Today is May 4, the 89th anniversary of the 1919 May 4 Movement.
During World War I, China entered the war helping the allies on condition all German-controlled areas in China be returned back to Chinese rule. But afterwards at the Treaty of Versailles, this request was ignored and Shandong was handed to Japan.
The Chinese had also asked to end extraterritorial rights to the British, Germans, French and Americans, and cancel the "21 demands" from the Japanese.
China's weakness at the political table stirred up young people in campuses across Beijing. They were angry not only at their own government for not getting their demands met, but also at the foreign powers for ignoring China.
On May 4, 1919, some 3,000 students demonstrated at Peking University shouting nationalist slogans. The next day all Beijing students refused to go to class, and this strike spread to Shanghai.
Finally the government fired the Chinese diplomats involved and Chinese representatives refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles. However, Shandong was still under Japanese occupation.
Nevertheless, this showed how students could create nationalism among the people and inspire pride in their country.
And many young people today were hoping to do the same thing by boycotting Carrefour because of its alleged link to the Dalai Lama.
However, on the eve of the May 4 Movement and the 110th anniversary of Peking University, President Hu Jintao urged students to turn their patriotic passion into concrete actions of studying hard and contributing to the upcoming Olympics.
"College life is the golden time in a person's life. You should make the most of the time to study hard, think hard and practice hard," he said. "You should also actively engage in social activities so as to not only learn the knowledge but also improve your ability to serve the country."
So Hu's delicate hint was to tell young people not to protest and boycott anymore -- channel your energies into more productive things.
He's right of course. With less than 100 days to the Olympics, China should be working on welcoming foreigners rather than creating more distrust.
And what better way for Hu to get the message across than on such a symbolic day at the place where it all started?