Introduced by Daisy Tong

This source is an excerpt from “Outline of the New Life Movement” delivered by Chiang Kai-shek to the public in May 1934. Chiang’s advisor and minister Chen Lifu was reputed to be the ‘ghost writer’ of this work, but Chen denied this. Chiang was accepted as the author.[1] The New Life Movement was a campaign launched by Chiang Kai-shek, who was the leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party. It was a movement “for hygienic and behavioral reform to revitalize the country.”[2] At the time, the Republic of China was threatened by a series of challenges. Domestically, the Communist Party was growing rapidly and expanding its influence throughout China, and the vast area and armies of China were actually under controlled by warlords who allied themselves with the Nationalist government. Factionalism and corruption were also problems for Chiang’s government. Internationally, the imperialist Japan took over northeastern China, also known as Manchuria in 1932, and was planning its further Asian expansion. In this context, Chiang acknowledged that something was wrong in his government and in Chinese society. Traditional virtues needed to be revived to confront these non-traditional ideologies. Thus this movement also attempted “to counter Communist ideology with a mix of traditional Confucian values, nationalism, and authoritarianism that some have likened to fascism.”[3] In the “outline of the New Life Movement,” Chiang emphasized four neo-Confucian virtues, Li (propriety), Yi (justice), Lian (integrity), and Chi (conscientiousness)[4] to mobilize people and to militarize the society.

The political meanings and impact of the New Life Movement were debatable, as Wennan Liu suggested, in earlier scholarship’s perspective, this movement was trying to strengthen Chiang’s dictatorship and tighten his control over Chinese society.[5] This perspective indicated the movement that Chiang claimed to be a massive mobilization was a political attempt to expand the Nationalist’s dictatorial ruling over people and their everyday life. In contrast to this perspective, recent view stated that this movement was necessary in the long process of building a modern China. This view argued that the expansion of ruling was a premise and preparation for Japanese invasion that about to come.[6] However, both perspectives pointed out that the movement was about the state’s role in everyday life. As Madame Chiang (Song Meiling) stressed, some tenets of the movement, for example, “modesty and economy in dress, cleanliness, improvement in table manners, moderation in cigarette smoking,”[7] were some important reforms in everyday life that Chiang wanted to delivered to the public. Thus the New Life Movement, characterized by the “expanding role of the state in everyday life,” to some extent had impact on people’s everyday life.[8]

Outline of the New Life Movement 

By Chiang Kai‑shek

[1]Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, Sources of Chinese Tradition: Volume 2: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 341.

[2] Arif Dirlik. “The Ideological Foundations of the New Life Movement: A Study in Counterrevolution.” The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Aug 1975): 945.

[3]R. Keith Schoppa, The Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 160.

[4] Jay Taylor, The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2009), 109.

[5] Wennan Liu, “Redefining the Moral and Legal Roles of the State in Everyday Life: The New Life Movement in China in the Mid-1930s.”, Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review, E-Journal, no. 7 (June 2013): 31

[6] Ibid., 31

[7] Emily Hahn, The Song Sister (New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1941), 181.

[8] Wennan Liu, “Redefining the Moral and Legal Roles of the State in Everyday Life: The New Life Movement in China in the Mid-1930s.”, Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review, E-Journal, no. 7 (June 2013): 32.

Bibliography

Chiang, Kai-shek. The Collected Wartime Messages of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek 1937-1945. New York: The John Day Company, 1946.

De Bary, Wm Theodore., and Lufrano Richard, Sources of Chinese Tradition: Volume 2: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Dirlik, Arif. “The ideological foundations of the New Life Movement: a study in counterrevolution.” Journal of Asian Studies 34, no. 4 (1975): 945-980.

Fairbank, John K. The Cambridge History of China Volume 12: Republican China, 1912–1949, Part 1. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Hahn, Emily. The Song Sisters. New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1941.

Liu, Wennan. “Redefining the Moral and Legal Roles of the State in Everyday Life: The New Life Movement in China in the Mid-1930s.” Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review, E-Journal, no. 7 (2013).

Oldstone-Moore, Jennifer. “The New Life Movement of Nationalist China: Confucianism, State Authority and Moral Formation.” PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2000. http://search.proquest.com/docview/304644599?accountid=13800.

Schoppa, R. Keith. The Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Taylor, Jay. The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2009.

Yao, Hsin-chung. An Introduction to Confucianism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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