Cao Kun

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Cao Kun
Cao Kun.jpg
President of the Republic of China
In office
10 October 1923 – 30 October 1924
Premier Gao Lingwei
Sun Baoqi
Ku Wei-chün
Preceded by Li Yuanhong
Succeeded by Duan Qirui
Personal details
Born (1862-12-12)12 December 1862
Died 15 May 1938(1938-05-15) (aged 75)
Political party Zhili clique
Military service
Allegiance  Qing Dynasty
Republic of China (1912–49) Republic of China
Empire of China
Battles/wars First Sino-Japanese War
Beijing coup
National Protection War
Zhili–Anhui War
First Zhili–Fengtian War
Cao Kun
Traditional Chinese 曹錕
Simplified Chinese 曹锟
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Cao.

Cao Kun (Chinese: 曹锟/曹錕; Courtesy name: Zhongshan (仲珊)) (December 12, 1862 – May 15, 1938) was a President of Republic China and military leader of the Zhili clique in the Beiyang Army; he also served as trustee of the Catholic University of Peking.

Early life and rise to leadership[edit]

Cao was born in a poor family in Tianjin. During the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894, he went with the army to fight in Choson. After the war was over, he joined Yuan Shikai to participate in the training of New Army (Known as the Beiyang Army). Admired by Yuan, Cao managed to rise very quickly. At the time of 1911 Xinhai Revolution, he commanded the Beiyang 3rd Division.[1]

He was made a general in the Beiyang Army and led the Zhili clique after the death of Feng Guozhang. During the 1918 election, he was promised the vice-presidency by Duan Qirui but the office remained vacant after most of the National Assembly left, depriving it of a quorum. He felt betrayed by Duan and defeated him in battle in 1920. He forced the resignations of both Xu Shichang and Li Yuanhong and was president of the Republic of China (in Beijing) from October 10, 1923 to November 2, 1924.

Cao had a family connection to the Chinese Muslim military commander Ma Fuxing, who resided in Xinjiang.

"Bribing president"[edit]

Cao Kun infamously acquired the presidential office by openly bribing assembly members with 5,000 silver dollars each. This episode brought disrepute to the Beiyang government and its assembly, which lacked a quorum to even hold elections. It turned all the rival factions against him and his own clique began suffering from dissension. Relations with his chief protégé, Wu Peifu, soured and there was rumours of an impending split within the Zhili clique but they stayed together to fight against the Fengtian clique.

One of his first acts as president was to promulgate the 1923 constitution of China. Hastily drafted by the guilt-ridden assembly, it was deemed the most democratic and progressive yet, but like previous charters it was ignored completely.

During a war against Zhang Zuolin in October 1924, Cao was betrayed and imprisoned by his General Feng Yuxiang in the Beijing coup. Feng occupied Beijing and forced Cao to resign. His brother, Cao Rui, committed suicide while under house arrest. He was released two years later as a goodwill gesture by Feng to Wu Peifu.

Cao died in his home at Tianjin in May 1938.




Political offices
Preceded by
Gao Lingwei
President of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Huang Fu