Ideology, Law, and Society in Nationalist China: The Case of the New Life Movement
In this paper I explore the complex relationship between party ideology and state laws in Nationalist China’s one-party system by examining the implementation of the New Life Movement in Shanghai. I first explore the state legislation and party regulations related to the Movement. I will focus in particular on the creation of semi-governmental organizations, such as the New Life Promotional Association, as well as municipal ordinances that supported police enforcement at local level (weijing fafa). I also explore the debate on the importance of the supposed “natural” laws intrinsic to Chinese civilization—namely, the four principles that lay at the foundation of The New Life Movement: Li, Yi, Lian, and Chi (Propriety/Rites, Justice, Integrity, and Honor). These natural laws, linked to party ideology, were often presented as the foundation of a well-ordered society, thus placing state laws in a subordinate position. The New Life Movement struck a precarious balance between party ideology and state laws as well as between revisited traditional concepts of rites and social order and a newly emerging discourse on legality influenced by Western notions of law.
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