China and the Great War : A Symposium
Imperial War Museum, London, 4/5/16
China’s participation in the First World War was a defining moment in modern Chinese and world history and the beginning of China’s journey toward internationalization. This symposium intends to extend the dimensions of our collective memory of the war along with investigations of the significance of the war to China’s subsequent role in international relations. Held on May Fourth the date of the symposium commemorates the May Fourth Revolution which followed China’s betrayal at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.
China entered WW1 on the side of the Allied Triple Entente in 1917 on the assurance that German spheres of influence would be returned to China and privileges of foreign powers in China such as extraterritoriality would be abolished. The Chinese government’s weak response to their betrayal by the Allies at Versailles ie. the handing of former German territories to Japan - prompted the student demonstrations that played a direct role in the emergence of the New Culture Movement, a nationalist, anti-imperialist, and proto-socialist movement which sought “a third way...between Western ideas and Chinese traditional culture”.
Many of China’s 20th-century political leaders participated in this and other movements that opened up questions of Chinese national identity and its future direction on the global stage. A panel of leading international scholars, archivists, and community activists will address the ways in which World War I played a substantial role in shaping China’s 20th-century trajectory.
Additionally, the symposium will mark the forgotten contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps and the work they did behind the lines on the Western Front. China’s role in the First World War has been a curiously neglected topic. The symposium will participate in the endeavours of the Chinese community in Britain to create a memorial in London to the Chinese Labour Corps.
Programm available here