the worker the safeguards and the compensations that are his due. Every such provision makes it increasingly certain that in the China of the coming days the workman and the farmer will be given a full share of responsibility in the nation's affairs.

The future is in the hands of Young China. The older generation failed utterly to be creative; the military group because of its greed and over-weening confidence in force; the intellectuals because of their static philosophy and complacency; the laborer and the farmer because they never knew that it would be possible to have any share in social reconstruction. Young China has become, therefore, the leader of a real revolution, something as essentially different from the movement that overthrew the Manchus in 1911 and from the subsequent so-called lesser revolutions as an on-rushing sea-tide differs from the ripples on a shallow pond. It is working for a future in which China shall fully realize its newly-awakened national aspirations.

Into the accomplishment of its task it is pouring the devotion, the enthusiasm and the fearlessness of youth. All who meet its leaders become conscious at once that they are moved by something akin to the passion of religious devotees. It is planning a democratic reconstruction that shall extend to every element in the social order and that can only be fully accomplished when every social group participates in carrying out the program. The magnitude of the task is inconceivable. The past fifteen years of strife and turmoil may have been a necessary means of convincing men that a change was imperative. When the change in political ideas shall have permeated the mass of the population so that the state becomes central in their loyalty instead of the family and the clan -- a process that may take decades -- then alone will it be possible to bring into play the forces that shall create a new China, blending the old materials of the national heritage with the new from abroad.

At the moment, the process of change is being blocked both by militarists, who continue their strife as if unaware how completely they are held in universal execration, and by those radical forces, unleashed by Young China in its effort to make the new movement democratic. An able Chinese observer writes, "All will be well while the mass is amenable to the leadership of the moderates. But should the workers now aroused ever get out of hand, then we shall have the devil to pay." Yet no thoughtful person should be misled, by the passing extremism, into believing that China is on the verge of disorganization. The new attitude of Young China should make it clear that there cannot possibly come about either a break-up into separate states, a revival of the monarchical idea, or a control of the entire country by a single dictator.

Young China looks to the West today to do four things: to understand, by intelligent inquiry, the unfolding situation, political and social; to express a constructive sympathy, which involves, not blindness to the excesses of the radicals, but a willingness to stand by the moderates till they recover power; to refrain from intolerance in attitude and expression, appreciating the magnitude of Young China's task, both in area and in size of population involved; and finally, to support every well-considered plan for action in favor of liberal China. The centre of such action will consist in a public declaration by our government that old agreements are outworn and that we are ready to meet China's representatives as soon as they have been chosen, in order to reconsider all our political relationships and to put them on a basis that shall be truly equitable and reciprocal. Such a demonstration of our sincerity would strengthen the hands of Young China as it proceeds on its enterprise of rebuilding a nation.

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