On this day in 1919, a strong anti-foreign and anti-imperialist movement began in China, which would become known as the patriotic May 4th Movement of 1919.

During the first World War, the Chinese people found themselves victims to aggressive takeover by foreign powers hungry for wealth and land.  When the war had ended, the Chinese sent delegates to the peace conference at Paris, hoping to get “seven hopeful conditions” passed through.  The conditions were:

  1. Abolition of foreign spheres of influence
  2. Withdrawal of foreign troops and policemen stationed in China
  3. Dismantling of foreign post
  4. Wire and wireless telegram offices;
  5. Annulment of consular jurisdiction
  6. Return of leased territory and removal of foreign concessions;
  7.  Restoration of Chinese authority over the Customs administration.

When the delegates at the conference refused to meet the demands of the Chinese people, strong anti-foreign movements broke out across the country, starting with the May Fourth march. These attitudes had massive impact on the missionaries. Up to this point, many had viewed the missionaries positively. But now, they were seen as “Cultural imperialism” and were forced to flee the country. Over 90% of all the foreign missionaries fled the country.

By the time the field began to open again in China in the mid-20s, the great depression was rocking the United States and many other nations of the world. The severe economic hardship caused many of the churches to quit the strong work of World Evangelism. By the time missionaries began to arrive back in China in the 30s, World War II broke out and again, many of the missionaries were forced to flee.

These three decades saw the destruction of many of the works the missionaries had began over the last century. Schools were closed. Printing presses and colleges were taken over by the government. But despite the opposition, there was one thing trials, difficulties, and hardships could not destroy: the churches! With the missionaries gone, Chinese Christians began to rise to fill the voids of leadership. Great leaders like Wang Mingdao, Watchman Nee, John Sung, and Marcus Cheng began to travel the country, preaching and strengthening the churches. When the communist took over after the Second World War, the churches, facing worse persecution than ever before, continued to stand strong and push forward.

Though the missionaries were forced to leave, the work God began in China continued on. Jesus once said “Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it!”



May 4th Movement

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