Warlord Era

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The Warlord Era (simplified Chinese: 军阀时代; traditional Chinese: 軍閥時代; pinyin: Jūnfá shídài, 1916–1928) was a period in the history of the Republic of China when the control of the country was divided among its military cliques in the mainland regions of Sichuan, Shanxi, Qinghai, Ningxia, Guangdong, Guangxi, Gansu, Yunnan, and Xinjiang.

The era lasted from the death of Yuan Shikai in 1916 until 1928 (with the conclusion of the Northern Expedition with the Northeast Flag Replacement, the beginning of the "Nanjing decade"). However, when old warlords, such as Wu Peifu and Sun Chuanfang, were deposed, new minor warlords persisted into the 1930s and 1940s, as the central government struggled to keep its allies under rein, a great problem for the Kuomintang (KMT) through World War II and after during the Chinese Civil War. Some of the most notable warlord wars, post-1928, including the Central Plains War, involved nearly a million soldiers. The division of the country continued after the Warlord Era until the fall of the Nationalist government at the end of the civil war.

Major Chinese warlord coalitions in 1925.


The historian Arthur Waldron shows that "'warlord' is neither a Chinese word or a Chinese concept. The Chinese term for "warlord" is junfa (軍閥), which was taken from the Japanese. [1]


The Beiyang Army in training

The origins of the armies and leaders which dominated politics after 1912 lay in the military reforms of the late Qing dynasty. These did not establish a national army but utilized regional armies and militias which lacked standardization or consistency. During the later phase of the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864), provincial governors were allowed to raise their own armies to fight against the Taipings, which were not disbanded when the war finally ended in 1864 with the sack of Nanking. The most powerful regional army was the northern-based Beiyang Army under Yuan Shikai, which received the best in training and modern weaponry. Officers were loyal to their superiors and formed cliques based upon geography and shared academy experiences. Units were composed of men from the same province. This policy was meant to reduce dialectal miscommunication, but had the unfortunate side effect of encouraging regionalistic tendencies.

The Xinhai Revolution in 1911 brought widespread mutiny across southern China. The revolution began in October 1911 with the mutiny of troops based in Wuhan. Soldiers once loyal to the Qing government began to defect to revolutionary forces. Rebel troops established a provisional government in Nanjing the following year under Dr. Sun Yatsen, who had returned from his long exile to lead the revolution. It became clear that the revolutionaries were not strong enough to defeat the Beiyang army and continued fighting would almost certainly lead to defeat. Instead, Sun negotiated with Beiyang commander Yuan Shikai to bring an end to the Qing and reunify China. In return, Yuan would become president. Yuan refused to move to Nanjing and insisted on maintaining the capital in Beijing, where his power base was secure.

Reacting to Yuan's growing authoritarianism, the southern provinces rebelled in 1913 but were effectively crushed by Beiyang forces. Civil governors were replaced by military ones. In December 1915 Yuan made clear his intentions to become emperor of China and found a new dynasty. The southern provinces rebelled again in the National Protection War, only this time the situation was far more serious because most Beiyang commanders abandoned Yuan. He renounced his plans for restoring the monarchy to woo back his lieutenants, but by the time he died in June 1916, China was fractured politically. The North-South split would persist throughout the entire Warlord Era.

Warlords, their armies, and their political system[edit]

Warlords, in the words of the American political scientist Lucian Pye, were "instinctively suspicious, quick to suspect that their interests might be threatened . . . hard-headed, devoted to the short run and impervious to idealistic abstractions".[2] Power in and of itself was their main motivation.

Warlords treated both their own soldiers and the Chinese people brutally. In 1921 the North China Daily News reported that in Shaanxi province, "violence and robbery stalk abroad. Farmers are afraid to venture out of doors with even a donkey, lest both man and beast be pressed into the service of some warring faction." General Wu Peifu professed himself to be an admirer of George Washington, but he was well known for his brutality in breaking strikes by railroad workers; the heads of the strike leaders hung in public as an example to the rest. A British diplomat in Sichuan province witnessed two mutineers being publicly hacked to death with their hearts and livers hung out; another two mutineers being publicly burned to death; while others had slits cut into their bodies into which were inserted burning candles before they were hacked to pieces.[2]

Warlords placed great stress on personal loyalty, yet subordinate officers often betrayed their commanders in exchange for bribes known as "silver bullets" and warlords often betrayed allies. Promotion had little to do with competence, and instead warlords attempted to create an interlocking network of familial, institutional, regional and master-pupil relationships together with membership in sworn brotherhoods and secret societies. Subordinates who betrayed their commanders could suffer harshly. In November 1925 Guo Songling, the leading general loyal to Marshal Zhang Zuolin--the "Old Marshal" of Manchuria--made a deal with Feng Yuxiang, to revolt, which nearly toppled the "Old Marshal", who had to promise his rebel soldiers a pay increase, which together with signs that the Japanese still supported Zhang caused them to go back on their loyalty to him.<[3] Guo and his wife were both publicly shot and their bodies left to hang out for three days in a marketplace in Mukden. After Feng betrayed his ally Wu to seize Beijing for himself, Wu complained that China was "a country without a system, anarchy and treason prevail everywhere. Betraying one's leader has become as natural as eating one's breakfast . . . ."[3]

"Alignment politics" prevented any one warlord from dominating the system. When one warlord started to become too powerful, the rest would ally to stop him, then turn on each other. [3] The level of violence in the first years was restrained, as no leader wanted to engage in too much serious fighting. War brought the risk of damage on one's own forces. [4] For example, when Wu Peifu defeated the army of Marshal Zhang Zuolin, the "Old Marshal" of Manchuria, he provided two trains to take his defeated enemies home, knowing that if in the future Zhang were to defeat him, he could count on the same courtesy. Furthermore, none of the warlords had the economic capacity or the logistical strength to inflict a decisive knockout blow; the most they could hope for was to gain some territory. None could conquer all of China. However, as the 1920s went on, the violence became increasingly intense and savage as the object was to damage the enemy and improve one's bargaining power within the "alignment politics".[5]

As China had poor roads, control of the railroads and rolling stock determined defeat or victory. Railroads were the fastest and cheapest way of moving large bodies of troops and most battles were fought within a short distance of railheads. In 1925 it was estimated that 70% of the locomotives on the railroad line connecting Wuhan and Beijing and 50% of the locomotives on the line connecting Beijing and Mukden were being used for bringing up troops and supplies. Armored trains, full of machine guns and artillery, offered fire support for troops going into battle. The constant fighting around the railroads caused much economic harm. In 1925 at least 50% of the locomotives being used on the line connecting Nanjing and Shanghai had been destroyed, with the soldiers of one warlord using 300 freight cars as sleeping quarters, all inconveniently parked directly on the rail line. To hinder pursuit, defeated troops tore up the railroads as they retreated, causing in 1924 alone damage worth 100 million silver Mexican dollars (the Mexican silver dollar was the main currency used in China at the time). Between 1925-27 fighting in eastern and southern China caused non-military railroad traffic to decline by 25%, raising the prices of goods and causing inventory to build up at warehouses.[6]

Few of the warlords had any sort of ideology. General Yan Xishan, the "Model Governor" of Shanxi, professed a syncretic creed that merged elements of democracy, militarism, individualism, capitalism, socialism, communism, imperialism, universalism, anarchism and Confucian paternalism into one. A friend described Yan as "a dark-skinned, moustached man of medium height who rarely laughed and maintained an attitude of great reserve . . . Yan never showed his inner feelings." Yan kept Shanxi on a different railroad gauge from the rest of China to make it difficult to invade his province, though that tactic also hindered the export of coal and iron, the main source of Shanxi's wealth. Feng Yuxiang, the "Christian General", promoted Methodism together with a vague sort of left-leaning Chinese nationalism, which led the Soviets to support him for a time. Feng banned alcohol, lived simply, and wore the common uniform of an infantryman to show his concern for his men.[7] Wu Peifu, the "Philosopher General", was a mandarin who passed the Imperial Civil Service exam, billing himself as the protector of Confucian values, usually appearing in photographs with the scholar's brush in his hand (the scholar's brush is a symbol of Confucian culture). Doubters noted, however, that the quality of Wu's calligraphy markedly declined when his secretary died. Wu liked to appear in photos taken in his office with a portrait of his hero George Washington in the background to reflect the supposed democratic militarism he was attempting to bring to China. Wu was famous for his capacity to absorb vast quantities of alcohol and still keep drinking.[8] When he sent Feng a bottle of brandy, Feng replied by sending him a bottle of water, a message that Wu failed to take in. An intense nationalist, Wu refused to enter the foreign concessions in China, a stance that was to cost him his life when he refused to go to the International Settlement or the French Concession in Shanghai for medical treatment.[8]

More typical was Marshal Zhang Zuolin, a graduate of the "University of the Green Forest" (i.e., a bandit), an illiterate who had a forceful, ambitious personality that allowed him to rise up from the leader of a bandit gang, be hired by the Japanese to attack the Russians during the Russian-Japanese war of 1904-05, and become the warlord of Manchuria by 1916. He worked openly for the Japanese in ruling Manchuria, a region as large as France and Germany combined. Marshal Zhang controlled only 3% of China's population but 90% of its heavy industry. The wealth of Manchuria, the support of the Japanese and Zhang's hard-hitting, swift-moving cavalry made him the most powerful of the warlords.[7] Marshal Zhang's Japanese patrons insisted that he ensure a stable economic climate to facilitate Japanese investment, making him one of the few warlords who sought to pursue economic growth instead of just plundering.[8]

Zhang Zongchang, known as the "Dogmeat General" because of his love for the gambling game of that name, was described as having "the physique of an elephant, the brain of a pig, and the temperament of a tiger". Writer Lin Yutang called Zhang "the most colorful, legendary, medieval, and unashamed ruler of modern China". Former Emperor Puyi remembered Zhang as "a universally detested monster" whose ugly, bloated face was "tinged with the livid hue induced by opium smoking". A brutal man, Zhang was notorious for his hobby of "opening melons", as he called smashing in the heads of prisoners with his sword. Zhang loved to boast about the size of his penis, which become part of his legend. He was widely believed to be the most well endowed man in China, nicknamed "General Eighty-six" as his penis when erect was said to measure up to a pile of 86 Mexican silver dollars. His harem consisted of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Russian women together with two Frenchwomen and one who said she was an American. He gave them numbers, as he could not remember their names, then usually forgot the numbers.[8]

Many of the soldiers were bandits who took up service for a campaign and then reverted to banditry when the campaign was over. One politician remarked that when the warlords went to war with each other, the bandits become soldiers and when the war ended, the soldiers became bandits.[9] Warlord armies commonly raped or took many women into sexual slavery.[10] The system of looting was institutionalized, as many warlords lacked the money to pay their troops. Some took to kidnapping, and might send a hostage's severed fingers along with the ransom demand as a way of encouraging prompt payment. To defend themselves from the attacks of the warlord armies, peasant secret societies emerged that practiced martial arts. The Red Spear Society performed secret ceremonies to confer invulnerability from bullets to channel the power of Qi and went into battle naked with supposedly bulletproof red clay smeared over their bodies. The all-female Iron Gate Society dressed entirely in white (the color of death in China) and waved fans that they believed would deflect bullets. One bandit leader, Bai Lang, the "White Wolf," declared himself loyal to Dr. Sun Yat-sen and formed a "Citizen's Punitive Army" to rid China of all the warlords.[11]

Besides bandits, the rank-and-file of the warlord armies tended to be village conscripts. They might take service in one army, then being captured and joining the opposing army before being captured yet again. Warlords usually incorporated their prisoners into their armies; at least 200,000 men who were serving in the army of Gen. Wu were prisoners he had incorporated into his own army. A survey of one warlord garrison in 1924 revealed that 90% of the soldiers were illiterate. In 1926 U.S Army officer Joseph Stilwell inspected a warlord unit and observed that 20% were less than 4.5 feet tall, the average age was 14 and most walked barefoot. Stilwell wrote that this "scarecrow company" was worthless as a military unit. A British army visitor commented that, provided they had proper leadership, the men of northern China were "the finest Oriental raw material with a physique second to none, and an iron constitution". However, such units were the exception rather than the rule.[12]

In 1916 there were about a half-million soldiers in China. By 1922 the numbers had tripled, then tripled again by 1924, more than the warlords could support. For example, Marshal Zhang, the ruler of industrialised Manchuria, took in $23 million in tax revenues in 1925 while spending some $51 million. Warlords in other provinces were even more hard-pressed. One way of raising funds was taxes called lijin that were often confiscatory and inflicted much economic harm. For example, in Sichuan province there were 27 different taxes on salt, and one shipload of paper that was sent down the Yangtze River to Shanghai was taxed 11 different times by various warlords to the sum total of 160% of its value. One warlord imposed a tax of 100% on railroad freight, including food, even though there was a famine in his province. Taxes owed to the central government in Beijing on stamp and salt were usually taken by regional authorities. Despite all of the wealth of Manchuria and the support of the Japanese army, Marshal Zhang had to raise land taxes by 12% between 1922-28 to pay for his wars.[5]

The warlords demanded loans from the banks. The other major revenue source besides taxes, loans and looting was the selling of opium, with the warlords selling the rights to grow and sell opium within their provinces to consortiums of gangsters. Despite his ostensible anti-opium stance, Gen. Feng Yuxiang, "the Christian General", took in some $20 million/per annum from opium sales. Inflation was another means of paying for their soldiers. Some warlords simply ran the printing presses, issuing new Chinese dollars non-stop, and some resorted to duplicating machines to issue new Chinese dollars. The warlord who ruled Hunan province printed 22 million Chinese dollars on a silver reserve worth only 1 million Chinese dollars in the course of a single year, while Zhang in Shandong province printed 55 million Chinese dollars on a silver reserve of 1.5 million Chinese dollars during the same year. The illiterate Marshal Zhang, who engaged in reckless printing of Chinese dollars, did not understand it was he who was causing the inflation in Manchuria, and his remedy was simply to summon the leading merchants of Mukden, accuse them of greed because they were always raising their prices, had five of them selected at random publicly shot, and told the rest to behave better. [13] Despite their constant need for money, the warlords lived in luxury. Marshal Zhang owned the world's biggest pearl while Gen. Wu owned the world's biggest diamond. Marshal Zhang, the "Old Marshal", lived in a lavish palace in Mukden with his five wives, old Confucian texts and a cellar full of fine French wines, and needed 70 cooks in his kitchen to make enough food for him, his wives and his guests. Gen. Zhang, the "Dogmeat General", ate his meals off a 40-piece Belgian dinner service, and an American journalist described dinner with him: "He gave a dinner for me where sinful quantities of costly foods were served. There was French champagne and sound brandy".[2]

The warlords bought machine guns and artillery from abroad, but their uneducated soldiers could not operate or service them. A British mercenary complained in 1923 that Wu Peifu had about 45 European artillery pieces that were inoperable because they had not been properly maintained.[14] At the Battle of Urga, the army of General Xu Shuzheng, which had seized Outer Mongolia, was attacked by a Russian-Mongol army under the command of Gen. Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. The Chinese might have stopped Ungern had they been capable of firing their machine guns properly, to adjust for the inevitable upward jerk caused by the firing; they didn't, and this caused the bullets to overshoot their targets. The inability to use their machine guns properly proved costly;after taking Urga in February 1921, Ungern had his Cossacks and Mongol cavalry hunt down the remnants of Xu's troops as they attempted to flee south on the road back to China.[15]

Because their soldiers were not able to use or take proper care of modern weapons, the warlords often hired foreign mercenaries, who were effective but always open to other offers. Russian émigrés who fled to China after the victory of the Bolsheviks were widely employed. The Russian mercenaries, according to one reporter, "went through the Chinese troops like a knife through butter". The most highly paid of the Russian units was led by General Konstantin Nechanev, who fought for Zhang Zongchang, the "Dogmeat General" who ruled Shandong province. Nechanev and his men were much feared. In 1926 they drove three armored trains through the countryside, gunning down everyone they met and taking everything moveable. The rampage was stopped only when the peasants pulled up the train tracks, which led Nechanev to sack the nearest town.[16]


This military symbol was based on the Five Races Under One Union flag.

Yuan's death split the Beiyang army into two factions: the Anhui clique led by Duan Qirui and the Zhili clique led by Feng Guozhang. The Northeast China-based Fengtian faction, led by Zhang Zuolin, was an amalgamation of Beiyang and local units. Diplomatic recognition was usually given to any government that ruled Beijing, so capturing this city was a high priority. In addition, they could collect the customs revenues and apply for foreign loans. All the northern factions recognized the Beijing government as legitimate, even if they opposed it. They would argue that while the government was legitimate, it lacked authority to dictate to provinces. The Beiyang government in Beijing would occasionally issue edicts to territory beyond their control to charge rival factions with treason, and when it was expectedly ignored used that to justify military action. This practice ended in 1923 when Cao Kun bought the presidency. The other northern factions were disgusted enough to refuse recognition.

Anhui hegemony (1916–20)[edit]

President Li Yuanhong was effectively sidelined by the Beiyang generals. Premier Duan Qirui dominated politics but had to work with the Zhili clique in order to maintain stability. Many provinces refused to recognize their government and called for the removal of all Beiyang generals from politics. Duan's heavy-handed efforts to push China into World War I and his secret loans from Japan led to his dismissal by Li in May 1917. Knowing that Duan was plotting against him, Li asked influential Beiyang Gen. Zhang Xun to protect the government. Instead, Zhang restored the Qing dynasty in July. Duan toppled the monarchist regime and was hailed as the savior of the republic, giving him greater clout. He was able to declare war against Germany. His next task was to subdue the south, but differences with the Zhili clique, which preferred negotiating a treaty, led to his resignation to save the unity of the Beiyang. President Feng Guozhang, however, had to recall Duan due to pressure from the Anhui clique. The campaign in Hunan backfired, resulting in attrition, low morale and bitterness. Duan resigned again in October 1918 but made every effort to sabotage peace between north and south. His pro-Japanese policies weakened him during the May Fourth Movement. The Zhili clique made an alliance with the Fengtian clique of Zhang Zuolin and defeated Duan in the Zhili-Anhui War of July 1920.

Zhili hegemony (1920–24)[edit]

After the death of Feng Guozhang in 1919, the Zhili clique was led by Cao Kun. The alliance with the Fengtian was only one of convenience and war broke out in 1922 (the First Zhili-Fengtian War), with Zhili driving Fengtian forces back to Manchuria. Next, they wanted to bolster their legitimacy and reunify the country by returning Li Yuanhong to the presidency and restoring the National Assembly. They proposed that Xu Shichang and Sun Yatsen resign their rival presidencies simultaneously in favor of Li. When Sun issued strict stipulations that the Zhili couldn't stomach, they caused the defection of KMT Gen. Chen Jiongming by recognizing him as governor of Guangdong. With Sun driven out of Guangzhou, the Zhili clique superficially restored the constitutional government that existed prior to Zhang Xun's coup. Cao bought the presidency in 1923 despite opposition by the KMT, Fengtian, Anhui remnants, some of his lieutenants and the public. In the autumn of 1924 the Zhili appeared to be on the verge of complete victory in the Second Zhili-Fengtian War until Feng Yuxiang betrayed the clique, seized Beijing and imprisoned Cao. Zhili forces were routed from the north but kept the center.

Fengtian hegemony (1924–28)[edit]

The alliance between Zhang Zuolin and Feng Yuxiang was tenuous. Feng had formed his own faction called the Guominjun (Nationalist Army, or KMC), which was ideologically sympathetic to the southern KMT government but not a part of it. As a compromise, they gave the northern government to Duan Qirui, whose Anhui clique was near extinct. Fengtian was far stronger in terms of manpower, as KMC troops were stretched thinly across a vast area. Negotiations on north-south reunification went nowhere, since Zhang and Duan had little in common with Sun Yatsen, who died in March 1925. Later that year fighting broke out after Fengtian Gen. Guo Songling defected to the KMC, sparking the Anti-Fengtian War. Zhili Gen. Wu Peifu decided to ally with Zhang against the traitor Feng. KMC forces were driven to the northwest but later joined the Northern Expedition of Chiang Kai-shek. Zhang took over the northern government in June 1927 as troops from the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) were flooding into his territory. On 2 June 1928 Zhang resigned after agreeing to hand over Beijing to the NRA. He was assassinated by a Japanese bomb while fleeing to Manchuria on 4 June. Five days later, NRA troops seized the capital and extinguished the Beiyang government. Zhang's son and successor, Zhang Xueliang, recognized the Nationalist government on 31 December.


The south was a hotbed of revolutionary activity where opposition to the Beiyang cliques was the strongest. The area revolted against the Qing in 1911 and against Yuan Shikai in 1913 and 1916. After the Qing restoration debacle in Beijing, several southern provinces led by Tang Jiyao and Lu Rongting refused to recognize the new Duan Qirui cabinet and parliament. Sun Yat-sen gathered notable politicians, KMT members of the dissolved National Assembly and southern militarists in late July 1917 to form a rival government in Guangzhou, known as the Constitutional Protection government. The southern factions recognized Guangzhou as the legitimate capital, even though it lacked international recognition. Like the north, southern militarists would occasionally rebel on the pretense of provincial rights, Guangxi especially. The southern provinces were Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou, Hunan, Guangxi and Guangdong (including Hainan).

Constitutional protection (1917–22)[edit]

In September Sun was named generalissimo of the military government with the purpose of protecting the provisional constitution of 1912. The southern warlords assisted his regime solely to legitimize their fiefdoms and challenge Beijing. In a bid for international recognition, they also declared war against the Central Powers but failed to garner any recognition. In July 1918 southern militarists thought Sun was given too much power and forced him to join a governing committee. Continual interference forced Sun into self-imposed exile. While away, he recreated the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang. With the help of KMT Gen. Chen Jiongming, committee members Gen. Cen Chunxuan, Adm. Lin Baoyi and Gen. Lu Rongting were expelled in the 1920 Guangdong-Guangxi War. In May 1921 Sun was elected "extraordinary president" by a rump parliament despite protests by Chen and Tang Shaoyi, who complained of its unconstitutionality. Tang left while Chen plotted with the Zhili clique to overthrow Sun in June 1922 in return for recognition of his governorship over Guangdong.

Reorganization (1923–25)[edit]

Loyalists drove Chen out and Sun returned to power in March 1923. He reorganized the KMT along Leninist democratic centralism and made an alliance with the Communist Party of China, which would be known as the First United Front. The southern government abandoned protecting the 1912 constitution, since its rump parliament defected to the north to join Cao's puppet government. Instead, its new purpose was to create a revolutionary one-party state. The Whampoa Military Academy was formed to create a loyal officer corps to rid the KMT of its dependence on unreliable and opportunistic southern generals. With the ouster of the Zhili clique in 1924, Sun traveled to Beijing to negotiate reunification with Guominjun, Fengtian and Anhui leaders. He died of cancer in March 1925, which ended the talks but also initiated a power struggle within the KMT. Tang Jiyao, claiming to be Sun's chosen successor, tried to seize control of the southern government during the Yunnan-Guangxi War but was routed. In the north the Anti–Fengtian War was waged from November 1925 to April 1926 by the Guominjun against the Fengtian clique and their Zhili clique allies. The war ended with the defeat of the Guominjun and the end of the provisional executive government.

Northern Expedition (1926–28)[edit]

KMT Gen. Chiang Kai-shek emerged as the leader of the NRA, following the Zhongshan Warship Incident. He set out on the long-delayed Northern Expedition in the summer of 1926. NRA forces easily defeated the Zhili armies of Wu Peifu and Sun Chuanfang in central and eastern China. The Guominjun and Shanxi warlord Yan Xishan joined forces with the KMT against the Fengtian. In 1927 the KMT-CCP alliance ruptured with the Communists being brutally purged, which initiated the Chinese Civil War. Chiang established his capital in Nanjing but still needed to take Beijing to get international recognition. Yan Xishan, now a KMT general, occupied Beijing after the death of Zhang Zuolin. Zhang Xueliang, the new leader of Fengtian, submitted himself under the condition he would continue to rule over Manchuria, but the Japanese would occupy Manchuria in 1931.


By moving the capital to Nanjing, Chiang was secure in his power base, completing the Northeast Flag Replacement of Chinese reunification in 1928. Many warlords were not defeated but co-opted into the new national government, which would trouble Chiang. Feng Yuxiang and Yan Xishan rebelled in 1930 in the Central Plains War. The northwest erupted into the Xinjiang Wars from 1931–37. Chiang had to put down the Fujian Rebellion in 1933–34. Zhang Xueliang took part in the 1936 Xi'an Incident. In addition, minor warlords, bandits, ethnic minority militias, and the Communists were active in the countryside and peripheral regions. The KMT itself was plagued by factionalism with influential leaders like Wang Jingwei and Hu Hanmin rebelling against Chiang. Chiang's actual power was weaker beyond the provinces surrounding Jiangsu. In short, warlordism did not end but took on a different appearance. All cliques now wore the Zhongshan suit and had party membership, effectively becoming KMT franchisees. It was not until after the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1950 that anything resembling a united, centralized government like that prior to 1915 re-emerged.

Major factions[edit]

Northern factions[edit]

Major cliques[edit]

Anhui clique 皖系

Zhili clique 直系

Fengtian clique 奉系

Minor cliques[edit]

Guominjun 國民軍

Shanxi clique 晉系

Xinjiang clique

Ma clique 馬家軍

Provincial factions[edit]







Southern factions[edit]

Yunnan clique 滇系

Old Guangxi Clique 桂系

New Guangxi Clique 新桂系

Kuomintang (KMT) 中國國民黨

Sichuan clique 川系

Sichuan / Xikang

Minor southern factions[edit]




Chinese Communist Party (CCP)




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Waldron (1995), p. 246.
  2. ^ a b c Fenby (2004), p. 104.
  3. ^ a b c Fenby (2004), p. 107.
  4. ^ Fenby (2004), p. 107-108.
  5. ^ a b Fenby (2004), p. 108.
  6. ^ Fenby (2004), p. 112.
  7. ^ a b Fenby (2004), p. 103.
  8. ^ a b c d Fenby (2004), p. 102.
  9. ^ Fenby (2004), p. 104-106, 110-111.
  10. ^ Fenby (2004), p. 106.
  11. ^ Fenby (2004), p. 105-106.
  12. ^ Fenby (2004), p. 110-111.
  13. ^ Fenby (2004), p. 109-110.
  14. ^ Fenby (2004), p. 110.
  15. ^ Palmer, James The Bloody White Baron The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Become the Last Khan of Mongolia, New York: Basic Books, 2009 pages 149, 158.
  16. ^ Fenby (2004), p. 111.

References and further reading[edit]

These are general studies or works cited. For works on individuals, battles, or special topics, please see the pages on those topics.