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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.

In: European Journal of East Asian Studies