List of warlords and military cliques in the Warlord Era

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Major Chinese warlord coalitions as of 1925

The Warlord Era is the common term that refers to the time period of China beginning from 1916 to the mid-1930s, when the country was divided by various military cliques. Followed by the death of Yuan Shikai in 1916, and nominally ended in 1928 at the conclusion of the Northern Expedition with the Northeast Flag Replacement, beginning the "Nanjing decade". However, the division continued to exist into the 1930s, and remained until the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

The warlords and military cliques of the Warlord Era are generally divided into the Northern Faction and the Southern Faction. The following is a list of cliques within each faction, and the dominant warlords within that clique.

Northern Faction[edit]

The cliques in the Northern Faction are evolved from the Beiyang system. Most of them were generals under Yuan Shikai. After the death of Yuan, they separated and formed cliques in their own sphere of influence.

Anhui clique[edit]

  • Anhui is the name of a province in southern China.
  • The Anhui Clique was so named because many of its most influential members were from Anhui, including founder Duan Qirui.
  • It could be considered a legacy of Anhui native Li Hongzhang's influence on the Beiyang army.
  • The clique was removed from power after the Zhili-Anhui War and slowly faded from prominence
Name Years of dominance Notes
Duan Qirui Duanqirui.jpg 1916–1926 - Premier: 1913, 1916–18; President: 1924-26

- Negotiated the Nishihara Loans with Japan in exchange for Shandong Concession, triggering the May Fourth Movement

Xu Shuzheng Xu Shuzheng.jpg 1916–1920 - Duan Qirui's right-hand man

- Led expedition that reconquered Mongolia and temporarily brought it back under control

Duan Zhigui Duanzhigui.jpg - Minister of War: 1917-1919
Jin Yunpeng Jin Yunpeng.jpg - Premier: 1919-1921
Wang Yitang Wang Yitang2.jpg - Chairman of the House of Representatives 1918-1920
Lu Yongxiang Lu Yongxiang.jpg - Ruler of Zhejiang and Shanghai, his refusal to hand over Shanghai caused the Second Zhili–Fengtian War
Zhang Jingyao Zhang Jingyao.jpg 1917–1920 - Governor of Hunan noted for his exceptional brutality

- Assassinated in 1933 after he became involved with the Japanese plot to enthrone Puyi as emperor of Manchukuo

Zhili clique[edit]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Feng Guozhang Fengguozhang.jpg 1916–1919 - Served as President 1917-1918

- Died in 1919 and was succeeded by Cao Kun

Cao Kun Cao kun.jpg 1919–1924 - Bribed his way to the presidency and served from 1923 to 1924

- Arrested and imprisoned during the Beijing coup by Feng Yuxiang

Wu Peifu Wu pei fu 430.jpg 1919–1927 - Military commander and strategist of the Zhili Clique

- Credited with the victories that pushed Zhili to power but ultimately failed hold onto power in the Second Zhili-Fengtian War

Sun Chuanfang Sunchuanfang.jpg 1919–1927 - Controlled most of the Lower Yangtze

- Defeated in the Northern Expedition

Fengtian clique[edit]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Zhang Zuolin Zhang Zuo-lin.png 1916–1928 - Leader of the Fengtian Army, ruler of Manchuria

- Assassinated by a Japanese military officer for his failure to halt the expansion of the Kuomintang

Zhang Xueliang Zhang Xueliang.jpg 1928–1937 - Son and successor to Zhang Zuolin

- Eventually reconciled the Fengtian clique with the Kuomintang

Guo Songling GuoSongling.jpg 1920–1925 - General in the Fengtian Army

- Rebelled during the Anti-Fengtian War but was defeated and killed in action

Zhang Haipeng Zhang Haipeng.jpg
Zhang Jinghui Zhang Jinghui2.JPG Afterwards Prime Minister of Manchukuo
Zhang Zongchang Zhangzongchang.jpg
Tang Yulin Tang Yulin.jpg
Wan Fulin Wan Fulin.jpg
Wu Junsheng Wu Junsheng.jpg - Commander of Fengtian Cavalry
Yang Yuting Yang Yuting.jpg - Executed by Zhang Xueliang for his part in the assassination of Zhang Zuolin

Shanxi clique[edit]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Yan Xishan Yan Xishan.png 1911–1949 - Military ruler of Shanxi
- Joined the Kuomintang but later rebelled against Chiang Kai-shek in the Central Plains War
- Defeated by the Communists in 1949, withdrew to Taiwan

Guominjun[edit]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Feng Yuxiang 02fengyuxiang-1-.jpg 1924–1934 Leader of the Northwest
Sun Yue Sun Yue.jpg 1924–1928
Hu Jingyi Hu JIngyi2.jpg 1924–1925 Military governor of Henan
Song Zheyuan Song Zheyuan.jpg 1927–1930

Shandong[edit]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Zhang Zongchang Zhang Chongchan.jpg 1925–1928 Ruler of the Shandong province
Han Fuqu Han Fuju.JPG 1930–1938 Chairman of the Shandong Province; Was arrested and shot after abandoning his province when the Second Sino-Japanese War started.

Ma clique[edit]

All Ma Clique Generals were Kuomintang members

Name Years of dominance Notes
Ma Anliang 1912–1920 Ruler of the Gansu province, Outranked all the other Ma Clique generals.
Ma Qi Ma Qi.jpg 1915–1931 Ruler of the Qinghai province, influential in Gansu province
Ma Lin Ma Lin.jpg 1931–1938 Ruler of the Qinghai province
Ma Fuxiang Ma Fuxiang.jpg 1912–1928 Ruler of Ningxia
Ma Bufang Ma Bufang.jpg 1938–1945 Ruler of the Qinghai province
Ma Hongbin Ma Hongbin.jpg 1921–1928 Ruler of Gansu Province
Ma Hongkui Ma Hongkui.jpg 1923–1949 Army commander then ruler of Ningxia Province from 1932
Ma Zhongying Ma Zhongying.jpg 1929–1934 Chief of the 36th Division
Ma Hushan Ma Hushan 1937.jpg 1934–1950 Chief of the 36th Division

Xinjiang clique[edit]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Yang Zengxin General Yang Zengxin.jpg 1912–1928 Ruler of the Xinjiang province.
Ma Fuxing Ma Fuxing Titai of Kashgar.jpg 1912–1924 Titai of Kashgar, Military Commander of Southern Xinjiang
Ma Shaowu Ma Shaowu.jpg 1924–1937 Tao-yin of Kashgar, Military Commander of Southern Xinjiang
Jin Shuren Jin Shuren.jpg 1928–1934 Ruler of the Xinjiang province.

Southern Faction[edit]

The military cliques in the Southern Faction are generally regional revolutionary leaders that took over after the fall of Qing Dynasty in Xinhai Revolution.

Yunnan clique[edit]

The Yunnan Military Government was established on October 30, 1911, with Cai E elected as the military governor. This marked the beginning of the "Yunnan clique".

Name Years of dominance Notes
Cai E Cai E.jpg 1911–1916 Leader of the Yunnan Army
Hu Ruoyu 1927 Governor of Yunnan
Long Yun Long Yun2.jpg 1927-1945 Governor of Yunnan
Tang Jiyao Tangjiyao.jpg 1913-1927 Military governor of Yunnan

Old Guangxi clique[edit]

Guangxi province announced its independence on November 6, 1911. Originally, the revolutionaries supported the Qing Governor to remain in position. However, he later left the province, and Lu Rongting succeeded his position.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Lu Rongting Lu Rongting.jpg 1912–1922
Chen Binghun Chen Bingkun.jpg
Shen Chunxuan
Shen Hongying Shen Hongying.jpg 1923-1925 Military governor of Guangdong (1923-1924)

New Guangxi clique[edit]

By 1924, the Old Guangxi clique was no longer effective, and was replaced by the New Guangxi clique.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Bai Chongxi Bai-Chongxi.jpg 1923–1949
Huang Shaoxiong Huang Shaohong.jpg 1923–1949
Li Zongren Lizhongren.jpg 1923–1949

Guangdong[edit]

Guangdong was independent on November 8. The Guangdong Army was in the early 1920s mostly dominated by Chen Jiongming. In the 1930s, Chen Jitang was chairman of the government.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Chen Jiongming Chen Jion-ming.png 1911–1924
Chen Jitang Chen Jitang.jpg 1929–1936

Kuomintang[edit]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Sun Yat-sen Sunyatsen1.jpg 1912–1925 Founder of the Republic of China and leader of the Kuomintang
Chiang Kai-shek Chiang Kai-shek.jpg 1926–1975 Military leader of the Kuomintang and later President
He Yingqin Hyy.png 1926–1950 Senior General in the Kuomintang
Hu Hanmin Hhm.png 1925–1936 Leader of the right wing faction of the Kuomintang
Liao Zhongkai Liao Zhongkai.jpg 1923–1925 Architect of the First United Front with the Chinese Communist Party
Wang Jingwei Wang Jingwei.png 1925–1944 Leader of the left wing faction of the Kuomintang, later Japanese puppet

Sichuan clique[edit]

During the period from 1927–1938, Sichuan was in the hands of five warlords. No warlord had enough power to take on all the others at once, so many small battles occurred, pitting one warlord against another.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Liu Wenhui Liu Wenhui.jpg
Liu Xiang Liu Xiang.jpg 1921–1938
Yang Sen Yang Sen.jpg
Tian Songyao Tian Songyao.jpg
Deng Xihou Deng Xihou.jpg

References[edit]