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The Anhui clique (simplified Chinese: 皖系军阀; traditional Chinese: 皖系軍閥; pinyin: Wǎn Xì Jūn Fá) was one of several mutually hostile cliques or factions that split from the Beiyang Clique in the Republic of China's Warlord era. It was named after Anhui province because several of its generals including its founder, Duan Qirui, was born in Anhui. It could be considered a legacy of Anhui native Li Hongzhang who created and built a network of officers during and after the Taiping Rebellion. Because the Anhui clique organized itself very early, it was more politically sophisticated than its warlord rivals.
With Japanese support and the suppression of the Manchu Restoration, it became the most powerful faction in China from 1916 to 1920. They had an uneasy co-existence with the Zhili clique and Fengtian clique in the Beiyang government. They advocated a hardline during the Constitutional Protection War. The May Fourth Movement weakened their influence and eventually led to the Zhili-Anhui War in 1920 which saw the surprise defeat of the Anhui clique. Duan resigned and the clique lacked national leadership for the next four years when all their provinces were eventually gobbled up by the Zhili clique by the summer of 1924. (Shandong was an anomaly, the Zhili clique appointed an Anhui general in 1923 there provided he remain neutral, see Shandong Problem. Zheng Shiqi ruled until 1925 when he transferred it to Fengtian's Zhang Zongchang per agreement with Duan.) After the Beijing coup, Feng Yuxiang and Zhang Zuolin picked Duan to lead a provisional government. Lacking any significant military power, he and his few remaining supporters played Feng and Zhang against each other. They removed him from power and his last followers joined the Fengtian clique.
They also had a political wing known as the Anfu Club (literally, Peace and Happiness Club, after a Beijing lane where they met; folk etymology claims it was a pun on Anhui and Fujian) which consisted of politicians that threw their fortune in with Duan. Formed on 7 March 1918 by Xu Shuzheng and Wang Yitang, it ran for elections for the northern National Assembly and won three-fourths of the seats primarily because Anhui warlords bought the votes. They were a highly disciplined party created to push Duan's agenda through legal means such as electing fellow party member Xu Shichang as President of the ROC. Before the Zhili-Anhui War, it was also supported by the Fengtian clique, Xinjiang clique, and Shanxi clique. It dissolved after Zhili-Anhui War when the Assembly was disbanded.
Their financial wing was the New Communications Clique (1916-1919) led by Cao Rulin. It was the rival to Liang Shiyi's Old Communications Clique. Cao's conduct during the Paris Peace Conference led to the May Fourth Movement and his dismissal.
- Anthony B. Chan (1 October 2010). Arming the Chinese: The Western Armaments Trade in Warlord China, 1920-28, Second Edition. UBC Press. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-0-7748-1992-3.