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Full Access Reviving China: Urban Reconstruction in Nanchang and the Guomindang National Revival Movement, 1932–37

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Reviving China: Urban Reconstruction in Nanchang and the Guomindang National Revival Movement, 1932–37

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This paper, the first examination of the urban reconstruction of Nanchang, headquarters of the New Life Movement during a period of “National Revival” from 1932–37, presents a fresh understanding of the Guomindang (GMD) New Life Movement. By framing the Nanchang urban reconstruction as an integral program of the New Life Movement, it challenges the established wisdom of the Movement's mere focus on disciplining Chinese population without any agenda to materially transform Chinese life. By examining GMD engineering efforts to construct public infrastructure, this essay testifies to the Movement's concrete impact on urban residents. In doing so, it offers a new conceptualization of the New Life Movement as a distinctive moment of Chinese modernity during a process of constructing new urban space in China's interior cities. This paper also brings to light the ignored connection between the New Life Movement and the historical and ideological context of the GMD National Revival Movement. As the GMD leaders believed, a “new Nanchang” would regenerate a stable national culture and identity as a critique of capitalist modernization. By calling attention to the logic of overcoming modernity, the paper resituates the New Life Movement into cultural revival movements worldwide.


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