BEIJING (Reuters) – President Xi Jinping appealed to China’s youth on Tuesday to love the country and dedicate themselves to the Communist Party, warning on the centenary of student-led protests there was no place for those who ignored the country’s needs.
The May 4 Movement of 1919 started out as anti-imperialist student protests against a decision at the Paris Peace Conference, after World War One, to award Japan control of German concessions in China’s Shandong province.
It soon encompassed a broader debate about how China should modernise, having only just overthrown the emperor and ushered in a republic in 1911.
The issue of student protests is especially sensitive in China this year, which also marks three decades since the bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests on and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4.
Speaking to officials and youth delegates at the Great Hall of the People, Xi said China’s young should be grateful to the party, the country, the society and the people.
“Tell every Chinese person that patriotism is one’s duty, is an obligation,” Xi said, in comments carried live on state television.
“For Chinese youth of the new era, ardently loving the motherland is the foundation of building the body and of talent,” he added.
Xi also warned about the need for young people to be morally upstanding and avoid what he termed “mistaken thoughts”.
“In the new era, Chinese youth should consciously establish and practice the core values of socialism, and be good at drawing morality from the traditional virtues of the Chinese people,” he said.
“Consciously resist mistaken thoughts such as the worship of money, hedonism, extreme individualism, and historical nihilism,” Xi added, referring to attempts to reevaluate core events and personalities of the party’s revolutionary past.
Despite the optimism the May 4 Movement brought at the time, the period following it was marked by turmoil and civil war in China, which eventually lead to the overthrow of the Republican government which fled to Taiwan after the Communist revolution in 1949.
Xi said that China had to make achievements on the back of its own work, and not rely on anyone else.
“A bright China is not a gift that can be given by anybody,” he said.
While May 4 remains widely discussed in China, June 4 is taboo in China and it will not be marked by any officially approved events.
Xi is expected to be outside the country in early June this year, on a state visit to Russia and Central Asia.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Darren Schuettler)