|Part of The Warlord era of Republican China|
Zhili clique and Fengtian clique
|Commanders and leaders|
Duan Qirui |
|Casualties and losses|
35,500 killed or deserted|
Tensions between the two factions developed during the Constitutional Protection War of 1917. Duan Qirui, leader of the Anhui clique, favored aggressive action against the South, and after becoming the premier of the state department (Guwuyuan Zongli, 国务总理) advocated a military solution. His plan was to rid southern China of rival warlords, as well as unify China. The Zhili clique favored compromise and negotiations, hoping to sway rival warlords to their side with financial and political support. Duan refused to acknowledge the Zhili's efforts and favored his own officers and politicians over others. After building a de facto private army using the Nishihara Loans, and used it to occupy Outer Mongolia. Feeling threatened Manchuria's Fengtian clique allied with the Zhili clique, and began courting those warlords in southwestern China who had previously been threatened by Duan's Anhui armies. Obtaining British and American backing, the Zhili and Fengtian cliques had President Xu Shichang dismiss General Xu Shuzheng, the leader of the Mongolia expedition. Having publicly lost face and being undermined by a less powerful but still dangerous pair of ex-allies and hangers-on, General Xu and Duan denounced the actions and prepared for war.
In November 1919, the Zhili clique leader Wu Peifu met with representatives of Tang Jiyao and Lu Rongting at Hengyang, where they signed a treaty entitled: "Rough Draft of the National Salvation Allied Army"(救国同盟军草约). This formed the basis of a true anti-Anhui clique alliance. In April 1920, while visiting a memorial service at Baoding for soldiers who died in Hunan, the one-time presidential-candidate Cao Kun added more warlords to anti-Anhui clique alliance, including the rulers of Hubei, Henan, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, and Zhili. The conflict became public as both sides begin deployed for the coming war.
Various Zhili and Fengtian generals, such as Cao Kun, Zhang Zuolin, Wang Zhanyuan, Li Shun, Cheng Guangyuan, Zhao Ti, and Ma Fuxiang signed a denunciation of the Anhui clique and its military arm, the Anfu Club, which was led by Xu Shuzheng and Duan Qirui. This denunciation was circulated through a telegram called Paoting-fu on July 12, 1920.
In early July 1920, the Anhui clique gathered 5 divisions and 4 combined brigades to form the so-called National Stabilization Army (定国军), with Duan Qirui as its commander-in-chief. Deployed in two fronts, the army's western front covered the regions of Zhuozhou, Laishui (涞水), and Gu’an (固安), while the eastern front covered the regions of Liang (梁) Hamlet and North Pole Temple (Beijimiao, 北极庙), just to the west of Poplar (杨) Hamlet.
Zhili and allied forces gathered a division and nine combined brigades to form their own “Traitor Suppression Army” (讨逆军), with Wu Peifu as its front-line commander-in-chief. This too was deployed on two fronts, with an eastern zone in the region of Poplar (杨) Hamlet, and a western front in the region of Gaobei (高碑) Hotel. Meanwhile, Zhang Zuolin ordered a detachment of his force to enter Shanhaiguan, taking up position at Horse Factory (Machang, 马厂) and Military Grain City (Junliangcheng, 军粮城).
On July 14, 1920, the Anhui army simultaneously attacked the Zhili army on both fronts. Zhili forces were forced to abandon Gaobei (高碑) Hotel and retreated. Two days later, with help from Japanese troops, the Anhui army also succeeded in taking Poplar (杨) Hamlet, forcing Zhili troops to form a second line of defense in the region of Northern Warehouse (Beicang, 北仓). Here the Anhui army’s advance was finally halted.
On July 17, 1920, Wu Peifu personally commanded the Zhili army's western front, performing a daring maneuver outflank the enemy and take the western-zone's Anhui headquarters. Having capturing the Anhui army front-line commander-in-chief Qu Tongfeng (曲同丰) and many of his fellow officers, including the 1st Division commander of the Anhui army. After taking the town of Zhuozhou, Wu pursued the retreating Anhui army toward Beijing. With the exception of the 15th Division, the remainder of the Anhui army on the western front was annihilated. On the same day, the Fengtian army attacked the Anhui eastern front. Upon learning of the collapse of the western zone, Anhui's eastern commander, chief-of-staff Xu Shuzheng, fled Langfang back to Beijing, leaving his troops to surrender to the combined might of the Fengtian and Zhili cliques.
On July 19, 1920, Duan Qiri realized the fight was over and resigned from his post. On July 23, the combined Fengtian and Zhili cliques entered Southern Garden (Nanyuan, 南苑) for the takeover of Beijing, concluding with the defeat and surrender of the Anhui clique.
Slightly more than a week of fighting led to the unexpected defeat of the Anhui clique and the permanent breakup of the Beiyang Army. Wu Peifu was nationally credited as the strategist behind the Zhili clique's victory, while the Fengtian clique provided token support and were allowed to form a joint government, an arrangement which would last until the First Zhili-Fengtian War in 1922.
- Ke-Wen Wang. Modern China: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism. Taylor & Francis, 1997. ISBN 978-0815307204; pp. 419–420
- Zhang, Tongxin History of Wars between Nationalist New Warlords, 1st Edition, published by Heilongjiang People’s Publishing House in Harbin & distributed by New China Bookstore Heilongjiang branch, 1982.