The New Life Movement at War: Wartime Mobilisation and State Control in Chongqing and Chengdu, 1938–1942

In: European Journal of East Asian Studies
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  • 1 Cardiff University

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The New Life Movement is remembered in Chinese history primarily as the movement which Chiang Kai-shek launched in Jiangxi province in 1934 to change Chinese people’s habits. This paper makes a different case: it argues that the New Life Movement and its organisations were central into the Nationalist Government’s wartime mobilisation, and that the involvement of the civil servants through the NLM prevented the disintegration of society and administrative institutions under the impact of the war. This paper focuses on Chongqing and Chengdu between 1938 and 1942 and draws on archival materials and official reports to assess the scope of the Nationalists’ wartime mobilisation. It analyses the involvement of the NLM organisations in the fundraising effort, in the mobilisation of women civil servants, and in the organisation of relief work in the first phase of the war and challenge the long-held view that the Nationalists’ wartime mobilisation was insubstantial.

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    See Hans J. van de Ven, War and Nationalism in China, 1925–1945 (London: Routledge, 2003); Diana Lary and Stephen Mackinnon (eds) Scars of War: The Impact of Warfare on Modern China (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2003); Stephen Mackinnon, Wuhan, 1938: War, Refugees, and the Making of Modern China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008); Danke Li, Echoes of Chongqing: Women in Wartime China (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010); and Rana Mitter and Aaron Moore (eds) China in World War II, 1937–1945: Experience, Memory, and Legacy, Special Issue of Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2 (2011).

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  • 6

    See Chalmers A. Johnson, Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power: The Emergence of Revolutionary China 1937–1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962); Feng Chongyi and David S.G. Goodman (eds) North China at War: The Social Ecology of Revolution, 1937–1945 (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000); and Chang-tai Hung, War and Popular Culture: Resistance in Modern China, 1937–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

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