The scouts movement and the construction of new citizenship in republican China (1912-1937)

  • Sze Hang CHOI

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


Robert Baden-Powell established the world's first Boy Scouts in Britain in 1907. with unexpected quickness, the first Chinese Boy Scouts was established in 1912. The Chinese Boy Scouts first started in missionary schools and its early development was concentrated in Shanghai and Jiangsu province. In 1928, the Nationalist Party (KMT) started to turn the Scouts into a tool to mould ideal future citizens of the country by indoctrinating the Scouts with the Three People's Principles and training them with practical living skills.

In the 1930s, stimulated by the Japanese invasion and inspired by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany's extensive use of youth organizations to train highly militarized youth to serve the nation's needs, Chiang Kai-shek entrusted the Blue Shirts, who were led by the graduates of the Whampoa Military Academy, to be responsible for the Scouts affairs. They changed the focus of remodeling the Scouts from politicization to militarization. the KMT believed that the ""reformed"" Scout program would produce a patriotic and disciplined youth who had the will and the ability to contribute to the nation. in addition, by expanding the Scout program, the KMT believed that rural areas and creating a separate Girl Scout program, the KMT believed that rural children and girls, who had been ignored by the Scout organizers before the KMT period, would become valuable citizens to help revive China.

However, there was an uneasy gap between the reality and the KMT's expectations. Due to the missionary and non-government origin of the Scouts, the KMT found it difficult to indoctrinate the Scouts with its political principles. Furthermore, the uneasy relationship between the government and the party, and the lack of funding became hindrances to KMT's effort to spread the Scouts nationwide. the relatively small number of Scouts in China also limited the effect of militarizing and creating separate gender roles for all Chinese youth as the KMT had envisioned.

This thesis is divided into four parts. First, it will discuss the early development of the Boy Scouts before the KMT's takeover (1912-1928) with the focus on the Boy Scouts organizations in Shanghai and Jiangsu province. it will also discuss how the organizations dealt with patriotism in political movements. Second, it will analyze how effective the KMT was in terms of taking over the Scout organization nationwide. It will also analyze why during the Nanjing Decade (1928-1937), the KMT changed the focus of the Scout's development from political control into quantitative expansion by incorporating the Scout program into the formal school curriculum and expanding the Scouts from the cities to rural areas. Third, it will analyze, from 1930 to 1937, how the KMT under the influence of the German model responded to the same dilemma faced by Baden-Powell in Britain in the 1910s: should the purpose of the Boy Scouts program be to train future citizens or future soldiers? Last, it will analyze the assumption behind the KMT's formulation of the Girl Scout program: should girls be good housewives and mothers in the home or active citizens in society as boys were supposed to be ?
Date of Award2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of History
SupervisorShuk Wah POON (Supervisor) & Grace Ai-ling CHOU (Supervisor)

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