New Life Movement

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The New Life Movement (Chinese: ; pinyin: Xīn Shēng Huó Yùn Dòng) was a civic education movement in China,[1] set up by General Chiang Kai-shek and his wife Soong Mei-ling in February 1934, with the help of the Blue Shirts Society and the CC Clique within the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang).[2]

The New Life Movement was founded at a time when China, already weakened by Western imperialism, faced the threats of rising Japanese militarism, domestic factionalism and communism. The Movement attempted to counter such threats through a resurrection of traditional Chinese morality, which it held to be superior to modern Western values. As such the Movement was based upon Confucianism, mixed with Christianity, nationalism and authoritarianism that have some similarities to fascism.[2] It rejected individualism and liberalism, while also opposing socialism and communism.

Chiang Kai-shek used the Confucian and Methodist notion of self-cultivation and correct living for the Movement; to this end it prescribed proper etiquette on every aspect of daily lives. Some of its many measures included: opposition to littering and spitting on the floor; opposition to opium use; opposition to conspicuous consumption; rejection of vice entertainments in favor of artistic and athletic pursuits; promotion of courteous behavior; and promotion of flag salutes. Among its more unusual campaigns was its promotion of bathing with cold water: Chiang Kai-shek pointed out the (supposed) Japanese habit of washing their faces with cold water as a sign of their military strength, and expected the Chinese to be able to do the same if not better.

The New Life Movement was considered by the Kuomintang as a key part of the program to carry out the "principle of the people's livelihood" (minsheng zhuyi) in Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People. However it was suspended indefinitely, effectively abolished, during the desperate final phase of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. In the end the effectiveness of the Movement was not clear cut: while some have praised it for its role in raising the quality of life somewhat during the war with Japan, others have criticized it for its lofty goals and nanny state approach that were out of touch with the suffering of the general populace.

Cultural references[edit]

Xinsheng Road, a major arterial road in Taipei is named after the movement.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alan Lawrance (2004). China Since 1919: Revolution and Reform : a Sourcebook. Psychology Press. pp. 62–. ISBN 978-0-415-25142-6. 
  2. ^ a b Schoppa, R. Keith. [2000] (2000). The Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11276-9.