The military victories of the Northern Expedition (1926–28) ended nearly two decades of political fragmentation and ushered in a new era of centralized government in China. A key concern of the Nationalist government, based in Nanjing, was bringing the haphazard array of private schools that had emerged since the republic's founding in 1911 in line with the Nationalists’ political agenda. The Nationalist leadership also hoped to use their educational reforms to bring the frontier regions, many of which were only tenuously allied with Nanjing, more formally under their control. Thus, the new regime set out to achieve the twin goals of regulating private schools and cultivating ties among the frontier region's population. These two goals became entangled in an unexpected manner at the private Muslim Chengda Teachers School. Although the Nationalists banned private teachers schools in 1933, they deliberately exempted Chengda from such regulations to further their frontier agenda. Later, when the central government's frontier political calculations changed, the Nationalists rescinded such protection and forced Chengda to abide by the original regulations.

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