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  • Last time we spoke about the rise of Chiang Kai-Shek. Chiang Kai-Shek had gradually become a rising star in the KMT. Dr Sun Yat-Sen saw some promise in the young man and took him under his wing soon making him something akin to his number 2. Aligning with Sun Yat-Sen, Chiang Kai-Shek helped consolidate KMT power in Guangzhou and played a crucial role in military campaigns, including the suppression of the Canton Merchants Association militia in 1924. Following Sun Yat-Sen’s death in 1925, Chiang Kai-Shek navigated the KMT power vacuum that unfolded. When the Guangzhou Coup occurred, Chiang Kai-Shek managed to keep his head and began systematically eliminating or neutralizing his rivals. In the end he solidified his authority and led to the temporary stabilization of KMT-CCP relations, setting the stage for the Northern Expedition aimed at unifying China under KMT leadership.

    #108 The Anti-Fengtian War Part 1: The Zhejiang-Fengtian War

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    In this episode we are going to be talking about a new warlord, well new-ish. When I had been introducing the individual warlords and their factions, I had to set a few aside, because they come later on in the warlord Era, one of them being Sun Chuanfang. Sun Chuanfang was born April 17th, 1885 in Fanzhen, of Tai’an county in Shandong province. He lost his father at a early age, and because he grew up in old troublesome Shandong, he was destined to face hardship. One of those hardships was the Boxer Rebellion, which provided much unrest, poverty and famine. His family was forced to flee famine many times before they settled in Jinan. Sun Chuanfang had a little sister who went on to marry Wang Yingkai, a rising officer in the Beiyang Army and a protege under Yuan Shikai. By being the brother in law, Sun Chuanfang received some financial aid and was given a proper education. Sun Chuanfang was quickly deemed talented and strong, so it was recommended he join the Beiyang Army training camp in 1902. Sun Chuanfang graduated in 1904 and was sent to Japan to train at the Tokyo Shimbu Gakko military preparatory school. Reminiscent of Chiang Kai-Shek’s experience, Sun Chuanfang joined the Tongmenghui while studying in Japan.He would graduate 6th in his class and served in the IJA before returning to China in 1908. In 1909 he took the Army Civil Service Examination and ha exellent results, obtaining the status of an infantry juren. After this Sun Chuanfang was assigned to the 2nd army regiment of Ma Longbiao. Eventually he was recruited by Wang Zhanyuan who would become something of a mentor to him.

    During the Wuchang uprising, Sun Chuanfang was assigned to forces who went south to supress the revolutionaries. After the founding of the new republic, Sun Chuanfang took a station in Hubei. Sun Chuanfang rose through the ranks and by 1917 he was appointed commander of the 21st mixed brigade. After this he received a promotion to commander of the 1st Division. During the Anhui-Zhili War Sun Chuanfang was fighting under Wang Zhanyuan as they captured Wu Guangxin. After this Sun Chuanfang was awarded commander in chief over the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. In 1921, the governor of Hunan, Zhao Hengti, attempted to expand his rule to Hubai launching a small war known loosely as the Hunan-Hubei War. Zhao Hengti failed to expand his rule, but forced something of a political struggle upon Wang Zhanyuan who ended up resigning from his post. Wu Peifu then recommended Sun Chuanfang to became the commander of the 2nd division, working under him.

    During the 1st Zhili-Fengtian War of 1922. Sun Chuanfang officially became a member of the Zhili Clique and began publicly demanding the resignation of Xu Shichang, the current Anhui clique president. In June that year, Xu Shichang resigned and Li Yuanhong took his place. In 1923, Sun Chuanfang was appointed the Military Inspector of Fujian. He led his troops to Fujian and quickly seized control over the province. There he established the Fujian Army. In September of 1924, the Jiangsu-Zhejiang War broke out, a precursor to the 2nd Zhili-Fengtian War. Sun Chuanfang initially held back, but stated he was supporting Qi Xieyuan the governor of Jiangsu against Lu Yongxiang the governor of Zhejiang. When the opportunity opened up Sun Chuanfang invaded Zhejiang to defeat Lu Yongxiang, however during the greater war, the Zhili clique was defeated by the Fengtian forces. Wu Peifu went into exile, many of the remaining Zhili Warlords were tossed into a uneasy situation. For Sun Chuanfang it was a pretty awkward situation as he had just won a smaller war and established a powerbase in southeast China. With Wu Peifu gone, Sun Chuanfang was now one of the biggest Zhili warlords.

    The new chief executive, Duan Qirui appointed Sun Chuanfang as governor over Zhejiang, casting Qi Xieyuan to the wind. Duan Qirui was struggling to keep the peace across the board, thus he was trying to appease the more troublesome warlords with decent appointments, hoping they would be complacent and not stir up anymore trouble. But this is China’s warlord Era, and trouble will be stirred.

    Now Two episodes back I mentioned how Feng Yuxiang established his Guominjun, but he lacked funds and arms. Thus he got into bed with the KMT, and by proxy was introduced to Mr. Borodin representing the Soviets. The Soviets agreed to arm and fund his Guominjun as long as he provided the same reciprocity as the KMT, ie; allowing communists to join his ranks. Feng Yuxiang held a sphere of influence in the northwest of China. The new triumvirate between him, Duan Qirui and Zhang Zuolin was honestly a charade. Zhang Zuolin controlled the wealthy provinces of northeast China while Feng Yuxiang controlled the much poorer northwest. Zhang Zuolin was backed by the Japanese, he was essentially more of a conservative. Feng Yuxiang was seen as a radical politically, perhaps even a revolutionary and his backer was the Soviet Union. Duan Qirui was not even in the same league as either, having no real army anymore. Thus Zhang Zuolin was essentially the one calling the shots, it was an arrangement destined to fail.

    After winning the second Zhili-Fengtian War, Zhang Zuolin began moving pieces across the chess board to consolidate his power. He first ordered the commander of his 5th army, Kan Chaoxi to lead two Fengtian Mixed Brigades, with some local troops, over to Rehe province to set up shop as its military-governor. The commander of the 2nd Fengtian army, Li Jinglin who was a Zhili native was ordered to serve as a sort of Zhili military affairs director. The Dogmeat General, Zhang Zongchang was given his first big break, Zhang Zuolin made him the commander in chief of suppressing bandits in Jiangsu, Shandong and Anhui. Duan Qirui then ordered the removal of Qi Xieyuan of the Zhili clique from his post as the inspector general of Jiangsu, Anhui and Jiangxi. He was to be replaced by our old friend Lu Yongxiang who would be an envoy to Jiangsu and Anhui. Thus Zhang Zongchang and Lu Yongxiang together marched south along the Shanghai-Nanjing line.

    To face the incoming threat Qi Xieyuan banded together with Sun Chuanfang and they likewise marched to Suzhou by January 14th. On the 17th both armies began fighting between Danyang and Wuxi. Yet by the 25th Qi Xieyuan was decisively defeated. Qi Xieyuan fled to Shanghai before getting on a boat to go into exile in Japan. His so-called partner in crime Sun Chuanfang had not ponied up the same amount of troops as he did, choosing to hold back a bit. When Qi Xieyuan fled for Japan, all of his troops were snatched up by Sun Chuanfang. On February 3rd, Sun Chuanfang approached Zhang Zongchang to negotiate, and they signed the second Jiangsu-Zhejiang peace treaty. Under the terms the Zhili army agreed to retreat to Songjiang, the Fengtian army would retreat to Kunshan, while Shanghai would not station troops.

    After what was known as the second Jiangsu-Zhejiang war, the Fengtian forces began to dramatically expand their control into the Yangtze River Valley. Zhang Zuolin dispatched 11 divisions to occupy Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, the Beijing-Fengtian Railway and the Jinpu Railway. Zhang Zuolin strong armed the Beiyang government to make his generals Li Jinglin, Zhang Zongchang, Jiang Dengxuan and Yang Yuting military inspectors over Hubei, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu respectively. This basically made the Yangtze River Valley under Fentgian control and connected them via rail to Zhang Zuolin’s northeast power base. The agreement made with Sun Chuanfang to not deploy any troops in Shanghai seemed under threat. When prompted, the Fengtian leaders would claim they would never deploy troops in Shanghai, but to all it seemed like classic trickery.

    In fact the Fengtian commanders had become quite arrogant and careless. Some of the generals were running opium operations in Nanshi and Zhabei. A regular inspection at Shanghai-Nanjing station showcased one of their drug runs and led to Fengtian soldiers performing a shoot out. Because of the incident, Duan Qirui ordered Lu Yongxiang and Zheng Qian to go over and investigate the situation. At the same time, Zhang Zongchang had deployed some troops in Shanghai to make sure the opium drug running went more smoothly. Zhang Zongchang ordered Cheng Guorui to figure out a solution to the issues and he was accompanied by Li Kuiyuan the director of the Fengtian Army’s HQ in shanghai and Yuan Zhihe the Fengtian supply department director. Cheng Guorui and Li Kuiyuan quickly got into an argument and began drawing their guns upon each other in a shoot out. As reported by an eye witness "Yuan was seriously injured, Li fell to his death, Cheng jumped out of the window and injured his waist. At that time, the guards of each person were outside, and they opened fire on each other when they heard the sound, and the order was very chaotic." Thus Zhang Zongchang’s efforts to smooth over the drug trafficking had done the very opposite, it made it much much more visible to the public. However Zhang Zuolin was really arrogant himself by this point and believed their Fengtian empire could get away with just about anything at this point, so he simply dispatched a division of troops to Songhu to make sure things ran smoother. Unfortunately he sent these forces to occupy garrisons that belongs to Sun Chuanfang. At the same time Fengtian forces led by Ding Xichun entered Nanjing.

    It really seemed Zhang Zuolin got far too over confident. Apparently he began proclaiming "If I don't beat anyone in the next three to five years, no one will dare to beat me." Likewise his subordinate Yang Yuting mirrored his bosses sentiment, mouthing off to local warlords in Jiangsu. Jiang Dengxuan in Anhui began boasting "that he only brought one battalion with him" and Yang Yuting declared publicly "I went to Jiangsu this time with only more than ten entourages and a company of guards."

    Meanwhile Li Jinglin and Zhangzong began to crack down on labour movements in Hubei and Shandong. There was a lot of unrest with workers, especially in Qingdao. Zhang Zongchang brutally suppressed any who would try to demonstrate or strike. A strict anti-labor and anti-communist movement was seen across the board in areas Fengtian controlled. Zhang Zongchang also cracked down on the remaining Zhili clique influence in the Yangtze River Valley. When the Fengtian replaced Qi Xieyuan with Lu Yongxiang as governor over Jiangsu, that lasted about a minute until they replaced Lu Yongxiang, who remember was an Anhui clique guy, with one of their own, Yang Yuting. His appointment was specifically to expand into neighbouring Zhejiang and Fujian provinces. These areas of course were being controlled by the last significant Zhili warlord, Sun Chuanfang. Sun Chuanfang had this to say about the situation "Zhang now dominates the Central Plains, controls the government, and covers the northeast and southeast. He is also planning to succeed Yuan Shikai and establish his own empire. He seduces powerful enemies outside and destroys public opinion inside. He is extremely cruel and does everything he can."

    On October 11th of 1925, the governor of Zhejiang, Sun Chuanfang took matters into his own hands. He sent a telegram to the entire nation, opposing suppression efforts against Shanghai workers. He was taking a page out of Wu Peifu’s playbook, to play upon the image of patriotism, making it seem you loved the people and were fighting for them. In reality this was a ploy to gather support and sympathy for what he was about to unleash. In early October, Sun Chuanfang began to hold secret meetings in Hangzhou with representatives of the Zhili clique of nearby provinces. The conversation was how to thwart the Fengtian from seizing all of their respective territories. They all came into an agreement, Sun Chuanfang would become their leader and he would lead his armies to attack Shanghai. This would be followed up by the Governor of Fujian, Zhou Yinren to lead his troops into Zhejiang to support Sun Chuanfang; the governor of Jiangxi Fang Benren would send his subordinate Deng Zhuoru also to help out in Zhejiang. Wang Pu the governor over southern Anhui, Chen Tiaoyuan the commander of the 4th Zhili division of Jiangsu and the retired warlods, Qi Xieyuan and Ma Lianjia would lend their forces as well. All together its said their forces were 200,000 strong.

    After these meetings, Sun Chuanfang gathered the troops at Songjiang and Changxing calling for a “national day” on October the 10th and they performed a military parade. When Duan Qirui heard about this he sent Lu Zongyu to Hangzhou to try and mediate what was clearly turning into a dire situation. The mediation completely failed. Meanwhile Zhang Zuolin took notice and urgently summoned his 4 new governors, Li Jingling, Zhang Zongchang, Yang Yuting and Jiang Dengxuan. He was pulling them back to discuss how they should deal with this new emerging threat. However Zhang Zuolin was too late, for when the governors were enroute to meet with him, Sun Chuanfang made his move.

    On October the 15th, Sun Chuanfang suddenly proclaimed himself the commander in chief of a 5 province coalition. The armies of Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Anhui were now in alliance. Sun Chuanfang created 5 routes armies; the 1st route army was led by Chen Yi consisting of the 1st division of the Zhejiang army; the 2nd route was led by Xiu Hongxun, consisting of the 4th division. The 1st and 2nd route armies were responsible for attacking Shanghai from the Shanghai-Hangzhou line. The 4th Route army led by Lu Xiangting, consisting of the 2nd division of the Anhui army and 5th Route army led by Zhou Fengqi, consisting of the 2nd Division of the Zhejiang armywere responsible for attacking Suzhou from Changxing. Sun Chuanfang took command of the 3rd route army, leading down the middle. On the 11th of October Sun Chuanfang sent a telegram calling on all foreign nations with interests in Shanghai to send personnel to investigate what he claimed was Fengtian Army members abusing workers and peasants. This of course was a guise to launch his attack.

    The Fengtian warlords were taken completely offguard by Sun Chuanfangs rapid offensive, they had all unfortunately been enroute north for a meeting with Zhang Zuolin and thus were on a passive footing. Basically the Fengtian army was in a type of snake like formation extending from Yuguan to Tianjing, Pukou, Nanjing and Shanghai. They were quite dispersed. Thus began what is known as the Zhejiang-Fengtian War. Yet to complicate things, this was actually a theater of a larger war known as the Anti-Fengtian War or Third Zhili-Fengtian War. There were other theaters such as the Guominjun-Fengtian War, involving Feng Yuxiang. The Anti-Fengtian War is pretty incoherent, thus I will try to compartmenalize it.

    What should be known in regards to the Zhejiang-Fengtian war, is that the Fengtian forces had the threat of Feng Yuxiang to their rear. If the Fengtian diverted forces to thwart the Guominjun, this would disallow them to quell the southern threat of Sun Chuanfang. Because of this, on October 14th, Yang Yuting ordered his subordinate Xing Shillian to withdraw from the Shanghai area quickly explaining to him in a telegram "due to the Shanghai case, in order to maintain order, we had to adjust the army and declare martial law. Now that the Shanghai case has been resolved, the title of martial law commander should be cancelled, the troops should be withdrawn, and the Jiangsu Police Department should be moved to Shanghai to deter the enemy."

    The next day, Yang Yuting invited Jiang Denxuan to Nanjing to figure out how they would withdraw their troops along the Shanghai-Nanjing and Tianjian-Pukou rail lines. He also told Jiang Dengxuan, that Sun Chuanfang would "Su would not invade Zhejiang, consider the elegance of our classmates and resolutely stop the war." So it seemed Yang Yuting, who was a classmate of Sun Chuanfang was under the belief their friendship would prevent an escalation. However Sun Chuanfang on that very same day sent out a telegram to the 5 provinces to attack the Fengtian clique. On the 16th, the 2nd route Army of Xiu Hongxun began occupying Shanghai as the 4th Route army of Lu Xiangting occupied Yixing. Both then began advancing towards Suzhou and Wuxi. Roughly an hour before Sun Chuanfangs forces seized Shanghai, there was a mass withdrawal of the Fengtian forces there.

    Because the Fengtian forces had adopted a passive, even non-resistant stance towards Sun Chuanfangs offensive, they all retreated quickly upon seeing any troops. Sun Chuanfang’s armies made quick and bloodless progress, however upon reaching Lingkou near Danyang on October the 18th, Xing Shilians men did not retreat. Sun Chuanfang’s vanguard found themselves facing what seemed to be determined resistance, but in reality it was a rearguard as the Fengtian forces were trying to evacuate Zhejiang province. On that evening, Yang Yuting convened a meeting in Nanjing with the other commanders, whereupon news came to them of the major defeats their forces had incurred. General Chen Tiaoyuan leading the 4th and 10th Zhili divisions stormed Nanjing and ordered Yang Yuting to be arrested. However Yang Yuting managed to escape from the city under the pretext he was. . . taking a bath. Yes a single source I’ve been relying upon for this event stated that without any context… so in my head I am imagining the classic hollywood, running a bath of water and jumping out of a window scenario. Regardless Yang Yuting abandoned the Fengtian garrison at Nanjing, fording a river and jumping into a car. On the 19th most of the Fengtians 8th Division, including their commander General Ding Chunxi stationed at Nanjing who had not already fled were surrounded and disarmed by Zhili forces. The next day Sun Chuanfang arrived to Nanjing whereupon he ordered Xie Hongxun’s division to ford the river to pursue the Fengtian forces fleeing towards Bengdu. On the 21st Ni Chaorong’s leading a Anhui Brigade stationed around Sixian, took a car over to Huaiguan where he telegraphed Jiang Dengxuan to resign. Jiang Dengxuan looked on in misery at the doomed Fengtian forces, knowing full well he had not enough time, men or means to halt the enemies advance, so he fled Bengdu on the 23rd, effectively resigning. Most of the Fengtian forces at Bengdu fled for Xuzhou.

    Despite the rather embarrasing retreat of the Nanjing to Bengdu lines, the Fengtian forces were not even close to being really defeated. On the 21st, the Dogmeat General led reinforcements to the battlefield who were now ready for an actual battle. Sun Chuanfangs men at this point occupied Bengbu and had stopped their advance. Unbeknownst to the Fengtian commanders, Sun Chuanfang had secret being negotiations with Wu Peifu. Wu Peifu had come out of his forced retirement in Hubei, and to the north Feng Yuxiang was also coordinating with the three. Sun Chuanfang thought he had secured both men in the mission of attacking Xuzhou, but both of them had failed to perform. Thus Sun Chuanfang found himself in a bit of a pickle at Bengbu.

    Meanwhile on the 26th, Zhang Zongchang ordered troops from Xin’an to attack Haizhou. Zhili forces led by General Bai Baoshan were defeated there soundly. The Fengtian army then contuined south to attack Qingjiangpu. Zhili troops led by Ma Yuren tried to defend the city, but soon became encircled and forced to surrender. Sun Chuanfang ordered Zheng Junyan and Chen Diaoyuan to reinforce the eastern sector to try and halt the Fengtian advance. On the 1st of November, Zhang Zongchang launched a new attack upon the Jingdu road, using armored cars and white russian forces. This force was led by Zhang Zongchangs subordinate Shi Chongbin, who had ordered to recapture Suxian and Guzhen.

    The frontline Anhui troops became terrified of what looked to them to be a foreign force and fled the battlefield from Rengqiao all the way east of Guzhen. At this point Lu Xiangting, deputy commander in chief under Sun Chuanfang, began demolishing the railway to hinder the Fengtian advance. He dispatched Chen Yi and Xie Hongxun’s 2nd division to hook around the rear of the Fengtian army to try and cut their retreat. The White Russian army alongside Chinese of the Fengtian forces were advancing alone in a vangard whence they were attacked from two sides. They had no hope of breaking through, nor fleeing backwards and were forced to surrender. Over 300 White Russian troops were killed in the carnage. Shi Chongbin was captured at Xinqiao station and his 47th brigade of the Shandong Army was completely surrounded.

    Zhang Zongchang then dispatched Chu Yupu to reinforce and support the 47th Brigade in an counterattack to try and break out, but it failed. On Novemer 3rd, the 47th Brigade were disarmed and surrendered. Seeing no hope of rescue, Chu Yupu took his troops to man a defensive line between Suxian and Jiagou. Sun Chuanfang now took advantage of the crumbling Fengtian situation and ordered the Zhili forces to surround Xuzhou. Zhang Zongchang mobilized everything the Fengtian had for a decisive battle, but disaster was striking elsewhere. It will be discussed more indepth next episode, but Feng Yuxiang entered the fray, attacking the Fengtian rear in Hubei and western Shandong. Zhang Zuolin realized the dreaded two front war had finally come and elected to pull back his strength. Zhang Zuolin ordered Zhang Zongchang to pull the men back into Shandong on the 6th. On the 7th Xing Shilian, Xu Kun, Bi Shucheng and other Fengtian commanders were retreating from Haizhou and Suqian to Tancheng and Taierzhuang. Chu Yupu and other troops retreated from Suxian and Xuzhou to Hanzhuang and Lincheng. On November 8, Sun Chuanfangs army finally occupied Xuzhou. On the 20th, Sun Chuanfang sent a public telegram to return to Hangzhou from Xuzhou. From then on, the five provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Jiangxi and Fujian were divided by Sun Chuanfang. The Zhejiang-Fengtian War was also declared over

    It was a very embarrassing defeat for the Fengtian Clique. Across the Shanghai-Nanjing defensive line, the Fengtian army suffered heavy losses, their entire the 8th division was captured, most of the 20th division was annhilated. It was said only Liu Yifei, the commander of the 44th Brigade of the 20th Division had led his troops to resist the Zhejiang Army for several hours on the way back from Shanghai. Because he was isolated and helpless, Liu Yifei was apparently forced to disguise himself as a monk to escape. When he fled back to Fengtiann, Zhang Zuolin, said to Liu Yifei "You are back, great! I heard that you disguised yourself as a monk. Damn it! In Jiangnan, you were the only one who fought with Sun Chuanfang for eight hours. Others surrendered without firing a shot because their parents didn't give them the courage! Now I will organize another Type A brigade for you, which is a three-regiment system. Soldiers are being recruited and stationed in the Dongshanzui barracks. Train hard!"

    Upon winning the Zhejiang-Fengtian War, Sun Chuanfang immediately called for a ceasefire, literally as he was entering Xuzhou. His top priority was to consolidate his gains, for he understood he had only served the Fengtian a bloody nose, as they were preoccupied with war in the north. Then Chen Tiaoyuan of Jiangsu sent a telegram publicly announcing his support nominating Sun Chuanfang to form a government in Nanjing leading the 5 provinces he had led during their war. To try and remedy the situation, the Beiyang government offered Sun Chuandfang the position of military inspector of Jiangsu, combining his military inspector titles over Zhejiang and Fujian. Thus Sun Chuanfang would legitimately rule 3 provinces. The warlords running Jiangxi and Anhui were no match at all for Sun Chuanfang, thus they would have to submit to him regardless. So unofficially Sun Chuanfang established a new sort of government in Nanjing ruling the 5 provinces. This would be the very peak of his career, but nothing is ever built to last.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The Zhejiang-Fengtian War was honestly the result of Fengtian arrogance. Zhang Zuolin let his guard down, turned to his old banditry ways and unleashed his boys southeast, thinking no one would challenge them. Sun Chuanfang proved himself a very capable warlord and now he was a significant player in China’s game of thrones.

  • Last time we spoke about the first United Front and formation of the Guominjun. The second Zhili-Fengtian War had just ended, as Feng Yuxiang betrayed Wu Peifu turning the tides. Feng Yuxiang’s Beijing coup saw him become a major player and he soon reorganized his forces into the Guominjun, promoting Chinese nationalism, social reforms, military modernization, and ethical governance. Despite his efforts, Feng's treachery left a lasting negative reputation. The new regime, with Duan Qirui as chief executive, struggled with internal and external pressures. Feng's isolation led him to seek Soviet support, receiving significant military supplies. Meanwhile, the First United Front formed between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party , facilitated by Soviet influence. Despite internal tensions, this alliance aimed to unify China. Sun Yat-Sen’s cautious cooperation with the Soviets was driven by pragmatic needs, even as ideological differences persisted, setting the stage for future conflicts.

    #107 the rise of chiang kai shek

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Chiang Kai-Shek was born on Halloween, October 31st of 1887 in Xikou, a small town in Fenghua of Zhejiang Province. Chiang was born into a Wuyue family, a subgroup of Han Chinese who speak Wu. His father was Chiang Chaotsung and his mother Wang Tsai-yu. Both were members of a relatively well off family of salt merchants. From an early age, Chiang was interested in the military. Like many youths at the turn of the century in China, Chiang cut off his queue rebelling against the Qing Dynasty. Chiang began his military career at the Baoding Military academy in 1906. After this he traveled to Japan to the Tokyo Shinbu Gakko preparatory school for the IJA. There he gained revolutionary fever, seeking to overthrow the Manchu back home. In 1908 he befriended Chen Qimei who introduced him to the Tongmenghui. He graduated from the Tokyo Shinbu Gakko and served in the IJA for 3 years.

    Upon hearing about the Wuchang Uprising, Chiang rushed back to China where he served the revolutionary forces in Shanghai under Chen Qimei. Chiang Kai-Shek then became a founding member of the Kuomintang. Chen Qimei was assassinated by agents of Yuan Shikai, leading Chiang to succeed him as leader of the KMT in Shanghai. In 1918 Chiang moved his base of operations to Guangzhou to joined up with Sun Yat-Sen. I have already told most of the story, Chiang Kai-Shek was there for all of the up’s and downs. During the conflict between Sun Yat-Sen and Chen Jiongming, Chiang Kai-Shek stook with Sun, even when he went into exile. Chiang Kai-Shek protected Sun Yat-Sen, and because of this Sun Yat-Sen began to trust him greatly.

    Sun Yat-Sen regained control over Guangzhou in 1923 with help of Yunnanese and CCP forces. Then as we discussed in the last episode, Sun Yat-Sen made the fateful decision to form the First United Front with the CCP to obtain Soviet support. Borodin established the Whampoa Military Academy and Chiang Kai-Shek was given the job of managing it. Soviet advisors swarmed into Guangzhou, alongside military equipment and regular pay for the soldiers.

    Whampoa was created to produce officers quickly and its military education was a quite diluted form of the Japanese curricula used at the Baoding Military academies. Of course Chiang Kai-Shek himself was a graduate of these and went to Japanese to extend his military education. Thus he brought a sort of Bushido to Whampoa, he taught the boys about obeying orders without question, defending untenable positions to the last man and attacking regardless of losses. The young officers very much became his own. Chiang Kai-Shek also favored the idea of collective punishment for failures. Zhou Enlai, then already a prominent communist became the chief political commissar of Whampoa, backed strongly by Borodin.

    Now Sun Yat-Sen’s authority was confined to Guangzhou and central parts of Guangdong province. He had been strongly contested with this by Chen Jiongming. This resulted in his northern expedition failing a few times. In the summer and autumn of 1924 he contended then with the Canton Merchants Association, who had formed an armed· militia and began staging protests and strikes in August when Sun Yat-Sen tried to cut off their arms supplies. In October the Merchants Association attempted to seize Guangzhou in collusion with Chen Jiongming, and it was Chiang Kai-shek who personally led the Whampoa cadets to defeat and dissolve their militia. This was another moment for the rising star to show his worth.

    Then Dr Sun Yat-Sen was extended an invitation to Beijing from Feng Yuxiang, Duan Qirui and Zhang Zuolin, the new triumvirate. All sought the reunification of China, they wondered if this could be done peacefully. Sun Yat-Sen had declined numerous times to come to Beijing and rejoin the Beiyang government, in the past he refused mostly because of Wu Peifu and Li Yuanhong. This time he had less objections, and with Soviet backing he finally had a better poker hand. Borodin thought it was a good idea and now Chiang Kai-Shek had a firm hand over the NRA forces. For once Sun Yat-Sen was not looking over his back to see if Chen Jiongming was going to seize Guangzhou. With Chiang Kai-Shek watching over his military and his old friend Hu Hanmin as deputy over civilian affairs, accompanied by those like Wang Jingwei, the Generalissimo went to Beijing in 1925.

    In 1924 Sun Yat-Sen had traveled to Tianjin where he delivered a speech, suggesting a national conference for the people of China. He called for an end to warlordism and the abolition of the unequal treaties. He also received word from General Ma Fuxiang of the Ma Clique, who notified him he was willing to join forces. Meanwhile Sun Yat-Sen had a real problem, his health. While at Tianjin he underwent an exploratory laparotomy, this is a surgical exploration of the abdominal organs. This was done at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. He had been suffering for a long time from something relating to his liver. Dr. Adrian Taylor opened him up and stated "the surgery revealed extensive involvement of the liver by carcinoma". Taylor gave Sun Yat-Sen only ten days to live. Sun Yat-Sen was hospitalized and received radium treatment. On February 18th, against the advice of his doctors, he was transferred to the KMT HQ and received traditional chinese medicine. By March 12th, Sun Yat-Sen died at the age of 58. The cause of death was stated to be liver cancer.

    Sun Yat-Sen left a rather famous will, written by Wang Jingwei. It is generally believed now that Wang Jingwei had written the will on his behalf. “For forty years I have devoted myself to the national revolution, with the goal of seeking freedom and equality for China. With forty years of experience, I know that in order to achieve this goal, I must arouse the people and unite with the nations in the world that treat me equally to fight together.

    Now that the revolution has not yet succeeded, all my comrades must continue to work hard in accordance with my " National Construction Strategy ", " National Construction Outline ", " Three Democratic Principles " and " Declaration of the First National Congress " to implement them. Recently, I have advocated the convening of a national assembly and the abolition of unequal treaties, and we must promote their realization in the shortest possible time. This is what I have said!” All of China watched eagerly to see who would succeed Sun Yat-Sen. Wang Jingwei was at his deathbed and entrusted to write his will out, thus most believed he was the prime candidate. Yet there were many choice and now the Soviets looked to who would be the man they would be dealing with.

    A major situation then broke out in May of 1925. The triumvirate was not very popular amongst the Chinese people. Southerners particularly were not keen about it. In the wake of Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s death, the CCP thought they had a major opportunity. A new bill was being passed in Shanghai that would see the end of children under the age of 12 working in mills and factories. Now many working class families depended on such work. Alongside this another bill advocating for censorship of publications was about to be introduced and this really pissed off the intellectual types. Strikes emerged, some aimed at Japanese owned businesses, such as cotton mills. A group of Japanese managers were attacked leaving work, one was killed. In response Japanese foremen began carrying pistols on duty. By May 15th a Japanese foremen shot dead by a protestor named Ku Cheng-Hung. The Shanghai population demanded a public funeral for Ku Cheng-Hung and began protesting. Many were arrested and a trial was set for May 30th. In response to this, students planned a demonstration.

    On the morning of the 30th, just as the trial was beginning, the Shanghai Municipal Police arrested some 15 student ringleaders at the Nanking Road in the international settlement. The student protestors were taken to Laozha police station, but by 2:45pm a huge crowd gathered outside it. Demonstrators were demanding their release and many entered the police station. The police state the demonstrators tried to forcibly release the arrested and the crowd could have been up to 2000 people strong. There were only 12 cops, some Sikh’s, Chinese and white officers. Allegedly chants were made for “kill the foreigners” and violence erupted. The police commissioner at the scene K.J. McEuen shouted in Wu Chinese "Stop! If you do not stop I will shoot!" At 3:37pm shots were fired into the crowd, at least 4 demonstrators were killed, another 5 died later of wounds and 14 were hospitalized.

    The next day saw more students going around placing posters and demanding shops stop selling or buying foreign goods. Then their leaders came to the Chinese chamber of Commerce with a list of demands. They sought punishment of those who shot the demonstrators and an end to the extraterritoriality rights of foreign powers in Shanghai as well as a closure of the international settlement. The president of the chamber of commerce was away at the time, but his deputy agreed to the press for the demands to be carried out. Obviously this was not going to happen and the deputy would send a message to the municipal council stating he said what he said under duress.

    On June 1st martial law was declared, the Shanghai Volunteer corps, a type of militia was called up alongside foreign military assistance. Over the next month, together they raided demonstrators houses and protected businesses. Countless strikes broke out, alongside demonstrations and violence. Shops were looted, those who refused boycotts were beaten up. Perhaps up to 200 people died during the mayhem.

    Had what became known as the May thirtieth incident broken out years prior it would have amounted to nothing. Yet because of the other events going on, it became a rallying cry for a sort of crusade. The incident galvanized other strikes, demonstrations and boycotts across China. The main target of the public outrage moved from the Japanese to the British. Hong Kong and Guangzhou were deeply affected. Prominent Chinese citizens in Guangdong called for an anti-British strike. The KMT leaders and Soviet advisors considered the optics of the situation, some arguing they should attack the Anglo-French settlement in Shameen. The demonstrators began handing out anti-British leaflets in Hong Kong, and then a rumor emerged that the colonial government was planning to poison the colony’s water supplies. Guangdong began offering free train passage to Hong Kong, greatly escalating the situation.

    Over 50,000 Chinese fled Hong Kong as a result of the chaos. Food prices skyrocketed and the colony became a ghost town by July. By the end of July nearly 250,000 had left Guangdong. To try and prevent the colonies economic collapse, the British loaned 3 million pounds. The two highest officials, Governor Sir Reginald Stubbs and Colonial secretary Claud Severn were quickly replaced, blamed for much of the crisis. For months anti-british boycotts went on, Hong Kong’s economy was paralyzed. Her trade fell by half, her shipping by 40% and land renting by 60%. Similar situations arose in Guangzhou and Mukden. Feng Yuxiang seeking to earn public favor, began anti-west campaigns, calling for a public apology from Britain. Zhang Zuolin hammered the Shanghai situation by funding the police to arrest protestors alongside communists.

    Meanwhile the situation in Beijing was tense, all were looking to see who would grab Sun Yat-Sen’s title. Hu Hanmin had succeeded Sun Yat-Sen nominally in Guangzhou, but he was immediately challenged by the existence of Chen Jiongming over at Huizhou and the Warlord Tang Chiyao in Yunnan, who had just assumed the title of deputy grand marshal. This was a title Tang Chiyao had continuously refused to accept while Sun Yat-Sen was alive. Chen Jiongming had strengthened his position in eastern Guangdong immediately after Sun Yat-Sens departure for Beijing. He colluded with Tang Chiyao, and the Guangxi warlords Xumin and Liu Chenhuan. They were planning yet again to attack Guangzhou. However the Cantonese and Hunanese continents of the NRA remained loyal. Chiang Kai-Shek had the firm loyalty of the Whampoa graduates, whose first two classes had just graduated. Combined the KMT forces proceeded to conquer eastern Guangdong. A siege was erected against Huizhou, forcing Chen Jiongming to flee. The success of all of this, bolstered Chiang Kai-Sheks reputation and solidified his leadership over the Whampoa graduates.

    Meanwhile the New Guangxi Clique warlords rallied around Li Zongren, Bai Chungxu and Huang Shaoxiang seized control over Guangxi. Together they opposed the attempted comeback of the Old Guangxi clique warlord Lu Jungting. The Guangxi leader dumped Shen and fought Tang Chiyao’s attempt to install Liu Chenhuan as governor over Guangxi. By Mid-July Huang Shaoxing became governor over Guangxi as Li Zongren and Bai Chungxu brokered an alliance with the KMT. On July 1st of 1925, the KMT proclaimed a national government in Guangzhou. A 16 memer political committee, chaired by Wang Jingwei. Liao Chungkai became the minister of Finance, who also led the left wing of the party. Xu Chungchih became minister of war, Hu Hanmin minister of Communications who led the right wing of the party. Despite the effort to balance the party, to the westerners and conservative chinese the party seemed far too radical. Borodin was nicknamed the “Emperor of Guangzhou” by the press and Zhou Enlai’s position as commissar of Whampoa was obscuring Chiang Kai-Shek’s efforts to turn the academy into his own personal instrument. A military reorganization accompanied the proclamation of the new government. The Whampoa graduates dominated the 1st Army, while Tan Yenkai’s 15,000 Hunanese became the 2nd army and Chu Beite’s Yunnanese became the 3rd. The 4th was a Cantonese force led by Li Chishen, the 5th was a Fujianese force within Guangdong under Li Fulin. A 6th army of Hunanese forces under Cheng Chen was formed in 1926 and later on a 7th army would be formed, 30,000 men strong led by the new Guangxi clique.All of these new units demonstrated loyalty to the KMT ideology, though their training varied greatly and their autonomy from local warlords also varied.

    Liao Chungkai became the principal spokesman for Sun Yat-Sen’s policies, and for cooperation with the Soviets and CCP. On August 20th, 1925 Liao Chungkai was on his way to a Kuomintang Executive Committee meeting in Guangzhou when suddenly 5 gunmen wielding Mauser C96’s gunned him down as he exited his limousine. Everyone suspected Hu Hanmin or possibly Xu Chungchih of ordering the hit.

    In Liao Chungkai, Chiang Kai-Shek lost an old friend. Grief came upon him and it hastened him to make decisions. He felt that the moment for dealing with plots and counterplots had arrived. The Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang met with the state and military councils and they decided emergency measures were in order. Wang Chingwei, Xu Chungchih, who was Chiang Kai-Sheks Command in Chief, and Chiang Kai-Shek were given unlimited powers. Four days after the assassination, Chiang Kai-Shek unleashed a detachment of his Whampoa cadets in a search party. They broke into the houses and offices of all government officials and seized documents. Roughly 100 men were arrested. Hu Hanmin was taken under guard to Whampoa and then was sent on a diplomatic mission to Russia. There was no diplomatic mission, it was exile.

    Now Wang Jingwei, Xu Chungchih and Chiang Kai-SHek remained to lead the government. Xu had always been on good terms with Chiang Kai-Shek, but now they quarreled. Both men began arguing over the ongoingscuffle with Chen Jiongming. Xu insisted they should simply leave him alone, but it seemed old Chen was back at it again. Chiang Kai-Shek strongly disagreed and began accusing him of conspiring with Chen, or at minimum some of his officers were. By the end of September Xu simply departed for Shanghai, not wanting to take part it what was clearly becoming a power steal.

    With his prestige having suppressed the last Chen Jiongming attack in October, Chiang Kai-Shek began associating himself more and more with Sun Yat-Sen’s legacy. He did so by repeatedly calling for a northern expedition. Meanwhile his contacts in Shanghai, mediated some negotiations with Sun Chuanfang. Sun Chuanfang by this point was consolidating his rule over 5 provinces: Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangxi and Anhui.

    In November of 1925 the right wing members of the KMT met in the presence of Sun Yat-Sen’s coffin near Beijing, where they passed some resolutions calling for the end of the KMT-CCP alliance. After the assassination of Liao Chungkai, Wang Jingwei was pretty much unchallenged to became leader of the KMT’s left wing. He declared the proposed resolutions null and void, calling for a counter meeting in Guangzhou in January of 1926. In the background of this, Chiang Kai-Shek continued to call for a Northern Expedition, the KMT left, CCP and Russian advisors advocated for social revolution and to support efforts by strikers in Guangzhou. Chiang Kai-Shek was now the Guangzhou garrison commander and the inspector General of the National Revolutionary Army, aka the NRA, so he personally began preparations for a northern expedition. Yet his authority was being threatened by the growing CCP presence within the KMT army and navy. In February of 1926 Chiang Kai-Shek approached Wang Jingwei on several occasions demanding he remove Russian advisers whom he accused of inciting mutiny amongst his subordinates.

    In March a coalition of left wing and Russian advisors led to the communist, Li Zhilong to become the commander of the Guangzhou navy. Li Zhilong began cracking down on the navy’s smuggling operations and replaced many ship captains with communists. On the 18th the fleet’s flagship, gunboat Zhongshan departed without Chiang Kai-Sheks knowledge nor approval from Guangzhou or Whampoa. It would turn out, Li Zhilong was moving the ship to support uprisings in the area and this of course alarmed the KMT. The Zhongshan relocated from Guangzhou to the anchorage off Changzhou, but sailed back the next day.

    When prompted to what he was doing, Li Zhilong stated he moved the ship under orders from Chiang Kai-Shek. Chiang Kai-Shek upon hearing this became gravely alarmed, because he never gave such orders. Then Chiang Kai-Shek began receiving some bizarre phone calls. Chen Jieru, the second wife to Chiang Kai-Shek, reported Wang Jingwei’s wife, Chen Bijun had called her over 5 times on the 18th, checking Chiang Kai-Shek’s schedule. Likewise the Whampoa political director, Deng Yanda began calling, asking when would be the next time Chiang Kai-Shek would sail for Changzhou. Chiang Kai-Shek simply told Deng Yanda, not any time soon. Then Li Zhilong called Chiang Kai-Shek, reporting that Deng Yanda ordered him to depart. Later in his unofficial memoirs, Chiang Kai-Shek would assert, Wang Jingwei was the one calling everyone.

    Chiang Kai-Shek responded to the situation by purchasing a ticket aboard a Japanese steamer and headed to Shantou. He believed something was afoot, perhaps a putsch or some kind of assassination attempt. Later on Chiang Kai-Shek stated it was all a ploy to kidnap him and exile him to Vladivostok. While his explanations were not very credible, his fear was genuine. It was an extremely volatile time in Guangzhou and plots by the left or the right were expected. Andrei Bubnov, head of the Soviet advisors mission to Guangzhou would later note in reports, the supposed incident was due to an aborted putsch, enacted by CCP members. On March 20th, Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the Zhongshan to come back to Guangzhou, and she did, mooring in front of the officer’s club with her crew apparently at general quarters. At 4am on the 21st, Chiang Kai-Shek declared martial law and began arresting all known communists holding positions of authority. Li Zhilong was arrested from his bedroom, his warship was secured as Jiang Dingwen assumed his place at the Navy Bureau. Then Wu Tiecheng and Hui Dongsheng surrounded the residence of Wang Jingwei and the Soviet Advisors, placing them under house arrest. Deng Yanda was arrested, the Hong Kong Strike Committee saw a crackdown and Liu Zhi arrested many communists of the 2nd division and those at Whampoa in the 1st Corps, such as Zhou Enlai. Chiang Kai-Shek’s loyal men disarmed the Communists paramilitary workers guard, two entire garrisons were dissolved. Borodin and Vasily Blyukher were also both arrested. All those arrested were removed from their positions and departed Guangzhou. Chiang Kai-Shek carefully explained to the public that his actions were taken specifically against uncooperative individuals and that he was not simply targeting communists. But yeah he was just targeting communists.

    When Chiang Kai-Shek and Wang Jingwei were left the last two with unlimited power they began to go at each other. Wang Jingwei certainly did not approve of the mass arrest of communists. Apparently Wang Jingwei told Chiang Kai-Shek to leave Guangzhou at some point. Wang Jingwei apparently was trying to scare him off, by suggesting he leave, but Chiang Kai-Shek did not do so. Suddenly Wang Jingwei became quite sick, apparently he had a high fever. He was visited by Chen Gongbo, Tan Yankai, Li Jishen, Zhu Peide and T.V Soong the current minister of finance. Apparently Wang Jingwei was pretty pissed off complaining to them all that Chiang Kai-Shek had gone over the top. A Nationalist executive Committee was convened on the 22nd, and a compromise was established. Wang Jingwei would take a vacation to France.

    In reality of course, Wang Jingwei had simply lost a quasi game of thrones. Wang Jingwei had more than likely tried some crooked attempts to kill or get rid of Chiang Kai-Shek, he failed and Chiang Kai-Shek responded firmly. Wang Jingwei had felt it prudent he simply retire in the end, he departed 5 days after the chaos had ensued. Once he had reached a safe location, he wrote to Chiang Kai-Shek that henceforth he was eschewing all political activity, basically “please don’t kill me”. Thus Chiang Kai-Shek emerged the sole survivors of the original three successors to Dr Sun Yat-Sen.

    All of this became known as the Guangzhou Coup or Canton Coup, and what exactly happened is sort of still a mystery. It’s a lot of he said, she said kind of stuff. The end of the coup effectively stopped the CCP and Soviets from trying to undermine the KMT for the time being. Despite the quasi war between the two sides, an awkward balance emerged. Chiang Kai-Shek needed Moscow's help for the Northern Expedition. The CCP and Soviets needed the KMT to help them grow. Chiang Kai-Shek took a delicate touch henceforth, making conciliatory moves. Chiang Kai-Shek met with Borodin and they had what was described by Chiang Kai-Shek as a calm and friendly conversation. Almost immediately after the incident Chiang Kai-Shek began criticizing the extremely anti-communist members of the party. He became a kind of chief of police between the communists and anti-communists, but it was all a charade. In a political sense, Chiang Kai-Shek emerged extremely right. He believed something had to be done to curb the communist influence in the KMT. Thus in a rather fiery speech he began demanding the communists stop attacking Sun Yat-Sen’s three principles. No communist could admit to doing such a thing, it was rather blasphemous, though they were doing it. So it was a safe way to try and keep the communists in check. Chiang Kai-Shek followed it up by stating no communists should hold high office in the Kuomintang and the communists begrudgingly abided by it.

    Chiang Kai-Shek then during a Central Executive Committee meeting, suggested that all the communists should be expelled from the Kuomintang, but the Committee voted that one down. However there was an agreement that relations between the two groups needed to be revised and more importantly, the communists were to hand over a list of their members to the Kuomintang. To all of these things said, Borodin listened and never said a word in disagreement. It seemed Chiang Kai-Shek and Borodin had made a promise to each other to get alone at least until the Northern Expedition was successfully carried through.

    Chiang Kai-Shek had reached an agreement with Moscow. The Soviets would maintain their financial and arming of the KMT, if some advisors were kept on. They also agreed to get the CCP to hand over a list of all their memes in the KMT and that no communists would hold top cabinet positions. On April 3rd, Chiang Kai-Shek cabled an official public telegram stating the entire incident “was a limited and individual matter of a small number of members of our Party who had carried out an anti-revolutionary plot". Chiang Kai-Shek removed some right wingers from leadership such as Wu Tiechang, forbade right-wing demonstrations and no one was to ever publicly question the First United Front. It seemed this was done to appease the soviets. While Joseph Stalin backed the alliance, Trotsky opposed it.

    Chiang Kai-Shek was formally handed leadership of the party and army, ending civilian oversight over the NRA. Soon some emergency decrees would be levied to expand Chiang Kai-Shek’s power. Chiang Kai-Shek had become the new generalissimo.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The First United Front nearly collapsed as a result of a real game of thrones being played out after the death of Dr Sun Yat-Sen, the father of the nation. In the face of many rivals, it was the dark horse, Chiang Kai-Shek who came out on top. He would consolidate the strength of the south and soon march north to take Beijing.




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  • Last time we spoke about the second Zhili-Fengtian War. After the first Zhili-Fengtian War of 1922, the Zhili warlords took control of Beijing. Cao Kun bribed his way into the presidency as Zhang Zuolin retreated to Manchuria to rebuild his army. Zhang appointed key officials and boosted military production, significantly enhancing his army, navy, and air force. The catalyst for the second Zhili-Fengtian War in 1924 was the First Jiangsu-Zhejiang War. Zhang Zuolin declared war on the Zhili clique, accusing them of corruption and oppression. The war saw battles at Rehe, Shanhaiguan, and other locations, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. However, the Zhili forces were plagued by internal betrayal and logistical challenges. Feng Yuxiang's unexpected coup in Beijing further weakened the Zhili's position. Ultimately, the Fengtian army's superior strategy and coordination led to their victory, capturing key cities and forcing Zhili leaders to flee.

    #106 the First United Front

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    The second Zhili-Fengtian war was by far the most intense war to date for China’s Warlord Era. Perhaps up to 450,000 troops participated in battles stretching along the Great Wall Line from Shanhaiguan to Beijing. The casualties were reported to be around 30,000, but estimates for China’s Warlord Era are notoriously flimsy. Ultimately it was won by Feng Yuxiang’s betrayal against Wu Peifu. Feng Yuxiang’s Beijing coup certainly turned the tide, and now he had emerged a major player on the scene. Feng Yuxiang went to work, expelling the former Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Puyi from the Forbidden city and placed Cao Kun under house arrest. Now immediately after Feng Yuxiang had taken Beijing, he began reorganizing his forces into the 1st National Army or better known as the Guominjun. Feng Yuxiang acted as its commander in chief with his co-conspirators Hu Qingyi and Sun Yueh as commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Armies.

    Now the Guominjun wer certainly an odd motley crew. The Guominjun’s ideology was a blend of Chinese nationalism, progressive social reforms, military modernization, and ethical governance influenced by Christianity. Feng Yuxiang’s leadership and vision shaped the faction into quite a unique force, striving to create a unified, modern, and moral China. Feng took care of his men’s well being, he educated them, promoted their sense of nationalism. Within his territory Feng promoted education, built schools, and established social welfare programs. He believed that improving the living standards of the common people was essential for national strength and stability. He implemented a series of social reforms in the areas he controlled. These included land reforms aimed at reducing the power of landlords and distributing land more equitably among peasants. His Guominjun would become known for its efforts to combat corruption and inefficiency within its ranks and in the administration of its territories. Feng Yuxiang sought to create a more ethical and efficient government. Feng supported the modernization of China’s infrastructure and industry. This included building railways, improving communications, and promoting technological advancements. The Guominjun was driven by a strong sense of Chinese nationalism, emphasizing the need to unify China and end the fragmentation caused by warlordism. They aimed to establish a central government that could restore national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Guominjun placed a high emphasis on military discipline and modern training methods. Feng Yuxiang’s background in the Beiyang Army influenced his approach to building a modern, professional military force. The Guominjun’s ideological alignment with nationalism and reform brought them into close cooperation with the Kuomintang. The alliance with the KMT was based on shared goals of unification and modernization, though it was sometimes strained by ideological and strategic differences. Because of the geographical distance between their spheres of influence they would be more or less isolated from each other and thus it made it difficult to coordinate actions.

    Feng Yuxiang had hoped by imprisoning Cao Kun and exiling Puyi he would gain popular support amongst the Republican and anti-Manchu in the Beiyang government. Feng Yuxiang also proclaimed the Guominjun troops to be the first in the history of the Republic to serve as a national military establishment rather than a personal army. However no one forget his acts of treachery, the coup d’etat certainly gave him a bad rep. One of the few successes he would have was persuading Dr Sun Yat-Sen to come over to Beijing to take part in the new government.

    With the collapse of the Zhili clique, a more tenuous balance of power emerged in Beijing. Feng Yuxiang’s position in Beijing was weakened each day, because of the maneuvers of Zhang Zuolin. He had moved the Fengtian forces south of Manchuria, proceeding south of the Tientsin-Pukou railway. This effectively gave Zhang Zuolin control over East China from Manchuria down to the Yangtze Valley. Alongside this Zhang Zuolin reached an agreement with Duan Qirui to bring him into the new fold.

    A 5 day conference took place at Tientsin from November 11th to 16th, including the new triumvirate of Zhang Zuolin, Feng Yuxiang and Duan Qirui. They discussed the future of the Beiyang government. Feng Yuxiang quickly discovered he had little negotiating power beyond his dominance in Beijing and even that was tenuous as Zhang Zuolin pretty much surrounded them all. Feng Yuxiang found out his trump card, the promise from Dr Sun Yat-Sen that he would come participate in the new Beiyang government was useless as both Zhang Zuolin and Duan Qirui had likewise received the same promise from him. During the conference the new triumvirate agreed Duan Qirui would become a figurehead of the new government with a position called the chief executive. Despite Duan Qirui’s status as the leader of the practically non-existant Anhui Clique, he was more palatable to the surviving Zhili clique warlords than Zhang Zuolin or Feng Yuxiang. They made sure not to make Duan Qirui a president or premier, his role was specifically meant to be temporary, this was done to lure Dr Sun Yat-Sen over to Beijing. Meanwhile Feng Yuxiang and Zhang Zuolin retained their territories and became the military leaders of the new regime.

    On November 24th, Duan Qirui arrived to Beijing and assumed his new office. On December 9th the foreign powers recognized Duan Qirui’s new government on the basis he did not alter their pre-existing unequal treaties. This was inevitable as Japan was the leading imperial power in asia and backed both Zhang Zuoli and Duan Qirui. He formed a cabinet without any Guominjun members. It would seem no one had forgotten Feng Yuxiangs treachery, but then again, his Guominjun had no officers with sufficient prestige to be nominated to any posts. Feng Yuxiang had little hope of exerting any control in the new government.

    Feng Yuxiang responded the dire situation by resigning his post as inspector general and retired, stating he would spending his future in study and travel. Yet his Guominjun forces still controlled Beijing. Zhang Zuolin took a cue from his move by also resigning his titles, heading over to Tientsin. Thus Duan Qirui with no military power, personally under threat of Feng Yuxiang’s forces in Beijing was facing a daunting situation. He had to try and maintain the peace between the two warlords while forming a government acceptable to the foreign powers. His government then decided to make Feng Yuxiang and Zhang Zuolin defense commissioners of the northwest and northeast respectively. Feng Yuxiang now would control Suiyuan and Chahar, setting up new headquarters in Kalgan. Feng Yuxiang’s new position did not prove lucrative and it was not an adequate power base. His only real ally was the KMT, but he was far to isolated from them, thus he turned to the Soviet Union.Feng Yuxiangs socialist actions had attracted the attention of communists and indeed within his entourage were many communists. The Soviets were enemies with the Empire of Japan. The Empire of Japan backed Zhang Zuolin, so the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The Soviets basically saw Feng Yuxiang as a possible balance against the Japanese who were continuing to expand their influence in Manchuria.

    Dr Sun Yat-Sen came to the north alongside the Soviet Michael Borodin. Dr Sun Yat-Sen had pleaded with western nations for a long time to support his government with finance and arms, but none offered anything tangible.

    Dr Sun Yat-Sen ‘s problem was his hard stance against the unequal treaties. All of the western powers knew, it was Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s priority to get rid of the unequal treaties, thus they all refused to support his efforts. However there was a new nation that did not support the unequal treaties, in fact they even publicly stated so, the Soviet Union. Back in Autumn of 1920, Sun Yat-Sen met with representatives of the Commuturn in Shanghai. Sun Yat-Sen told them he believed Lenin wanted him to be the founder of the CCP, because Chen Duxiu did not have much influence with the people of China, unlike him, he was after all kind of a rockstar. After numerous attempts to gain support from Japan or the West, Sun Yat-Sen began to seriously consider cooperating with the CCP who were being supported by the Soviet Union.

    In December of 1921, Sun Yat-Sen met with Hendriks Josephs Franciscus Marie Sneevliet, known as Marin, because why is his name that long haha, in Guilin. Marin was a official representative of the Commiturn, Sun Yat-Sen came to him expressing his admiration for the Russian Revolution and for Lenin. He stated that he wanted to learn more about the Soviet achievement, especially their new economic policies. In August of 1922, the soviet diplomat to China, Adolf Joffe was trying to settle issues regarding Outer Mongolia and the Chinese Far Eastern Railway, to which he had little to no success, but during the process he also met with Dr Sun Yat-Sen. Sun Yat-Sen brought up the idea of cooperating with the CCP, it sounded promising. For a few months the Soviets brainstormed and by the 4th congress of the Communist international decided to get the CCP to agree to such a thing. In July of 1922 the CCP accepted Marin’s proposal to join the Kuomintang in an alliance. This became known as the Sun-Joffe Manifesto and what it resulted in was the First United Front.

    In July the Soviets instructed the CCP to join the alliance, but there was a ton of push back. In Hanzhou, Marin met with Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao, Cai Hesen , Zhang Guotao, Gao Junyu , Maring , and Zhang Tailei. Marin pointed out to them that the Kuomintang was a party of all classes who were trying to promote democratic revolution. The CCP joining the KMT would be in line with Lenin’s outline on the international communist revolution. Many of the CCP leadership pointed out issues, like anti-communist elements in the KMT, but ultimately they all decided it was a good idea as the reality was, the CCP was only 300 members, they needed help to grow. Thus it was decided, some of the CCP leading figures would join the KMT, with the secret intention of persuading KMT members to join the CCP.

    According to testimony from Zhou Fohai, a CCP member at the time who would later join Wang Jingwei’s collaborationist government "At that time, the Soviets wanted to collude with Wu Peifu, so it first gave Wu Peifu the honorific title of 'enlightened warlord'. At that time, Sun Hongyi was close to Wu Peifu, while Li Dazhao was close to Sun Hongyi. They took advantage of this relationship and had a secret relationship with Wu Peifu. Li Dazhao went to Luoyang several times, and it seems that there were records in the newspapers at that time. His methods were really clever. Wu Peifu ordered Gao Enhong to appoint Communists as the chief inspectors of the four lines of Beijing-Hankou, Beijing-Fengtian, Jinpu and Longhai. The inspector of Beijing-Hankou was Bao Huicai, and the inspector of Jinpu seemed to be Li Minzhi... Before the Soviets was abandoned by Wu Peifu, it once had an affair with Chen Jiongming. Chen Jiongming... specially summoned Chen Duxiu to Guangdong as its education committee member Chairman of the National People's Congress. At that time, Chen Jiongming's rebellious deeds were already well known, and Guangdong was clearly divided into two factions, Sun and Chen. The Soviets naturally used its strength to shift the situation. So the Soviets colluded with him. Chen Jiongming paid 500 yuan a month to Chen Gongbo to publish the "Qun Bao", which was a result of their collusion. Later, when Chen Jiongming was hiding in Huizhou, Ma Lin and Tan Pingshan went to Huizhou twice to discuss the terms of cooperation. Who would have thought that Chen Jiongming would dare to bombard Guanyin Mountain and endanger Premier Sun. After this rebellious act, Chen Jiongming was despised by the Chinese people. The Soviets was afraid of the attack of public opinion, so it did not dare to openly ally with him. Abandoned by Wu Peifu in the north and isolated from Chen Jiongming in the south, the Soviets, in 1923, followed the orders of the Third International and tried to infiltrate the Kuomintang and carried out its conspiracy to destroy the Kuomintang. "

    On January 12th of 1923, the Soviets passed a resolution recognizing the First United Front. Sun Yat-Sen accepted the alliance, but with two reservations; number 1, China would not become a communist nation; number 2 that the Soviets would give up the unequal treaties the Russian Empire previously held over China. On January 26th Sun Yat-Sen and Joffe issued a joint statement, declaring the cooperation between the KMT, CCP and Soviet Union. Now its important to note, Sun Yat-Sen did not believe the Soviet system could or would be functional for China. He believed China’s largest problem was reunification under national independence. The Soviets abolished the unequal treaties that the Russian Empire had made with China and declared Outer Mongolia was part of China resolving that debacle. The Soviets even stated they promised not to carry out a communist revolution within China. Sun Yat-Sen stated publicly he was willing to accept CCP members into the KMT. Now this was clearly only done in order to receive Soviet finances and arms, but secondly, he truly believed their membership would help strengthen the nationalist movement.

    Many in the KMT were concerned with this venture. On February 9th of 1924, at Tsinghua University, Sun Yat-Sen was answering questions about the issue where he stated “Russia is Russia, and China is China. Russia has its own ideology, and China has its own ideology. In my previous speech, I mentioned Russia everywhere. I was talking about the organization of its revolutionary party, not its revolutionary ideology.” Now here comes Mr. Borodin. In September of 1923, Borodin was sent to serve as Dr Sun Yat-Sens political advisor, specifically responsible for facilitating the First United Front. Borodin spoke no Chinese, thus he conversed in English. He had a heavy midwestern American accent, which masked his Russian origin, helping him communicate with the largely anglophone and American educated leadership within the KMT. He was accompanied by Ho Chi Minh, yes the future leader of communist Vietnam.

    Borodin showed up in early October to Guangzhou where he held some private talks with the CCP. The CCP had been complaining about how the KMT were quite anti-communist in general, how the alliance made no sense if it was agreed there would be no Communist Revolution pushed by the Soviet Union within China. Borodin told them the real purpose of the alliance was actually a reorganization effort and to infiltrate the KMT. "In the newspapers, I talked about the Kuomintang, but for us, what I said was actually the increase in the influence of the CCP... We must never forget that what we are actually doing is to stabilize the CCP. This goal should be remembered forever."

    Now despite the new alliance with the Soviets, Sun Yat-Sen did not stop reaching out to the US and Japan causing Borodin headaches. In his report to Stalin, Borodin mentioned that on January 23, 1924, he talked with Sun Yat-Sen "I asked Sun Yat-sen again and again: How long will he hold on to the fantasy that the Chinese people may get some help from the United States, Britain or Japan? Hasn't he been waiting for such help for too long? Isn't it time to sum up the past full of illusions and failures and turn to a new path?" Then in late January of 1924, during the First Congress of the Kuomintang, Sun Yat-Sen expanded upon the Three Principles of the Peoples and this deeply concerned Borodin who reported to Stalin "Sun agreed to the revolutionary program formulated for the Kuomintang, which catered to us; but he disagreed to publicly say that he would establish a united front with us. For this reason, he did not fully trust us." Borodin also came to Sun Yat-Sen about his program stating “You are facing a choice. Do you want to move forward with the 1.5 billion people in the imperialist camp? Or do you want to move forward with the 1.25 billion people who are oppressed by imperialism? You should make a decision”. Although Sun Yat-Sen would accept many of Borodin’s suggestions, ultimately it was Sun Yat-Sen calling the shots, and he butted heads often with Borodin. Borodin stated at one point to those around him "the American spirit was deeply rooted in his mind. Generally speaking, it was difficult to make Sun Yat-sen change his mind."

    By the end of 1923, Chiang Kai-Shek led Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s delegation to the Soviet Union. Chiang Kai-Shek reported back to Sun Yat-Sen “The strategy and purpose of the Soviet Union’s so-called ‘world revolution’ is more dangerous to the independence movement of Eastern nations than Western colonialism.” Sun Yat-Sen replied that he believed Chiang Kai-Shek was over-worrying and that he “deeply believed that only by allowing the Chinese Communist Party members to be under the leadership of our party and under the unified command of our party can we prevent them from creating class struggles and hindering the progress of our national revolution. If our Northern Expedition is victorious, the Three Principles of the People can be implemented as scheduled. By then, even if the Soviet wants to sabotage our national revolution, it will be impossible. Moreover, the Soviet Union only recognizes our party as the only party leading the revolution in China, and strongly urges its CCP members to join our party and obey its leadership, but does not deny that China has no possibility of implementing its communism. Therefore, it still insists on its decision to ally with Russia and tolerate the CCP

    Trouble soon brewed in June of 1924, many leading KMT figures wrote to Sun Yat-Sen accusing the CCP of raising the banner of anti-imperialism and anti-militarism causing the KMT to suffer scorn from western powers and Chinese nationalist scorn. Sun Yat-Sen knew of the problem, it was largely CCP students led by Chen Duxiu making a scene. He explained "The Chinese young students headed by Chen Duxiu are self-righteous. They initially wanted to monopolize Russian relations and prevent Russia from interacting with our party. Peter used Russia's help to establish his own faction and compete with our party. If I suspect Chen Duxiu and implicate Russia, it will be exactly what Chen Duxiu is planning and help him succeed. If (Chen Duxiu and others) do not obey our party, I will abandon them." Sun Yat-Sen also tried his best to restrict the CCP to be in his own direct orbit. Chen Duxiu had been repeatedly criticizing Sun Yat-Sen's policies in his newspapers, so Sun Yat-Sen went to Borodin to correct the issue. “Since the CCP have joined the KMT, they should obey party discipline and should not publicly criticize the KMT. If the CCP do not obey the KMT, I will expel them; if the Soviet Union protects the Chinese Communist Party, I will oppose the Soviet Union.

    Sun Yat-Sen honestly failed to see the threat that the CCP really posed. He truly believed the CCP joined the KMT was not a cooperation between two equal parties. He believed the KMT was China’s only revolutionary party while the CCP were just a group of scholars who supported Leninism. He never really took them seriously, but he also made sure never to give them arms when they continuously demanded them.

    As for the CCP, they regarded the KMT as quite backwards, many leaders in the CCP thought Dr Sun Yat-Sen was no different than the warlords. When Marin proposed to the CCP that they join the KMT, Chen Duxiu raised opposition arguing "the purpose and foundation of the revolution of the CCP and the KMT are different. The KMT's policies of alliance with the United States, Zhang Zuolin and Duan Qirui are too incompatible with communism. Outside Guangdong Province, it is still regarded as a political party fighting for power and profit. The Sun Yat-sen faction of the KMT has always been absolutely intolerant of the opinions of new members and cannot give them power". A lot of the CCP resented what they saw as Sun Yat-Sen appeasing the right while disenfranchising them.

    Once the First United Front was established, the Soviets took over management of the Chinese Eastern Railway and began occupying Outer Mongolia. Then money and arms began pouring in, military advisors came to help create Sun Yat-Sens Northern expedition. Sun Yat-Sen dispatched Chiang Kai-Shek to Moscow to investigate their politics and military, while Borodin was made the KMT’s organization trainer.

    In May of 1924 Borodin helped found the Whampoa Military Academy. There officers of the National Revolutionary Army were trained, the backbone of the KMT. They would all under the leadership of Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s number two, Chiang Kai-Shek. The quality of the education was guaranteed by regular visits from Soviet Officers. Many future big names would graduate from the academy, such as Lin Biao and Zhou Enlai. Borodin also established the Peasant Training institute, where a young Mao Zedong would serve. Things were not at all rainbows and sunshine. On May 1st of 1924, a large celebration was held in Guangzhou for the Peasant department. Sun Yat-Sen gave a speech calling on everyone to fight for national liberation and to put the theme of class struggle in a secondary position. This certainly did not sit well with the CCP, whose members began calling for breaking the alliance and arguing the KMT would lose the support of the Soviet Union. Borodin happened to be away at the time, and when prompted, Sun Yat-Sen kept saying they would resolve the matter when he returned. Frantic telegrams were sent and by June 20th Borodin returned.

    On June 25th a meeting was held with the leaders of the KMT and CCP. Borodin agreed with the point that the CCP was a party within the party of the KMT, but also stated the KMT had to give some ground to the CCP if they wanted to keep favor with the Soviet Union. Suddenly a wave of anti communist statements were lobbed from prominent KMT members, such as Wang Jingwei. They further launched a petition to expel certain communists. On July 15th in retaliation, Chinese workers in Shamian went on strike. Despite these setbacks the First United Front remained firm. Mao Zedong would see an appointment as Minister of Propaganda of the KMT. His job entailed hunting down newspapers and anyone who distributed leaflets, demanding they come to the Propaganda Department for review prior. In the next episode, if not a future one, Mao Zedong’s propaganda department would have a lot of work ahead of them.

    Now all the way back to when I mentioned Sun Yat-Sen and Borodin visited Feng Yuxiang. Borodin came bearing a similar deal to what the KMT/CCP had with the Soviet Union and at first Feng Yuxiang was uncooperative. Yet cooped up in his Kalgan HQ, Feng Yuxiang had no backers, he was very low on funds. Most importantly he lacked arsenal facilities. Feng Yuxiang had struggled to cope, hunting everyone for backers, but the Northwest was not easily accessible. When he made orders with private traders bound for coastal ports, they were simply seized by local warlords who controlled coastal areas. Without domestic capabilities or access to the sea, Feng Yuxiang was pretty much screwed. Thus he caved into the Soviets

    An agreement was bought for Soviet financial aid and munitions by February of 1925, brokered by Borodin. From April to August, war materials began to pour into Feng Yuxiangs camp. The cargo was divided into two shipments, traveling over the trans siberian railway from Moscow to Verkhne Udinsk, then south over caravan trade routes to Maimaicheng. In 1925 it took 500 mongol carts to move the small arms, ammunition, rifles and field guns from Maimaicheng to Ulaan Baater, then over motor vehicles to Pingdichuan, to a station on the Beijing-Suiyuan railway all the way over to Fengzheng. It was a heavy haul to be sure: 5,000 cases of petroleum, 1,000 boxes of ammunition, 15,000 rifles, 15 million rounds of rifle ammunition, 27 colt machine guns, 630,000 machine gun ammunition, 1,000 entrenching tools, 30.000 hand grenades, and 100 poods of explosives. Another haul in 1925 included 64,000 rifles, 15.000 carbines, 72 million rounds of rifle and carbine ammunition, 189 machine guns, 6.45 million rounds of machine gun ammunition, 66 field guns, 18,000 revolvers, 5 million rounds of revolver ammunition, 50 field kitchens, 150 twowheel carts, and 16,000 swords. With a new supply line, Feng Yuxiang would distance himself from Zhang Zuolin. The triumvirate was becoming undone and a new war was looming.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    While it seemed a decent compromise had been established with the triumvirate of Zhang Zuolin, Duan Qirui and Feng Yuxiang, dark clouds were emerging. The Guominjun and Kuomintang were both getting in bed with the Reds and soon everyone would be mobilizing for another grand war.





  • Last time we spoke about the first Jiangsu-Zhejiang War. Wu Peifu and Zhang Zuolin became swift rivals after the first Zhili-Fengtian War. The Zhili clique remained in control of Beijing and began bullying everyone into submission, trying to unify China under their thumb. Zhang Zuolin went to work reorganizing and retraining his army, for another war was looming over the horizon. Then in the southeast of China, conflict emerged between Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. The Zhili backed Qi Xieyuan wanted to control Shanghai, which was under the control of Lu Yungxiang of the Anhui clique. The Anhui clique were on the death bed, Zhejiang was the last province under their control, thus he elected to fight for it. Lu Yungxiang sought help from anyone who possibly could help him, such as Zhang Zuolin and Dr Sun Yat-Sen, but little did he know but he was contributing to a much larger war.

    #105 the Second Zhili-Fengtian War

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Hello again, so after the first Zhili-Fengtian war of 1922, the Zhili warlords seized control over Beijing. Cao Kun bribed his way into the presidency as Zhang Zuolin licked his wounds and went back to Manchuria where he rebuilt his entire army. Zhang Zuolin appointed Yang Yuting as inspector general of the Mukden arsenal and Wang Yintai as director of the department of materials. He began purchasing more Renault FT tanks, increased his military production, now seeing 150 artillery pieces, 1000 machine guns, 60,000 rifles, 100,000 artillery shells and 600,000 rifle rounds pumping out of factories annually. He increased his navy and airforce, naming his son Zhang Xueliang as director of the aviation office. He purchased German and Italian aircraft, nearing 300 planes within 4 groups. Air bases and fields were built alongside naval headquarters and training schools in places like Harbin. To improve communications, additional water and coal supply stations were built in Suizhong, Xingcheng and Dayaogou so he could rapidly deploy troops via rail. Roads were further developed to increase transportation in areas without rail, each army was given wire communications such as telegraph or telephone lines, linking them to their general HQ’s. Radio communication units were also developed, radio stations were built in Shenyang, Harbin and Jin county.

    The Fengtian military was reformed. Commanders like Bao Deshan and Xu Changyou who were blamed for losing the first zhili-fengtian war were court-martialed and executed in the spring of 1923. The rising star, Dogmeat General Zhang Zongchang aided Zhang Zuolin by massively recruiting White Russians who brought over all sorts of expertise and skills. The White Russians were commanded by Konstantin Petrovich Nechaev, alongside them Zhang also hired Japanese units. The Fengtian army expanded to 27 brigades from its original 25, organized into 3 armies of 3 divisions. Each division had three brigades. The cavalry was expanded from three to four divisions, with three brigades forming a division and the rest attached to infantry divisions as cavalry companies. The artillery regiments expanded from 4 to 10. Each division consisted of three brigades with either an infantry brigade or a combined brigade, and every division had an engineering battalion and a transportation battalion attached. Combined brigades were bolstered with an engineering company and a transportation company. All said an done the strength of the Fengtian army totaled more than 250,000 troops, and its performance was significantly improved. The best troops were found in the 2nd Brigade, commanded by Zhang Xueliang, and the 6th Brigade, commanded by Guo Songling, and they were viewed as the model units of the Fengtian army.

    The catalyst for what would be known as the second Zhili-Fengtian War, occurred on September 3rd of 1924, the first Jiangsu-Zhejiang War. When Lu Yungxiang of Zhejiang refused to cede administration of Shanghai to Qi Xieyuan, both Zhang Zuolin and Dr. Sun Yat-sen pledged to defend the neutrality of Zhejiang and end pulling everyone into a larger war. On September 4th, Dr Sun Yat-Sen held a meeting at his mansion in Guangzhou. There he announced he would assist Zhejiang to preserve Guangdong, thus he was enacting the Northern Expedition. His plan for the northern expedition was to first attack Jiangxi, after it was conquered next was Anhui. From there his KMT forces would link up with the Zhejiang forces, near the Jinpu road where they could march north to take Beijing. On September the 5th Dr Sun Yat-Sen publicly denounced Cao Kun and Wu Peifu and asked the people of Guangdong to work harder than they ever have so they could eliminate the warlords and China could be ruled by her people again.

    On September the 4th, in response to the war in the southeast, Zhang Zuolin declared war on the Zhili clique on the grounds of being in an alliance with Zhejiang and Dr Sun Yat-Sen. He also denounced Cao Kun, bringing up his bribery scheme. Zhang Zuolin’s statement, and forgive me its poorly translated went something like this. "Curse Cao Kun with Power who bribed congressmen, raising teeth and claws, and stole power. Cao Kun harms the people. Now I Zhang Zuolin in charge of Manchuria and her people, and who is loyal to the people, and is duty-bound will lead the three armies to wipe out the thieves." On September the 9th, Duan Qirui added his voice in a telegram against Cao Kun accusing him "of not knowing who the country and the people are, what ethics, justice and integrity are and unleashing four provinces to attack Zhejiang, excluding dissidents, hurting innocent people, and greedy for his own dignity. You have committed a heinous sin, and you have gone too far. How can you survive? The virtuous and powerful people in the world, who have great responsibilities for a while, will definitely be able to do their duty and act bravely when they see justice."

    On the 15th of September, Zhang Zuolin issued another telegram to Cao Kun, in the form of an ultimatum "This year natural disasters are prevalent and hungry people are everywhere. I have tried to say that attacking Zhejiang is wrong, and I have the strength to respond in favor of peace. However, the ink has not yet dried. Yet at the same time, the Zhili marched into Fengtian, detained Shanhaiguan trains, and blocked traffic. What was the purpose of this? In recent years, Cao Kun has been a puppet of Wu Peifu, which has caused public resentment. The impossibility of a military expedition is evident from the successive defeats of the Zhili army. We planned to send another envoy, but the train traffic has been cut off and we cannot enter Beijing. Therefore, we wait for the final answer."

    Indeed on September the 13th suddenly all the trains running along the Beijing-Fengtian railway stopped on Zhili orders. The war in Zhejiang had provided Wu Peifu with the occasion to force a showdown with Zhang Zuolin. Wu Peifu felt confident he would win. Wu Peifu had mobilized over a quarter of a million troops, divided into 3 armies. Wu Peifu trusted his military abilities and felt his subordinates were loyal to him, he was highly mistaken in that last part.

    It would turn out, the christian general, Feng Yuxiang had major grievances. If you remember from the last episode, when ordered to attack Lu Yungxiang, Feng Yuxiang had refused. Instead Feng Yuxiang weaved a web, he pulled Wang Huaiqing to his side, the Beijing garrison commander Sun Yueh and Hu Qingyi. He complained to them about his army being slighted in the distribution of munition and supplies and he would move his troops very slowly out of Beijing when the war began. As it turned out, secret negotiations had been made. Zhang Zuolin’s son Zhang Xueliang in the spring of 1923 had sent a letter to Feng Yuxiang and then his most trusted lt, Fu Xingpei to Beijing to secretly meet with him. Fu Xingpei met with Feng Yuxiang and his chief of staff Liu Ji at a secluded location in Nanyuan. The first meeting was brief, but fruitful as follow up meetings were made, now mediated through Duan Qiriu. Duan Qiriu brought the parties over to his residence in the Japanese quarter of Tientsin. There Feng Yuxiang was given a bribe between 1-2.5 million Japanese Yen. This bribe came from Zhang Zuolin’s Japanese supplied war chest. Zhang Zuolin afterwards had every reason to believe Feng Yuxiang was in his pocket so he concentrated most of his forces around Shanhaiguan.

    The Zhili Cliques forces would come from the provinces of Henan, Shandong, Rehe (knowns as Jehol today), Chahar and Suiyuan. Meanwhile the Fengtian would have troops from Jilin, Heilongjiang and Fengtian. The 2nd war certainly exceed the first by a large margin and it would also involve battles over land, sea and air. The Zhili held an edge in numbers, but alienated generals would ultimately lose them the war. There was also an enormous technological gap between the Zhili and Fengtian armies. As I had mentioned the Fengtian had purchased a lot of western and Japanese weaponry and equipment. The Zhili clique also purchased western materials, but they were far behind the Fengtian army. Furthermore the Zhili clique had just experienced a series of small wars in Sichuan, Hunan, Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong. Their troops were exhausted, lacked pay, and thus morale was not high.

    Zhang Zuolin’s Fengtian army faced 4 major objectives to see the Zhili clique defeated. Ultimately they needed to capture Beijing and Tianjin. Yet to do so they first had to retake Shanhaiguan so their forces could enter Xujialing. Thus Zhang Zuolin would need to gather his forces near Shanhaiguan to capture it. This task fell to his 1st and 2nd army led by Jiang Dengxuan and Zhang Xueliang. If Shanhaiguan could not be taken, at least two brigades would be needed in the Qiansuo region, where a railroad station was roughly 20 kms east of Shanhaiguan. Once that region was secured, the main force could redeploy around Suizhong county for a second attempt against Shanhaiguan. Next the 2nd army would advance into Rehe, Yi County and Dayaogou. They would then take Chaoyang, Jianping, Chengde and Lingyuan. Most of this responsibility fell onto Zhang Zongchang’s 3rd Combined Brigade and Li Jinglin’s 1st Division. After they completed this they would enter the Lengkou pass and take Luanzhou. A Fengtian cavalry group would attack Rehe with the objective of taking Chifeng. The cavalry group would also cover the flank of other Fengtian forces and mop up the enemy left behind. If the situation arose, the Cavalry group could also attack along the Great Wall via the Xifengkou or Gubeikou pass. The Fengtian reserve forces would be deployed between Xingcheng and Suizhong to guard Jinzhou. The Fengtian air forces headquartered at Shenyang would mobilize 3 groups for the war effort under the direct command of the 1st and 2nd Armies known as the Combined Corps. Other air units would be deployed to Yi county under the command of Zhang Xueliang.

    Wu Peifu took the title of commander in chief and set up his headquarters in Sizhaotang. Wu Peifu made special arrangements for the battle; his 1st army led by Peng Shouxin would take an eastern route advancing along the Beijing-Fengcheng line to attack Liaoshen from Shanhaiguan; the 2nd army of Wang Huaiqing would advance along the middle route from Xikou to attack Rechao; and the third army of Feng Yuxiang would take the western route from Gubeikou to attack Kailu. Wu Peifu also had set up a commander in chief of maritime defense Zheng Shiqi stationed at Shandong and a naval commander in chief Du Xiui. His air force was organized into 4 groups stationed in Beidaihe, Luanxian, Chaoyang and the Zhili aviation department, over 70 aircraft in total.

    On September the 14th, Zhang Zuolin as commander in chief of the Fengtian army led them down the border area. Likewise Wu Peifu did the same from Luoyang. On the 15th the 23rd Brigade of Li Shuangkai, part of Li Jinglin’s 2nd army engaged the Zhili 4th battalion of Yijun Zhenbiao around Yizhou, Jiuguan and Taimen. This effectively kicked off the war. From there the war front would run from Chaoyang to Jidong, with major battles taking place in Rehe, Shanhaiguan, Chaoyang, Chifeng, Jiumenmen and Shimenzhai.

    The Fengtian forces planned to unleash their offensive against Shanhaiguan once the initiative was won in Rehe. Therefore Zhang Zuolin personally led the battle in Rehe. The 1st Fengtian army divided into a north and south group. The southern group attacked from Beizhen, passing through Chaoyang and Lingyuang to enter Xifengkou with Wu Junsheng’s cavalry as the main force. The north group ran from Tongliao to Kailu, then headed south to Chengde via Chifeng, then would launch an attack at the western part of Xifengkou.

    The southern attack went pretty smooth as the Zhili army did not put up serious resistance. On the 16th the Fengtian forces seized Yizhou and Fuxin. After this they concentrated their attacks against Chaoyang. Liu Fufu defended Chaoyang with the Zhili 26th brigade of the 12th division, but he only put up a symbolic defense, quickly abandoning the city. On the 23rd Chaoyang was occupied by Fengtian forces who scoured the county. Meanwhile the northern group attacked Jianping, Lingyuan and Chifeng. During the battle for Lingyuan, the Fengtian encountered determined resistance from Zhili forces led by Wang Huaiqing and Dong Zhengguo. Both sides suffered heavy casualties, but the Fengtian managed to take the city. Simultaneously the 2nd Fengtian army forces led by Xu Lanzhou and Wu Guangxin attacked Chifeng. The battle for the city raged for a few days seeing Fengtian air forces bomb the city until October 8th when it was captured. The fall of Chifeng marked a decisive moment in the battle for Rehe, the Fengtian had taken the initiative. Now the leading Fengtian troops began a rapid advance towards Lengkou at the foot of the Great Wall.

    Both sides knew the entire battle depended on Shanhaiguan. The Zhili had heavily fortified it and following the loss of Rehe they continued to strengthen it. Wu Peifu dispatched Peng Shouxin to setup the defenses of Shanhaiguan. Zhang Zuolin had Jiang Dengxuan and Zhang Xueliang form a new headquarters near Shanhaiguan as Guo Songling led the 2nd and 6th Brigades to frontally attack it. As Guo Songling did so, Jiang Dengxuan and his deputy commander Han Linchun led the 4th and 16th brigades to face the Zhili forces north of Jiumenmen. Small scale battles broke out on the 17th that gradually escalated. On the 29th and 30th, the Fengtian began unleashing artillery and aerial bombardment upon the Zhili positions between Shanhaiguan and Changli. During that process the Fengtian forces seized Wanjiatun, Longwang Temple, Yaojiazhuang and other towns. By October 4th the Fentgian army approached the position of the Zhili 15th division. On the 7th Zhang Zuolin issued a general attack order, sending Fengtian forces across the board. The first line of Zhili troops relied on the solid fortifications and fired back upon the advancing enemy. The Fengtian gradually turned their attention to the Jiumenmen Gate located at the northwest part of the Shanhaiguan pass. On the 8th Jiang Dengxuan personally led the 19th Brigade to attack the Haungtu Ridge on the northside of Jiumenmen. His forces quickly encircled Jiumenmen before the 2nd and 6th brigades stormed and occupied it. The fall of Jiumenmen severed demoralized the Zhili defenders whose lines began to waiver. The Fengtian began breaching lines, capturing Liyu, Waiyu, Xiangmayu and now outflanked Shanhaiguan. At this point a brigade was sent to attack Shimenzhai along the north side of Jiumentou.

    Shimenzhai is roughly 25 kms away from Shanhaiguan, if captured the Fengtian could use it as a springboard to attack Qinhuangdao, cutting off the Zhili armies line of retreat. In order to protect the line of retreat, Peng Shouxin organized a force to reinforce Shimenzhai. On the 11th, Wu Peifu came over to Shanhaiguan, while also inspecting Shimenzhai, Zhaojiayu, Shahezhai and other significant Zhili positions. Seeing Jiumenmen had fallen, Wu Peifu ordered forces to recapture it on the 14th. The Fengtian defenders there were put into a desperate battle to hold onto it. On the 15th, a Fengtian regiment led by Sun Xuchang broke through the Zhili defensive line. On the 16th the Fengtian forces surged through the breach and stormed Shimenzhai. The Zhili forces routed in the area allowing the Fengtian forces to quickly seize Liujiang. On the 17th Zheng Xizhen led the Zhili 6th brigade to reinforce the battlefield emerging north of Qinhuangdao.

    Now we need to take a step away from the battle, because a lot of things were happening all over the place, that would have a deep impact on the war. While all of this was going on in the far north, in the south, Dr Sun Yat-Sen personally led the KMT forces north to try and prevent Zhili commander Sun Chuanfang from reinforcing his Zhili comrades in the north. Yet like again, in a fashion that just kept recurring, an issue came about. The Guangzhou merchants corps and forces led loyal to Chen Jiongming began an uprising in Guangzhou. Sun Yat Sen was forced to turn his army back to quell the rebellion. As Sun Yat-Sen pulled back, Sun Chuanfang had brought his forces into Zhejiang and Shanghai.

    Meanwhile another ploy on the part of Zhang Zuolin paid off big time. The christian general Feng Yuxiang who was commanding the Zhili 3rd army began making some trouble. When the Zhili 2nd army suffered its initial defeat, Wang Huaiqing sent word asking for help from Feng Yuxiang. Instead he ordered his 3rd army to stay put at the Gubeikou pass.

    Now back in the battle Wu Peifu had come to the front lines and was taking charge of operations. Zhili reinforcements arrived from Henan and Shanxi led by Zhang Fulai and began helping a counter attack against Shimenzhai. The Fengtian defenders also reinforced their lines, with Jiang Dengxuan taking command of the front lines personally. Despite the reinforcements, the Fengtian defenses were beginning to crumble, their casualties mounting. At the same time the main Fengtian forces were fighting at Shanhaiguan, failing to make progress. Then the Fengtian army received unconfirmed intelligence from the Japanese, that the Zhili clique had enlisted the Zhengji shipping company to use 13 transports to move 4 divisions directly into the rear of the Fengtian forces via the Taku Forts. The Japanese intelligence did not indicate where the landings would be made however. The Fengtian commanders believed it was possibly Yingkou or Huludao, perhaps both. Many Fengtian commanders called for deploying the general reserve as a rear guard, but the deputy chief of the general staff, Fu Xingpei opposed the idea, claiming the Jiumenkou sector required them. Yang Yuting the chief of the general staff worried the terrain of Jiumenkou was far too narrow and restrictive to deploy such large number of troops. Finally Zhang Zuolin ended the debate by ordering the General Reserve, under the command of Zhang Zuoxiang to rush to Jiumenkou.

    Despite committing the General reserve, things did not improve. In fact some interpersonal problems emerged. Zhang Xueliang and Guo Songling had secretly redeployed 8 infantry regiments and two artillery brigades from Shanhaiguan to the Jiumenkou sector. These units were to be led by Guo Songling, but the artillery battalion commander, Yan Zongzhou, a classmate of Guo Songling was removed from command by the artillery regiment commander Chen Chen. Upon hearing the news from Yan Zongzhou, enraged Guo Songling removed Chen Chen of command and gave it back to Yan Zongzhou. However Jiang Dengxuan and Han Linchun had given approval to Chen Chen when he asked to remove Yan Zongzhou, so now they were embarrassed. They then complained to Zhang Zuolin about Guo Songling’s actions. Zhang Zuolin ordered both Chen Chen and Yan Zongzhou to go back to their original commands, and this only pissed off Guo Songling more. Like a kindergarten aged child Guo Songling took his 8th infantry regiment out of the battlefield and retreated to the rear. Zhang Xueliang then hunted him down and smooth-talked him to come back and engage the enemy. This entire stupid situation could have very well cost them the battle, fortunately it happened at night and the Zhili army none the wiser did not exploit the situation.

    Back over in the Rehe front, Zhang Zongchang stormed the Lengkou pass against 4 Zhili divisions; the 9th led by Dong Zhengguo, the 20th led by Yan Zhitang, the 1st Shaanxi division led by Hu Jingyi and the 23rd led by Wang Chengbin. Unfortunately Wang Chengbin and Hu Jingyi had formed a pact with Feng Yuxiang and literally stepped aside during Zhang Zongchangs attack. To add insult to injury, Yan Zhitang and Dong Zhengguo hated each other and each held back to preserve their own strength. Again in the warlord era, petty warlords would pull this kind of shit all the time. As Zheng Zongchangs forces attacked, basically everyone fled Lengkou. Seizing the opportunity Zhang Zongchang pushed even deeper into the enemy lines. It was around this time, word spread that the First Jiangsu-Zhejiang War had concluded in a Zhili victory, thus it seemed if Shanhaiguan was not taken swiftly, the Zhili would win the war.

    Yet the dark horse that was General Feng Yuxiang struck. On October 22nd, Feng Yuxiang betrayed the Zhili Clique. Feng Yuxiang formed a truce with the Fengtian commander Li Jingling on the night of October 20th. He then suddenly withdrew 8000 troops of Wu Peifu’s 3rd and 26th Divisions, leaving only 4000 men at their defensive lines. He took said troops and secretly stormed Beijing where he performed a coup against President Cao Kun. At midnight on October 23rd the commander of the Beijing guards, Sun Yueh admitted Feng Yuxiang and his men into Beijing. Together they seized control over key government buildings and gates. Feng Yuxiang then forced Cao Kun to dismiss Wu Peifu from his military positions. stripped him of the presidency and placed him under house arrest. Afterwards Feng Yuxiang issued a public statement denouncing the civil war and urged the warlords to settle their differences via negotiations. Feng Yuxiangs subordinates then took control of the railway line between Tientsin and Shanhaiguan and the railway line at Changhsintian south of Beijing. Meanwhile Yan Xishan dispatched a force from Shanxi to seize the railway junction at Shihchiachuang, blocking any movement from Hunan along the Peking-Hankou railway. Thus Qi Xieyuan and Sun Chuanfang could no longer advance north to aid Wu Peifu.

    Back at the battle, Zhang Zongchang saw the thinning of the defensive lines when Feng Yuxiang pulled men out and stormed it alongside Li Jinglin. Their forces broke through and advanced south along the Luan River towards Luanzhou, then in the direction of Tianjin. They seized the train station at Luanzhou as Sun Xuchang’s 10th Brigade captured Jiumenkou. The Fengtian cavalry then stormed the Xifengkou pass and pushed forward. By this point the Zhili morale had all but disappeared as news of Feng Yuxiang’s coup in Beijing was spreading along the lines. Even cry baby Guo Songling, hearing the news, grabbed his force and performed an all out charge into the Zhili lines breaking through and advanced eastwards. Now cut off between Qinhuangdao and Shanhaiguan, on the 31st of October, many high ranking Zhili officers began fleeing via ships at Qinhuangdao. Countless Zhili forces were surrounded and began mass surrendering. Wu Peifu meanwhile fled first to Tianjin where he began frantically telegraphing Zhili armies in Jiangsu, Henan, Hubei and Zhejiang for help. Things got even worse, more railway lines were cut by Anhui clique members such as Zheng Shiqi in Shandong, Cangzhou and Machang. Likewise Zheng Shishangs cut lines of the Jinpu railway at Hanzhuang and even Yan Xishan came out of his turtle shell to cut the Jinghan railway line at Shijiazhuang. The Fengtian army overran Tangshan and Lutai asFeng Yuxiang’s forces stormed Yangcun and Beicang, forcing Wu Peifu to flee to Junliangcheng. Then Duan Qiriu sent a message to Wu Peifu advising he should depart by sea. Completely surrounded with no allies, Wu Peifu fled with 2000 troops on the transport Huajia on November 3rd. He went to Tanggu where Sun Chuanfang defended him.

    It had been the most impressive war of the warlord period to that point. Nearly 450,000 troops had been involved in a month-long war along the Great Wall area from Shanhaiguan to Beijing. The casualties are tough to estimate, perhaps 20-30,000 perished. After taking Beijing, Feng Yuxiang reorganized his forces in the 1st Guominjun army, hiring his co-conspirators such as Sun Yueh and Hu Chingyi who would eventually lead the 2nd and 3rd armies. On November 5th, Zhang Zuolin removed Emperor Puyi from the Forbidden City. Puyi went into exile in Tianjin where the Japanese would keep a close eye upon.

    Zhang Zuolin, Feng Yuxiang and Duan Qiriu then met in Tianjin where they agreed to form a provisional government with Duan Qiriu as its figurehead. The choice of Duan Qiriu seemed to be palatable to everyone, including the remaining Zhili warlords in the Yangtze region. On December 9th, Duan Qiriu’s government was recognized. Dr Sun Yat-Sen of course refused to recognize the new Beiyang government and would begin to flirt more with the CCP and their larger backer, the Soviet Union.

    For now the Beiyang government, for whatever it was actually worth, remained in the hands of three players. Duan Qiriu who no longer possessed a strong army, Feng Yuxiang who had just shown himself to be quite a treacherous man and did not wield a very strong army and lastly Zhang Zuolin who now wielded the largest army in China, was backed by Japan and controlled vast sums of territory.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    So the First Jiangsu-Zhejiang and Second Zhili-Fengtian Wars were now over. It seems Zhang Zuolin had just become king of the hill, but what did that mean for China? Would Zhang Zuolin pursue a policy of reunifying China? Would he expand south? Or would the chaos continue, what do you think?

  • Last time we spoke about the first Zhili-Fengtian War. The Anhui-Zhili War of 1920 saw the defeat of the Anhui clique by the Zhili and Fengtian cliques, reshaping territorial control. Despite their victory, stability remained nowhere to be seen in North China. Factionalism persisted, with alliances shifting and power struggles intensifying. Zhang Zuolin of the Fengtian clique emerged a significant player with Japanese backing while Wu Peifu of the Zhili clique earned fame as a military genius. Soon a rivalry emerged between the two leading figures while they also tried to unify China. Meanwhile, in South China, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's plans for a Northern Expedition faced challenges amidst internal dissent and external pressures. In the end Zhang Zuolin formed a grand coalition to defeat Wu Peifu and it backfired spectacularly. Wu Peifu won the first Zhili-Fengtian War and now it would be him in the driver's seat in Beijing.

    #104 the First Jiangsu-Zhejiang War

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Wu Peifu, who had been born of poor parents in 1874 and had earned the lowest degree in the traditional Qing examination system, decided he would seek out a military career in the Beiyang Army. By 1905 he became a junior officer to Cao Kun’s 3rd Division. Wu Peifu had a traditional confucian upbringing, he remained loyal to Cao Kun because of that special confucian bond between mentor and student. He remained loyal despite Cao Kun’s numerous failings, even when he threw his lot in with Zhang Zuolin to save his own ass at Wu Peifu’s expense. The Zhili victory during the first Zhili-Fengtian war emboldened Cao Kun’s ambitions, he soon unleashed his henchmen all over Zhili province snatching up major positions. Cao Kun began a campaign of bribery and intimidation, something very reminiscent of the late Yuan Shikai.

    After his victory, Wu Peifu returned to Henan province, sending the newly appointed inspector general of the army, Feng Yuxiang to Beijing. Those in Henan strongly petitioned against Feng Yuxiangs transfers as he had gained an excellent reputation as the civil administrator in Henan. Where Wu Peifu went it seemed banditry and extortion flourished. Yet Wu Peifu needed Feng Yuxiang to be in Beijing so he could re-establish his authority in his home base. As we had seen in the last episode, the Zhili Clique was not sturdy. Unlike the Fengtian and Anhui, the Zhili clique was made up of a lot of riff raff, who only joined forces as a means to an end, notably to get rid of their enemies. Feng Yuxiang concentrated his army at Nanyuan, due south of the capital. He went to work, checking fingernails, training his men in the good word of the lord, his men being a single division and 3 mixed brigades now. Feng Yuxiang had come a long way, now probably the most powerful warlord in Zhili province, and he made sure to establish good relations with Cao Kun and his brother Wang Huaiqing the commander of the Beijing police. In June of 1923 Feng Yuxiang and Wang Huaiqing would jointly present their resignations to President Li Yuanhong, stating unless their men were paid, they could no longer be responsible for maintaining order in the capital. Yes the finances of China were in a terrible state. Chinese diplomats were struggling abroad to find foreign banks to loan money, and even they were not getting paid and were resigning en masse. Wu Peifu likewise was not receiving a cent from the central government. After several days of standoff, Li Yuanhong fled Beijing on June 13th, taking the presidential seals with him, issuing orders countersigned by only a single cabinet minister who backed him, the minister of agriculture, and Yunnan general Li Kenyuan. It seems for Li Kenyuan it was a bad call, for Cao Kun forced him out of office within a few months. Cao Kun then bribed his way into office by October 10th. It was an infamous bribery story. Apparently Cao Kun bribed assembly members with 5000 silver dollars each. This act was so egregious, it basically pissed off everyone. The hate tossed Cao Kun’s way would help bolster Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s continuing efforts in south china, basically saving his career. Cao Kun began his presidency proclaiming a constitution incorporating ideas of a federalist government and then promoted Feng Yuxiang and other notable generals to the rank of Marshal. While Cao Kun began consolidating his control in Zhili, a humiliated Zhang Zuolin would lick his tiger wounds and rebuild in the northeast.

    After rallying his troops back together once back in Manchuria, Zhang Zuolin quickly declared his 3 provinces in Manchuria were independent of China. The Beijing government under Cao Kun had immediately gone to work trying to coerce defections amongst the Fengtian generals. Cao Kun tossed extravagant positions, such as governorships to them, but only one notable General, Kao Shihpin took the bribe and rebelled against Zhang Zuolin. Zhang Zuolin’s loyal subordinate, great friend to the show, the dogmeat general Zhang Zongchang, easily defeated the defector. Now that Manchuria was independent, Zhang Zuolin firmly repressed any efforts of his provincial assemblies to create civil governments independent of his military control. Thus governmental positions in Manchuria remained in the hands of loyal Fengtian Clique members. Because Zhang Zuolin was now very hostile to all in the Zhili clique, relations with Dr Sun Yat-Sen improved. Thus Zhang Zuolin began propagating the language of national unification, anti-imperialism etc etc. Economically Zhang Zuolin began developing railway lines and built a new port at Hulutao, both of which were competing with the Japanese owned South Manchurian Railway company and port at Dairen. Zhang Zuolin knew full well most of China regarding him as a Japanese puppet. The Japanese however completely failed him in the first-zhili fengtian war, thus he was trying to sport some backbone against them.

    Zhang Zuolin and his top commanders took their loss in 1922 to heart. He began a large-scale reorganization of his military. In 1922 his forces had been organized into 5 Divisions, of which the 16th and 28th disintegrated. The 27th and 29th along with a new reorganized 1st were retained at the divisional level, while the rest of the troops formed into the 1st to 27th Mixed Brigades and 1st to 5th Cavalry Brigades. He standardized the units, 150 men formed a company, 3 companies a battalion, 3 battalions a regiment, 3 regiments a brigade at 4000 men strong. He reshuffled commanders and began promoting officers with professional education and less so the banditry opium smoking types he typically preferred in the past. He really made an effort to purchase new weaponry and expanded the output of the Mukden arsenal.

    During the warlord Era, modern weaponry was expensive to come by, those like the banditry that made up the Fengtian clique used what they got their hands on. The Hanyang 88 based off the German Gewehr 1888 had been the standard Qing rifle and was widely available. There was also a smaller quantity of Type 1 rifles, a Chinese knockoff of the Mauser Model 1907. Given Manchuria’s proximity to Russia and Japan, rifles that found their way into Fengtian hands included the Russian Mosin-Nagant 1891, Japanese Murata’s and Arisakas of 1897 and 1905. These were not ideal, pretty outdated, but in general most of the Chinese warlord armies were branding antiquated rifles. In 1922 the Mukden Arsenal was capable of producing just a small amount of ammunition. Zhang Zuolin had always relied on piecemeal packages given to him, at first from Yuan Shikai, then Duan Qirui and the Japanese on and off. Most of the supplies he got were japanese made. He also managed to seize a lot from the Anhui clique during their war in 1920. Something of great value he often seized were cars, by 1926 there were only something like 8000 cars in all of China, it was a very hot commodity. French Renault FT tanks had been deployed to Vladivostok for the allied intervention and siberian campaign, many were sold to him after 1919. Zhang Zuolin would poor 17 million yuan into expanding the Mukden Arsenal after his loss in 1922, he hired numerous foreign advisors to overlook the process. The Mukden Arsenal ballooned to an operating budget of a million yuan, employing nearly 30,00 workers, including foreign specialists. Fengtian would become China’s largest arms importer, purchasing from Germany, Italy, France and of course the majority came from Japan. Type 3 Heavy machine guns from Japan flooded in and 14 Renaults from France. The Fengtian began utilizing mines, barbed wire, armored trains, particularly Zhang Zongchang and tanks when possible. Zhang Zongchang purchased 4 new gunboats who became the nucleus of a naval force in the Gulf of Chihli and began developing an air force. By 1923 he purchased 40 French Breguet aircraft that would be operated by 20 foreign pilots. He also looked to the future, at his son Zhang Xueliang.

    By 1923 his army was nearly 200,000 strong, certainly formidable, but ridden with issues. A year of intense training had greatly improved the Fengtian forces, but Zhang Zuolin was behind those like Dr Sun Yat-Sen, Wu Peifu and even Feng Yuxiang in trying to infuse within the training some sort of ideology. Zhang Zongchang rose to further prominence during this time period. He had of course gained a lot of respect from Zhang Zuolin after quelling Kao Shihpin. He began amassing a great fortune through extortion, violence and opium dealing. Zhang Zuolin was still receiving assistance from the Japanese, despite not exactly aligning with their wishes. For Zhang Zuolin, tossing away some autonomy was merely a tactical move for his drive to conquer China. Thus it was a means to an end. For the Japanese, they sought an absolute hegemony over Manchuria. In August of 1923, Zhang Zuolin turned to Major General Honjo Shigeru, his Japanese advisor for Japanese arms in anticipation of another war against the Zhili clique. Honjo responded by denying him the request and criticized the Fengtian army’s level of training and readiness. Then he basically went on to say that Japan would continue to support, as long as he did not invade China proper, “the Empire always demands that you exercise circumspection so that order may be maintained in the Eastern Provinces”. Regardless of the Japanese position on the issue, Zhang Zuolin had taken enormous lengths to reorganize and retrain his army. Simply put, he had grown too strong for the Zhili clique to leave him alone.

    Yet the tiger of Manchuria was not the only problem facing the Zhili clique, there was also Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s coalition in the south. Then a minor incident, a train robbery in Shandong occurred in april of 1923. Several foreigners were kidnapped and ransomed. Alongside this the feeling in the air was that a war was about to break out at any moment. The foreigners wanted a stable China, the people of China wanted an end to the wars. Thus the foreign diplomats and Chinese officials began demanding the Zhili and Fengtian cliques sign a peace treaty before another war broke out. A peace agreement was reached in June of 1923, what that piece of paper actually meant, who knows.

    In the meantime, the Zhili clique began focusing on the remnants of the Anhui clique over in Fujian and Zhejiang province. In march of 1923, Zhili clique member Sun Chuanfang was appointed military governor of Fujian. Sun Chuanfang was the former protege of the previous military governor of Hubei, Wang Chanyuan and he much like Feng Yuxiang was becoming a rising stay. Sun Chuanfang was being bolstered heavily by Cao Kun. Sun Chuanfang drove the Anhui clique’s military governor Wang Yungchuan out of Fuzhou and by early 1924, Fujian province was more or less firmly Zhili dominated. Wu Peifu intended to use Fujian as a springboard to conquer Guangdong. Meanwhile the remaining Anhui warlord, Lu Yungxiang of Zhejiang was obviously panicking. Lu Yungxiang held control over Zhejiang and thus also Shanghai, including her arsenal and extensive revenues from foreign trade, the opium trade and had access to foreign markets. Fearing the Zhili would crush him at any moment, he jumped into bed with Zhang Zuolin and Dr Sun Yat-Sen directly after the Anhui cliques defeat back in 1920. Basically to garner their support and that of foreigners, Lu Yungxiang publicly opposed Cao Kun when he bribed his way into the presidency.

    On November 10th of 1923, the police chief of Shanghai, Zhili clique member Xu Guoliang was assassinated. It has been alleged Xu Guoliang was killed by henchmen of Lu Yungxiang. A battle emerged between Lu Yungxiang and the military governor of Jiangsu, Qi Xieyuan over appointing a new successor. You might be asking, “why would two people be fighting over this issue, isn't Shanghai under the jurisdiction of Jiangsu?” Yeah funny thing about that, the city was at the time being administered by Lu Yungxiang as part of Zhejiang. While historically Shanghai had typically been part of Jiangsu province, after the first Zhili-Fengtian War, Lu Yungxiang seized control over the city and it basically became his economic lifeline. Both men fought and nearly began a war, but to preserve the peace they began negotiating and signing minor treaties. Both men agreed not to take allies to fight another and not to allow other warlords armies to pass through each other's provinces, nor augment their current armies.

    Despite everything it was clear to Lu Yungxiang that Zhejiang was next on the chopping block for the Zhili clique, thus in order to protect himself he hired the Anhui clique Generals Zang Zhiping, the commander of the Fujian 2nd Division and Yang Huazhao the commander of the Fujian 3rd Division, together they were roughly 6000 men strong. Obviously their recruitment violated the peace treaty, and alongside this, Lu Yungxiang gave refuge to many Anhui troops fleeing Fujian. This handed the Zhili clique justification to provoke a war. Meanwhile Qi Xieyuan had expanded his military strength in preparation for seizing Shanghai. He began recruiting troops in Yanzhou and Jining. Initially within Jiangsu Qi Xieyuan had 5 Divisions and 6 Brigades, roughly 43,000 men. Qi Xieyuan also had the support of Naval commander Du Xigui who led 20 warships with some marines. Qi Xieyuan also had a minor airforce sporting some Vime bombers purchased from the UK.

    As for Zhejiang, Lu Yungxiang reorganized the two Fujian divisions he recruited into a supplementary Brigade and the 24th Mixed Brigade. These added to his divisions and Brigades brought his manpower to nearly 70,000. Lu Yungxiang also had the support of a Shanghai based fleet led by Anhui clique commander Lin Jianzhang and a small airforce sporting French BR14 fighter bombers. Now Qi Xieyuan knew he had no chance in hell of capturing Zhejiang and Shanghai with his forces alone, so he cried to Wu Peifu. Wu Peifu was of course looking down the barrel of a much larger war with Zhang Zuolin, and he had plans to garner Anhui clique support to his side in the future war. In the meantime he asked Qi Xieyuan to lay low and not do anything rash. So Qi Xieyuan did the very opposite. Qi Xieyuan held a secret military meeting in Nanjing, announcing to other warlords from Henan, Anhui and Hubei that he was going to invade Zhejiang. They all wanted a piece of the pie so the game was on.Qi Xieyuan appointed himself commander in chief and created 3 route armies to attack Zhejiang and Shanghai. The first route army was commanded by Gong Bangduo who would mainly be attacking Shanghai, the second route army was led by Chen Tiaoyuan who would mainly defend Yixing and the third route army was led by Wang Pu who would mainly attack Guangde of Zhejiang. In addition to all of this, Sun Chuanfang with support from Cai Chengxun the governor of Jiangxi organized a Fujian-Jiangxi alliance at Jianou. He too would attack Zhejiang, but his ambitions were much larger than just helping Qi Xieyuan.

    The Anhui clique warlords knew that if Zhejiang and Shanghai fell to the Zhili the Anhui clique was all but done for. Thus many of them such as Xu Shuzheng, Wu Guangxin, Ma Liang and Qu Tongfeng began recruiting to fight for Zhejiang. Lu Yungxiang welcomed their help and asked them to send word to the Fengtian clique for additional aid. Dr Sun Yat-Sen also said if war broke out between Jiangsu and Zhejiang he would try to send forces of his Northern Expedition army.

    By August of 1924, Sun Chuanfang had moved his troops directly over to the Fujian-Zhejiang border. At 10am on September 3rd of 1924 the first shot of the Jiangsu-Zhejiang war rang around Yixing of Jiangsu province. The Jiangsu forces originally sought to capture Changxing in Zhejiang in one lighting attack, but they found extremely strong resistance. Zhejiang artillery in the mountains surrounded Changxing, roughly 30 miles from Yixing kept them at bay, causing an immediate stalemate. By 11am the fighting made its way along the Shanghai-Nanjing railway. By 10am the next day the Jiangsu forces at Huangdu began firing at Zhejiang fortifications, but the Zhejiang defenders did not fire back. Lured in by the idea the fortifications might be unguarded, Jiangsu forces came over only to be gunned down by machine guns and artillery, killing possibly hundreds. The Zhejiang fighters stormed out of the fortifications to pursue the enemy and by 5pm captured Anting in the process.

    Now on the political side of things, because Qi Xieyuan launched the first punch, Lu Yungxiang proclaimed he was only defending his territory. Qi Xieyuan in the meantime proclaimed he was working under Cao Kun, thus Lu Yungxiang began tossing accusations at Cao Kun about his bribery scandal, calling him a treacherous dog, you know normal stuff. Now all this Cao Kun talk, prompted Cao Kun to issue officials orders on September 4th to attack Zhejiang. I wont be getting into here, but this sparked the second Zhili-Fengtian war essentially. So while we focus on this smaller war in a bigger war, don’t forget about the bigger war. Now by September the 5th the Jiangsu-Zhejiang war saw battles going on in 5 directions: Yixing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Jiading, Liuhe and Qingpu. Within the Yixing battles, the Jiangsu forces were initially blocked, facing Zhejiang counterattacks, roughly 10 miles from Yixing. The Jiangsu forces were battered, 3 battalions defected on the 6th. On the 7th, the Zhejiang forces entered Shushan, prompting Qi Xieyuan to mobilize the Anhui 5th Mixed brigade to reinforce the area, finally halting the Zhejiang advance. Another stalemate emerged, now between Shushan and Yixing. Over at the Shanghai-Nanjing railway line area, after two quiet days, on the night of the 6th the two armies clashed around Anting. Both sides were evenly matched forming a quick stalemate. In the Jiading area on the night of the 3rd the Jiangsu stormed the west gate of Jiading, the defenders were barely holding on. Lu Yungxiang deployed Yang Huazhao’s army who made it over on the 5th. Both sides fought fiercely for days. Over in the Liuhe direction, during the afternoon of the 4th the Jiangsu forces advanced, but the Zhejiang artillery kept them at bay. By 5pm however the Zhejiang defenders were overwhelmed allowing the Jiangsu forces to seize Liuhe as the defenders fled to Luodian. At 3am on the 5th the Jiangsu forces continued their advance, only to see the Zhejiang forces circle back and recapture Liuhe. The Jiangsu forces tossed numerous counterattacks, but were repelled and forced to pull back to their start lines. Over in the Qingpu area on the 5th the Jiangsu divided themselves in two groups departing Anting. One group attack Si Port, only 6 miles away from Anting, the other group attacked Baihe due southwest. By 3pm on the 6th both sides were fighting around Kongzhai, just 10 miles north of Qingpu. The Zhejiang managed to halt the Jiangsu. Thus after a few days, across all the battle areas, pretty much no one was making significant progress.

    Just as it looked like the stalemate would not break, on the 8th the Sun Chuanfang’s Jiangsu-Fujian attacked. They quickly occupied Xianxia, Jiangshan and Quzhou by the 18th. Lu Yungxiang saw the enemy closing in on Shanghai and panicked. He knew combined these forces could launch two pronged attacks and overwhelm him. Thus Lu Yungxiang sacrifice Zhejiang as a whole and withdrew to Shanghai with his most elite forces. Now leaderless the rest of the Zhejiang army was simply blown away by the Jiangsu-Fujian forces. They quickly seized Jiaxing, Changxing and other cities. The Jiangsu navy began bombarding coastal and riverside towns as the airforce bombed them as well. Facing a three dimensional war, the Zhejiang forces crumbled and by the end of September Zhejiang defense ceased.

    The Fujian-Jiangsu armies rushed to Shanghai, occupying Jinshanwei, Songjiang, Qingpu and Longhua by October 13th. At that point Lu Yungxiang realized they could not hope to hold Shanghai, so he alongside other warlords fled into the Shanghai international Concession. The rest of the Zhejiang forces fell to Xu Shuzheng who was placed under house arrest. Thus Qi Xieyuan and Sun Chuanfang were victorious. The war between Jiangsu and Zhejiang lasted roughly 40 days. It was a tremendous disaster for the common people who resided in both provinces who were displaced. The Jiangsu provincial peasants association relayed a message after the war to the state council stating "In the war between Jiangsu and Zhejiang, the army passed by, the villages and towns were ruins, the people were migrating, and they were unemployed. The rich were poor, and the poor were dead. No one knows how many people died in the war zones around Jiangnan and Yixing, This is especially true in Kunshan, Jiading, Taicang, Songjiang, Qingpu and other counties.” The Jiading, Qingpu, Songjiang and Taicang associations added this to the state council "The war broke out in Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and the two provinces were severely affected. In Jiangsu, the four counties of Jiading, Qingpu, Songjiang, and Taicang were the most severely affected, entire towns were destroyed, robbed, or displaced, and the situation was inexplicable... In short, the businesses stopped and the farmers fled. In the past sixty years, their vitality has been exhausted." The Liuhe War Disaster Relief association wrote this report to the Ministry of Internal affairs "The Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces used the Liuhe River as the battlefield, and the stalemate lasted for forty days and nights. People's lives and property were destroyed by artillery fire, and they were repeatedly raped and plundered. The navy also fired long-distance artillery fire from time to time. Therefore, many houses were burned and bombed, such as schools, temples, shops, churches, charity halls, hospitals, and long-distance buses, which were all destroyed by the soldiers... A total of 154 houses in the city were destroyed by artillery fire. Of the 1,529 houses, about 3,300 were damaged by shells, and the total damage was estimated to be over 770,000 yuan. The merchants and civilians in the houses were not affected by this war disaster. For this reason, the residents were exiled and their houses were no longer available, and they were unable to resume operations. The situation was so miserable that it was difficult for them to do so."

    Both sides' casualty figures ranged in the thousands to tens of thousands. Official reports stated 30,000 total casualties for the war, with hundreds dying each day of it. However the greatest harm fell upon civilians. Young recruits, often having not been paid for long periods of time, resorting to looting and robbing. Civilians panicked and fled their homes. Women were pressed into service as cooks and in brothels, known sometimes as public wives. Civilians were forced to work for the soldiers, performing things like transporting ammunition, digging trenches and such. They were beaten with gun handles if they did not comply, those who ran were whipping, many were shot. Gang rape was an epidemic, there was a tragic story of an 8 year old girl and a 78 year old women were were gang raped to death by 13 soldiers near Fangtai while they were out picking cotton. Waves of refugees roamed the region, Japanese survey’s indicated the Shanghai international concession ballooned with 500,000 refugees. When Lu Yungxiang fled for Shanghai, his Zhejiang army simply looted the province.

    Economic losses were insanely high. These losses came from warlords extorting or expropriating to meet military demands. It was estimated that the military expenditure of both sides was 60-70 million yuan. Neither provincial taxes could support such numbers so the warlords forced banks and governments to allocate things like treasury exchange coupons. Sun Chuanfang extorted 800,000 yuan from the Huangzhou banks and would later extort another 1 million yuan from the Shanghai business community. Soldiers burned, killed and looted as was the norm of warlord China. As you can imagine the government bond price plummeted from all of this, banks foreclosed, financial ruin ensued. The entire financial industry of Jiangsu and Zhejiang went on strike because of the war and all of this of course impacted China’s overall economy.

    Now as I alluded to, the Jiangsu-Zhejiang war was not only a war fought over two provinces in southeast China, but rather a contest between the entire Zhili clique against an emerging anti-Zhili coalition. It was also another disastrous blow to the already dramatically weakened Anhui clique, who pretty much would never recover. From this point forward the Anhui clique would not wield much presence politically or militarily. Although the war was clearly limited in scope to the southeast corner of China, it had an enormous impact across the nation. At the time the Zhili clique was in firm control over Beijing and was vigorously trying to unify China by force, threatening all the other cliques' warlords. Lu Yungxiang desperately looked for anyone to help him out, even turning to Cao Kun and Wu Peifu, asking them to restrain Qi Xieyuang. Of course neither Zhili leader headed this as they very much wanted Zhejiang to fall into their pocket, but they had no idea what a powder keg Zhejiang would turn out to be.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The First Jiangsu-Zhejiang War was but a mere cog in a larger war that was unfolding across China. The Warlord Era was simply one battle to the next, as the warlords fought to unify China in their own special image. The common people are always the ones to pay the price.

  • Last time we spoke about the tyrannical regime of Ungern-Sternberg in Mongolia. Ungern-Sternberg's secret police led by Colonel Leonid Sipailov targeted Reds and Jews, executing nearly 900 people, including over 50 Jews. Meanwhile, Ungern-Sternberg built his Asiatic Cavalry Division, aiming to form a Mongolian national army. Damdin Sukhbaatar emerged as a Red leader, trained in military tactics and part of Mongolia's independence movement. The Soviet Union supported Mongolia against Ungern-Sternberg's occupation, aiding the Mongolian People's Party. Sukhbaatar led successful campaigns against White Russians, ultimately capturing Urga. Ungern-Sternberg's forces were defeated by the Red Army, leading to his capture and execution. After his downfall, Mongolia faced internal political struggles, including purges and power struggles within the Mongolian People's Party. Meanwhile, Tibet faced its own challenges, negotiating with China and Britain over its status and borders, leading to the establishment of the McMahon Line, though China disputed the agreement.



    #103 the First Zhili–Fengtian War

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Well hello there, we are back in the thick of things in north China again. As a bit of a refresher, the Anhui-Zhili War of 1920 had resulted from a combination of Duan Qirui basically pissing off everyone else. The Zhili and Fengtian cliques banded together to defeat the Anhui clique, now Duan Qirui went into a bit of a self exile and most of his territory was seized. The Anhui were not down for the count, but now a fraction of what they once were and confined to Fujian and Zhejiang province. Meanwhile Zhang Zuolin and his Fengtian clique maintained their hold over Manchuria and even added some parts of Inner Mongolia to their booming empire. Cao Kun and Wu Peifu of the Zhili clique had benefited the most from the war, grabbing Beijing, Anhui and northern Zhili province, adding it to their heartland in the Yangtze Valley. Wu Peifu had largely been the mastermind behind the war effort and earned great fame as a result. He became known as a military genius, earning monikers such as “the jade marshal”.

    The coalition’ victory did not bring stability to north China. Jin Yunpeng was the leader of the Anfu Club and was supported and engineered to Premiership by Cao Kun and Zhang Zuolin. They supported him largely because he was the rival of Xu Shichang and a large rift was ongoing in the Anfu club because of them. Despite being a Anhui clique member, he was a relative of Zhang Zuolin by marriage and an early patron to Wu Peifu. While Duan Qirui was in power, his appointment met the needs of all 3 cliques. Thus when Duan Qirui and many of the other Anhui clique officials were cast out, Jin Yunpeng was one of the select few who kept their job. Meanwhile the Ministry of communications, foreign services and other national services all gradually shifted their allegiance to the Zhili clique. Cao Kun was now facing a lot of public hostility from Dr Sun Yat-Sen and his Canton coalition.

    Immediately after the Anhui-Zhili war, Zhang Zuolin left 30,000 troops within the Beijing area under one of his trusted deputies. Zhang Zuolin’s real award however was the captured weapons and equipment of the Anhui forces controlling Chahar, Jehol and Suiyuan province. Random side track, I just so happen to be covering the 1930’s wars in Chahr, Jehol and Suiyuan province. If thats of interest to you check out my Japanese invasion of Inner Mongolia series over on the Pacific War Channel at Youtube or listen to the podcast versions at the Pacific War Channel on all podcast platforms. Zhang Zuolin had also inherited Xu Shuzheng’s job of reconquering Outer Mongolia. That area as we know had been recently taken over by the White Russian General Baron von Ungern-Sternberg who was trying to recreate some sort of Mongolian empire with him as a reincarnated Chinggis Khan. Fortunately for I would say all parties, Ungern-Sternberg was defeated and killed in late July of 1921. The communists then began to seize Mongolia, but Zhang Zuolin would become too preoccupied to face them, because of a new conflict in the south.

    Wu Peifu lessened his hold over Hunan during the Anhui-Zhili War and as a result a power vacuum was filled by Hunanese forces under Tan Yankai. Tan Yankai was a KMT hero associated with Dr Sun Yat-Sen. Anhui Clique generals Wy Kuanghsin and Chang Chingyao had been left with no territory after the war and Military governor of Shaanxi, Ch’en Shufan, also a Anhui general, were all threatened. All 3 of them controlled vast sums of money from their years in government, stored in banks in the foreign concession of Hankow. Meanwhile the Hunanese military, being supported by a coalition of civilian leaders inHunan were looking to form a provincial constitution and to elect a civilian governor. The 3 disenfranchised Anhui generals sought them out and arranged to finance a Hunan invasion of Hubei. The Zhili clique general Wang Chanyuan who had been the military governor of Hubei since 1916. In July 1921 the invasion began seeing Wang Chanyuan defeated, he fled to Wuchang in August.

    In response to this, Cao Kun appointed the military genius Wu Peifu to lead an army to reconquer Hubei, supported by Wu Peifu’s protege Xiao Yaonan and Wang Chanyuans former subordinate Sun Chuanfang. Wu Peifu moved with his customary speed and decisiveness, moving by rail from Loyang. The Hunan Army had abandoned the Wuhan when Wu Peifu ordered naval units to move up to Wuhan. They were assailed as they moved southward up the Yangtze River. Meanwhile Wu Peifu marched his army overland and by August 27th captured Yueyang, a river port where the Dongting lake flows into the Yangtze. It also happened to hold a railway station for the Wuhan-Chansha railway. Thus Wu Peifu had effectively cut off the Hunan Army’s line of retreat in one fell sweep. Trapped now, the Hunan army agreed to return to Hunan and remain there. Wu Peifu kept Yueyang and her strategic railway junction as he then turned his gaze towards Sichuan province. Sichuan’s warlords had also come through the Yangtze valley to attack Yichang just a pit upstream from Yueyang. Wu Peifu’s forces fought the Sichuanese for over a month until they also agreed to evacuate Hubei province. These small victories bolstered Wu Peifu’s image of a military mastermind and enhanced Cao Kun.

    The Zhili Clique in 1921 controlled provinces containing the two north-south railway lines, the Beijing-Hankou and Tientsin-Pukow. Alongside this they also controlled two prominent east-west lines of communication, the Lunghai railway and Yangtze River. The only other big dog on the bloc at this point remained the Fengtian Clique who controlled 6 Manchuria and Inner Mongolian provinces. Yan Xishan of Shanxi at this point was content with his province, most leaving him alone, thus he remained independent and honestly that's all he really wanted.

    Now when Duan Qirui had been defeated, Zhang Zuolin emerged the only significant warlord to be backed by the Japanese. In fact his realm of Manchuria and Inner Mongolia were of grave interest to the Japanese. The Japanese had just lost their poster boy, and now felt very threatened by Chinese nationalism in the south and Anglo-American cooperation, both of these forces creating anti-Japanese sentiment in China. Thus the Japanese heavily supported Zhang Zuolin, making sure his position in the northeast was very stable. However Zhang Zuolin was making things quite difficult. Zhang Zuolin publicly denounced the Zhili clique, particularly Cao Kun and Wu Peifu, labeling them puppets of Anglo-American interest and allies to the radical Dr. Sun Yat-Sen with his KMT and even CCP leanings. Relations between Zhang Zuolin and Wu Peifu were pretty bad, allegedly they began to really sour during the conference in Beijing after the Zhili-Fengtian war. Zhang Zuolin apparently referred to Wu Peifu “as a mere division commander, who only held ceremonial status to himself and Cao Kun”.

    Zhang Zuolin was ambitious, he was gazing at the territory south of his little empire. He also knew the Zhili clique was not whole heartedly unified, they were vulnerable. At a conference in Tientsin in April of 1921, where Jin Yunpeng was going to reorganize his cabinet, Zhang Zuolin suddenly went out of his way to treat Wang Chanyuan, now the military governor of Hubei and Hunan as an equal to himself and Cao. Now during this time period, our old friend the Christian Warlord, Feng Yuxiang, a Zhili clique member was becoming a rising star. After the Tientsin conference, the Beijing government appointed Yen Hsiangwen, the commander of the 20th division and a close associate of Wu Peifu as military governor over Shaanxi. Wu Peifu added the 7th Division and Feng Yuxiangs 16th Mixed Brigade to Yen Hsiangwens army. Feng Yuxiang’s brigade performed very well under Yen Hsiangwen and he was soon rewarded with the 11th Division. Then Yen Hsiangwen committed suicide, or so its alleged on August 23rd, and Feng Yuxiang succeeded him as military governor.

    Back over in Beijing, the political scene was increasingly becoming concerned with funding. The usual lenders to China had agreed that a unified Chinese government would be necessary to guarantee future loans. Premier Jin Yunpeng was doing an ample job securing the dissolving Anhui parliament at Beijing, but Dr Sun Yat-Sen remained adamantly oppositional over in Guangzhou. Any prospect of obtaining future loans were evaporating. The banking system within China was dominated by a smaller clique revolving around officials working in the ministry of communications. Many of these officials did not get along with Jin Yunpeng. Then suddenly on December 24th President Xu Shichang appointed Liang Shiyi, the head of the communication group as prime minister. Within just two days after this, the central government funding for Wu Peifu’s armies in Hubei and Hunan was cut and the Anhui clique officials were all receiving full pardons. Wu Peifu was taken by complete surprise in these actions, it seemed clear to him the Fengtian, Communications officials and Anhui cliques were forming a coalition against him. Hell even some in the Zhili clique seemed to be involved. Hunan and Hubei were the vast sum of Wu Peifu’s power, this was directed at him.

    Wu Peifu lashed out swiftly by publishing telegrams accusing Liang Shiyi of treason for recent actions during the Washington conference. While the conference was primarily about naval buildups, particularly limiting those between Britain, Japan and the US, there was also a clause signed guaranteeing the territorial integrity of China. Yet apparently Liang Shiyi had cabled the Chinese delegation to go easy on the Japanese, hoping they would reciprocate with some loans to China. Wu Peifu had hard evidence of these actions and laid them out publicly trying to force Liang Shiyi from office. However, Zhang Zuolin began publicly supporting Liang Shiyi. It would turn out the appointment of Liang Shiyi was Zhang Zuolin’s doing. Regardless of Zhang Zuolin’s support, Liang Shiyi would be forced out of office. Yet Wu Peifu was deserted by other Zhili generals and it seemed even Cao Kun was not whole heartedly supporting him anymore. Meanwhile Zhang Zuolin had gained support of the Communication officials, Duan Qirui, Zhang Zun and Dr Sun Yat-Sen. Yes its kind of like the sinister six getting together to fight spiderman. So Liang Shiyi stepped down, stating it was because of poor health on January 19th of 1922. Zhang Zuolin considered his sacking to be a personal attack on the part of Wu Peifu. Thus Zhang Zuolin resolved to alienate Wu Peifu from the rest of the Zhili clique and destroy him.

    Zhang Zuolin had a lot working for him, he was loosely related through marriage to Cao Kun and both men began meeting between their HQ’s in Mukden and Baoting. Cao Kun controlled roughly 10,000 men and would definitely make for a formidable ally. However Cao Kun refused to publicly issue any statements against Wu Peifu. By March of 1922, anti-Wu Peifu figures began to meet at Tientsin where they agreed on a strategy. Dr Sun Yat-Sen would become the new president, Liang Shiyi would return as Premier, Zhang Xun would become the inspector general of Jiangsu, Anhui and Jiangxi and Duan Qirui would become the military governor of Zhili. To accomplish all of this, Dr Sun Yat-Sen and the Anhui generals Lu Yung-hsiang and Lihouchi of Zhejiang and Fujian would attack Wu Peifu from the south while the Fengtian army would attack from the north. Once Wu Peifu was defeated he would be confined to the position of inspector general over Hunan and Hubei as the sinister 6 would govern China leading to a happily ever after.

    Zhang Zuolin’s coalition to defeat spider man collapsed immediately. He had been counting on Japanese support, and it did not materialize. The Japanese backed Chinese 2nd Squadron based out of Shanghai had helped Wu Peifu by lending him river gunboats during some war actions in Hubei the previous year and when the first Zhili-Fengtian war broke out, they announced support for Wu Peifu. Their support made it difficult for the Anhui generals of Zhejiang and Fujian who received naval training from them to move against Wu Peifu. Likewise the Japanese backed Chinese 1st squadron based out of Guangzhou caused issues for Dr Sun Yat-Sen to get his forces into the war. When Zhang Xun tried to mobilize, the public who still hated him for his attempt to restore the Qing dynasty basically stopped him in his tracks. Duan Qirui reading the tea leaves, simply became inactive, leaving Zhang Zuolin hung to dry on his own.

    As for Cao Kun, since 1920, Wu Peifu held significant power because he controlled the Hankow north-south railway line. As of 1922, he lost control of it and from his point of view Cao Kun did not seem to be a good ally. Wu Peifu would deploy roughly 100,000 troops, he was commander in chief and commander of the western front. The commanders of the central and eastern fronts were Wang Chengbin and Zhang Guorong, with Zhang Fulai as deputy commander over the eastern front. By far his best units was the 3rd division led by Feng Yuxiang. Zhang Zuolin would deploy roughly 120,000 men and was commander in chief of the Fengtian army and commander of the eastern front with Sun Liechen as deputy commander. The commander of the western front would be Zhang Jinghui and under him were deputies Bao Deshan, Zhang Xueliang and Li Jinglin.

    In a direct repeat of the Zhili-Anhui war, Zhang Zuolin would attack Zhili along two fronts, east and west. Zhang Zuolin took Junliangchang as his eastern front HQ. Zhang Jinghui took his western HQ at Changxindian and divided his forces into 3 echelons. Wu Peifu took Baoding for his HQ and deployed forces across 3 fronts. Wu Peifu’s forces headed by Feng Yuxiangs 3rd Division in the west deployed in the region of Liulihe; Wang Chengbin deployed at Gu’an; Zhang Guorong at Dacheng with Zhang Fulai. On April 28th, Zhang Zuolin arrived at Junliangcheng and deployed the troops along the Beijing-Fenghuang and Jindu-Fuzhou railway lines. The next day the war broke out. On the eastern front, both armies had begun to skirmish on april 21st, but on the 29th, Fengtian General Zhang Zuoxiang led the 4th battalion of the Guards brigade and the 1st Regiment of the 4th mixed Brigade to attack the Zhili 26th division. This saw the Zhili forces retreat towards Renqiu. On the 30th 10,000 Fengtian troops began an assault against Renqiu. Wang Chengbin deployed reinforcements over to Renqiu who defeated the Fengtian forces and pushed them back towards the Yaomadu and Baiyang bridges. On the 31st Dacheng was retaken by the Zhili forces. Zhang Xueliang led 10,000 infantry, 1 cavalry brigade and 1 artillery regiment to counter attack. However Feng Yuxiang’s 3rd Division came over leading to a fierce battle. The Fengtian forces were defeated again and now we're pulling back towards Yangliuqing. The Zhili forces then launched an attack upon Machang on May 3rd. The Fengtian forces at Jinghai and Yangliuqing launched a counter attack. A major stalemate emerged along the Yaomadu and Baiyang bridge area. Yet by this time the war in the middle had decisively turned to the Zhili’s favor, thus morale was beginning to crumble for the Fengtian. The Zhili unleashed a heavy counterattack, forcing the Fengtian forces to withdraw towards Jinghai. Meanwhile the Zhili forces captured Machang and Qinxian before defeating the Fengtian at Jinghai. By May 4th, news spread that the Fengtian in the western front had lost, causing countless to surrender in the east or retreat to Junliangcheng.

    Within the Western front, the battle was mainly fought along the Beijing-Hankow railway line. On April 28th the 24th Division under Zhang Fulai and the 13th mixed brigade under Dong Zhengguo launched an attack against the Fengtian western HQ at Changxindian. They were met by the Fengtian 1st and 16th divisions. The battle was fierce, seeing heavy casualties on both sides. The Zhili forces were about to breach the Fengtian defensive lines, when Fengtian General Li Jinglin rushed over to dislodge the enemy. The Zhili forces withdrew and the next day the Fengtian forces pursued them. The two armies clashed at the Liuli river, where it seemed the Fengtian would win, but the Zhili gradually defeated them. Then the Zhili forces seized Liangxiang and began advancing upon Changxindian and Nangangwa during the night. The Fengtian forces held firm again at Changxindian, mobilizing the 9th and 2nd Brigades of the 28th Division and a Cavalry Brigade from Chahar. However ultimately the Fengtian were relying on their artillery to keep the Zhili forces at bay. Over the course of 2 days both sides were taking heavy casualties. Then on the 30th Wu Peifu personally went to the western frontlines ordered the men to cease offensive actions and focus on heavy artillery shelling of the Fengtian front lines, while he ordered a outflanking maneuver aimed at the Fengtian rear. Wu Peifu divided his forces into 3 groups and launched a fierce attack on May 4th. While this was occuring, the ex-zhili commander of the Fengtian 16th division defected over to Wu Peifu, a very typical situation of warlord era china battles. The Zhili and Fengtian forces suffered tremendously during the days of battle that followed. Many commanders were killed leading the forces on both sides. However the battle would ultimately come down to that of artillery attrition and the Fengtian were consuming more shells than the Zhili and could not replenish them in time. Wu Peifu discovered the situation for what it was and launched a frontal attack to attract the Fengtian artillery fire while also ordering the 21st mixed brigade, an elite formation to sneak behind the Fengtian rear. The 21st Mixed Brigade made a long detour through the Fenghuang mountains, managing to get behind the Fengtian lines. Now surrounded, with artillery munitions nearly exhausted, the Fengtian 16th division surrendered. Zhang Jinghui then jumped into a car heading for Tianjin as the Fengtian army in the west fell into chaos and routed. The Zhili forces stormed Changxindian on the 5th and began an attack against Fengtai. The Fengtian forces fled towards Shanhaiguan, while 30,000 of them were captured alongside their weapons and equipment.

    Within the middle front, Wu Peifu directed the Zhili forces to focus upon Gu’an. Fengtian General Zhang Zuoxiangs forces were stationed around Yongqing. Zhang Xueliang and Guo Songling were stationed around Ba county. Both sides launched fierce attacks and counterattacks, but gradually the Zhili overwhelmed the Fengtian and seized Shengfeng and Gu’an quickly. Zhang Zuoxiang personally led the 27th and 28th division to try and recapture them, but was repelled. On May 4th, the Zhili army erected a siege upon Yongqing from three sides. After a day of fighting the Fengtian could hold on no longer. Many surrendered outright, some fled for Tianjin, including Zhang Zuoxiang. After the fall of Yongqing the Zhili forces captured Langfang and accepted the surrender of thousands. Casualty reports suggested the Fengtian suffered 20,000 deaths, 10,00 desertions and 40,000 men were captured. However these numbers are absolutely exaggerated, in fact all battles of China’s warlord Era are. Some casualty reports listed a total of 10,000 to a possible 30,000 for both sides included and even that seems high.

    Foreign military advisors and observers noted Wu Peifu’s seemed to be far better trained and disciplined compared to their Fengtian counterparts. The Zhili forces also had superior arms, but many of Zhang Zuolin’s better units impressed the foreigners with their armaments. Wu Peifu quickly occupied Beijing. Zhang Zuolin met his fleeing troops and Luanzhou, between Tientsin and Shanhaiguan where he gave every soldier 10$ tip. At this point their monthly wage was around 4.20$ thus this was a big saving grace for them. During the battle and afterwards a ton of rumors emerged. It was alleged President Xu Shichang had threatened to attack the Fengtian army from the rear with 3 neutral divisions stationed at Beijing, whether true or not he remained neutral and did not act.

    Zhang Zuolin looked over the reports from commanders and found many of his best trained officers had been ignored by subordinate commanders. He also found his generals with banditry backgrounds commanding divisions did extremely poorly. These factors would greatly influence him in reorganizing his army. Meanwhile during the battle a warlord in Hunan, Zhoa Ti had rebelled, spreading rumors that Wu Peifu had been decisively defeated by Zhang Zuolin during the battle and was in fact killed in action. Feng Yuxiang quickly stormed Kaifeng and was rewarded the appointment as military governor over Hunan. He would quickly go to work recruiting troops and instructing them in the doctrines of christianity.

    Despite the grand victory, Wu Peifu had major issues. The entire ordeal proved the Zhili clique was not unified. He was unable to pursue Zhang Zuolin’s fleeing army into Manchuria to finish them off as a result. Instead a game of politics came about. Liang Shiyi walked away. On May 14th, Sun Chuanfang called for the resignation of the Presidents in both Beijing and Guangzhou and for the old constitution to be revived. President Xu Shichang took the message to heart and resigned on June 2nd. The Zhili clique then persuaded the ever reluctant Li Yuanhong to come back as President and he did so, not realizing he was merely a seat warmer for Cao Kun.

    Unable to fully defeat Zhang Zuolin, Wu Peifu negotiated a peace with the British mediating. They met on a British warship anchored off the coast of Qinhuangdao on June 18th where general guidelines suggested by the British were established. Shanhaiguan would become the border between the two cliques. Beijing now was under the fully domination of the Zhili clique, but the relationship between Wu Peifu and Cao Kun had certainly been strained.

    The war also had a profound effect on south China. Dr Sun Yat-Sens government had collapsed just as he was planning his Northern Expedition. Dr Sun Yat-Sen had made the Yunnan Clique warlord Li Liejun his chief of staff. Chen Chongming opposed this, so Dr Sun Yat-Sen removed him as governor of Guangdong and as military commander of the Guangdong army. Dr Sun Yat-Sen achieved this by marching from Wuzhou along the Guangdong-Guangxi border to Guangzhou with his most loyal troops. He intended to make good on his commitment to Zhang Zuolin, to march north against Wu Peifu, albeit it was part of his northern expedition plans mind you. However Chen Chongming’s forces were mostly at Nanning in Jiangxi because of a previous war there, thus he was forced to flee to Huizhou to preserve his eastern Guangdong base. Dr Sun Yat-Sen was advised by many colleagues, including a young Chiang Kai-Shek to postpone the Northern Expedition and first focus on crushing Chen Chongming.

    Dr Sun Yat-Sen however believed commencing the northern expedition alongside Zhang Zuolins war was too great an opportunity to pass up. He also believed Chen Chongming would not betray the movement. So on May 6th he began an invasion into southern Jiangxi. While capturing cities in southern Jiangxi on June 13th, it was discovered Chen Chongming and Zhili clique generals were planning a mutiny in Guangzhou. Dr Sun Yat-Sen rushed back to Guangzhou to reason with Chen Chongming who surrounded his office on June 15th threatening his life. Dr Sun Yat-Sen managed to escape the situation, fleeing aboard the cruiser Haichi, then to gunboat Yungfeng. Thus Dr Sun Yat-Sen lost touch with the Guangzhou scene. Meanwhile Wu Peifu orchestrated a propaganda campaign labeling Zhang Zuolin and Liang Shiyi as pro-Japanese stooges. Dr Sun Yat-Sens alliance with Zhang Zuolin got him caught up in the mess. Many influential figures began sending letters to Dr Sun Yat-Sen suggesting he step down as head of the Guangzhou government. Most of the foreign powers in Guangzhou also added to this as the KMT forces were naval bombarding the area threatening the lives and property of many. Meanwhile Chen Chongming’s forces seized Whampoa on July 14th. The Chinese 1st squadron in the area changed command to a Wu Peifu loyalist. Thus to all it seemed Dr Sun Yat-Sen was done, but he was still in the game. He still had control over the Northern Expeditionary Army, mostly 10,000 Yunnanese and Guangdong forces. Then Duan Qirui urged action to support Dr Sun Yat-Sen against Chen Chongming. Multiple KMT factions fell into a chaotic war between those loyal to Sun or Chen. Chen Chongming was under attack from all directions and could not hold Guangzhou thus he fled to Huizhou and by January 15th 1923 announced his retirement. Dr Sun Yat-Sen returned to Guangzhou and retook his generalissimo title.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Thus Zhang Zuolin’s plot to defeat Wu Peifu basically backfired. Instead of alienating and defeating his rival, his allies all collapsed on him, he was defeated, humiliated and now it seemed Wu Peifu may have very well taken complete control over Beijing. Would Wu Peifu be able to reunify China? Or would they all just keep fighting, what do you think?

  • Last time we spoke about the Mongolian Revolution of 1921. Mongolia found herself stuck between two crumbling empires who both were engulfed in brutal civil wars. Warlord Duan Qirui invaded Mongolia effectively making it a protectorate. This prompted Mongolian nobles to form resistance groups like the Consular Hill and East Urga to combat Chinese dominance. The merging of these groups birthed the Mongolian People's Party, seeking Soviet support for independence. Meanwhile, psychopath Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, claiming descent from Genghis Khan, emerged as a militaristic force, aligning with Russian Whites and Japanese interests to seize Mongolia. His brutal campaign ousted Chinese occupiers, restored the Bogd Khan to power, but brought tyranny, especially targeting Jews and Red Russians. The Mongolians were now seeking help, yet again from the Chinese, but someone else was looking to pick a fight with the megalomaniac Ungern-Sternberg.



    #102 The Case of Mongolia and Tibet’s “status”

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Last we left off, Ungern-Sternberg was having a merry time in Urga Mongolia. His secret police force led by Colonel Leonid Sipailov was hunting down all Reds and Jews he could find amongst the Russian colonial community of Mongolia. Although they never went after Mongols, they certainly were barbaric to their own. Its estimated Sipailov’s goons killed nearly 900 people, roughly 6% of the Russian colonial population of Mongolia at the time. Of these over 50 were Jewish, representing 6% of those executed under Ungern-Sternbergs orders. Meanwhile Ungern-Sternberg continued to develop his Asiatic Cavalry Division, seeking to make it the base model for a future Mongolian national army. His division at this point was quite multicultural, consisting of Russians, Cossacks, Chinese, Japanese, Mongols, Buryats, Tatar, Tibetans and other groups. Ungern-Sternberg had crushed as many Red Russians as he could find, but they were not done for the count. A Mongolian Red leader emerged named Damdin Sukhbaatar.

    Sukhbaatar meaning “Axe Hero” in Mongolian was born in Ulaanbaatar, a Chinese trading settlement a few kms east of Ikh Khuree. His parents abandoned their home banner in Setsen Khan aimag when he was 6, as they moved to the Russian consulate. He then grew up around Russians, picking up the language. In 1911 when Mongolia declared independence, Sukhbaater joined the new national army. Russian military advisors to the Bogd Khan set up military academies at Khujirbulan in 1912 and Sukhbaatar found himself at one of them. He was shown to have a talent for military tactics and was good at riding and shooting. He quickly became a platoon leader of a machine gun company. In 1914 he found himself involved in a soldiers riot, they were discontent with corruption in the army and bad living conditions. He survived the ordeal and would soon serve under the command of Khatanbaatar Mahsarjav in Eastern Mongolia by 1917.

    That year sprang forth the Russian Revolution and China’s Warlord Era, chaos would reign supreme. Soon Outer Mongolia was under Chinese occupation and this sprang forth two underground political parties, Consular Hill and East Urga group. By 1920 they united to form the Mongolian People’s Party and Sukhbaatar found himself becoming a delegate sent multiple times to multiple places in the new Soviet Union seeking military assistance. In 1921 Sukhbaater was placed in charge of smuggling a letter from the Bogd Khan through numerous Chinese checkpoints. In a father of marco polo like fashion, he hid the letter in the handle of his whip and its found in a museum today in Ulaanbaater. Now the year prior the Soviet government stated they were willing to help Mongolia, but asked the delegates to explain to them how they planned to fight off the foreign invaders. In September numerous delegates were sent to Moscow, while Sukhaatar and Choubalsan took up a post in Irkutsk for military training and to be contacts between the Soviets and Mongolia.

    Meanwhile back in Mongolia, Ungern-Sternberg began an occupation. Mongolian delegates Chagdarjav and Choibalsan rushed back to Mongolia to find allies amongst the nobles. On February 10th a plenary session of the Comintern in Irkutsk passed a formal resolution to “aid the struggle of the Mongolian people for liberation and independence with money, guns and military instructors" The Mongolian People's Party had thus gained significant military assistance and was now a serious contender in the battle for Mongolia. The party held its first congress secretly between March 1st-3rd at Kyakhta attended by 17 and 26 members. They approved the formation of an army, to be headed by Sukhbaatar alongside two Russian advisors. They also adopted a new party manifesto and by March 13th formed a provisional government headed by Dogsomyn Bodoo. Sukhbaatar had begun recruiting troops for what was called the Mongolian People’s Partisans as early as February 9th. By the 15th of February the Mongolians decided to seize Khiagt currently under Chinese occupation. They sent an ultimatum to the Chinese, but their commanders refused to surrender.

    By March 18th, the Mongolian Partisans were 400 men strong as they stormed the Chinese garrison at Kyakhta Maimaicheng. They seized it from the Chinese, despite being heavily outnumbered and this greatly bolstered their confidence. To this day this victory is celebrated as a military holiday. The party issued a proclamation announcing the formation of a new government that would expel the Chinese and promised to convene a congress of representatives of the masses who would elect a permanent government.

    The provisional government moved over to Khiagt where they established ministries of Finance, Foreign affairs and military. A propaganda war also emerged between the provisional government and the Bogd Khaan’s court. The provisional government began spreading leaflets along the northern border urging Mongolians to take arms against White Russians while the Bogd Khaan’s side issued warnings to the people the supposed revolutionaries were going to destroy their nation and their Buddhist faith with it. Meanwhile the Soviet Union was trying to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Chinese government. They had dispatched representatives to Beijing and the Chinese did the same in Moscow. Because of this delicate situation, the Soviets were trying to keep everything low key about the Mongolian movement. However in early 1921, the Chinese cut talks with the Soviets because of the mess Ungern-Sternberg was causing in Mongolia. The Soviets offered Red Army assistance to dislodge his forces from Mongolia, but the Chinese rejected this. Since talks were severed, the Soviets then felt ok to unrestrain themselves in terms of aiding the Mongolian revolutionaries.

    Throughout march of 1921, a flow of Soviet advisors and weapons came to the Mongolian revolutionaries. By April they doubled to 800 troops and they began sending spies and diversionary units throughout the region spreading propaganda and terror to weaken Ungern-Sternbergs forces. Once Ungern-Sternberg found out about the incursion he quickly assembled an expeditionary force to dislodge the hostile Red invaders. It seems Ungern-Sternberg was under the false belief he was a very popular figures and would receive support in Mongolia and from Siberia. Truth be told, he failed to strengthen his small army properly and would be outgunned and outnumbered heavily by the Reds. He also had no knowledge the Reds had already conquered Siberia and that the new Soviet government was beginning to make some economic progress.

    Ungern-Sternberg divded his Asiatic Cavalry Division into two brigades, one was under his personal commander, the other under Major General Rezukhin. In May of 1921 Rezukhin launched a red west of the Selenga River while Ungern set out towards Troitskosavk. Meanwhile the Soviet Red Army sent units towards Mongolia from different directions. The Soviets enjoyed a enormous advantage in terms of pretty much everything. They had armored cars, minor aircraft, trains, river gunboats, plenty of horses, more ammunitions, supplies and man power. Initially Ungerns force managed to defeat a small detachment of 300 Red Army troops enroute to Troitskosavk. But Between June 11-13th the 35th Division of the Soviet 5th Red Army led by Commander Mikhail Matiyasevich alongside Mongolian People’s Partisan forces decisively defeated him. Having failed to capture Troiskosavask, Ungern-Sternberg fled back for Urga, sending word to Rezukhin to do the same.

    The combined Red forces pursued the White Russians to Urga, skirmishing along the way and would capture the city on July 6th, brushing aside its few guard detachments. Although the Reds had seized Urga, they had not defeated the main bulk of Ungern-Sternbergs division who were then regrouping around Akha-gun-hure along the Selenga River. Meanwhile another Red Army led by Colonel Kazagrandi slaughtered a 350 man strong White Russian force stuck in the Gobi desert. Kazagrandi’s forces ultimately accepted the surrender of two groups of White Russians they had managed to cut and divie, one being 42 men, the other 35. Chinese forces were also attacking White Russians remnants as they crossed the border. It is beleived some of these men were deserters of Ungern-Sternbergs division.

    Ungern-Sternberg now cought to invade Transbaikal, attempting to rally his soldiers and local peoples proclaimed to all Semyonov had reached an agreement with the Japanese who were soon to unleash an offensive to support them. The reality however was the Japanese had given up on the White cause. After a few days of rest, the Asiatic Cavalry division began raiding Soviet territory on July 18th. His force was estimated to be perhaps 3000 strong. In response the Soviets declared martial law in regions where White remnants were raiding. Ungern-Sternbergs men managed to capture some minor settlements, one being Novoselenginsk that they took on August 1st. Yet upon taking this settlement, Red Army forces began to converge on his location, prompting Ungern-Sternberg to declare they would go back to Mongolia to rid it of communism again.

    By this point, most of his men were not idiots, they knew they were following a doomed cause. Many of them sought to desert and flee for Manchuria to join up with Russian refugees there. Ungern-Sternberg meanwhile seemed to also have his own escape plan, he was going to head for Tuba and then Tibet. Men under both brigades began to mutiny and on August 17th, Rezukhin was assassinated. The next day the same assassins tried to kill Ungern-Sternberg. He managed to evade them twice, by fleeing with a smaller detachment consisting exclusively of Mongolians. The Mongols rode out a distance with him, before tying him up and leaving him there to flee. At this point the rest of his two brigades had scattered for this lives fleeing over the Chinese border. Ungern-Sternberg was captured on August 20th by a Red Army detachment led by Petr Efimovich Shchetinkin. Petr also happened to be a Cheka, this was a Soviet secret police organization that infamously conducted the Red Terror. Ironically, I think I can say this here, but I am currently writing a few series for KNG and one is on the Russian Civil War, I go through the formation of all these organizations, if you want to check that out though, I think its a KNG patreon exclusive for awhile. On September 15th of 1921, Ungern-Sternberg was put on trial for well over 6 hours, under the prosecution of Yemelyan Yaroslavsky. In the end he was sentenced to be executed by firing squad. He was killed that night in Novosibirsk. Thus ended the reign of quite a psychopath, gotta say written about many, this guy was something special.

    Funny side note, historian John Jennings who worked at the US Air Force Academy argued Ungern-Sternberg ironically may have single handedly led Mongolia into the arms of the Bolsheviks. Ungern-Sternbergs expedition into Mongolia and conquest of Urga had driven out the Chinese forces who may have been a match for the incoming Red Army. Likewise, taking his white army into Mongolia basically drew the Reds to Mongolia to hunt him down, thus in the end some would argue its all his fault Mongolia became a Soviet satellite later on.

    After Ungern-Sternbergs death and the mopping up of White armies in the region, the Soviets and Chinese reopened talks about the Mongolian situation. Unbeknownst to the Russians, China had actually appointed Zhang Zuolin to deal with the Ungern-Sternberg situation. Zhang Zuolin was supposed to create an expeditionary army to expel him from Mongolia. Yet by the time he was about to initiate the expedition, Red Army forces flooded the region making it a political nightmare for China. What ended up happening, similar to Colonel Kazagrandi’s hunt of Red’s in the Gobi desert, Zhang Zuolin hunted down Ungern-Sternbergs remnants as they fled into Manchuria. Thus when the talks began between the Russians and Chinese, the Chinese were emboldened, believing Zhang Zuolin had in fact cleaned up the entire situation on his lonesome and that they had the upper hand militarily. China came to the table stating Mongolia was still part of China and thus was not the subject of international negotiations.

    Meanwhile after Ungern-Sternberg was run out of Urga, the Mongolian People's Party proclaimed a new government on July 11th. Sukhbaatar became the minister of the army and Bogd Khan had his monarch powers limited to basically just being symbolic. It was a rough start for the new government. Dogsomyn Bodoo became the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, but he immediately found himself at political war with Soliin Danzan. Danzan had lost his seat as party leader to Tseren-Ochiryn Dambadorj a relative to Bodoo. Danzan assumed Bodoo had helped his relative steal his seat. Danzan became the Minister of Finance and began engineering a scheme to get rid of Bodoo from his office.

    Bodoo had initiated a very unpopular company, initially instigated by the Soviets. It was to modernize the peoples by forcibly cutting off feudal accessories, such as Mongolian feels, womens jewelry and long hair. Danzan accused Bodoo of plotting alongside another leading figure Ja Lama, the Chinese and Americans to undermine the entire revolution so they could establish an autocratic government. Ja Lama was a warlord who fought the Qing dynasty and claimed to be a Buddhist lama. When Ungern-Sternberg sent a delegation to Lhasa in 1920, Ja-Lama murdered all of them. Since Ungern-Sternbergs death, Ja Lama attempted to operate an independent government from a hideout, he was a bit of a loose cannon. There was also Dambyn Chagdarjav who was loosely linked to the supposed cabal. He was the provisional governments former prime minister when Unger-Sternberg was around. He was quickly outed and replaced with Bodoo, and it seems it was just convenient to toss him in with the accusations against Bodoo. On January 7th, of 1922 Bodoo resigned from all his positions in the government, stating it was because of health issues. This did not stop Danzan who laid charges against Bodoo, Chagdarjav, Ja Lama and 14 others, who were arrested and interrogated by Russian secret police working with the Mongolian government. They were all found guilty and executed by firing squad on August 31st 1922. They all would only be the firsts of a longer lasting purge raging through the 1920s and 1930s.

    Following the execution of Bodoo, party leaders invited the high Buddhist incarnation, Jalkhanz Khutagt Sodnomyn Damdinbazar, hell of a name by the way, to became the new prime minister. He was largely chosen to quell religious minded Mongolian’s who were upset at the execution of Bodoo who was a lama. Danzan was not done with political rivalries. He soon found himself butting heads with Rinchingiin Elbegdori a leader amongst the leftists and chief advisor to the Comintern in Ulaanbaatar. Following the 1921 revolution, Elbegdorj was appointed head of the Army training and education department. Alongside Choibalsan, he founded the radical Mongolian Revolutionary Youth League. He enjoyed backing from Moscow and he came to dominate the political scene in Ulan Bator. Danzan had previously collaborated with him to get rid of Bodoo, but afterwards Danzan sought to reduce the number of Soviet advisors in Mongolia and attempted to place the Revolutionary Youth league under party control. Danzan was a business man who supported capitalism as a path for Mongolia, thus he was not exactly friendly to those like Elbegdorj who wanted to make Mongolia socialist if not full blown communist.

    Elbegdorj joined some rightists led by Tseren-Ochiryn Dambadorj in an effort to defeat Danzan. During the third party congress in August of 1924, both accused Danzan of only representing the interests of the bourgeois and being in league with American and Chinese corporations. Danzan found himself alongside others put on trial and sentenced to death. Funny enough the trial and execution literally occurred within the same 24 hour period of the congress, the others simply continued on haha. Some rich irony in the fate of Danzan. I wont delve to far into the rest, but it goes without saying, Elbegdorj would himself be accused of representing the interests of bourgeois and was exiled to the USSR and would be executed during the Great Purge in 1938. Yes it was a very messy time for Mongolia, but in 1924 the Chinese and Soviets signed a treaty that saw the Soviets recognize Mongolia was an integral part of China.

    That pretty much ends the story for Mongolia for now, but I thought it might be interesting to end this podcast looking at another similar case study, that of Tibet. Now Tibet came under rule of the Qing Dynasty in 1720. When the Wuchang uprising broke out, revolutionary fever hit numerous provinces within China, as it likewise did in territories like Tibet. A Tibetan militia sprang up and launched a surprise attack against the Qing garrison. The Qing forces were overwhelmed by the Tibetans, forced to flee back to China proper. Obviously the Qing dynasty was scrambling to face the revolutionary armies throughout China, and could not hope to challenge the Tibetans. By 1912, Qing officials in Lhasa were forced by the Tibetans to sign a three point agreement, officially surrendering and expelling their forces from central Tibet. When the new republic of China government sprang up that same year, they proclaimed control over everything the previous Qing dynasty controlled, 22 provinces within China, Outer Mongolia and Tibet.

    As the provincial government's president, Yuan Shikai sent a telegram to the 13th Dalai Lama, restoring all his traditional titles. The Dalai Lama refused them and stated in a reply "I intend to exercise both temporal and ecclesiastical rule in Tibet." Now prior to the Xinhai Revolution, in 1910 the Qing had sent a military expedition to Tibet, one could argue it was an invasion mind you, to establish direct Qing rule over Tibet. This was because the British had performed their own expeditions in 1904, destabilizing the Qing dominance over Tibet. The Qing forces occupied Lhasa on February 12th of 1910 and they deposed the 13th Dalai Lama by the 25th. The Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India, but he returned in 1913 whence he proclaimed stated “that the relationship between the Chinese emperor and Tibet had been that of patron and priest and had not been based on the subordination of one to the other. We are a small, religious, and independent nation"

    In January of that year, a treaty was signed between Mongolia and Tibet, proclaiming mutual recognition of each others independence from China. Within the treaty both nations pledged to aid each other against internal and external enemies, free trade and declared a mutual relationship based on the Gelug sect of Buddhism. The Tibetan officials who signed this document at Urga were led by Agvan Dorjiev, a Buryat and thus subject of Russia. This caused some doubts about the validity of the treaty. The 13th Dalai Lama would go on to deny ever authorizing Dorjiev to negotiate such political issues. The Russian government likewise stated Dorjiev had no diplomatic capacity on behalf of the Dalai Lama to do such a thing. The text of the document was neer published, many believe it never even existed, until 1882 when the Mongolian Academy of Science finally published it.

    Upon signed the supposed treaty, Agvan Dorjiev proclaimed that Russia was a powerful Buddhist country that would ally with Tibet against China and Britain. In response to this, Britain convoked a conference at Viceregal Lodge in Simla, India to discuss the matter of Tibet’s status. The conference was attended by representatives of Britain, the Chinese republic and Tibet’s government based out of Lhasa. Sir Henry McMahon, the foreign secretary of British India led the British; for China it was I-fan Chen, the commissioner for Trade and Foreign affairs at Shanghai; and for Tiet it was Paljor Dorje Shatra, known also as Lonchen Shatra, the leading prime minister of Tibet. Now the British and Chinese had telegram communications to their governments, but the Tibetan team only had land communications. What became known as the Simla conference, was held in both Delhi and Silma because of the extreme summer heat of Delhi, saw 8 formal sessions from October 1913 to July 1914. In the first session, Lonchen Shatra declared "Tibet and China have never been under each other and will never associate with each other in future. It is decided that Tibet is an independent state." Thus Tibet was refusing to recognize all the previous treaties and conventions signed between Tibet and China. The Tibetans sought their territorial boundaries to range from the Kuenlun Range in the north, to the borders of Sichuan and Yunnan. The Tibetans also sought payment for damages done to them over the past years.

    Ifan Chen’s counter proposal was to state Tibet was an integral part of China and that China would not tolerate any attempts by the Tibetans or British to interrupt China’s territorial integrity. Ifan Chen continued to say a Chinese official would be stationed in Lhasa and they would guide Tibet’s foreign and military affairs. Tibet would also grant amnesty to all Chinese who had recently been punished in Tibet, and Tibet would conform to the borders already assigned to it.

    McMahon then issued the first and most important question “what is the definition of limits of Tibet”. Afterwards they could deal with the lesser issues, such as Tibetans claims of compensation for damages and for Chinese amnesties. Lonchen Shatra agreed to the procedure, Ifan Chen countered it by asking the political status of Tibet should be the first order of business. Ifan Chen also revealed he had definitive orders from his government to give priority to the political question. McMahon thus ruled he would discuss the frontier issue with Lonchen Shatra alone, until Ifan Chen was given authorization from his government to join it, ompf. It took 5 days for Ifan Chen to get the authorization.

    On the issue of the frontier, Ifan Chen maintained China had occupied as far west as Giamda, thus this would encompass Pomed, Markham, Zayul, Derge, Gyade, Draya, Batang, Kokonor and Litang. Lonchen Shatra replied that Tibet had always been an independent nation and at one point a Chinese princess had been married to a Tibetan ruler and a boundary pillar had been erected by them at Marugong. Ifan Chen countered by stating the so called pillar was erected 300 li west and soon both argued over the history of pillars and boundary claims going back centuries. China claimed their historical evidence was that of Zhao Erfengs expedition of 1906-1911 which constituted a effective occupation recognized under international law. Lonchen Shatra said that was ridiculous and that what Zhao Erfeng had performed was a raid and thus unlawful.

    McMahon meanwhile formed the idea of distinguishing Inner and Outer Tibet. He based this on the premise the Chinese had only really occupied Outer Tibet and never Inner Tibet. McMahon proposed formalizing this with official boundaries and pulled up old maps dating back to the 9th century for border lines. He also brought out maps from the 18th century and using both came up with two defined zones for Inner and Outer Tibet. Lonchen Shatra opposed some parts of Outer Tibet should be added to Inner Tibet and Ifan Chen argued some parts of Inner Tibet should be given to Sichuan province. A series of confused negotiations began over historical claims over territory, while border skirmishes erupted between the Tibetans and Chinese. McMahon losing his patience appealed to both men stating for "can we have a broad and statesmanlike spirit of compromise so that our labors could be brought to a speedy conclusion”. Ifan Chen maintained it was still premature to draft anything since they had not established what was Inner and Outer Tibet.

    Finally in April of 1914 a draft convention, with a map was begun by the 3 men. Ifan Chen was the most reluctant but gradually accepted it. Britain and China agreed to leave Tibet as a neutral zone, free of their interference. However China repudiated Ifan Chen’s plenipotentiary actions, stating he had been coerced into the draft convention, McMahon said that was ridiculous. China charged McMahon for being unfriendly to China and having an uncompromising attitude, which is funny because if I read to you every single meeting these men had, it was 99% Ifan Chen not budging on a single issue. China continued to lobby for more and more adjustments, but all would be turned down prompting China to state they would not sign the convention.

    The official boundary between Inner and Outer Tibet became known as the McMahon line, it was negotiated between Britain and Tibet separately. The convention stated Tibet formed part of Chinese territory, after the Tibetans selected a Dalai Lama, the Chinese government would be notified and a Chinese commissioner in Lhasa would quote "formally communicate to His Holiness the titles consistent with his dignity, which have been conferred by the Chinese Government". The Tibetan government would appoint all officers for Outer Tibet and Outer Tibet would not be represented in the Chinese parliament or any other such assembly. China refused to acknowledge any of it. This entire situation remains a problem to this very day as most of you probably assumed.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Mongolia saw some bitter fighting between Red and White Russians and Chinese, and would gradually gravitate towards the Soviets. The case of Tibet, unlike Mongolia, was somewhat less violent, but a political maelstrom nonetheless. The chaos of China’s warlord Era would greatly affect these two, well into the 1930’s.

  • Last time we spoke about the rise of the Spirit Soldier movement. As a result of the hardship brought upon the common people of China during China’s Warlord Era a new group known as the Spirit Soldiers rose up. Motivated by grievances against warlord abuses and foreign influences, the Spirit Soldier emerged as a grassroots movement seeking to overthrow the oppressive regime. They believed in summoning divine beings or becoming possessed by them to aid their cause, reminiscent of the Yihetuan. Despite lacking centralized organization and firearms, they managed to seize control of several counties in regions like Hubei and Sichuan. However, they simply were no match for Warlord armies who were better trained, better organized and certainly better armed. While in small groups the Spirit armies managed just fine, but when they assembled 100,000 strong, they were ultimately crushed. Despite this the last Spirit rebellion would occur in 1959.

    #101 The Mongolian Revolution of 1921

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Oh yes we are not done with Mongolia. As a quick refresher, a few episodes back we talked about what is known as the Occupation of Mongolia. Quite a few things were going on all at once in the late 1910’s. The Russian Empire collapsed and now was stuck in a civil war with the Reds vs the Whites. The Republic of China likewise collapsed into the Warlord Era. Mongolia stuck between these two former empires, attempted to gain independence, but swiftly fell into conflict with radicals from both. As a result of the Russian white General Grigori Semyonov trying to force a new pan Mongolia state, Duan Qirui exploited the situation to forcibly invade Mongolia. Duan Qirui had been taking a lot of heat for pushing China to declare war on Germany and getting caught taking secret loans from the Empire of Japan. Everyone in China was calling for Duan to reduce or eliminate his Anhui Army, but the situation in Mongolia gave him the perfect excuse to use it, thus in his mind legitimizing its existence. Duan Qirui dispatched General Xu Shuzheng with the “northwest frontier army” to protect Mongolia from a supposed Red army invasion. In the face of overwhelming military forces, the Mongolians submitted to Xu and were absolutely humiliated and subjugated. And thus Mongolia lived happily ever after.

    No, not at all. Between 1919-1920 a few Mongolian nobles came together to form two groups, the first was called “Konsulyn denj / the Consular Hill” the second “Zuun khuree / the East Urga” groups. The first group was the brainchild of Dogsomyn Bodoo, a prominent Mongolian politician. Bodoo had worked as a Mongolian language teacher at a Russian-Mongolian school for translators. He spoke Mongolian, Tibetan, Mandarin and Manchu. Because of his work he came into contact with Bolshevism through Russian acquaintances. After the occupation of Mongolia by Duan Qirui’s forces, he formed the secret Consular Hill group as a means of resistance. Doboo’s Consular Hill soon saw Khorloogiin Choibalsan join. Choibalsan also worked at the Russian Mongolian translator school and shared a Yurt with Doboo. Doboo was a mentor to Choibalsan whom worked primarily as a Russian interpreter at the Russian consulate. Because of the nature of his work, Choibalsan spent a lot of time with the Soviets. Not to give too much away, but later on Choibalsan would become known as “the Stalin of Mongolia”. A Russo-Mongolian printing officer typesetter named Mikhail Kucherenko, a Bolshevik in Urga, visited Bodoo and Choibalsan, talking to them about things related to Mongolian independence and actively resisted the Chinese.

    The East Urga group were founded by Soliin Danzan an official of the Ministry of Finance and Dansranbilegiin Dogsom , an official in the Ministry of the Army. Danzan had once been a horse thief, but managed to climb the ladder towards being a customs officer or the ministry of finance. Dogs had worked as a scribe for district and provincial assemblies before taking a job at the ministry of finance and Army later on. Another founding member was Damdin Sukhbaatar who grew up around Russians and spoke Russian. He joined the New Mongolia Army in 1911 after the independence movement and rose through the ranks seeing deployment on Mongolia's eastern border. After his death he would be referred to as “the Lenin of Mongolia”. The beginning of the East Urga group saw radicals within the lower house of the Mongolian parliament, such as Danzan and Dogsom met secretly trying to figure a way of getting rid of Xu Shuzheng and the Chinese dominance over their nation. The groups formed a plot to seize the mongolian army’s arsenal and assassinate Xu Shuzheng, but the arsenal was too well guarded and Xu departed the region before they could pull it off.

    Within Urga were many Russian refugees, Red and White alike. They established a Municipal Duma, and some of the Bolshevik minded ones learned of the secret Consular Hill and East Urga groups. In March of 1920, the Duma was sending one of their members, Sorokovikov to Irkutsk, but before he did so, they thought it a good idea for him to learn about these secret groups and what they were up to. Sorokovikov met with representatives of both groups before traveling to Irkutsk. When he returned to Urga in June of that year, he met with the representatives again with promises the USSR would provide any assistance needed to the Mongolian workers. He then extended them invitations to send their groups representatives to Russia to discuss matters further.

    As you can imagine, both these groups got pretty excited. Until this point the two groups did not brush shoulders much, they were in fact quite different. The Consular Hill group were progressive socialists while the East Urga group were more nationalistic. While they seemed to be at odds, the Soviet invitation had brought them together and in doing so they decided to merge on June 25th to form the Mongolian People’s Party. It was then agreed Danzan and Choibalsan would act as the delegates that would go to Russia. Both men arrived in Verkhneudinsk, the new capital of the Pro-Soviet Far Eastern Republic. They met with Boris Shumyatsky, the acting head of the government. Shumyatsky kind of gave them the cold shoulder as they hounded his government for military assistance to fight off the Chinese. Shumyatsky advised them they should go back home, and get members of their party over in Urga to send a coded message with the stamped seal of the Bogd Khan to formally request such a thing. They did just that and now 5 delegates returned to Verkhneudinsk with it, but Shumyatsky told them he had no real authority to make such a decision and that they needed to go to Irkutsk. So yeah it was one of those cases where a guy you thought was a head honcho, was really not haha.

    The Mongolian delegates then went to Irkutsk in August where they met with the head of what would soon become the Far Eastern Secretariat of the Communist International aka the Comintern. They explained they required military assistance, soon handing over a list of requests. They wanted military instructors, over 10,000 rifles, some artillery pieces, machine guns and of course funding they could use to recruit soldiers. The head told them….to drag a letter and this time to make sure the name of the party was included in it, not in the name of the Bogd Khan. They were also to list their objectives and requests. Now as funny as this all sounds, not to dox myself, but when I got my first big boy job as they say, I had to learn how to write formal letters to the government, funding requests, partnership things, etc etc, and I can feel for these guys in that sense. They all seemed to have little experience in such matters and yes, some officials were clearing just messing with them, sending them left and right, but some guys were trying to show them how to work an existing process, random rant sorry. Once they finished this new letter they were told it might be considered by the Siberian REvolutionary Committee in Omsk, the buck keeps passing.

    At this point the mongolians divided themselves into three groups: Delegates Danzan, Losol and Dendev went to Omsk to deliver the new letter; Bodoo and Dogsom went back to Urga to grow the party and begin recruiting a army; and Sukhbaater and Choibalsan went to Irkutsk to serve as liaisons there. Before they all departed, the drafted a new revolutionary message. It dictated the Mongolian nobility would be divested of their hereditary powers. The new system of government would be democratic with a limited monarch run by the Bogd Khaan. Several more meeting with the soviets at Omsk occurred only for the Mongolians to be sold yet again they had to go somewhere else, this time it was Moscow. Thus Danzan led a team of delegates to go to Moscow in September. For a month they discussed matters, but something huge was cooking up in the meantime.

    Here comes a man named Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. He was born in Graz Austria in January of 1886 to a noble family, descending from present day Estonia. Ungern-Sternberg’s first language was German, but he also spoke English, French, Russian and Estonian. Within his family tree he had Hungarian roots and he would claim to be a descendant of Batu Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan. Why is it, all of these “great men figures” always have to come up with a “I am descended from x” haha. He moved to Reval, the capital of Estonia. It’s said as a child he was a ferocious bully and a psychopath who would torture animals. Apparently at the age of 12 he strangled his cousins owl, now thats messed up. Now Ungern-Sternberg was very proud of his ancient aristocratic background…though whether any of it was real who knows. He wrote extensively things like “for centuries my family never took orders from the working classes and it was outrageous that dirty workers who've never had any servants of their own, but still think they can command! They should have absolutely no say in the ruling of the vast Russian Empire". He was proud of his Germanic origin, but also identified with the Russian empire…and with Ghenghis khan, so yeah. When asked about his family’s military history in the Russian empire he would proud boast “72 family members were killed in the wartime!”. He believed many of the fallen monarchies of Europe could be restored with the help of the cavalry peoples of the Steppe, such as the Mongols.

    Ungern-Sternberg of course was attracted to military service and during the Russo-Japanese War he joined the fighting. Its unsure whether he made it to Manchuria to see actual fighting, but he was awarded a Russo-Japanese War Medal in 1913. During the first Russian Revolution of 1905, Estonian peasants ravaged the country trying to murder nobles. Ungern-Sternberg recalled "the peasants that worked on my family’s land were rough, untutored, wild and constantly angry, hating everybody and everything without understanding why". After the failed revolution he continued his military career and picked up an interest in Buddhism. Later in life while in Mongolia he would become a Buddhist, but never really relinquished his Lutheran faith. While in Mongolia Ungern-Sternberg became obsessed with the idea that he was the in-incarnation of Genghis Khan.

    When he graduated from a military academy he demanded a station amongst the Cossacks in Asia. He was appointed an officer in Eastern Siberia where he served under the 1st Argunsky and later the 1st Amursky Cossack regiments. From there he fell in love with the lifestyle of the nomadic Mongol peoples. He was a hell of a drunk and loved to pick fights. There were theories he had been hit so many times to the head during fights, it was believed he had brain damage and was insane as a result. In 1913 he asked to be transferred to the reserves, because he wanted time and space to achieve a new goal, he sought to assist the Mongols in their struggle for independence from China. Russian officials heard rumors he sought to do this and they actively thwarted him as best as they could. He went to the town of Khovd in western Mongolia where he served as an unofficial officer in a Gossack guard detachment for the Russian consulate.

    When WW1 broke out, Ungern-Sternberg joined the 34th regiment of Cossack troops stationed in the Galicia frontier. He would take part in the first Russian offensive against Prussia and earned a reputation as an extremely brave but also very reckless and mentally unstable officer. Men who came to know him said he looked happiest atop a horse leading a charge, showing no signs of fear with a wicked smile on his face. He received multiple citations such as the st george of the 4th grade; st vladimir of the 4th grade, st anna of the 3rd and 4th grades and st Stanislas of the 3rd grade. These decorations however were offset by the amount of disciplinary actions issued against him and he would eventually be discharged from one of his commands for attacking another officer in a drunken brawl. He went to prison and was court martialed.

    After he got out of prison in January of 1917, he transferred over to the Caucasian theater to fight the Ottomans. Then the Russian revolution began, ending the Russian empire and of course ending the Romanov monarchy, quite the bitter blow to the monarchist Ungern-Sternberg. While still in the Caucasus, Ungern-Sternberg ran into a Cossack Captain, an old friend we met a few podcasts ago, Captain Grigory Semyonov. Working with Semyonov the two organized a volunteer Assyrian Christian unit in modern day Iran. The Assyrian genocide had led to thousands of Assyrians fleeing over to the Russians. Semyonov and Ungern-Sternberg Assyrian force was able to win some small victories over Turkish forces, but in the grand scheme of the theater it did not amount to much. The experience of forging such a group however led them to think about doing the same thing with Buryat troops in Siberia.

    At the outbreak of the Russian civil war, Semyonov and Ungern-Sternberg declared themselves Romanov loyalists, joing the White Movement. They both vowed the defeat the Red Army and late into 1917, they as part of a combined group of 5 Cossacks managed to disarm 1500 Red soldiers at a Far Eastern Railway station in China near the Russian border. They took up a position there, preparing for a military expedition into the Transbaikal region, recruiting men into a Special Manchrian regiment. The White army managed to defeat the Red Army along the Far Eastern Railway territory. Semyonov eventually appointed Ungern-Sternberg to be the commander of a force at Dauria, a railway station at the strategic point southeast of Lake Baikal.

    Despite being part of the white movement, Semyonov and Ungern-Sternberg were quite rebellious. Semyonov for example refused to recognize the authority of Admiral Alexander Kolchak, the prominent white leader in Siberia. Semyonov fancied acting on his own and received support from the Japanese. Ungern-Sternberg, a subornidate to Semyonov also acted independently. Ungern-Sternberg also had his own reasons not to comply fully with Kolchak. Kolchak had promised after a White victory, he would reconvene the Consitutional Assembly, disband the Bolsheviks completely and then decide the future for Russia, that being whether it adopts the monarchy back or goes a different path. Ungern-Sternberg believed god had chosen Russia to be run by a monarchy and that its restoration came first.

    Ungern-Sternberg performed successful military campains in Dauria and Hailar, earning the rank of Major-General, promtping Semyonov to enturst him with forming his own military unit to fight the communists. Both men gradually recruited Buryats and Mongols for the task, but they also were growing wary of another. Ungern-Sternberg was unhappy with Semyonov who he deemed to be corrupt, he also took issue with the mans love interest in a Jewish cabert singer, he was after all a rampant anti-semite. Ungern-Sternberg founded the volunteer based Asiatic Cavalry Division in Dauria, alongside a fortress. It is said at this fortress he would torture his red enemies and it was full of their bones.

    As we mentioned in a previous episode, the Anhui Clique dispatched General Xu Shuzheng to occupy outer mongolia. However after the first Anhui-Zhili war, the Anhui clique was severely reduced and General Xu Shuzheng’s forces in Mongolia were as well. This effectively left the Mongolian protectorate without their protectors. Chaos reigned as Chahar Mongols from Inner Mongolia began to fight with Khalkhas Mongols from Outer Mongolia. Seeing the disunity, Ungern-Sternberg saw a grand opportunity and made plans to take control of Mongolia. He began networking and married the Manchurian princess Ji at Harbin. Princess Ji was a relative of Genreal Zhang Kuiwu, the coammander of Chinese troops in the western part of the Chinese Manchurian railway as well as the govenror of Hailar. He also tried to arrange a meeting between Semyonov and Zhang Zuolin,

    Eventually Kolchak’s white army was defeated by the Red Army and subsequently the Japanese pulled their expeditionary forces out of the Transbaikal region. This put Semyonov in a bad situation as he was unable to cope with the brunt of the impending Red forces, thus he planned to pull back into Manchuria. Ungern-Sternberg had a different idea however. He took his Asiatic Cavalry Division, roughly 1500 men at the time, consisting mostly of Russians, but there was also Cossacks, Buryats, Chinese and a few Japanese, with few machine guns and 4 artillery pieces. He broke his ties to Semyonov and took his division into Outer Mongolia in October of 1920. They gradually advanced to Urga where they ran into Chinees occupying forces. Ungern-Sternberg attempted to negotiate with the Chinese, demadning they disarm, but they rejected his terms.

    In late October and early November, Ungern-Sternbergs forces assaulted Urga, suffering two disasterous defeats. After this they assailed the Setsen-Khan aimag, a district north of the Kherlen River, ruld by Prince Setsen Khan. During his time in Mongolia Ungern-Sternberg befriended some Mongol forces seeking independence from the Chinese occupation, the most influential leader amongst them being Bogd Khan. Bogd Khan secretly made a pact with Unger-Sternberg, seeking his aid to expel the Chinese from Mongolia. Ungern-Sternberg went to work reorganizing his army. Apparently he had taken a liking to a Lt and gave the man full command over the medical division. During a withdrawal, the Lt raped multiple nurses in the medical division, many of whom were married to other officers, ordered settlements they ran by to be looted and ordered all the wounded the be poisoned because they were a nuisance. Ungern-Sternberg had the man flogged and burned at the stake. So yeah.

    During the Chinese occupation of Outer Mongolia, they had initiated strict regulations over Buddhist services and imprisoned anyone whom they considered sought independence, including Russians. While Ungern-Sternberg had 1500 well trained troops, the Chinese had roughly 7000 still in Outer Mongolia. The Chinese enjoyed an advantage in more men, more machine guns, more artillery and they already had fortified Urga. On February 2nd, Ungern-Sternberg assaulted the front line of Urga again. His forces led by Captain Rezzukhin managed to capture a front-line fortificaiton near the Small and Big Madachan villages, due southeast of Urga. Ungern-Sternberg’s forces also managed to rescue Bogd Khan who was under house arrests, transporting him to the Manjushri Monastery.

    Ungern-Sternberg then took a page out of Genghis Khan’s note book, ordering his troops to light a large number of campfires in the hills surrounding Urga, trying to scare the Chinese into thinking they were more numerous. On February 4th, they attacked Chinese barracks east of Urga, captured them. Ungern-Sternberg then divided his force in two with the first attacking the Chinese trade settlement “Maimaicheng” and the secnd the Consular Settlement. Ungern-Sternbergs men used exlosives and improvised battering rams to blow open the gates to Maimaicheng. Upon storming the settlement, the battle turned into a melee of sabres, seeing both sides hack each other in a slaughter. Ungern-Sternbergs men took Maimaicheng, and soon joined up with the other force to attack the COnsulder Settlement. The Chinese launched a counter attack, forcing Ungern-Sternbergs men northeast somewhat, but then he counter attacked sending them back to Urga. By the night of the 4th, Urga would fall to the invaders. The Chinese civilian and military officials simply fled for their lives in 11 cars, abandoning the soldiers. The Chinese troops followed suite aftwards heading north, massacring all Mongolian civilians they came across, heading over the Russian border. The Red Russians resided in Urga fled alongside them. The Chinese suffered apparently 1500 men, while Ungern-Sternberg recorded only 60 casualties for his force.

    Ungern-Sternbergs troops were welcomed with open arms as liberators. The populace of Urga hated their tyrannical Chinese overlords and believed the Russians were their salvation. Then the Russian began plundering the Chinese run stores and hunted down Russian Jews still in the city. Ungern-Sternberg personally ordered the execution of all Jews in the city unless they had special notes handed out by him sparing their lives. It is estimated roughly 50 Jews were killed by Ungern-Sternbergs men in Mongolia. Urga’s Jewish community was annihilated. After a few days, Ungern-Sternberg had set up a quasi secret police force led by Colonel Leonid Sipalov who hunted Red Russians. Meanwhile Ungern-Sternberg’s army seized the Chinese fortified base at Choi due south of Urga. During the attack the Russians number 900, the Chinese garrison roughly 1500. After taking the fort, the Russians returned to Urga as Ungern-Sternberg dispatched expeditionary groups to find Chinese strength. They came across a abandoned Chinese fort at Zamyn-Uud, taking it without resistance. Most of the Chinese troops left in Mongolia withdrew north to Kyakhta where they were trying find a way to get around the Urga region to escape back to China. Ungern-Sternberg and his men assumed they were trying to reorganize to recapture Urga so he dispatched forces to assail them. Chinese forces were advancing through the area of Talyn Ulaaankhad Hill when Ungern-Sternberg initiated a battle. The battle saw nearly 1000 Chinese, 100 Mongols and various amounts of Russians, Buryats and others killed. The Chinese forces routed during the battle, fleeing south until they got over the Chinese border. After this action, the Chinese effectively had departed Outer Mongolia.

    On February 22nd february of 1921, Ungern-Sternberg, Mongolian prince and Lamas, held a ceremony to restore the Bogd Khan to the throne. To reward their savior, Bogd Khan granted Ungern-Sternberg a high title, that of “darkhan khoshoi chin wang” in the degree of Khan. Once Semyonov heard of what Ungern-Sternberg had achieved, he likewise promoted him to Lt-General. On that same day, Mongolia proclaimed itself independent as a monarchy under the Bogd Khan, now the 8th Bogd Gegen Jebtsundamba Khutuktu. According to the eye witness account of the polish explorer Kamil Gizycki and polish writer Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski, Ungern-Sternberg went to work ordering Urga’s streets thoroughly cleaned, promoted religious tolerance, I would imagine for all excluding Jews and attempted some economic reforms.

    The writer Ossendowski had previously served in Kolchaks government, but after its fall sought refugee in Mongolia. He became friends with Ungern-Sternberg, probably looking for a good story, I mean this maniac does make for a good story, hell I am covering him after all ahah. Ossendowski would write pieces of his experience in Mongolia in his book “Beasts, Men and Gods”. A soldier within Ungern-Sternbergs army, named Dmitri Alioshin wrote a novel as well of his experience titled Asian Odyssey and here is a passage about his description of Ungern-Sternberg and his closest followers beliefs. “The whole world is rotten. Greed, hatred and cruelty are in the saddle. We intend to organize a new empire; a new civilization. It will be called the Middle Asiatic Buddhist Empire, carved out of Mongolia, Manchuria and Eastern Siberia. Communication has already been established for that purpose with Djan-Zo-Lin, the war lord of Manchuria, and with Hutukhta, the Living Buddha of Mongolia. Here in these historic plains we will organize an army as powerful as that of Genghis Khan. Then we will move, as that great man did, and smash the whole of Europe. The world must die so that a new and better world may come forth, reincarnated on a higher plane.” Within that passage there was mention of Hutukhta, he was the dominant Buddha of Mongolia at the time. Hutukhta did not share Ungern-Sternbergs dream of restoring Monarchies all across the world and he understood the mans army could not hope to defend them from Soviet or Chinese invaders. In April of 1921, Hutukhta wrote to Beijing asking if the Chinese government was interesting in resuming their protectorship.

    In the meantime Ungern-Sternberg began looking for funds. He approached several Chinese warlords, such as Zhang Zuolin, but all rejected him. He also continued his tyrannical treatment never against Mongolians, but against Russians within Mongolia. Its estimated his secret police force killed 846 people, with roughly 120 being in Urga. Ungern-Sternbergs men were not at all happy about the brutality he inflicted upon their fellow Russians. Yet Ungern-Sternbergs days of psychopathic fun were soon to come to an end.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Poor Mongolia was stuck between two crumbling empires, who both became engulfed in violent civil wars. The spill over from their wars saw Mongolia become a protectorate to the Chinese, nearly a satellite communist state to the USSR and now was independent, but really at the mercy of the White army of Ungern-Sternberg. The psychopath was having a field day, but it was about to come to an end.




  • Last time we spoke about the first Guangdong-Guangxi War. The First Anhui-Zhili War not only affected northern China, it also put into motion many events in the south. Viceroy Lu Rongting, working for Duan Qirui and his Anhui Clique was sent south to take over the position as governor of Guangdong. But those already in the Guangdong Clique wanted nothing to do with the north, nor with Lu Rongting and this led to conflict. A bitter struggle emerged between the southern cliques, all seeking to influence the Guangzhou southern government. Forces from Guizhou, Guangxi and Yunnan invaded Guangdong and it looked like they would have their way, until Chen Jiongming entered the scene. Chen Jiongming led the Guangdong Clique beside the common people of the province to rid themselves of the invaders resulting in the first Guangdong-Guangxi war. This resulted in the near annihilation of the Old Guangxi Clique and the return of Dr Sun Yat-Sen to Guangzhou.

    #100 The Spirit Soldier Rebellions

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Hey before we jump into it, just wanted to acknowledge this is episode 100 for the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, sheesh. Thank you all for surviving this far into the wild story of China’s Century of Humiliation, you are all awesome. Perhaps if you got a moment, could you do me a huge favor? Unlike Youtube with a built in comment section, its hard to get feedback for audio podcasts. If you get a second could you toss feedback, what you like, what you don’t like, suggestions going forward anything. You can toss it to the Pacific War Channel Discord server or literally just comment any video over at the Pacific War Channel. Would mean a lot to me, lets get on with the show!

    As one can imagine, China’s warlord era was not something one would refer to as stable. After the absolute mess Yuan Shikai made before his death he basically provided the perfect environment for any wannabe strongman to compete for their place amongst the warlords. The warlords fleeced their respective regions of control to pay for their private armies. They would overly tax, steal away funds and get involved in just about any means to acquire more money to pay their soldiers. Even after fleecing the population, these warlords would then allow their troops to plunder, rape and enslave. Combine this with the incredible amount of regionals wars, plus natural disasters, famine and an insane rise in banditry, it was not a great time to live in China to say the least. Some regions suffered more than others. The less developed provinces, the more remote areas of China, typically in the center, south and west were hit the worst. Here the common people were poor, more isolated and when major crises occurred, they were far less likely to see any outside assistance. The warlord armies in these regions were less equipped, less fed, less disciplined compared to their Northern or coastal counterparts. The troops of these warlords treated the citizenry especially bad.

    As a result of the unrelenting hardship, the peasants of these parts of China perceived the warlord soldiers, tax collectors and foreign state agents as literal parasites, hell wouldn't you? In a rather vain attempt to rid themselves of these parasites, the peasants launched a large number of uprisings, riots and protests. Some were tiny villages squabbles, others could bring down warlords. They often came directly after a bad harvest season. Some but not all saw peasants join secret societies, acting as self defense forces….yes it sounds exactly like the Yihetuan all over again. Yet in most cases these peasant groups were not coordinated enough to really make a dent, more often than naught, warlords crushed them.

    Now after the National Protection War against Yuan Shikai, the provinces of Hubei and Sichuan fell into miserable chaos. As we have talked about in the previous episode where I introduced the Southern Warlords, Sichuan province literally was cut up into pieces and dominated by a large number of what I would call Petty Warlords. Some of these Petty Warlords had little more than a few villages under their thumb, others led armies in the several tens of thousands. The situation in Hubei was not as bad, but comparable, seeing numerous warlords battle each other, resulting in hundreds of thousands of soldiers, militiamen and bandits roaming both provinces. To complicate things, these Petty Warlords in a means to try and bolster themselves often flirted with the Beiyang government. They did so similar to how the last episode saw figures trying to negotiate north-south resolutions, basically they would acknowledge the authority of the Beiyang government. The two provinces were also affected by socio-ethnic divisions. Within the valley and plains of Sichuan and Hubei were mostly Han Chinese, but in the highlands there were many non Han such as Miao and Tujia. For those interested, the Miao people speak Hmongic languages, a subfamily of the Hmong-Mien languages. Something notable about the Miao is how their women historically exercised more independence, especially in terms of socio-political mobility. Unlike the majority of asian cultures at the time, Miao women had the freedom to choose the men they marry. The Tujia people speak Tujia, a Sino-Tibetan language, they were at the zenith of their power under the Ming Dynasty. During the Qing Dynasty, the Manchu basically adopted a carrot and stick approach to the Tujia, by gifting compliant chieftains and hindered non compliant ones. The Tujia resented any central body trying to exert control over them and during the Taiping Rebellion many flocked to the Taiping. These non han groups felt oppressed and historically had always resisted Han immigration into their lands. The highlanders were much more versed in organized self defense forces and thus prone more so to uprising.

    The environments these people lived in were the type to foster ancestor worship and belief in magic, spiritualism, possession and such. Within the context of these people struggling for further autonomy this led to the development of “spirit soldiers”. Similar to the Yihetuan, this was the belief people could summon divine beings that would fight alongside or possess them, granting them power. These beliefs were also part of messianic and apocalyptic movements, think of the White Lotus apocalypse. There were many who believed the spirit soldiers would help establish a new and fair rule on earth. In 1920 there was a large power vacuum that hit western Hubei province. A 30,000 strong army commanded by the Warlords Li Tiancai, Bao Wenwei, Lan Tianwei and Wang Tianzong came into the area. The reason for this was because Wang Zhanyuan the governor of Hubei had evicted them from the Enshi-Hefeng area.

    Having suffered so greatly, the peasants of Hubei and Sichuan became increasingly discontent and in 1920, major conflicts emerged. A group of Taoist priests began a spiritual movement with a militant wing behind it. They were fighting against over taxation in Lichuan of Hubei province and the abuses upon them by warlord troops. In the beginning they were no more than 100 people chanting the slogan "Kill the Warlords and Out with Rotten Officials and Loafers". Their slogans were very appealing and as more people joined up the priests began to tell them they could bless them to become spirit soldiers through magical rituals. Again similar to the Yihetuan, these rituals consisted of acts like drinking special potions or consuming ashes of various things like burned amulets. Supposedly this would make the spirit soldiers invulnerable to gunfire and raise their bravery, so yeah it really does feel like the Boxer Movement 2.0. Of course these young males were emboldened and felt they could mount a serious rebellion against the warlord troops, who were vastly better armed. The spirit soldiers typically were armed with melee weapons such as spears or a dao. They quickly overran Lichuan county and killed the local magistrate there. Upon that success further uprisings sprang up like wildfire.

    After the taking of Lichuan it is estimated the spirit soldiers numbered over 10,000 and they would only continue to grow. Given their numbers, they were gradually beginning to organize themselves seriously, though they would still operate in numerous cells, they never unified. Three main spirit armies emerged alongside countless militias. They rarely coordinated, lacked real military training, had very few firearms, no uniforms, but nonetheless tried to act like real armies. They implemented military ranks and identified as such with yellow bands around their left hands middle finger, the color yellow being their official movement color. Similar to the Taiping Rebellion, which they definitely took inspiration from. Major spirit soldier armies and militias wore distinct colors based on their region. For example in western Hubei, they wore red turbans and sashes, many also carried red flags with their leaders' names inscribed upon them or with slogans. Some of these slogans were about “heavenly kingdoms being established on earth” yes Hong Xiuquan would approve.

    These spirit soldier groups did not want to seize power, nor did they have any real revolutionary ideologies. Even from a class point of view, they were not exactly championing the impoverished or anything, when they took over counties they did not change the counties social order. Typically they stormed a county, killed or replaced the magistrate with someone they deemed to be a fair person. Ironically this often led to an even more corrupt person taking the magistrate position, making the lives of people worse. But you know what, when these spirit soldiers showed up to your county, as a regular peasant you were probably pretty happy about it, because anything was better than being ruled by a warlord. The great thing about the Spirit armies was when they came to your town they fought the tax and rent collectors off alongside warlord troops and bandits. It was said, under spirit rule, the people could finally travel unarmed without fear. Now soldiers no matter what god or spirit resides within them need to eat, thus money was required. To make ends meet the Spirit armies fought bandits and warlords and seized control over salt and opium trade routes running from Sichuan and Guizhou through western Hubei. Just like the Yihetuan, the Spirit soldiers also persecuted christians and foreigners. Most of them were under the belief western modernization efforts and christianity were the reason for all of china's troubles.

    Once the Spirit soldier rebellion began to see tens of thousands enlist, they gradually advanced west into Sichuan province. There lies a regional trade hub, the city of Wanzhou, lying on the upper reaches of the 3 gorges of the Yangtze River. In the late part of 1920, a spirit army from Lichuan approached Wanzhou, spreading slogans of their movement, such as "Stand Against Rents and Taxes, Kill the Grey Dogs". Gray dogs refers to warlord troops. Now they did not attack Wanzhou, instead they allowed members to infiltrate the city and the local towns to mass recruit. After a few months they managed to nearly gain 5000 new spirit soldiers. They also set up a military HQ at a local temple dedicated to Yama. For those unaware Yama is a deity shared by Hindus and Buddhists. This temple was dedicated to the Buddhist variety of Yama. Yama here is regarded as one of the 20-24 Devas, a group of protective Dharmapalas. If you were a spirit soldier, it would be an ideal location to set up shop, +20 to spirituality and such. They were armed mostly with bamboo spears when they assaulted Wanzhou on March 5th of 1921. The assault was performed in two waves of roughly 2000 spirit soldiers each. Despite being armed with firearms, the local warlord troops were terrified by the tenacity of the spirit soldiers who very much performed like Boxers. They fought bare chested, unafraid of bullets, some performed martial arts and incantations. Just like what happened to Qing militia’s and green standard troops in 1900, the warlord troops were terrified the spirit soldiers might actually be wielding magic, and soon routed fleeing Wanzhou’s outskirts to hide behind fortified walls in the inner city.

    The Spirit troops stormed through Wanzhou quickly seizing most of the city, however unlike a warlord army who would have plundered and left or heavily fortified the city, well the spirit army was simply not that kind of army. As soon as they took footholds within, they began performing public incantations and rituals. Basically they were doing exactly what the Boxers had done, however the Boxers had been facing governmental forces who were not really keen on fighting back. For the spirit soldiers their enemy were warlords who relied on fleecing the population and Wanzhou was a major trade center, prime real estate. The warlord forces fortified parts of the inner city, hiding behind walls where the Spirit troops simply could not breach, nor did they try to do so. After 3 days, the Warlord leaders slapped their troops around, telling them not to be afraid of magic and they launched a counter attack on the 8th. That day saw brutal street to street fighting, which did benefit the melee wielding spirit warriors, but guns certainly would win the day. After an entire day of battle, the spirit forces were pushed out of the city. Nearly 500 were killed during the battle, the majority being spirit soldiers.

    On the 12th, the Warlord Chou Fu-yu after receiving distressed requests for help arrived in Wanzhou with reinforcements. Once he figured out they were holding up at the Yama temple he organized an offensive against their HQ. Chou Fu-yu’s forces stormed the temple massacring over 1000 of them. Chou Fu-yu’s men specifically hunted down their leadership, executing them publicly to send a message. After seeing the carnage the spirit army collapsed and fled the Wanzhou area swiftly, most would return to civilian life, though others would fight for another day. Those who chose to keep championing the cause formed small militia groups that honestly were more akin to Honghuzi. Local officials in Hubei and Sichuan would refer to them as such "the whole country districts [were] laid waste, by these rebels who plundered wherever they went". The spirit milita’s did not attempt to seize any significant towns or cities, they simply stormed them hunting for christians and foreigners, before moving to the next. They would do this for years in the Hubei-Sichuan region with power bases located along their border.

    Now despite the major setback at Wanzhou, the spirit armies would continue to expand, but instead of heading westwards into Sichuan, they turned back to Hubei. This had a large effect on Hubei based warlords who sometimes were pushed out of their spheres of influence. Spirit armies seized Yichang, Badong, Xuan’en, Enshi and countless other counties. One Spirit leader, a farmers' work hand named Yuan declared himself the new Jade Emperor and attempted to seize most of western Hubei. From around 1920-1922, acting as an emperor he issued numerous edicts. For the most part he led a campaign against pretty much every class imaginable: students, farmers, business owners, land owners, merchants, the military, workers, missionaries, and more. He called for killing christians, placing blame upon them for all of China’s problems, promising his followers once the Christians were all gone, China would be at peace. There were those amongst his flock and others who were Ming loyalists, the age old secret society types trying to restore the Ming Dynasty. Similar to the wannabe Jade Emperors belief that getting rid of Christianity would save China from her plight, the Ming loyalists saw the Ming Dynasty as a golden age that needed to be re-ushered in.

    The Spirit armies were largely successful because of the fighting amongst the warlords of Hubei and to a lesser extent Sichuan. Western Hubei in particular was ripe with chaos, for there was not only Spirit armies and warlord armies, there were large groups of Honghuzi roaming the region. Now I could cut this story about the spirit soldiers here, but instead I will try to not allude to things in the future too much. But around 1921, armies of the Zhili Clique began to invade Hubei and Sichuan from their power base in Hunan province. The Zhili armies soon fought battles against both Hubei and Sichuan warlord armies and were gradually forced back north. In the process some Sichuan warlords seized Badong, Zigui and Xingshan, fleecing the populations for all they were worth before departing. The Sichuan warlord, Yang Sen, notably seized Lichuan and Jianshi in October of 1921 and would hold them until February of 1923. Yang Sen was a Taoist master and an avid polygamist. He met the Taoist Master Li Ching-yuen, who claimed he had lived to be 250 years old. He was quite famous, hell Wu Peifu while leading the Zhili clique would take Li Ching-yuen into his home trying to discover his secret method of living for so long. Li Ching-yuen died in 1933, but claimed he produced over 200 descendants and had 24 wives over the course of his very long life. Yang Sen wrote a famous book after his death titled “A Factual Account of the 250 Year-Old Good-Luck Man” Within the book he described Li Ching-yuen "He has good eyesight and a brisk stride; Li stands seven feet tall, has very long fingernails, and a ruddy complexion." Allegedly, Li was born in Qijiang county of Sichuan province back in 1677. At the age of 13 he embarked on a life of gathering herbs in the mountains amongst 3 elders of his village. At 51 years of age he served as a topography advisor in the army of General Yue Zhongqi. At 78 he retired from military service after fighting in a battle at the Golden River, whence he returned to a life of gathering herbs on Snow Mountain of Sichuan province. Due to his military service under Yue Zongqi, the government sent him a document congratulating him on his 100th birthday and this was done on his 150th and 200th. In 1908 Li co-wrote a book a disciple of his, Yang Hexuan called “the secrets of Li Qingyuns immortality”. In 1920 General Xiong Yanghe interviewed Li and published an article about him at the Nanjing university. In 1926 Wu Peifu took him under his home and Li took up a job teaching at Beijing university’s Meditation Society branch. In 1927 General Yang Sen invited Li to Wanxian where the first known photograph of the man was taken, if you google him you can see it. After hearing about the famous 200+ year old man, General Chiang Kai-Shek requested he visit him in Nanjing, however when Yang Sen sent envoys to find Li at his hometown of Chenjiachang, his current wife and disciplines broke the news, he had died, the year was 1928. You might be raising an eyebrow, yes, after his supposed death, newspapers began writing pieces claiming he died in 1929, 1930, then the last report was in 1933, no one has ever verified how he died, they all just list natural cases.

    Now about this fascinating case of his age, Li Ching-yuen claimed he had been born in 1736, it was a professor at Chengdu University, Wu CHung-Chieh who asserted he was born in 1677. According to an article by the New York Times in 1930, Wu discovered imperial records from 1827 congratulating Li on his 150th birthday, then another one for his 200th birthday in 1877. In another New York Times article from 1928, correspondence wrote that many old men of Li’s village asserted that their grandfathers all knew him as young boys and that he had been a grown man at the time. Now many researchers have pointed out his claim to be 256 years of age was a multiple of 8, considered a lucky number in Chinese culture. Many researchers also point out the prevalence of such myths as extreme old age to be very common in China and the far east. They believed he was just telling a tall tale like countless others before him.

    One of Li’s disciplines, Master Da Liu said of his master, when Li was 130 years old he encountered an older hermit in the mountains claiming to be 500 years old. This old hermit taught him Baguazhang, that is a style of martial arts and Qigong, these are breathing, meditation and posturing exercises. Alongside dietary habits all combined was what gave the hermit his longevity. Du Liu would say “his master said that his longevity is due to the fact that he performed the exercises every day – regularly, correctly, and with sincerity – for 120 years." Sorry for the extreme side story, but I just found it fascinating haha.

    So General Yang Sen had seized Lichuan and Jianshi and would be involved in numerous wars in Sichuan. He often fought the Governor of Sichuan, Xiong Kewu who was gradually defeated by 1923, where upon he took his armies into western Hubei. Yang Sen amongst other warlords exploited the absence of Xiong Kewu and invaded Sichuan. The departure of Xiong Kewu from Sichuan also allowed Petty warlord Kong Gen to seize territory and for a large Honghuzi army led by Lao Yangren to invade Yunxian. Things got so bad for Xiong Kewu, he turned to a very unlikely group to form an alliance, the Spirit Soldiers. Xiong Kewu allied the Spirit armies encamped at Enshi and Hefeng. In 1924 a large part of Xiong Kewu’s army were advancing through the Wu Valley, trying to link up with him. The Wu valley was a strategic stronghold for the Spirit armies, thus in order to gain free passage he joined up with them.

    Chaos would reign supreme in both Hubei and Sichuan for many years, not aided much when General Yang Sen took the governorship over Sichuan. Once governor there he provoked several of his loose allies who all formed a coalition to oust him from his position by early 1925. Like Xiong Kewu, now it was Yang Sen retreating west into Hubei, eventually forming a base at Badong. One of his opponents, the Petty warlord Yuan Zuming, a member of the Guizhou clique invaded the region and seized Lichuan and Shinan, before setting his eyes on Hefeng. Meanwhile the Spirit Armies, bolstered by Xiong Kewu spread again into Sichuan where they offered protection to locals from warlord troops and Honghuzi. They fought a large battle around Wangying that allegedly turned the local river crimson red with blood. By early 1926 the Spirit movement had surged past 100,000 troops and dominated over 40 counties in Hubei. Yet they never fully centralized their organization, rarely coordinated between armies and differing groups and were not heavily armed with firearms. Honestly by becoming a larger force and by becoming more sedentary, it actually spelt their doom. While they were smaller and more mobile, they were harder to catch and less appetizing to warlord armies, now they were fully on the menu. In 1926 three divisions of warlord troops were sent against them. The Spirit armies were absolutely crushed in waves of one sided battles. Their leaders were hunted down and executed, that is if they did not die on the battlefield or simply off themselves prior to being caught. Yet 1926 would bring an entirely new element at play, it was when the Northern Expedition began and such a colossal event would save the Spirit soldiers from complete annihilation.

    Don’t want to give anything away, but the Northern Expedition would affect both Yang Sen and Xiong Kewu and by proxy the areas they controlled. This would cause further chaos in Hubei and Sichuan which in turn would be exploited by countless figures. For example a large Honghuzi army of Lao Yangren, perhaps 20,000 men strong or more ran rampant in both provinces. Honghuzi loved to follow behind warlord armies, exploiting areas they passed through since the rival warlords would have been kicked out. With the Northern Expedition brushing aside countless warlords in the area, both Honghuzi and Spirit soldiers expanded. Some Spirit Soldiers even decided to join up with a new group hitting the scene, Red Armies. The CCP were falling into a war with the KMT and they began to latch onto anyone who would join forces with them. Two prominent CCP figures, Xu Xiangqian and He Long worked with Spirit Soldiers. He Long came to view them as nothing more than another version of Honghuzi, but acknowledged they wanted to protect the local people which was admirable. Their quasi alliance allowed the Spirit Soldiers to expand into northern and central Sichuan, western Henan and eastern Guizhou well into the 1930s. Despite the incredible amount of wars that would occur over the decades, the last known Spirit Army rebellion would take place in February of 1959.

    As you can imagine it was an anti-communist uprising, that occurred in Sizhuang county of Henan province. This was directly a result of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward enacted the year prior. For those who don’t know, the Great Leap Forward encompassed a change of pretty much all aspects of Chinese society and it was disastrous to say the least. Mao sought to reconstruct the entire nation from an agrarian economy into a real industrialized society, but on fast forward mode. He did so via peoples communes, while decreeing every possible effort to increase grain yield must be done so they could bring industry to rural China. This resulted in one of the worst man made famines in history. Alongside this came an economic disaster, unbelievable governmental abuses upon the people. An estimated 15-55 million would die. Many resisted the government's actions, but the government had decreed no one could leave their village or farms, thus it made it extremely difficult to coordinate a resistance movement. Desperate peasants tried to resist, alongside countless secret societies. Numerous rebellions broke out, but they were quite small in scale. Armed resistance broke out in Henan in 1959, where large bandit groups began to steal weapons from armories and attacked major roadways. A secret society known as the “shenbingtuan / regiment of spirit soldiers” gathered 1200 fighters from hubei, Sichuan and Shaanxi and began to attack government officers in Sizhuang county. It took the red army roughly 20 days to quell the uprising. Thus ended the Spirit Soldier movement.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The Spirit Soldier Movement was a drop in the bucket for China’s Warlord Era. They were a group amongst many others who tried to navigate a very cruel world. As comedic as they may come off, they were brave people who were trying to protect the population from what they deemed to be villains, many became twisted as a result.

  • Last time we spoke about the invasion of Outer Mongolia and the First Anhui-Zhili War. During the Xinhai Revolution, Outer Mongolia declared independence from the Qing Dynasty. Conflict arose between Mongolian nobles and Chinese authorities, leading to the formation of a provisional government under Jebtsundamba Khutuktu. Then the Russian civil war led to Russian encroachment of both red and white forces. Russian influence grew, particularly through Grigory Semyonov's attempt to establish a pan-Mongolian state. Duan Qirui seized the opportunity to invade Mongolia under the guise it was to thwart Bolshevism. While he did this to save face, it actually resulted in further conflict, this time with the Fengtian Clique. Wu Peifu and Zhang Zuolin combined their cliques to face Duan Qirui winning a very unexpected victory over the Anhui Clique. Duan Qirui resigned from all his posts in disgrace and now the Anhui Clique was a shadow of its former self.

    #99 The First Guangdong-Guangxi War

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    We just covered the first major war in the north, the first Anhui-Zhili War. Out of all the books and even the very few youtube videos I have seen trying to cover China’s Warlord Era, typically they do First Anhui-Zhili War, then follow this up with the first Zhili-Fengtian war, second zhili-fengtian war, rarely the anti-fengtian war then suddenly everything jumps south into the Northern Expedition. The reality of China’s Warlord era however, is that there really is not chronological series of events. For those statician’s out there, its more like a horrifying ANOVA study, if you get the reference, we both share a certain pain haha. Multiple military wars and political wars were raging across China and they all affected other peoples and events, causing this nightmare of incoherency. For this series I am going to try my best to do it in a chronological order, and stating that we are jumping south today.

    Back to Yuan Shikai, in 1915 when he was planning to proclaim himself Emperor Walrus over a new dynasty, as we saw multiple provinces declared independence, some even actively rebelled. One of these provinces was Guangxi where Viceroy Lu Rongting declared an open rebellion against Yuan Shikai. Lu Rongting had been appointed governor over Guangxi after the second revolution. Yet after Cai E and Tang Jiyao unleashed the National Protection War, Lu immediately bandwagoned. Some historians suggest Lu Rongting did this because he felt Yuan Shikai was overlooking him and actively preventing him from expanding his sphere of influence into Guangdong. After the death of Yuan Shikai, the new president, Li Yuanhong appointed Lu Rongting as the governor of Guangdong, but this certainly did not sit well with Long Jiguang. Long Jiguang was the current governor of Guangdong and a supporter of Duan Qirui and the Anhui Clique. He was secretly working inline with the Anhui Clique, obeying the Beiyang government, undermining the National Protection movement in the south. When his colleagues such as Liang Qichao, Wang Chonghui and Tang Shaoyi found out they were the ones who asked president Li Yuanghong to get rid of him. Long Jiguang stated he was unwilling to resign his post, and this prompted Lu Rongting to dispatch Mo Rongxin, Ma Ji and Tan Haoming to lead a Guangxi based army to invade Guangdong to get rid of its pesky rebellious governor, or I guess better said anti-rebellious governor.

    Now rewinding a bit, when Zhang Xun forced Li Yuanhong to dissolve parliament, Guangdong and Guangxi both declared independence, I think for the 4th time? Hard to keep track of how many times southern provinces declare independence to be honest. When Zhang Xun restored the Manchu monarchy, this prompted Dr Sun Yat-Sen to sail south from Shanghai to Guangzhou to start a rebellion movement, because Mr. Sun is gunna do Mr. Sun stuff. Dr Sun Yat-Sen planned to rely on the power of southwestern provinces to rebel against this new tyrannical monarchy. Then in a matter of days, Zhang Xun’s great restoration failed and Duan Qirui became the de facto leader over Beijing with his Anhui Clique dominating the scene in north china. Dr Sun Yat-Sen had planned for a political war, but Duan Qirui dissolved all means of doing so, now the only options were militarily.

    On August 25th, a meeting was held in Guangzhou where Dr Sun Yat-Sen announced he was going to launch a Northern Expedition with himself as Generalissimo. A new military government, or I guess you can call it a Junta was formed and Lu Rongting and Tang Jiyao were both appointed Marshals within it. Many armies were mobilized in Hunan, Guangdong, Yunnan and Guangxi. Respective cliques within these provinces all mobilized for their own reasons. One of these armies was commanded by Long Jiguang, though much of his military strength had been depleted during the second revolution. All he had left was 20 battalions, roughly 5000 men. There were several local militia styled armies, such as the “Fu Army” led by Li Fulin or the second Mixed Brigade of Huang Mingtang, but even with these added, Long Jiguang could not hope to face what was coming his way. The armies in Guangxi and Yunnan were better organized, better equipped and more numerous at this time.

    After the Junta had been created, the Beiyang government took it as a threat obviously and began to put into motion plans to destroy it. At first the governor of Chaomei, Mo Qingyu was sent with military forces to disband the Junta. He was decisively defeated by a coalition army commanded by Chen Bingkun, Shen Hognying, Lin Hu and Dr Sun Yat-Sen. After this Dr Sun Yat-Sen appointed Chen Jiongming to be the commander in chief of the Fujian and Guangdong Army. Then Dr Sun Yat-Sen, through his ally Zhu Qinglan managed to transfer command of the 20th battalion of the Guangdong Army to Chen Jiongming. Chen Jiongming took these troops and immediately attacked the Fujian governor Li Houji, occupying Longyan, Zhangzhou, Tingzhou and other areas along the Fujian, Guangdong border area. After doing this he proclaimed himself a defender of the area and began taxing the populace, being a warlord 101 basically. He established an independence base area in the eastern part of Guangdong and the southern part of Fujian, which was not cooperating with the Old Guangxi Clique.

    Now back to Lu Rongting. Lu Rongting was running out of allies. He had backed Duan Qirui, who was forced to give up his posts, and now Feng Guozhang and his Zhili clique were the big dogs in Beijing. Lu Rongting was unsure how to proceed, so he began publicly supporting Dr Sun Yat-Sen and the Guangzhou government. Lu Rongting then tried to dismantle the Guangzhou government through a reconciliation effort with the Beiyang government. Lu Rongting was basically turning everyone against Dr Sun Yat-Sen growing the Old Guangxi Cliques influence. Dr Sun Yat-Sen could see the paint on the wall, so he resigned from his position in May of 1918. An election was quickly held seeing Cen Chunxuan, another Old Guangxi member become president over the Guangzhou government, but in reality, Lu Rongting was pulling the strings.

    In the meantime, Chen Jiongming over in his area was also doing something similar by trying to negotiate a peace with Beijing. In 1918, Chen Jiongming was appointed by the Guangzhou government as the governor of Fujian province in October. Chen Jiongming set up simple government agencies, actively maintained the social order dominated by local gentry, and vigorously built Zhangzhou's urban infrastructure, reclaimed wasteland, and developed modern education and industry. During the period of protecting the law, merchants gathered in Zhangzhou and the market flourished. While he made Zhangzhou a sort of central government station, overall he was quite the anarchist in how he sought things to be done. By December, Chen Jiongming resigned stating publicly "My governorship over Fujian is in vain because we cannot feed the hungry, clothe the cold, and defend our army in battle. Fujian should be governed by Fujianese

    In December of 1919, Dr Sun Yat-Sen saw Guangdong was building an army and stating publicly "Today's urgent task of saving the country is to pacify the Gui thieves first and unify the southwest" Dr Sun Yat-Sen planned to return to Guangdong to attack the Old Guangxi Clique forces. Heordered Chen Jiongming several times to send troops to help drive away the Old Guangxi Cliques, however, in his words "Chen Jiongming made no reply despite repeated calls to urge her to return to Guangdong." Zhu Zhixin, was dispatched 3 times to Zhangzhou with orders of Dr Sun Yat-sen to urge Chen Jiongming to mobilize. He wrote back to Dr Sun Yat-Sen: "Chen Jiongming’s forces have exhausted all their strength and are as tired as ever. At this time, the relationship has been hurt, and it is useless to mobilize." Reading between the lines of these sorts of statements and messages, Chen Jiongming clearly had issues with Dr Sun Yat-Sens politics and did not want to get involved at the time.

    Thus until July of 1920 the Old Guangxi Clique was continuing to negotiate with the Zhili Clique officials controlling the Beiyang government. They agreed to help expel Duan Qirui and his Anhui goons, if the Old Guangxi clique guys would help expel Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s followers in Guangdong. On July 14th however, the first Anhui-Zhili war broke out. Li Houji the governor of Fujian at the time, expressed a desire to support the Anhui clique’s military and requested Guangdong forces depart southern Fujian. On July 15th, figures in the fractured Chinese navy such as Xu Shaozhen and Li Qian who supported Dr Sun Yat-Sen organized thousands of troops to fight the Old Guangxi clique. Xu Shaozhen became commander in chief and led the forces to attack Guangzhou from 5 different directions. On August 11th, the Old Guangxi clique mobilized their forces, thus beginning the Guangdong-Guangxi War or the first Yue-Gui War.

    The Old Guangxi Clique had roughly 70,000 troops, but they were by no means a unified force. There were the combined forces of Guizhou Warlords, Yunnan Warlords and Zhejiang Warlords. The Guizhou forces were led by Liu Zhilu, the Zhejiang forces were led by Lu Gongwang and the Yunnan forces were led by Fang Sengtao. The Guizhou would attack Guangdong with the Zhejiang army on their right and the Yunnanese to their left. Guangdong meanwhile would have roughly 25,000 troops led surprising by Chen Jiongming who had a change of heart, he was also aided by Xu Chongzhi and Hong Zhaolin. Chen Jiongming on the 12th of August had suddenly sworn an oath at the Zhangzhou park condemning Mo Rongxin, here is the statement “Ever since Mo Rongxin and others seized control of Guangdong, they have harmed our people in every possible way. The will of the people will be destroyed, the people killed, and expelled...to the extent that they condone the robbers and beggars' soldiers and harass Yan Lu, which is even more difficult to describe. The pain our people suffered from the loss of their provinces was a hundred times greater than the pain suffered by Korea, Annan, and Poland. They are naturally thieves, and seeking money and killing people is their usual skill. Recently, the bandits stationed in Hunan and Guangxi moved into Fujian to oppress our army. Their only intention is to hate the Cantonese people and act as if they are an enemy country... The Cantonese army today is fighting for the hometown and the country, and all its factions and other issues are unknown. It is to swear an oath with tears and to tell each other sincerely. My fellow countrymen, please take this opportunity to learn from me! All officers and men of the Guangdong army kowtowed together”.

    Chen Jiongming would also go on to accuse Mo Rongxin of "The Gui regards Guangdong as a conquered territory... Now that we are facing heavy troops, it is really unbearable. Although I am weak, I am willing to fight to the death" On August 16th the main bulk of the Old Guangxi clique forces had not yet reached the Guangdong-Fujian border, thus Chen Jiongming set up his headquarters at Zhang Ji Villages, leaving 20 battalions behind in Zhangzhou as a reserve. Chen Jiongming then took personal commander of the central forces, dispatched armies led by Li Bingrong, Deng Benyin, Luo Shaoxiong, Xiong Lue, amongst other officers to attack Raoping and Chao’an from the direction of Pinghe. After this they would break through Fengshun and Zijin, coordinating with a left and right wing. Meanwhile the left wing of Hong Zhaolin and Liang Hongkai led forces from Yunxiao and Zhao’an to attack Chenghai and Shantou while Xu Chongzhi commanding the right wing attacked Jioaling and Shantou from Shanghang. In all around 82 battalions were engaging two major fronts.

    The eastern part of Guangdong had been under Guizhou warlord rule for over 4 years when suddenly Chen Jiongming called “the Cantonese people to govern Guangdong and implement democratic politics”. The people there rallied to him, and this would have a profound effect on the war there. The left Guangdong army that departed Zhao’an quickly crossed the border where they defeated troops under Liu Zhilu, the commander of a major Guangxi army. After defeated him they stormed the garrisons at Chaomei, Huanggang, Chenghai and were approaching Shantou. On the 19th, Yu Yingyang, the commander of an artillery battalion under Liu Zhilu had already seized Shantou and declared independence and his desire to defect to the Guangdong army. Honestly this is how most battles worked in the warlord era, subordinate officers looking to dodge a real battle by switching sides, typically selling out their bosses in the process. This prompted Liu Zhilu to flee for Guangzhou. The next day, Deng Keng led the left Guangdong army to capture Shantou and soon they were pursuing the Guizhou forces towards Jieyang and Chaoyang.

    Meanwhile the right Guangdong army crossed the border from Yongding to attack Dabu Sanheba. Dabu Sanheba fell on the 16th, and it was followed the next day by Jiaoling. On the 18th an entire day of fighting was seen near Meixian where forces under Liu Daqing, commander of a Guangxi army and the governor of Huizhou were defeated. Meixian was captured on the 19th and Xingning on the 20th. After this the forward Guangxi army had collapsed allowing the Guangdong army to redirect itself towards Longchun and Heyuan. The army in Zhejiang watched the situation, but kept out of it while the Yunnan forces simply began a withdrawal as it seemed clear the Guangdong forces were likely to win. Again, the Guangdong forces were outnumbered perhaps 3 to 1, but these types of battles and lesser wars were won and done by perspectives.

    Ye Ju was leading a central thrust for the Guangdong forces, quickly taking Chao’an and Raoping. As he advanced towards Gaopo and Fengshun, there he encountered real resistance. 6 to 7000 men under the Guizhou clique General Zhuo Guiting stood firm, fighting Ye Ju for two days. Then the left wing of the Guangdong army captured Shantou and the right wing the upper reaches of the Dongjiang river, prompting General Zhuo Guiting to order a retreat. As his men fled, the reached the vicinity of Shigongshen where they were intercepted by Yang Kunru leading another Guangdong army who assailed them a long way.On the 26th the Chaomei area in eastern Guangdong was captured. On the same day, Dr Sun Yat Sen proclaimed "The Guangdong army attacked the thieves and recovered Chao and Mei in a few days. The speed of arriving here really broke the courage of the Gui thieves." This caused a panic in Lu Rongting who deployed troops from Guangxi to reinforce the front. The Guangxi army mobilized the first army of Ma Ji, 2nd army of Lin Hu, elements of the 3rd army of Shen Hongying, the 1st Brigade Marine Corps of Li Genyuang and other brigades to the front lines which were now at Heyuan, Boluo and Huiyang. The Guangdong forces continued their march seeing the right wing take Laolong on September 2nd. The battle along the front line was brutal and lost until October. Wei Bangping and Li Fulin representing the Guangzhou government attempted peace talks with the Guangdong forces, as the situation was looking increasingly bad for the Old Guangxi clique. The Old Guangxi clique dispatched police forces to crack down on newspapers, banning numerous publications that were critical of their war efforts. On the 13th of september all newspaper in Guangzhou ceased publications and any newspapers coming over from Hong Kong were confiscated for “publishing false military reports and subverting operations”. Meanwhile, starting in early September the Guangdong forces began working alongside the Cantonese people chanting slogans like “Cantonese people save yourselves, Cantonese people govern Guangdong”.

    Heyuan at the frontlines was the gateway to Huizhou. To defend Huizhou, the Guizhou forces had unleashed a month-long bloody battle. To help the war effort, Dr Sun Yat-Sen sent word to Zhu Zhixun over at the Pearl River Estuary, to mobilize the troops garrisoning the Human Fortress to rebel against the Guangxi menace. On September 16th, Zhu Zhixin managed to instigate a small rebellion. The commander of the Human Fortress garrison, Qiu Weinan declared independence from Guangxi, and during the mayhem that soon ensued he was killed by a stray bullet. Despite this, the Guangdong army had won a series of victories, managing to launch a province wide war to expel the Guangxi menace. Civilian forces were uprising against them, in late september Wei Bangping, the director of Police forces for Guangdong and Li Fulin the garrison commander of Guanghui who also happened to be a former Old Guangxi clique member, covertly moved troops from Xiangshen, Foshan and other places to the south bank of the pearl river in Guangzhou. There they declared the independence of Henan on the 26th. All the inland riverway warships and railway lines were taken and soon a letter was sent to Mo Rongxin urging him to quote "Return the power of governing Guangdong Province to the Cantonese people, and lead his troops back to Guangxi to avoid military disasters."

    Then Wei Bangping and Li Fulin led forces into Sanshui taking control over the vital Guangsan Road, effectively cutting off the Guizhou Army’s supply line going from Xijiang to Guangzhou. This was a heavy blow to the Guizhou Army’s rear and ability to continue the war effort. During this same time, Huang Mingtang the commander in chief of the 4th army seized Leizhou; Zheng Runqi the deputy commander under Wei Bangpings 5th Army raised a new force in Xiangshan and Chen Dechun the superintendent of Qingxiang and deputy commander of the 2nd army declared independence at Wuyi. From here Taishan, Xinhui, Kaiping, Enping, and Chixi fell under civilian army control. Qujiang, Yingde, and Qingyuan in Beijiang, Gaoyao, Xingxing and other counties in Xijiang, and Qinlian and Qiongya in the south all declared independence one after another.

    Within the dire circumstances, Mo Rongxin convened a meeting of over 30 representatives from the Guangzhou Chamber of commerce, the Provincial Council and the Public security association on October 2nd. The representatives proposed Mo Rongxin step down so Tang Yanguang could take his position and for the war to end as quickly as possible. On October 14th of 1920, all officers of the Guangzhou Navy held a closed door meeting in Haungpu Park where they unanimously opposed a new effort brought forward by Lin Baoyi, the commander in Chief of their navy to unify the northern and southern navies. On the 19th workers of the Guangdong-Hankou railway then launched a general strike, armed with pistols and explosives which they used against the Guizhou Army forces trying to use railway lines. Over 30 schools in Guangzhou then formed a mass meeting about the entire debacle and what they should do. The principals of the schools proclaimed "if Mr. Mo doesnt leave Guangdong, classes will not be held in each school."

    Back on the frontlines, on October the 16th the Guangdong right army finally captured Heyuan, opening the way to Huizhou. Simultaneously the central and left Guangdong armies captured Yong’an, Xiangpu, Lantang, Hengli and Sanduozhu effectively pressing the battle towards Huizhou. Now Huizhou is surrounded by mountains and rivers, making it quite easy to defend. Mo Rongxin concentrated the strength of his 40th Battalion there. At this point the commander of the 2nd army, Xu Chongzhi fell ill, prompting Chen Jiongming to replace him with a man named Chiang Kai-Shek. Chiang Kai-shek joined up in the middle army to begin a siege of Huizhou. The Guangdong forces would captured Huizhou by the 22nd. The very next day, Chen Jiongming held a meeting within the city and the commanders decided to march upon Zengcheng, Shillong and Dongguan in three directions. After this they would attack Guangzhou to finish the campaign.

    During this crisis the populations of Bao’an, Sanshui and other nearby cities began an uprising, lashing out against the Guizhou army. As Dr Sun Yat-Sen recalled "The strong people raised their flags and responded, while the old and weak people welcomed them. This is quite the charm of the Revolution of 1911." Within Guangzhou, civilians launched waves of worker strikes, school strikes and general strikes. Mo Rongxin had run out of forces to fall upon, it was all falling apart. On the 24th, Lu Rongting, acting in the name of the president of the Guangzhou government declared the dissolution of the government and the independence of Guangdong and Guangxi. The president of the Guangzhou government, Cen Chunxuan fled for Shanghai.

    On the 25th of October, Shilon was taken, the next day Dongguan fell and finally seeing the situation was over, Mo Rongxin canceled the supposed Guangdong independence movement. On the 27th Zengcheng fell as Mo Rongxin had the Guangzhou Arsenal blown up and the governors seal was given to Tang Tingguang as he fled the city. Yang Yongtai, the governor of Guangdong province resigned via a telegram, handing his governor seal to Wei Bangping. On the 28th, Jiongming deployed forces to Guangzhou and around the areas of Shougouling and Baiyun to try and catch fleeing enemies. The three Guangdong armies gathered around Guangzhou, launching a general offensive together on the 29th. Mo Rongxin after fleecing after department he could fled with 10,000 remaining loyal troops west as Guangzhou was finally captured.

    On the 30th, Wang Jingwei and Liao Zhongkai sent telegrams to Dr Sun Yat-Sen stating they were going to appoint Chen Jiongming as the governor of Guangdong; to remove Lin Baoyi as commander in chief of the navy and replace him with Tang Yanguang. On November 1st, Chen Jiongming became the governor of Guangdong and remained the commander in chief of the Guangdong Army. On november 2nd, Chen Jiongming liberated the Guangzhou-Kowloon Railway, denying its use to Cen Chunxuan and Mo Rongxin. The same day, Xu Chongzhi paraded through Guangzhou to raise morale for the citizenry, newspapers reported "the citizens rejoiced and rushed to set off cannons. Looking at all the situations, there was a sign of great joy." On the 6th, Tang Tingguang handed the governor seal to Chen Jiongming and sent a telegram dismissing the governor of Guangdong. On the 10th, Chen Jiongming was officially elected governor over Guangdong.

    Yet the enemy was still not fully defeated. The Guizhou army was retreating along the Xijiang River, where they performed a scorched earth policy, burning and looting every town they came by along the river. They also set up outposts along the Xijiang and Beijing rivers to prevent the Guangdong army from following. To rid the province of the nuisance, Chen Jiongming reorganized the entire Guangdong Army into 5 armies. The 1st army was personally commanded by Chen Jiongming who also acted as commander in chief; the 2nd army went back to Xu Chongzhi, the 3rd to Hong Zhaolin, the 4th to Li Fulin and the 5th to Wei Bangping. After resupplying, the Guangdong army marched west into two large groups to pursue the enemy to Guangxi.

    When the Guangdong forces entered Guangzhou, the Guizhou army first retreated to Zhaoqing. Because Wei Bangping and Li Fulin seized control over the Guangsan route, the Guangxi Army could only retreat from the Guangdong-Han Road. While under attack, the Guizhou Army divided its self into two groupsl one led by Ma Ji and Shen Hongying who retreated north along the Yua-Han road, the other led by Lin Hu and Han Caifeng headed further south. The Guangdong army pursued their enemy over both land and river, seizing Zhaoqing on the 15th. By the 21st, Lu Rongting ordered all forces still in Guangdong to return swiftly into Guangxi. This effectively was the end of the Guangdong-Guangxi war.

    On November 28th, Dr Sun Yat-sen returned to Guangzhou from Shanghai via Hong Kong and announced the reorganization of the military government. Overall what would be the first Guangdong-Guangxi war had ended the old Guangxi Clique. The Old Guangxi clique was not down for the count, but they had severely lost face. Guangxi province was not the most developed one in China, it made it very difficult to raise funds to keep the army going. Lu Rongtings ability to control and influence the Old Guangxi Clique began to dwindle. It would only force him and others to perform an identical war against Guangdong in 1921, in desperation to maintain their power.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    In the grand scheme of things, it was another drop in the bucket, yet it was extremely representative of the regular ongoing of China’s warlord era. Wherever you looked from 1918-1928, regional warlords fought petty wars to control strategic regions, simply to further exert their own power. For the Old Guangxi Clique it was a bitter lesson, not that they learnt from it though.

  • Last time we spoke about Manchu Restoration of Zhang Xun. After the death of Yuan Shikai, Duan Qirui maneuvered to maintain control amidst the political chaos. After being outed from Premiership for trying to drag China into WW1, General Zhang Xun suddenly marched upon Beijing seizing the capital. Zhang Xun then proclaimed the Qing Dynasty restored with Emperor Puyi back on the throne, shocking the entire nation. Li Yuanhong freaked out, ran for his life and begged Duan Qirui to come back and save the republic. Ironically Duan was already in the process of marching upon the capital, so with a smile he went along with everything making it look like he was a hero. After taking back power, Duan resumed his premiership, but made sure to get rid of any threat to his authority. However, Duan's authoritarian rule and neglect of certain officers led to opposition from figures like Feng Guozhang, who formed the Zhili Clique.

    #98 The Invasion of Outer Mongolia & First Anhui/Zhili War

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    During the Xinhai Revolution many provinces and regions declared independence, one of them was Outer Mongolia. In 1910, the Qing Dynasty had appointed the Mongol, Sando to be viceroy over Mongolia, with his base being in the capital city of Urga. Just a month after his arrival conflicts emerged, prompting Sando to ask Jebstundamba Khutuktu, the spiritual leader of the Mongolians to help out but he refused and this led to a campaign to have Sando removed. More conflicts followed and by spring of 1911, prominent Mongolian nobles, such as Prince Tögs-Ochiryn Namnansüren persuaded Jebstundamba Khutukhtu to form a meeting of the nobility to discuss declaring independence. The meeting resulted in a deadlock. 18 nobles wishing to declare independence took matters into their own hands pressuring Jebstundamba Khutukhtu to send a secret delegation to Russia for help. Of course at this time Russia sought Outer Mongolia as a buffer state. The Mongols knew this and offered economic concessions if the Russians helped arm them and brought troops over. Russia did not want to add Outer Mongolia to the empire however, so she offered diplomatic support rather than military support. The Russian minister to Beijing informed the Qing the Mongols had sent a delegation and this prompted the Qing to order Sando to investigate. Yet while all of this was going on, the Wuchang Uprising had sprung up and soon rebellion would hit the entire nation.

    When the Mongols received news of what was happening to China, they simply joined in and declared independence. By December 1st a provisional government of Khalkha was set up under the theocratic rule of Jebtsundamba Khutuktu who became the Bodg Khaan over the new Bogd Khanate. Fast forward to 1915, the new Republic of China and the Bogd Khanate reached an agreement that Outer Mongolia could be autonomous under Chinese suzerainty, a protectorate basically. Then came the Russian Revolution and with it, the Russian Civil War. This resulted in a rather bizarre movement springing up along the Siberian/Mongolian border. Grigory Semyonov a White movement member in Transbaikal with Japanese backing, took quite an interest in Mongolia. Semyonov spoke Mongolian and Buryat fluently, he was also a soldier who fought in WW1 and then during the civil war. He led an anti-soviet rebellion, but lost after a few months and was forced to flee to Harbin. He moved to Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia and from there setup a base to launch raids into siberia to help the white movement. By the summer of 1918 he managed to captured Chita, setting it up as his own capital as he declared a Great Mongol State. Semyonov fancied unifying the Oirat Mongol lands, parts of Xinjiang, Transbaikal, Inner and Outer Mongolia, Tannu Uriankai, Kobdo Hulunbe’er and even Tibet to form a new Mongolian state.

    The situation caused a divide amongst the leadership in Outer Mongolia. Some favored their current protectorate relationship with China and wanted to end the Semyonov threat. Others were dissatisfied with the status quo and saw it as a great opportunity. The Chinese high commissioner in Mongolia, Chen Yi was soon delivered word from some of the Mongolian nobles, Soviet forces were preparing to invade Mongolia. The Cossack consular guards at Urga, Khovd and Uliastai had all fled. The Russian communities in Mongolia were beginning to support a Bolshevik regime. It was under said pretext, Semyonov and his white Russian colleagues came to Mongolia. Chen Yi began frantically sending telegrams to Beijing requesting troops while simultaneously persuading the Bogd Khaan government to agree to allow a Chinese battalion to come over. Chen Yi and Mongol noles came up with a document with 64 points titled "On respecting of Outer Mongolia by the government of China and improvement of her position in future after self-abolishing of autonomy", yes they could have summarized it somewhat, though I imagine the english translation is lacking. The stipulations offered to replace the Mongolian government with Chinese officials; introduce Chinese garrisons and the keeping of feudal titles.

    However by July of 1918, the Soviet threat seemed to have dissipated. Meanwhile Semyonov had assembled a detachment of Buryats and Inner Mongolian nationalists to fight for his pan-Mongolian cause. They made several attempts to try and persuade the Bogd Khaan’s government to join, but the Mongol nobles thought it foolish to throw their lot under a new master they knew nothing about. Gradually Semyonov threatened to invade Mongolia to force their compliance. The Bogd Khaanate was in a bad position. They lacked the strength to repel Semyonov, on the other hand they were not interested in Chinese troops entering their lands.

    Now taking a step back, there was another player in the region. When the Manchu Restoration of Zhang Xun broke out, Zhang Zuolin, the warlord of Manchuria sat on the fence in Mukden. Yet a subordinate of his, Feng Tielin had just unsuccessfully plotted against him and was implicated in the Manchu Restoration. This gave Zhang a good excuse to imprison and dismiss the man from his command and better yet he stole the man's troops. In August of 1917, Zhang Zuolin took control over Heilongjiang province after a small rebellion had broken out there. Then in October, the warlord in Jilin province turned out to also be a Manchu Restorationist, or at least Zhang accused him as such, so he used diplomacy to get rid of the man. After this Zhang seized Jilin and thus controlled all of Manchuria, excluding parts under Japanese occupation.

    In February of 198, Duan Qirui sent a rather unpopular subordinate named Xu Shucheng to try and persuade Zhang Zuolin to join the Anfu club. The reason was because Duan Qirui distrusted Wu Peifu and the emerging Zhili clique and saw Zhang as a beneficial ally. Xu Shucheng was the founder of the Anfu club, the political arm of the Anhui clique. They recently earned 3/4s of the seats in the national assembly. Xu was also a fixer in many ways, at one point he discovered Lu Jianzhang had tried to persuade his nephew, Feng Yuxiang the Christian warlord, to fight the Anhui CLique. Xu leaked this and had Lu executed. Thus he had a pretty rough reputation. Xu came to Zhang with a bribe from Duan Qirui, it was information that a shipment of Japanese arms worth 30,000 yuan, enough to equip roughly 7 mixed brigades and just come to port in Qinhuangdao. Zhang Zuolin performed a random inspection of the port and confiscated the goods, reminds you of the New York mob. In response to this friendly gesture, Zhang sent 50,000 of his troops southwards to aid Duan Qirui’s new campaign that he called “unification of China by force”. For this nice gesture, the Beiyang government gave Zhang Zuolin the title of inspector of the 3 Manchurian provinces. At this point Zhang Zuolin truly became known as the tiger of Manchuria, or the “king of the northeast”. Things were not great, but not bad between Duan and Zhang, then Xu Shucheng received a new command, and things changed dramatically.

    Because of the situation in Outer Mongolia, Duan Qirui decided to form a new “Northwestern Frontier Army” and he gave command of it to his right hand man, Xu Shuzheng. Now, allegedly this was also coerced by the Japanese who had their own designs on Outer Mongolia. But Duan Qirui certainly had his motives for such an action. The leaked information about the Nishihara loans alongside other bad press had most of the Chinese public against him. His reputation as a republican patriot had been tarnished, even defeating Zhang Xun had not done a ton to reverse it. Duan Qirui had cultivated a large and strong army during WW1, but now the war was over and all of his political enemies questioned why he kept the army. Of course everyone knew the real reason why, he wanted to defeat his rivals in the south to reunify China. When the Russian began to encroach in Mongolia, it was a perfect excuse to use said army, legitimizing it somewhat.

    Publicly Duan Qiruir stated the Northwestern Frontier army would go to Outer Mongolia to defend them against Bolshevik encroachment. Their expedition was supposed to commence in July 1919, but their train broke down on them. In October, Xu was forced to lead a spearhead of just 4000 men to storm the capital of Urga. There was no actual battle, the Chinese entered peacefully and began occupying the capital. They were soon followed up with 10,000 additional forces who began to occupy Mongolia. Xu Shuzheng met with Chen Yi and the Mongol nobles and stated the 64 point document needed to be renegotiated. He then submitted a much tougher set of conditions calling for the express declaration of Chinese sovereignty over Mongolia; to increase Mongolia’s population via Chinese colonization; to promote commerce, industry and agriculture. If the Mongols resisted these conditions, Xu threatened to deport the Bogd Khaan to China. To make a point Xu then placed troops directly in front of Bogd Khaan’s palace. It seems Xu may have also been pressured by Japan to install some pro-Japanese chinese officials in Mongolia to thwart any future Russian encroachment. These demands, titled “the eight articles” were given to the Mongolian Parliament on November 15th and the upper house accepted them, but the lower house did not. Many members publicly called for armed resistance. The most tenacious were the buddhist monks to fight off the Chinese, but the upper house ultimately prevailed. Then a petition to end autonomy signed by the ministers and deputy ministers of the Bogd Khaans government was presented to Xu. Body Khaan refused to give his seal still. Then a new Prime Minister was installed by the orders of Xu Shuzheng, his name and do forgive me was Gonchigjalzangiin Badamdorj. Alongside the conservatives within the Mongolian political scene they forced the acceptance of the Chinese demands.

    Xu Shuzheng was hailed as a hero in China. Dr Sun Yat-sen even sent a letter of congratulations from the rival Guangzhou government, it was clearly satirical, but those like Duan Qirui paraded it as propaganda. Now Xu Shuzheng then humiliated the Mongolian Council of Khans in a speech and would return in February of 1920 to preside over an extremely humiliating ceremony. During the ceremony the Bogd Khan and other Mongol nobles were forced to kowtow before Xu Shuzheng and the new Five races under one union flag. This ceremony was so insulting, it would mark the beginning of active Mongolian resistance against China.

    The occupation of Mongolia had aroused frustration from Zhang Zuolin because he regarded Mongolia to be within his sphere of influence. Xu Shuzheng after occupying Mongolia began to set up banks in the northwest, raised public loans and all of this was of course done to increase his own personal power. At this time, since he was the 2nd strongest Anhui Clique leader, he had so many forces under his thumb he was seen to be greater than Zhang Zuolin the “inspector of the three provinces of Manchuria”. Xu Shuzheng’s Northwestern Army had troops in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Xinjiang and Shaanxi. Now while Zhang Zuolin’s Fengtian Clique could not hope to defeat the Anhui Clique alone, they were not in fact alone. Zhang Zuolin with his ear to the political ongoings in northern China would find a new ally to thwart Duan and Xu’s encroachment into his realm.

    We need to rewind just a little bit to explain the rather chaotic political situation in north China. After Zhang Xun’s Manchu Restoration was defeated, Duan Qirui found himself in a bit of an awkward position. He was now the defender of the republic, he took back his premiership, but his puppet Li Yuanghong had fled his position as president, it was now Feng Guozhang who was president. Now Feng Guozhang was not elected or anything, he was merely filling out the term of Li Yuanghong. Before leaving Nanjing to come over to Beijing, Feng compelled Duan to accept his appointees to offices in the Yangtze area, where his power base was located. Now there was a division of military power, a sort of split within the Beiyang army between the Premier and President. This led to the “Anfu Club” being created of Duan followers and in turn the Zhili Clique of Feng followers. The Anfu Club was far better organized, better funded and was dominated by Duan and Xu. Xu by the way was nicknamed Little Xu, because he was seen as simply Duan lackey as they say. The Anfu Club also had high ranking politicians like Wang Yitang, Zeng Yujun and Liu Enge. Yet the Anfu Club was not really an alliance of military guys, it was more a political force that exerted influence over Parliament and other parts of the civil bureaucracy. There was no war at this point despite the conflict between Duan and Feng growing. Thus the fighting was all within the political realm for awhile, they simply fought to control government institutions and such. Duan and Feng’s main objective at this time was simply to dominate Parliament, and Duan was winning. Duan mae Wang Yitang the speaker of the house who made sure Feng could not dissolve parliament. If Feng dissolved parliament it would call for an election that could see Duan lose premiership again.

    Now a little bit about the Zhili Clique, from 1917-1920 the clique was not really united politically or militarily. They were really a riff raff of pissed off Beiyang officers and politicians whom Duan Qirui had overlooked. Their most influential military commanders in the beginning were Wang Zhanyuan the warlord of Hubei, Li Chun and Chen Guangyuan the warlords of Jiangsu. The Zhili clique lacked strong leadership and a real source of funding. They did not have much influence over Parliament, thus they were quite hopeless against the Anhui clique who were only getting stronger each day. In October of 1918, the Anfu Club managed to secure a new president, Xu Shichang. Xu Shichang was the former viceroy of Manchuria, considered a safe pick by the Anfu members. Xu lacked a following, he was quite old, a school type, someone they all assumed could be easily manipulated, basically a new Li Yuanghong. By the end of 1918 the Anfu club appeared to be in a position to unify China for the first time since the death of Yuan Shikai. However they depended heavily on Japanese loans and as a result easily fell victim to those who would label them to be in league with Japan. Members of the Zhili clique capitalized on this, spreading accusations left right and center, making public statements accusing the Anfu members of selling China out to Japan. By 1919 the Anfu group still looked sturdy, but then the Treaty of Versailles situation hit. The public outrage to the peace talks led many Anhui clique members of Duan’s cabinet to flee to Japan. Then the May Fourth Movement began, prompting the Zhili clique to latch themselves onto the cause of the student protestors.

    Duan Qirui realized his stronghold on Beijing was becoming fragile. Any direct attack against another warlord would be dangerous, thus he tried to do things covertly. He began by trying to economically strangle areas of his enemies, he reduced government funds to their provinces. He also tried to set up new appointments in the central provinces to dominate them. He appointed General Zhang Jingyao to be the military governor over Hunan province. Wu Peifu whose powerbase was in Sichuan and western Hunan saw this as a direct threat. Now when this was occuring, Japan was facing economic problems and thus could no longer loan money to the Anhui clique. This led the Anfu club to seek a new source of revenue. Meanwhile, Wu Peifu reacted to the threat to his territory by seeking out support from the Zhili clique, in particular he went to his old mentor Cao Kun.

    Cao Kun had been an officer in the Beiyang Army, initially he did not side with Feng or Duan. When the Anhui clique began to move into central China, this drove Cao to the Zhili clique. Wu Peifu approached his old mentor with a plan, it was to be a campaign against the Anhui. Cao agreed to the idea, only if Wu could prove they would have enough forces capable of attacking Anhui’s powerbase around Beijing. Wu then went to work calling upon the warlords of Sichuan, Shanxi and Hubei who were all not receiving much funding from the central government. Thus they all banded together. In November of 1919 Wu Peifu met with Tang Jiyao and Lu Rongting at Hengyang, where they signed a treaty entitled "Rough Draft of the National Salvation Allied Army" This effectively formed the basis of a true anti-Anhui clique alliance. After this in April of 1920, while visiting a memorial service at Baoding for soldiers who died in Hunan, Cao Kun added more warlords to the new anti-Anhui clique alliance, including the rulers of Hubei, Henan, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Zhili. The conflict became public as both sides began deploying for the coming war.

    By May of 1920, Wu Peifu was prepared to launch a campaign to strike into northern China and he began to mobilize his armies up the Tientsin-Pukow railway. Yet before this he also did something else, Wu extended a hand out to an unlikely figure, Zhang Zuolin. He explained his campaign plan to Zhang Zuolin, and advised him, a campaign from the northeast above the Great Wall might be very beneficial to them both, wink wink. Thus in March of 1920, Zhang Zuolin had arranged a feast in Mukden for the warlords of Zhili, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang. It was a secret conference to set up a solid 8 province alliance against the Anhui clique.

    This intense period of scheming saw President Xu Shichang invite Zhang Zuolin over for a meeting in Beijing. American writer Nathaniel Peffer was there and had this to say of Zhang. “Until his triumphal entry into Peking in 1920, Zhang Zuolin had not come down out of his Mukden fastness for years. In those years a legend had grown up round him — a legend of a fierce, uncouth, primitive creature of the wilds. It was with some zest, therefore, that I accepted an invitation of his nearly English-speaking secretary to attend an audience for foreign correspondents. It was with even greater amazement that I found myself bowing to a slender, delicate little person in subdued silks, soft-spoken and with hands as lovely and graceful as I have ever seen on a man. The terror of the north country looked like a precious aesthete. There was nothing of the aesthete in his speech or his demeanour, however. The interview was marked by none of the usual subtle evasion, the nice circumlocution. There was blunt talk on both sides; and it was eloquent that, when our questions verged on the brutally frank, the secretary who interpreted did not translate them as they were put, but softened them until the meaning was transformed. The quailing of the servitors when the tea was a second late also was eloquent. When he recommended the execution of a whole regiment as a proper punishment for mutiny; one was glad the regiment was not in his command”.

    During the meeting, Zhang told Xu he had no idea what a “zhili group was or what an Anfu group was”. Everyone should just cooperate in general for a northern cause. Then Zhang Zuolin traveled from Beijing to Baoding to meet with the Zhili’s defacto leader Cao Kun. As Zhang was on his way, the anti-anfu coalition managed to force President Xu Shichang to dismiss Xu Shuzheng from all of his posts. Allegedly, after this President Xu Shichang sent an invitation to Zhang Zuolin to come back to his residence after his trip to Baoding was done and he planned to kill him. Premier Duan heard of the plan and told the president to not go through with it, because Zhang Zuolin had supported him in the past. Nonetheless Zhang Zuolin high tailed it back to Manchuria under a disguise. Once back in Mukden, Zhang Zuolin sent a telegram to Xu and Duan stating “in the future instead of mediating politically, I will do so militarily”.

    In July various Zhili and Fengtian generals such as Cao Kun, Zhang Zuolin, Wang Zhanyuan, Li Shun, Chen Guangyuan, Zhao Ti and Ma Fuxiang all signed a denunciation of the Anhui clique and its political arm, the Anfu Club. This denunciation was circulated through a telegram called Paoting-fu on July 12th. Duan Qirui was outraged by the situation and demanded President Xu Shichang dismiss Cao Kun and Zhang Zuolin from all of their positions. In response to the very obvious threat, Duan formed the National Stabilization army, using 5 divisions and 4 combined brigades with himself as commander in chief and General Xu Shuzheng as his general chief of staff. Duan deployed his forces in 2 fronts, the west covering the regions of Zhouzhou, Gu’an and Laishui and the east covering Hamlet, Beijimiao, Yang and Liang.

    Cao Kun gathered their 3rd division and 9 combined brigades to form a Traitor Suppression army, with Wu Peifu as the front line commander-in-chief. The Zhili clique deployed their forces in the region of the Yang hamlet and due west of Gaobei. In the northeast, Zhang Zuolin deployed 3 divisions, roughly 70,00 men at the Machang and Junliangcheng. The battle plan was for the Zhili to strike from the south, converging on Baoding and then Beijing while the Fengtian would advance through the Shanhai pass of the Great Wall to attack the northern territories. Now the Anhui clique basically held dominance over the Beijing area, Anhui and along most of China’s coast, however the Zhili clique now was dominating Jiangsu province, thus severing the vital railway that the Anhui depended on to move troops from north to south.

    While Duan could see the Zhili were mobilizing, the appearance of 3 Fengtian divisions advancing through Shanghaiguan caught his men by complete surprise. Duan in a rather panicked fashion ordered his troops in the capital to converge around Tientsin where he was forced to meet both enemies on a southern and northern front. On July 14th of 1920, the Anhui army made the first move by simultaneously attacking both fronts.

    Zhili troops were forced to abandon Gaobei and 2 days later with Japanese assistance the Anhui forces were able to capture the Yang Hamlet, forcing the Zhili to form a second line of defense in the Beicang region. It was at Beicang where the Anhui forces finally lost momentum and were halted. On July 17th, Wu Peifu personally took command of the Zhili western front, where he unleashed a daring maneuver. He outflanked the Anhui forces at Zhouzhou and proceeded to storm the western Anhui army HQ. There Wu Peifu captured the Anhui front line commander-in-chief Qu Tongfeng and many of his officers, including the 1st division commander. After the capture of Zhuozhou, Wu Peifu pursued the retreating Anhui forces towards Beijing. With the exception of the Anhui 15th division, their western front was all but annihilated.Also on the same day, the Fengtian army crashed into the Anhui eastern front.General Xu Shuzheng received word of the collapse of the western front and promptly fled to Langfang and then Beijing, leaving his forces to surrender to the combined forces of Wu Peifu and Zhang Zuolin. While the majority of the Anhui forces would be taken prisoners, many also managed to escape to Zhejiang and Shanghai, but they were a fraction of what they once were.

    By July 19th, Duan realized he had lost the war and publicly announced he was resigning from all of his posts. On the 23rd the combined Zhili and Fengtian forces entered Nanyuan and gradually pacified Beijing accepting the surrender of the Anhui clique. In less than a week of battle, the strongest clique was unexpectedly defeated. Zhang Zuolin’s military capabilities received a enormous boom from the short battle. His men had captured vast quantities of arms, armaments, ammunition and military vehicles from the Japanese financed frontier defense army of the Anhui clique. It apparently took 100 railway wagons to send all the looted goods back to Mukden, alongside 12 captured aircraft. Zhang Zuolin also suffered pretty much nothing during the battle. The fengtian had merely put a heavy force on the field, they actually sat back quite idly most of the time allowing Wu Peifu to take the lionshare of the actual action against the enemy.

    At this junction Zhang Zuolin faced two large decisions. First he could return to his powerbase in the northeast with assurances Beijing would not interfere with the development of his provinces. The Japanese were likewise constantly hassling Zhang to refrain from getting involved in the national political scene, to just develop his own region. Obviously Japan was arguing this while dangling financial aid because they were heavily invested in Manchuria and did not want any threats aimed at it, especially from Beijing. Wang Yongjiang, who would become a brilliant economic administrator to the Fengtian Clique, aiding in a lot of reforms, he believed the northeast provinces could continue to develop while keeping out of anything going on south of the Great Wall. He also added his voice, arguing Zhang should just stay the hell away from Beijing and its chaos.

    The second choice was of course, diving right into the chaos. After the fall of the Anhui Clique, Zhang Zuolin for the first time had tasted a real victory, especially one over a superior adversary. For the first time he had the opportunity to influence the politics of China, he could stop being just a mere bandit leader. Could someone like Zhang Zuolin be the man to reunify China? This he wondered. Thus his choices were to go back to being the tiger of Manchuria or become the man who would lead all of China. What do you think he would choose?

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The occupation of Mongolia looked like a good idea at the time to Duan Qirui, perhaps its could save his reputation so he could focus on defeating the pesky southern warlords. What a shock it was to find out all of the north rallied together to knock him off his tower. Now the Zhili and Fengtian cliques controlled Beijing, but would they work together, or simply fall into conflict, furthering China’s misery.

  • Last time we spoke about the Southern Warlords. Yuan Shikai's abuse of power prompted declarations of independence from several southern regions, leading to the Second Revolution of 1913. Despite initial successes, Yuan Shikai's Beiyang Army ultimately crushed the uprisings. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, after various setbacks and political maneuvers, founded the Chinese Revolutionary Party and later resurrected the Kuomintang. Chiang Kai-Shek emerged as a significant figure within the KMT, navigating through alliances and conflicts. Meanwhile the formation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) paralleled these events, driven by figures like Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao, and later, Mao Zedong. Concurrently, various regional warlord cliques, including the Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Sichuan, and Hunan cliques, vied for power, often aligning with or against larger political entities like the KMT or the CCP. We have met the warlords now its time to tell their story.

    #97 The Manchu Restoration of the Pigtail General

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Now where to begin, you sort of have to speak about someone we already have spoken to death about, the father of the warlords, Yuan Shikai. He “helped” with quotation marks usher in the republic of china and had a very heavy hand creating the New Army. He was a man of the 19th century, he had served in the First-Sino Japanese War of 1894-1895, then during the Boxer Rebellion. If you remember, back during the Boxer Rebellion, when Empress Dowager Cixi began frantically calling for an alliance with the Boxers to fight off the foreigners, Yuan Shikai like most governors at the time, put his head down. As the foreigners marched from Tientsin to Beijing, Yuan Shikai spent his time strengthening his position as Viceroy of Shandong. During this time he also received the Viceroy of Zhili and Commissioner for North China Trade. He had very lucrative posts and he used the money to set up military colleges. He hired foreign instructors, procured modern armaments and managed to create a professionally trained military. When the Xinhai revolution broke out, Yuan Shikai was made commander-in-chief and he brought his Beiyang Army to quell the rebels at Wuchang. Yet Yuan Shikai was not a moron and could see where the tides were turning, so he began a plot to take control of the new emerging republic. During his tenure, better said dictatorship, he strengthened his personal rule and suppressed any who could threaten him. Now we have already covered most of his story, during the last year of his life, Yuan Shikai increasingly began relying on the support of his military commanders in the capital and in various provinces. Many of these commanders betrayed him, the first one was General Cai E, the emerging warlord of Yunnan. On January 1st of 1916, Cai E declared independence for Yunnan and indeed Sichuan province thus threatening Yuan Shikai’s rule over central China. After this Guangxi and Guangdong declared independence. As Yuan Shikai’s subordinates began to betray him one by one, the most significant man amongst them would turn out to be Duan Qirui.

    Duan Qirui was a very talented young officer in command of the artillery corps of Yuan Shikai’s Beiyang army. He distinguished himself during the Boxer Rebellion, helping suppress the Boxers, then in 1911 he was sent against the Wuhan rebels. In 1912 as peace talks were being held between Nanjing and Beijing, Duan was an envoy for Beijing and here he personally declared he was in favor of Emperor Puyi abdicating. This earned him an appointment as Minister for the Army in the northern republican government headed by Yuan Shikai. He soon earned himself governorship over Hubei province. Yuan Shikai increasingly began to isolate himself while in power and he often turned to Duan to help rally support. In April of 1916 Duan was appointed premier over the Beijing government. This was the first real taste of power for Duan, and although he would be quite authoritarian, he was no lover of public office.

    He had buddhist inclinations, and enjoyed the quiet life. Thus he delegated much of his authority to his subordinates and usually stood by their decisions. One of his primary interests was training soldiers and he made sure to grab the position of Ministry of War alongside his premiership. He managed to convince Yuan Shikai to adopt a cabinet style of government, taking major issues behind closed doors amongst trusted elites. Here was born the fabric of warlord era politics. While Duan was premier had led a cabinet, it was of course at the whim of Yuan Shikai who directed its actions. While Duan could not exact real power in the cabinet, what he did do was perform lesser actions using a smaller cabal of loyal ruling elites, mostly subordinate officers to him.

    Duan also tried to get Yuan Shikai to give up his title as Grand Marshal and to place all military power in the hands of the War Ministry. That last part is an eye opener to be sure, but Duan never tried to overthrow his master. But while under Yuan Shikai he did transfer a detachment of troops loyal to him to guard against his enemies. Now when Yuan Shikai died he left a sealed box and inside it were three names, Xu Shichang, Li Yuanhong and Duan Qirui. None of the three men were eager to take the Presidency, Duan was the first to suggest Li take the job. Li was not keen about the idea, but it is said Duan coerced him into it. Duan spoke with all his senior military officers, they were not at all pleased with the idea of Li Yuanhong as president, but Duan explained to them, it was better to govern in the shadows. Li would be a very useful puppet, he was a southerner not liked by the other northerners, thus very easy to manipulate. Better yet, blame would be cast upon him, and not those like Duan. Yet Duan was very authoritarian and irritated by having to explain his actions to a state council and to president Li, who himself was not always content to give his rubber stamp of approval. Thus the easy puppet began to not be so easy. Worse, Li began taking an interest in military affairs and in relations with other warlords. Duan once in anger exclaimed 'I ask him to sign things and put his seal on them, not to sit on my head!'

    Regardless, there was a fail safe system. The president of the republic was not permitted to put his seal on any measures not already passed by the State Council which Duan dominated. Now the entire sealed box thing was certainly not how a President gets elected. Just because Li had automatically become president did not mean he would not have to soon face an election to continue it. Now before his death Yuan Shikai had suspended the constitution. Prominent members of the Southern factions in Guangzhou, such as Liang Qichao demanded the 1912 constitution be held up accordingly, ie: that Li face an election. On June 15th of 1917, the commander of the first fleet, Admiral Li Tingxin, at that time based in Shanghai, alongside other admirals declared support for the old constitution being restored and threatened to ignore orders from Beijing if it was not reinstated. This snowballed into the formation of a National Protection Army in the Southwest. This was seriously bad news for Duan. While there were three fleets, the 1st Fleet was the dominant one. Despite protest from other northern warlords, Duan capitulated, the old constitution was restored.

    This was not the only crisis Duan faced at the time, there were also calls for army reduction nationwide. After years of uprisings, rebellions and regional wars, some many different military groups were established and it no longer made any sense. As you can imagine, many of these so called armies, were in fact Warlords personal armies and any talk of reduction brought Duan directly in confrontation with other warlords. Of course Duan wanted to take the opportunity to weaken his enemies. Duan sought to create a national army consisting of 40 divisions, roughly 10,000 men each and 20 independent brigade of 5000 men each, thus a force of 500,000 or so. Each province was also to supply their local garrisons with 200 battalions nation-wide, a battalion being roughly 5000 men making a total of 100,000 provisional troops. This of course was based on the old Qing system, have provincial armies that did not stray from their respective provinces and a mobile main force. This would not at all be representative of warlord China. Duans plan to weaken the south did not seem feasible politically, I mean, if you were a southern warlord would you go along with this? Duan quickly realized it would be impossible to disarm his enemies, thus he would have to defeat them on the battlefield. Yet in order to do so he required circumstances, such as provinces refusing to pay taxes to Beijing or claiming independence.

    Now in 1917, Duan was being pressured by the Entente powers to sever relations with Germany and better yet, declare war. As we saw in the previous episodes, a lot of events unfolded during WW1, Japan invaded Qingdao, then Japan unleashed the 21 demands, and in 1917 Germany resumed unrestricted U-boat warfare. The United States invited China to join her in formal protest over this. On March 10th, Duan addressed parliament urging to sever ties to Germany, but parliament was reluctant. For the Chinese military elite, the idea of declaring war on Germany was very attractive. It could possibly open up foreign subsidies, and perhaps a renegotiation of some unequal treaties with Entente powers. It would turn out this was a very popular stance amongst the civilian population as they overwhelmingly voted for a declaration of war later on. However discussions on the matter were quite chaotic. While Duan Qirui wished to declare war on Germany, Li Yuanhong did not.

    After the March 10th declaration a large series of quarrels began. Duan Qirui in fury offered his resignation as Premier, while vice president Feng Guozhang tried desperately to mediate between him and Li Yuanhong. Most of the parliament team including Liang Qichiao worked to alienate Duan Qirui during the process. In a true Yuan Shikai fashion, Duan Qirui attempted to intimate the parliament into declaring war. Then suddenly in May, an English language newspaper in Beijing published details of a large loan Duan Qirui had secretly negotiated with the Japanese, the infamous Nishihara loans. To the public this looked like Yuan Shikai’s Reorganization Loan all over again. Li Yuanhong thus got all of parliament on his side and chose to use his new power to dismiss Duan Qirui.

    This was honestly a huge gamble as Li Yuanhong had no military support of his own. He was betting on the Beiyang commanders to respect the constitutional president and parliament. Duan Qiruir’s supporters as expected all declared independence of their respective provinces and followed Duan Qirui to Tientsin where he established a new HQ. Thus Duan Qirui and his loyal military governor left Beijing and set up shop in Tientsin, gathering forces to rebel against Li Yuanhong and retake the capital. Realizing he was screwed, Li Yaunhong looked for another strongman to defend the capital against Duan. Li had few he could turn to in the north, most of the Beiyang Generals were loyal to Duan. Then suddenly out of the blue, General Zhang Xun offered to mediate the conflict between Li and Duan.

    Zhang Xun was an eccentric general who had served as a military escort for Empress Dowager Cixi during the Boxer Rebellion and afterwards a Beiyang General in Yuan Shikai’s army. He fought on the Qing side in 1911, after the Qing dynasty fell he remained loyal to Yuan Shikai. Despite being a general in the new Republic, he refused to cut his Manchu queue, thus he earned the nickname the “pigtailed general”. Why might he still carry this hairstyle you might ask, well he was a die hard Qing loyalist. He had served Yuan Shikai, more or less to get back at the revolutionaries that had taken down the Qing. Zhang Xun supported Yuan Shikai’s emperor phase and earned himself a 1st Class Duke title for it. Now when Duan Qirui expressed his desire to sever ties to Germany, Zhang Xun opposed this. Zhang Xun had few allies as one would guess. There was the leader of the royalist party, Kang Youmei who attempted to restore a monarchy politically and there was the Japanese. From the Japanese point of view, they wanted someone like Emperor Puyi to be placed back on the Manchu throne, simply because they believed he would be easy to control. Japanese prime minister Masaki Terauchi appointed Japan's deputy chief of military staff, Tanaka Giichi and even got some Black Dragon members to go over to brush shoulders with those like Zhang Xun to prod them into restoring the monarchy. Thus Zhang Xun had some political help, and Japanese funding. One story has it that Zhang Xun went to Duan in Tientsin first, and offered to support him if Duan restored the Manchu monarchy. Duan allegedly pretended to agree to this. Zhang Xun then discussed matters with Li Yuanhong and pressured him to dissolve parliament on June 13th, stating if he did so he would help defend Beijing and Li agreed to this allowing him to bring his army over.

    Thus at midnight on June 30th of 1917, Zhang Xun’s army arrived outside Beijing, whereupon Zhang apparently came into the city alone to listen to a play. Zhang Xun then ordered his subordinate officers to invite the temporary garrison commander in chief of Beijing and Tientsin, Wang Shizhen, deputy commanders Jiang Chaozong, Chen Guangyuan and director of the Beijing police department Wu Bingxiang over. He announced to them in a meeting "I am leading the troops to Beijing this time. We are not here to mediate with someone, but to restore the emperor to the throne and restore the Qing Dynasty." He then told them all he planned to enter the palace to ask the emperor if he would retake the throne. He looked at the men and asked what they thought. Wang, Jiang, Chen and Wu were frightened by this sudden statement. Wang Shizhen asked: "Have the provinces and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted each other?" Zhang Xun replied: "The diplomacy is indeed sure. Feng Guozhang and Lu Rongting both expressed their approval and sent messages to urge them. The provincial governors also unanimously supported it." Wang Shizhen and others sat silent and speechless. Zhang Xun added: "I am determined to do it. If you agree, then open the city gate and let my troops in. Otherwise, please go back to your arrangements and fight to the death!" Wang Shizhen and others looked at each other and did not dare to say anything else, to them all he seemed to be insane.

    Zhang Xun went to the gates and demanded they be opened as his 5000-man army entered Beijing. Then Zhang Xun donned a blue gauze robe with a yellow mandarin jack, a red crown and marched with Kang Youwei, Wang Shizhen, Jiang Chaozong, Chen Guangyuan and Wu Bingxiang amongst other civil and military officials to the palace in the early morning of July 1st. At 3am, 12 year old Puyi met with Zhang Xun and the others. Upon seeing Puyi, Zhang Xun kowtowed 3 times with everyone else following. Zhang then asked him to go ahead with a restoration stating "Five years ago, Empress Dowager Longyu couldn't bear to let the people suffer for the honor of her surname , so she issued an edict to establish a republic. Unexpectedly, the people would not live in peace... A republic is not in line with our national conditions. Only when the emperor is restored can all the people be saved..." Puyi followed Chen Baochen's instructions and said humbly: "I am too young and have no talent or virtue to take on such a big position." Zhang Xun immediately praised: "The emperor is wise and sage, and everyone in the world knows it. In the past, the Holy Ancestor Emperor (referring to Kangxi) also practiced Zuo in his early years." Puyi quickly followed Chen Baochen's instructions and said: "In this case, I will do whatever it takes!" So Zhang Xun, Kang Youwei and others knelt down on the ground and shouted long live the emperor, Wang Shizhen and others had no choice but to kneel down and cheer casually.

    At 4am Zhang Xun sent Liang Dingen, an old minister in the Qing Dynasty to go to the presidential palace with an edict conferring the title of 1st class Duke for Li Yuanhong alongside a memorial Kang Youwei wrote reading "Li Yuanhong petitioned to return the state affairs" Li Yuanhong was asked to sign it. Li Yuanhong was shocked by all of this. Li Yuanhong would recall thinking “I drove away the wolf Duan Qirui at the front door, but attracted the tiger Zhang Xun at the back door”. Li Yuanhong sternly refused stating "I hold the position of president. I am entrusted by the people and dare not do such a thing. If the restoration issue is proposed by Zhang Xun alone, I am afraid that China and foreign countries may not recognize it. How can I dare to agree to it privately?" Liang Dingfen threatened: "If you don't agree, you may regret it." Li Yuanhong refused again, prompting Liang Dingfen to leave in anger. The next day, Li Yuanhong called Vice President Feng Guozhang, who was in Nanjing, to take over as acting president as he fled to the Japanese Embassy District in Dongjiaomin Lane for refuge.

    People within the city scrambled at the news. The old Huanglong shop that had been out of business for 5 years at that point returned to business but could not meet the demands of the citizens scrambling for traditional paper dragon flags. All the old princes, nobles and such came out of the woodwork as they say looking to celebrate the restoration in front of the palace waiting to see the emperor. Apparently a ton of people scrambled to find queue wigs and mandarin jackets. For the vast majority of China, the restoration was met with absolute outrage. Dr Sun Yat-Sen at the very moment of hearing the news over in Shanghai, simply got up and declared a rebellion…because of course he did…its what he did for a living honestly. Dr Sun Yat-Sen grabbed his colleagues and they all agreed to rush over to Guangzhou to form a crusade against Zhang Xun. Everyone across china did similar actions, in all the major capitals in the south angry leaders got together to form plans.

    After Li Yuanhong fled for his life, he sent a telegram to Duan Qirui begging him to save Beijing. Duan Qirui who was already organizing a full blown invasion to seize the capital for himself probably smiled. Duan Qirui quickly got his Anhui army together and marched upon Beijing.

    Back in Beijing within 48 hours of the restoration, numerous edicts were proclaimed trying to bolster the Manchu restoration. As you can imagine this was all very shocking to the general public. Feng Guozhang in Nanjing publicly opposed the restoration as Duan Qirui swore a public oath to end the Qing dynasty again. On July 5th, Duan’s forces stormed the Beijing-Tientsin railway just 40 km’s from the capital. That same day, Zhang Xun ordered all those loyal to him to bolster Beijing defenses, however he was very outnumbered. Just about all the Beiyang troops opposed him, and that was kind of a duh moment. Honestly this entire event is typically told in a comedic narrative. Feng Guozhang officially took the office of presidency on July 6th while still in Nanjing and by July 11th, Duan Qirui’s army surrounded Beijing. Within the city those like Wang Shizhen begged Zhang Xun to surrender, but he refused.

    On July 12th, Duan Qirui ordered an aerial bombardment upon the Forbidden City. A French WW1 era Caudron Type D aircraft piloted by Pan Shizhong and bombardier Du Yuyuan launched from Nanyuan Airbase and dropped three bombs over the Forbidden city, killing a single eunuch, but doing little damage whatsoever. There are sources that claim the pilot was actually the principal of the Nanyuan Aviation school, Qin Guoyong, regardless this was the first recorded instance of aerial bombardment deployed by the Republican era Chinese Air Force. Li Yuanhong publicly stated he refused to retake his position as president. The newly restored Manchu Court immediately prepared an edict of abdication for Emperor Puyi, but did not dare proclaim it lest Zhang Xun or his loyalist forces kill them. Officials of this imperial court managed to secretly negotiate with Duan Qirui’s besieging forces, begging them not to assault the capital. The imperial court officials even began beginning foreign legations to help. Boy a lot had changed since 1900 haha. With Zhang Xun not budging, the courts negotiations fell apart, prompting Duan to announce a general assault would begin the next day. The assault saw Qing loyalists manning the wall of the Temple of Heaven firing at the invaders, but nearly as soon as guns began to fire, negotiations were resumed. It turned out Zhang Xun had fled to the Dutch embassy, so his men begged Duan for a ceasefire. Duan granted it immediately and peacefully entered Beijing, establishing control over the government and police forces. Zhang Xun hid himself in the Dutch legation and would never participate in politics ever again. Zhang first fled to the German concession in Tientsin, then in March of 1918 the Beiyang government pardoned him. With his freedom in hand, Zhang Xun lived a life of seclusion in an apartment in Tientsin. He tried to run a business until 1923 when he got sick and died at the age of 68. He was posthumously given the title “Zhongwu” and buried in his hometown of Chitian Village, Fengxin county.

    Thus ended the 12 day old Manchu restoration and the Manchu Clique. When approached on the subject, Emperor Puyi stated he never wanted the throne in the first place, who knows the truth of said matter. Li Yuanhong had resigned as president, making Feng Guozhang the new president of the Beiyang government, still no election had been held, mind you. Duan Qirui took back his position as Premier, but refused to restore parliament nor the old constitution. Duan Qirui forced the Beiyang government to declare war on the Central Powers and began sending laborers to the Entente powers alongside a token force to Siberia. Now he was free to use the Nishihara loans uninhabited, building up what would become the dominant army in China, the Anhui army. Meanwhile Dr Sun Yat-Sen and countless others began rebellious activity in the south.

    Duan Qirui flocked many to his banner, creating his power base in Anhui province. His clique would be the first to organize themselves properly and he had a lot of funding behind him. Zhang Xun’s failed Manchu restoration was honestly one of the greatest strokes of luck imaginable for Duan Qirui. Yet as he promoted and appointed family and close friends to prestigious positions, he overlooked many. These military officers and civil servants felt slighted by this and many turned to Feng Guozhang. Feng Guozhang had come back to Beijing to assume the presidency, but not before he had made sure to set up his proteges as military commanders in Jiangsu, Hubei and Guangxi. These three provinces formed the basis strength of his new Clique, the Zhili Clique. Thus two players placed their pieces on the board, there were many more to come. Duan Qirui and Feng Guozhang both were inspired to unify China in their own image. Wars would be fought against the Southerners, but wars would also be fought in the north. Duan Qirui felt confident he had achieved supremacy and could now act against his enemies, but what if his enemies all banded together to beat him?

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The Qing loyalist, Zhang Xun attempted a Manchu Restoration, and well, he did restore it for roughly 12 days. However Zhang Xun could have no idea what he really ushered in, for his actions had much more dire consequences. Duan Qirui was given a golden opportunity to seize more and more power, and he did, now his Anhui Clique was king of the hill, but we all know what happens in that game.

  • Last time we spoke about Feng Yuxiang and Zhang Zongchang. Both men were born into poverty, rose through the ranks of the military, earning popularity. Feng became known for his integrity and generosity. He played a pivotal role during the Xinhai Revolution and the subsequent warlord era, often switching allegiances opportunistically. Feng embraced Christianity and enforced discipline among his troops, earning the nickname "the Christian General." On the other side of the shoulder, Zhang Zongchang became infamous for his brutality and excesses as the "Dogmeat General." His rule over Shandong was marked by tyranny, corruption, and lavish indulgence. While Feng focused on discipline, education, and infrastructure, Zhang oppressed his subjects, enriching himself and his inner circle. Feng was often portrayed favorably, while Zhang reveled in his notorious reputation. Ultimately, they were emblematic figures of the tumultuous warlord era, shaping the course of Chinese history.

    #96 Meet the Southern Warlords

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    So two episodes back I introduced you all to the Northern Warlords. The father of warlords, Yuan Shikai basically created them all. When Yuan Shikai built his Beiyang Army, many of his best officers became the Northern Warlords after his death. Thus the Northern Faction as its sometimes referred to, really was an elite club of Beiyang Generals who simply were vying for power. They were all scrambling to fund their private armies and whoever at any given time had the strongest force was able to exert control over the Beiyang government located in Beijing. Within this dynamic there was a quasi balance of power going on. For the most part it was dominated by the three largest cliques in the north, the Anhui Clique, Zhili Clique and Fengtian Clique. Yet this really only applied to Northern China.

    Going back in time somewhat you will remember, when Yuan Shikai stole the presidency, this led to multiple rebellions, notably sprouting in the southern provinces. Dr Sun Yat-Sen stepped down from the provisional presidency, but he had not given up on his dream of a real republic for China. After the assassination of Song Jiaoren in March 1913, many believed Yuan Shikai had ordered the hit. Yuan Shikai proceeded to abuse his power and this led to southern provinces declaring independence. First was Jiangxi, followed by Jiangsu, Anhui, Shanghai, Guangdong, Fujian and so forth. This all culminated with the Second Revolution of 1913. Unfortunately for the rebels, Yuan Shikai’s Beiyang Army yet again proved their might, achieving a complete victory over their revolutionary uprisings. KMT loyalist politicians still refused to submit to Yuan Shikai, so he simply dissolved parliament and began reorganizing China using loyal military governors in the provinces. The KMT may have been dissolved, but they were not down for the count.

    After Yuan Shikai proclaimed himself emperor, Dr. Sun Yat Sun established the Chinese Revolutionary Party on July 8th of 1914, but this time his old friends and colleagues refused to join him such as Huang Xing, Hu Hanmin, Chen Jiongming and Wang Jingwei. They had seen it all before. Everytime they created a movement against Yuan Shikai, he simply crushed them, they wanted no part of it. As a result, Dr Sun Yat-Sen lost the limelight, he went back into exile, biding his time.

    After Yuan Shikai’s death, Dr Sun Yat-Sen returned to China where he formed a military Junta at Guangzhou to oppose the Beiyang government. The military Junta held a vote, electing Dr Sun Yat-Sen as Generalissimo. Wu Tingfang was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tang Shaoyi as Chief Finance Officer, although he did not accept the position, Cheng Biguang became the Chief Navy Officer and Hu Hanmin became the Chief Transportation officer. One of the first actions the Junta took was to denounce Duan Qirui and his colleagues as rebels and vowed they would reunify China in a grand “Northern Expedition”. With this proclamation, the Constitutional Protection War had officially begun. The war or better called a movement for now was basically the KMT’s third revolution. It was put simply to defeat the Beiyang Government. However, not everyone saw eye to eye. In late 1917, many officials such as Tang Jiyao, Mo Rongxin, Lu Rongting and Tang Shaoyi convened a meeting with southwestern warlords. The purpose of the meeting was to see if they could recognize the Beiyang government and form a coalition with them, basically they were seeking a compromise with the Northern Warlords. Dr Sun Yat-Sen was outraged when he found out and placed blame on the southwestern warlords who he believed had sabotaged the Junta. He resigned angrily in May of 1918, going yet again into exile in Shanghai.While in Shanghai he found supporters and on October 10th of 1919 resurrected the KMT. After this point Dr Sun Yat-Sen would be in conflict with Southern Warlords, basically vying to control southern provincial bases of power. Initially this would be around Guangzhou and Guangdong. Now as most of you probably already know, while Dr Sun Yat-Sen founded the KMT, it ultimately was inherited by a man named Chiang Kai-Shek.

    Chiang Kai-Shek was born October 31st in Xikou, Zhejiang. He descended from a family of salt merchants. Early in life he became interested in the military. Now he lived during a rough time, China suffered military defeats, natural disasters, famine, rebellion en masse, unequal treaties and such. In 1906 after his first visit to Japan he began pursuing a military career. He enlisted in the Baoding Military academy that year and then went to the Tokyo Shinbu Gakko, a preparatory school for the IJA Academy for Chinese students. While there he became a revolutionary seeking to end the Qing Dynasty so a Han led Chinese republic could emerge. In 1908 he befriended Chen Qimei and it was Chen who introduced him into the Tongmenghui. After graduating from the Tokyo Shinbu Gakko, Chiang served in the IJA from 1909-1911.

    When Chiang heard of the Wuchang uprising he rushed back to China, intending to serve as an artillery officer. He led a regiment in Shanghai under Chen Qimei. Then in 1912 there was a conflict between Chen Qimei and Tao Chengzhang, a revolutionary alliance leader who opposed Dr Sun Yat-Sen. Historians differ on what exactly happened, but its possible Chiang had a hand to play in the assassination of Tao. Regardless Chiang rose up through the ranks and continued to serve under Chen Qimei. Now Chen Qimei had friends in the underworld, such as the Green Gang led by Du Yuesheng. The Green Gang was a criminal syndicate in Shanghai and again historians differ on the extent, but it seems Chiang brushed shoulders with them often. Chiang Kai-Shek became a founding member of the KMT but found himself on the losing end of the Second Revolution in 1913. He fled to Japan in exile, but also secretly traveled to the Shanghai international settlement. Its said there he began working with underworld groups, like the Green Gang. On May 18th, 1916 Yuan Shikai had Chen Qimei assassinated, prompting Chiang to succeed him as leader of the KMT in Shanghai. In 1917 when Dr Sun Yat-Sen came back, Chiang quickly joined up with him, cultivating a spot as his number 2. Now I don’t want to give away future episode content just yet, so I will stop it there for the KMT Clique.

    The next clique as you may have guessed is of course the Chinese Communist Party. Now we talked quite a bit about its foundation, but for a refresher. After the May Fourth Movement of 1919, numerous foreign ideologies flooded into China, one was Marxism. The Russian Revolution had a profound impact on China. Hundreds of thousands of laborers during WW1 went over to Russia and found themselves stuck in the civil war. They came back and brought with them what they learnt. Two men in particular were greatly inspired by Marxism, Chen Duxiu and Li Dazaho, they were also the first two prominent Chinese figures to endorse Leninism and for a worldwide revolution to take place. They ushered in the New Culture Movement, then aided the May Fourth Movement, but by 1920 they both became very skeptical about reforming the current political situation of China.

    In 1921 the CCP was founded with help from the USSR. The founding national congress of the CCP was helped between July 23-30th 1921 with only 50 members, amongst whom were Li Dazho, Chen Duxiu and Mao Zedong. The CCP grew quickly, originally being held in a house in the Shanghai French Concession until they were caught by police. They moved to Jiaxing, Zhejiang, electing Chen Duxiu as their 1st General Secretary. Chen became “China’s Lenin” and certainly the CCP continued to ally themselves to the USSR for both had a common enemy, Japan. Again just like with the KMT, while Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao were the initial leaders, Mao Zedong would inherit the leadership.

    Mao Zedong was born December 26th of 1893 near Shaoshan in Hunan. His father was an impoverished peasant who grew to be one of the wealthiest farmers in Shaoshan. Mao grew up in rural Hunan and stated in memoirs he was regularly beaten by his father who was a very strict man. His mother, Wen Qimei was a devout buddhist and Mao would follow in her footests trying to become a Buddhist, but ultimately abandoning the path as a teenager. He received a confucian based education and his family arranged a marriage when he was 17 to Luo Yixiu, ultimately to unit their land-owning families. Mao refused to acknowledge the marriage and quickly moved away. The poor Luo was shamed by this and would die in 1910. Mao was a voracious reader, he loved the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margins from a young age and continued to read whatever he could get his hands on. Eventually his reading led him to a political awakening. He began reading Adam Smith, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Montequieu and other western works. He was also interested in history, he took a particularly interest to Napoleon Bonaparte and George Washington.

    Mao moved to Changsha for middle school education in 1911 where he came into contact with the revolutionary fervor of the time. He was inspired by Dr Sun Yat-Sen, even wrote about how he thought he should become president in a school essay. Mao like many others cut off their queues during the Xinhai Revolution. Mao found himself joining a real army as a private soldier, but never saw any real combat. In 1912 he resigned from being a soldier and discovered socialism from a newspaper. Mao then enrolled in a police academy but dropped out. He then tried a soap-production school, law school, an economics school and a government run middle school, dropping out of all of them. He spent his time in Changsha’s library, reading classical liberal works. Once his father figured out he was basically not doing anything but reading, he cut his allowance, forcing Mao to move into a hostel. Mao then tried to become a teacher and enrolled in the 1st normal school of Changsha. While there he befriend professor Yang Changjia who introduced him to the newspaper “the New Youth” by Chen Duxiu. Mao became inspired, and organized a Association for Student Self-Government that formed protests against school rules. He published articles in the New Youth beginning in 1917 and joined the Society of the Study of Wang Fuzhi, a revolutionary group in Changsha. He began reading about WW1, finding solidarity with the stories of soldiers, but also with workers. After graduating in 1919 he immediately moved to Beijing where his mentor Yang Changji had a job at Peking University. Yang got him a job as an assistant librarian to Li Dazhao.

    From here Mao became more and more influenced by Marxism, reading about the Russian revolution from the New Youth and books written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Mao joined Li Dazhao’s study group becoming more and more enthralled with Marxism. He returned to Changsha working at a primary school while also organizing protests and promoting the New Culture movement there. Mao helped organize a general strike in Hunan, before he returned to Beijing to visit the terminally ill Yang Yangji. After this Mao moved to Shanghai where he met with Chen Duxiu and some prominent KMT members. Mao would brush shoulders with these KMT members often and became one of the founding members of the CCP. Again like with the KMT I don’t wont to give away too much future events, so I will stop it there for the CCP.

    The next group was the Yunnan Clique who were born out of the Xinhai Revolution when Cai E declared Yunnan independent. Cai E had been the commander of the 37th Brigade of the New Army. After the Xinhai Revolution, Cai E tossed his lot in with Yuan Shikai, leaving behind Tang Jiyao to govern Yunnan. When Yuan Shikai initiated operation Walrus Emperor, Cai E covertly departed Beijing and returned to Yunnan to get the old gang back together. He was nearly assassinated on November 11th, but managed to flee to Japan and then Yunnan. Once back in Yunnan he established the local National Protection Army to fight Yuan Shikai. Cai E declared Yunnan independent again and quickly invaded southern Sichuan. Yuan Shikai sent his Beiyang Army south, but found this time his army was less than willing to fight. After Yuan Shikai’s death, Cai E retained the position of governor-general over Yunnan and governor over Sichuan. The National Protection War bolstered Cai E as a national hero, however disaster struck in 1916 when he died suddenly of tuberculosis. His chief Lt Tang Jiyao inherited the mantle.

    Tang Jiyao brushed shoulders with Dr Sun Yat-Sen helping him set up his new KMT in Shanghai and would remain a KMT loyalist. Tang Jiyao also brushed shoulders with the Green Gang who helped him set up an opium trade in Yunnan. Opium grew exceptionally well in Yunnan, its climate was perfect for the plant. Like most of the cliques I will soon be talking about, events unfolded in Northern China that led southern provinces to feel another government was required. A few rival governments would come and go, but the first significant one would be established in Guangzhou and Tang Jiyao joined its committee. Within this government a political war was fought amongst numerous cliques, including Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s KMT.

    As for those other Cliques that would do political battle, one would be the Guizhou Clique. The Guizhou Clique was founded by Liu Xianshi who was born in Xingyi Guizhou. Liu was born into a landlord family who were heavily involved in leading local militias during the late 19th century. He alongside his cousin Liu Xianqian were military men, like their father before them Liu Guanli, who was a regimental commander who helped suppress a Hui uprising. Liu Guanli bolstered his family name to the point the family became heavily dominant within the military forces of Guizhou. During the Wuchang Uprising, Guizhou was tossed into a panic. Li Xianshi went to the capital to help suppress the revolution. Meanwhile, Zhang Bailin, a Tongmenghui leader in Guizhou alongside others stormed the capital and forced the governor, Shen Yuqing to step down. On November 4th, they declared Guizhou independent.

    However the wannabe revolutionaries failed to take measures to protect their gains and soon Shen Yuqing was fighting back. Liu Xianshi found himself appointed as the Chief of Staff of the Privy Council of a provisional government. Thus emerged a battle between the revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries. The counter revolutionaries sought assistance and turned to the recently emerged strongman, Cai E of Yunnan. They asked him to invade Guizhou to stop the crisis. Cai E dispatched Tang Jiyao with some troops who entered Guizhou rather peacefully and began to organize proper governance. Then Cai E received panic messages from Tongmenghui Guizhou members asking him to not meddle in Guizhou affairs, and with Sichuan looking more appetizing he backed off. Cai E ordered Tang Jiyao to divert his forces and march into Sichuan.

    However Tang Jiyao complained that in order to comply he had to take a route through Guizhou and this resulted in his army being chased by revolutionary forces. Well that's one way of stating the story, the other is Tang Jiyao simply sought to conquer Guizhou. Regardless, Liu Xianshi helped Tang Jiyao launch a successful coup against the current Guizhou Junta. Thus Tang Jiyao became the military governor of Guizhou on March 4th of 1912 and Yuan Shikai recognized this a few months later. For his role, Liu Xianshi was appointed Minister of War. Tang Jiyao did what all decent dictators do, he massacred all revolutionary forces he could catch in the province. While Tang Jiyao was at the head, Liu Xianshi used his new political power to begin placing family members in prominent positions. In the meantime Tang Jiyao treated Guizhou like a fiefdom, forbidding modernization efforts and prevented any development of the KMT.

    It goes without saying Tang Jiyao was not beloved in Guizhou. In November of 1913, Cai E was placed under house arrest and stripped of his rank, so Tang Jiyao ran back to Yunnan to grab his position as governor. This left the mantle of Guizhou to fall into the hands of Liu Xianshi. When Yuan Shikai declared himself Emperor, Liu Xianshi initially kept Guizhou neutral, but as the situation looked more and more dire for Yuan Shikai, he bandwagoned and declared independence on January 27th, 1916. Liu Xianshi sent forces to fight in the National Protection War, then after Yuan Shikai’s death, the Beiyang government appointed Liu Xianshi as the military governor over Guizhou. From there Liu Xianshi had pretty much dictatorial power and he soon went to work forming his own Guizhou clique. To make matters even more complicated, within the Guizhou clique were the Xingyi clique, of the Liu family because they came from Xingyi and the Tongzi clique led by Zhou Xicheng. Basically two families and others fought for dominance, leading to a cycle of assassinations followed by seizure of power.

    Now we come to the Old and New Guangxi Cliques. The Old Guangxi Clique came about after Governor Chen Bingkun declared Guangxi independ during the Wuchang uprising. After the rebellion, Yuan Shikai installed Lu Rongting as the military governor of Guangxi and during the second revolution Lu remained loyal. Yet when Yuan Shikai went Walrus emperor mode, Lu bandwagoned with Cai E and Tang Jiyao. Meanwhile Long Jiguang proclaimed Guangdong independent and after Yuan Shikai’s death, Guangxi and Guangdong found themselves at war. The war largely came about when Dr Sun Yat-Sen split from the Guangzhou government, he dispatched a subordinate, Chen Jiongming to seize Guangzhou and effectively get rid of the Guangxi warlords. Both Long Jiguang and Chen Jiongming were KMT loyalists, thus this led Lu Rongting into a bitter war with Guangdong and even Yunnan got involved, and the whole mess saw the Old Guangxi clique beaten severely. Again I don’t want to tell to much as it will be covered in future podcasts, but a hell of a mess, lot of backstabbing.

    After the Guangxi-Guangdong wars, yes plural, Li Zongren, Bai Chongxi and Huang Shaohong formed the New Guangxi clique alongside a brand new Guangxi Army. Li Zongren was its commander in chief, Huang Shaohong deputy commander and Bai Chongxi chief of staff. They all worked together to kick Guangdong forces out of Guangxi and Li Zongren emerged the military governor over Guangxi. The New Guangxi clique came about during the formation of a new coalition I can’t get into here. While both the old and new Guangxi cliques were on the smaller side, they would take part in the reunification of China.

    Next, although we spoke already a bit about them was the Guangdong Clique. Long Jiguang would die in 1918 leaving the mantle to fall onto Chen Jiongming. Cheng Jiongming had joined the Tongmenghui in 1906 and participated in a coup attempt in 1910 in Guangzhou. During the Xinhai revolution Chen Jiongming was part of another uprising in Guangzhou. After this Chen Jiongming received the post as commander in chief of the Guangdong Army and fought for the KMT. He did however butt heads with Dr Sun Yat-Sen, particularly over the direction of reform the KMT should take. Dr Sun Yat-Sen sought to unify China by force and institute change through a centralized government based on a one party system. Chen Jiongming sought a multiparty federalist system with Guangdong being the model province and hoped for a peaceful reunification of China. There would be a split between the two men and it would be quite violent. The Guangdong clique like the old and new Guangxi clique was again a small part of something bigger cooking in the south.

    The next is the Sichuan Clique which consisted of a loose group of smaller warlords each with their own regions within Sichuan. Each had their own defensive zone, with their own police, political and economic bases. There were not many large conflicts, it mostly came down to coalitions dismantling a disgruntled warlord. As I already mentioned, Yunnan invaded Sichuan during the Yuan Shikai days, and the local Sichuan warlords initially welcomed the Yunnanese, siding with them to declare independence. But as you can imagine, the Yunnanese soon were seen as overbearing and a lot of soured feelings erupted. This was only further soured when troops from Guizhou came into Sichuan. In 1916, the Sichuan troops were led by General Liu Cunhou who quickly established a ceasefire with the Guizhou and Yunnanese forces.

    Because of her geography, Sichuan was always relatively isolated from the rest of China, thus she turned inwards instead of outwards. For the majority of the warlord period Sichuan was split into half a dozen districts under military rule. During the late 1920s even into the 1930’s 5 Sichuan warlords dominated the scene, Yang Sen, Liu Wenhui, Deng Xihou, Tian Songyao and Liu Xiang. Neither had enough power to take all the others on, thus there was a real balance of power at play. In a true game of thrones like fashion, the Sichuan scene was that of warlords forming secret alliance, pitting one against another, but no one ever truly dominated the province. Of the 5 Sichuan warlords, Liu Xiang would be the most influential. Liu Xiang dominated Chongqing and its surrounding areas. His territory straddled the Yangtze River, thus rich in maritime trade, in essence he wielded significant control over Sichuan’s economy. By the 1930’s Sichuan was ruled by Liu Xiang in the east; Liu Cunhou in the northeast adjoining Shaanxi; Tian Songyao in the north adjoining Gansu; Deng Xihou in the northwest adjoining Qinghai and Liu Wenhui in the southwest adjoining Xikang and Yunnan. Within a small central enclave was also Yang Sen.

    After Yuan Shikai’s death the province fell into quite a lot of disorder. All the district governors fought each other and quite often at that, but they rarely ever crossed the Sichuan border. The common people of Sichuan lived in despair and fear nicknamed their warlords as Rotten Melons or Crystal Monkey’s. Liu Xiang was born in 1889 to a modest family, received a decent education and joined the military. He rose quickly and saw a lot of warfare. By 1926 he had established a strong base in Chongqing and he held onto it until his death. Now the standard troops of Sichuan were lesser than other parts of China. The Sichuan armies were funded largely by taxes levied on grain, salt and opium. Holding Chongqing along the Yangtze, Liu Xiang had an enormous economic base and thus managed to enrich himself and funded a large army. He enforced strict military discipline, though he was known to turn a blind eye to his officers' rackets. Despite this Liu Xiang’s army had a lot of problems facing bandits in the rural areas.

    One of the other Sichuan Warlords, Yang Sen was quite flamboyant. His nickname was rat face because he had a small mouth. Yang Sen had a small enclave, but it consisted of Chengdu which he tried to clean up. He paved streets with flagstone to help increase rickshaw traffic, a rather new concept for many there. Chengdu happened to have a commodity all warlords wanted, an arsenal, so Yang Sen was by no means a poor warlord. While Sichuan seemed to always be in a state of decline, Chengdu in comparison was quite opulent and luxurious.

    Now again, and I keep saying it, I don’t want to give up too much of the later stories, but Sichuan like many other southern provinces would join the Northern Expedition and help reunify China. Now despite the warlord era being technically ended in 1928 when China was reunified, in reality the warlords were around well into WW2. The Sichuan Clique would brush shoulders a lot with Chiang Kai Shek. During the Second Sino-Japanese War Liu Xiang led the Sichuan 15th Army during the battle of Shanghai and the 23rd Army Group during the battle of Nanjing. Later in 1938 he took 100,000 soldiers out of Sichuan to fight the Japanese, showcasing how far he had come as a commander as well as a warlord.

    Last there was the Hunan Warlords, a similar situation to that of Sichuan, just a lot more autonomous warlords. The first prominent Hunan Clique member was Tan Yankai, a member of the KMT who became the military governor of Hunan. Tan Yankai had connections amongst Guanxi warlords allowing him loose control over his province. He tried to arouse the people of Hunan to take active opposition to the Northern Warlords, but this prompted Duan Qirui to toss a Hunan born commander, Fu Liangzuo to come take his job. Tan Yankai was forced to take the job as civil governor while Fu became the warlord. Tan Yankai appealed to his Guangxi buddies for help. Even Tang Jiyao of Yunnan asked if he could invade Hunan to help, air quotes on help, but it never came about. Unfortunately for Tan Yankai, Hunan was right beside the Zhili Clique and thus got engulfed in the Northern wars. Hunan basically as a result of geography was stuck in the middle of bigger players and would be tossed around like a ragdoll. Tan Yankai would be backstabbed by a subordinate who favored the Zhili, then later another KMT member would simply grab up Hunan during the Northern expedition. Honestly to call Hunan a Clique is a bit of a stretch as it was more of just an area that had overlaps with other cliques all fighting for territory.

    Now that basically covers the southern cliques, theres actually more, but if I talk about them we would get lost in the weeds as they say. What is important to know going forward, the North-South divide would see two distinct theaters at play. In the North the Anhu, Zhili and Fengtian Cliques would fight for dominance over Beijing. In the South, many KMT oriented, Communist Orient and independent warlords would fight for dominance over Guangzhou, and later in history other rival southern governments. Typically the Warlord Era is taught North to South and I think that will be the case with us because its simply more cohesive. As Samuel Jackson playing Ray Arnold in Jurassic Park once said, “hold onto your butts” because the warlord Era about to begin.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    So we talked about the Northern Warlords and now the Southern Warlords. Time to put the Game of Thrones intro music on, as we are soon going to jump into a world of cutthroat backstabbing, secret alliance, little fingers and megalomaniac figures who will all fight to reunify China under their own image. As for the Chinese common people, as usual they will suffer tremendously, continuing the Century of Humiliation.

  • Last time we spoke about the Northern Warlords and their respective factions. We covered the three big names, Duan Qirui and his Anhui clique; Wu Peifu and his Zhili cliques and Zhang Zuolin and his Fengtian clique. We also went into the smaller ones like Yan Xishan’s Shanxi clique, Feng Yuxiang’s Guominjun clique, the Ma clique of the three Ma’s, Ma Bufang, Ma Hongkui and Ma Hongbin known as the Xibei San Ma “thee Ma of the northwest”; the Xinjiang clique of Yang Zengxin and we barely scratched the surface of the Manchu Resotrationist clique of Zhang Xun. There was over 100 warlords, its really difficult to pick and choose who to delve into the most. However, there were two warlords who were bitter rivals, in a comedic fashion might I add. One was hailed as the good Christian warlord, the other a devilish monster. Today we are going to tell the tales of these two figures.

    #95 Feng Yuxiang, Zhang Zongchang: the Angel and Devil

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Feng Yuxiang was born in Zhili province, today Hebei in 1882. His parents were poor, his father joined the Qing army to make ends meet. At the age of only 10 he joined the Huai Army alongside his father. He earned a uniform and food but no salary as his rank was “Fu Bing”, deputy soldier. By the age of 16 he proved himself capable and became a regular. Unlike his colleagues who gambled their money away, Feng saved his money and even used portions of it to help out soldiers in need, particularly Fu Bing’s. Because of this he became quite popular amongst his comrades. He did not gamble nor drink alcohol. In 1902 he joined Yuan Shikai’s guard units and rose through the ranks becoming a company commander. From there he was transferred to the 3rd division, a crack one of Yuan Shikai’s soon to be Beiyang Army.

    During the Xinhai Revolution Feng Yuxiang joined the Luanzhou uprising against the Qing, supporting the revolutionaries in the South. The uprising was suppressed by the Beiyang army and Feng was imprisoned by Yuan Shikai. Once Yuan Shikai stole the presidency of the Republic, Feng was released and he took back his military position while supporting Yuan Shikai’s regime. By 1914 he became a brigade commander and helped supress uprisings in Henan and Shaanxi. It was also during this year Feng Yuxiang developed a curiosity about Christianity. He converted to Christianity, being baptiszed into the Methodist Episcopal Church. When Yuan Shikai declared himself emperor, this ushered in the Anti-Yuan resistance. Feng Yuxiang helped supress anti-yuan forces of General Cai E in Sichuan, but in the process, began secrely negotiating with Cai E. He formed an agreement to “put on a show” rather than actually fight. After Yuan Shikai’s death, Feng Yuxiang was deprived command of the 16th Mixed Brigade, something he had come to see as his personal property. He managed to stay in touch with its officers who remained loyal to him personally. Now it gives away further episodes to dvevle deep into the following years, but what I will say, Feng Yuxiang played important roles in critical moments of the wars during China’s warlord Era. To be blunt, Feng Yuxiang was a real game of thrones little finger kind of guy if you get the reference. He always looked where the wind was blowing and was quick to switch sides turning the sides of one clique against another. He would found the Guominjun Clique, a sort of little borther to the Kuomintang, but its powerbase was located in the north rather than the south. Feng Yuxiang’s career as a warlord began right after Yuan Shikai’s death, but he certainly set himself apart from other warlords.

    Feng Yuxiang would receive a lot of western press for his rather, very different methodology compared to the other warlords. In a lot of ways, he was similar to a public school headmaster in England. He forbade his men from smoking tobacco or opium, from drinking alcohol and he forced them all to study the bible. He forbade prostitution, gambling and selling drugs. He quickly earned the nickname “the Christian General”. He had a reputation of baptizing his troops with fire hoses, though this has been highly contested. Indeed he was a hardcore Christian and actively promoting Christianity while showing no tolerance for other religions in China. For exmaple in 1927 when entering Henan Province he launched a cmapaign to supress Buddhism by expelling over 300,000 monastic members and confisciating hundreds of Buddhist monasteries for military purposes. In 1923 a British Protestant Missionary, Marshall Broomhall said this of him “The contrast between Cromwell's Ironsides and Charles's Cavaliers is not more striking than that which exists in China to-day between the godly and well-disciplined troops of General Feng and the normal type of man who in that land goes by the name of soldier ... While it is too much to say that there are no good soldiers in China outside of General Feng's army, it is none the less true that the people generally are as fearful of the presence of troops as of brigand bands”.

    Feng Yuxiang required his troops to take part in sports, gymastics and hardcore marches. Any illiterates were forced to learn to read and write, many were also trained in trades so they would not simply leave the army and become bandits. Feng looked at Christianity as a means of providing morale and disciplin for his army, he often told foreign missionaries 'Remember that your chief work is not to try to convert the rank and file of my army, but to use your strength in trying to get all my officers filled with the Spirit of God, for as soon as that takes place, the lowest private in the army will feel the effects of it”. Feng Yuxiangs was closely intouch with his troops often stopping to chat with them about their living conditions. He reduced corporal punishments, encouraged singing patriotic songs. One of the oddest things that I came across when I was making my Warlord Era content on the Pacific War Channel was video’s of Feng Yuxiang personally checking the fingernails of his troops. He was pretty hardcore about cleanliness, I guess “cleanliness is next to godliness”. Alright that is a lot of information about the good toe shoes Christian General Feng Yuxiang, now let me talk about Zhang Zongchang, the Dogmeat General.

    Zhang Zongchang was born in 1881 in Yi county, present day Laizhou in Shandong. He grew up in an impoverished village, his father was a trumpeter, a headshaver and a rampant alcoholic. His mother exorcized evil spirits. . . Yeah she was basically a witch, oh and she left Zhang and his dad chasing another man. The family moved to Manchuria when Zhang was in his teens and he immediately got involved in petty crime around Harbin. Zhang would work as a pickpocket, bouncer, prospector and bandit throughout his life. He ended up doing some work as a laborer in Siberia amongst the Russians, picking up some Russian in the process, something that would really help his career out later. He then became a Honghuzi bandit roaming the Manchurian countryside when the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 hit. During the war he served as a Imperial Russian Army auxiliary, interestingly enough his future boss who was also a Honghuzi did the same for the Japanese. After the war he went back to his Honghuzi lifestyle, becoming the leader of a local bandit gang.

    During the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, Zhang was leading his Honghuzi as a sort of revolutionary desperados gang. He then went to Jiangsu and joined the Green Standard Army where he impressed his commander officer Cheng Dechuan so much so he made Zhang his successor…or Zhang threatened the guy who knows. Thus for a little while Zhang was leading a small cavalry detachment under the Division commander Leng Yuqin, battling Honghuzi groups. During the second revolution of 1913, Zhang became the divisional commander when Leng died. There was an issue with his division, the revolutionary General Feng Guozhang did not like them, probably because they were criminals, so he reduced their role in the revolution to being a symbolic unit. Zhang responded to this by murdering the revolutionary Chen Qimei in Shanghai in 1916, proving his loyalty and reliability to Feng Guozhang. Feng Guozhang later became vice president of the new Republic, appointing Zhang as the commander of his personal guard. As China’s Warlord Era began in 1918, Zhang like every other big guy, looked for the best strongman to follow. In 1922 he turned his attention to a new rising star, the tiger of manchuria, Zhang Zuolin.

    There is a famous story, that Zhang Zuolin was celebrating his birthday in 1922, seeing countless people showering him with gifts trying to earn his favor. Zhang Zongchang apparently sent him two empty coolie baskets and did not show up in person. Zhang Zuolin was baffled by this at first, until he realized the empty baskets implied Zhang Zongchang was a man willing to shoulder any heavy responsibilities that Zhang Zuolin would entrust to him. This apparently worked like a charm as Zhang Zongchang was rewarded a position within his army.

    Zhang Zongchang’s time in Siberia and work under the Russians during the Russo-Japanese war paid off as he managed to secure White Russian Mercenaries. These were refugee veterans of the Russian Civil War who had been straddling the Manchurian/Soviet borders. Zhang hired thousands of them, organizing them into units, including Cossack bodyguards. He even recruited woman on a large scale, the first Chinese general to do so. The women mostly served as nurses and one regiment was exclusively white Russian women. The white russians trained their Chinese counterparts resulting in excellent medical, a significant boost for morale and combat capability. The white russians were crucial to Zhang Zongchang’s rise as they knew how to build and operate armored trains giving the warlord a huge edge.

    Now just like with Feng Yuxiang, I don’t wanna give away future parts of the warlord era story, just know Zhang Zongchang greatly impressed Zhang Zuolin and would be rewarded military governorship over Shandong Province. As the Military governor of Shandong, this is where you hear about him being a monster. For those who don’t know, Shandong has a long spanning history of being where trouble starts in China. Zhang's mismanagement of Shandong was legendary, to call it one of Shandong’s darkest times is an understatement. For example it is said one of his favorite hobbies was “to split melons”, that was bashing in the skulls of people with rifle butts. He also liked to hang people and their severed heads from telephone poles. He would reign over Shandong until 1928 and it was 3 very hard years for the people there. Basically he did what all corrupt officials had done historically in China, he fleeced the population of his province. He implemented excessive taxes and starved public institutions of funds. The provincial education system collapsed in 1927 and the provincial economy was stagnant as all hell, save for the black market. To fight the economic collapse he printed money as fast as it could be printed and became nearly valueless, reminds me a lot of my nation's leader today.

    Now any criticism of Zhang Zonghcang or the Fengtian governance would lead to imprisonment and resistance led to more split melons, seeing severed heads hung everywhere. For example if a newspaper criticized his regime, Zhang literally had the editors shot. Things got so bad for the peasants of Shandong, they formed a group called the Red Spear Militia, branding red-tasseled spears, but not too many firearms. These men and women were completely outgunned trying desperately to resist Zhang Zongchangs tyranny, and tyrannical it was.

    He imposed an incredible amount of taxes on the people, taxes on rice, tobacco, firewood, dogs, rickshaws, livestock, brothels, military pensions, opium pipe lighters, honestly anything that could be taxed he taxed. He once forcefully collected donations for a shrine; that shrine was a bronze statue of himself. He extorted money from banks, misappropriated his troops wages, because he was paying them in worthless printed money and gave a monopoly to the opium dealers. In fact he was the personal benefactor for drug lords and arms dealers, the black market was his chocolate factory.

    Shandong was so bad, a very young Vinegar Joseph Stilwell visited the area when he was serving as a young military attache at the US legation in Peking. He said the dead and dying littered the streets and the only thing the citizens of Shandong had to eat were crushed soya-bean cakes usually fed to pigs. There were abandoned children everywhere, carts of animals seized by warlord troops and houses literally torn down for the troops firewood. Poverty and famine was rampant.

    Now the devastation of Shandong was far removed from Zhang Zongchang however as he kept his quarters in the capital of Jinan (Capital in eastern Shandong). His HQ was described to be more like a medieval court full of extravagant entertainment. He had elaborate feasts, secured French champaign, scotch and his favorite Cuban cigars. He entertained artists, writers, entertainers, arms dealers, drug kingpins, western journalists and such. He loved to play poker with other minor warlords and they were high stakes games, sometimes he would walk away losing 30-50 thousands at a sitting. The poker games were always played with silver dollars and not the useless money he printed for his troops and the citizens of Shandong.

    One of his more famous recurring guests was Madame Wellington Koo, this was the wife of one of the most famous Chinese politicians of the age, Wellington Koo was the frontrunner at the Paris Peace conference for China. Now Mr. Wellington Koo’s wife had this to say about Zhang “Zhang Zongchang was so delightfully outrageous that he was disarming. There were many stories about him. He was called “old eighty-sin” some said he was the height of a pile of 86 dollars, other said that figure represented the length of a certain portion of his anatomy. When I visited him my Pao Pei and Chow Chow would come with me and Zhang would roar at the servants “never mind what you give Madame Koo to eat. But be sure her dogs get the very best or you’ll suffer for it”.

    Now why this guy is so famous today is of course because of his nicknames and infamous lifestyle. His most famous nickname was the “Dogmeat General”, and its said to be based on his fascination with the domino game Pai Jiu. Others say his favorite brand of tonic was known as dogmeat. And of course there was the rumor he ate a meal of black chow chow dog every day, as it was popularly believed at the time that this boosted a man’s vitality. But if you noticed the quote from Madame Wellington Koo, I think he may have been a dog lover. But the part about the man's vitality fits this guy to the core.

    He was of course known by the populace of Shandong as “Monster”, but there was also

    nicknames like “the lanky general or general with three long legs” were certainly something he publicized heavily. His nickname “old 86” referred to the length of his penis being 86 mexican silver dollars, there was also a nickname “72-cannon Zhang” referring to that length. I mean the man was 6 foot 6, people described him quote “with the physique of an elephant, the brain of a pig and the temperament of a tiger”.

    Alongside his penis propaganda, he was a legendary womanizer. Take his other nickname for example “the general of three don’t-knows”: he did not know how many women, how many troops, or how much money he had. I think that nickname fits him better than the nickname he gave himself “the Great General of Justice and Might”.

    He had a ton of concubines. The exact number of concubines he had has variously been reported between 30-50, but historians have a hard time trying to fix the numbers as Zhang himself allegedly did not know. Allegedly his concubines were from 26 different nationalities, each with her own washbowl marked with the flag of her nation. He was also said to give his concubines numbers since he could not remember their names nor speak their various languages. Many of these women he married, he was a polygamist after all. There was known to be Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Korean, Mongolians and at least one American amongst Zhang’s women.

    Zhang was semi-literate, whenever people asked where he was educated he would say “the college of the green forest” a euphemism for banditry. Despite being semi-literate Zhang Zongchang is famously known for his poetry, most notably his Poem on Bastards:

    You tell me to do this,
    He tells me to do that.
    You're all bastards,
    Go fuck your mother.

    Untitled

    They ask me how many women I have.

    To be honest, I don’t know either.

    Yesterday, a boy called me dad.

    I don’t know who his mother was.

    Praying or Rain

    The sky god is also named Zhang

    Why does he make life hard for me

    If it doesn’t rain in three days

    I’ll demolish your temple

    Then I’ll have cannons bombard your mom



    It should be noted a lot of the poetry attributed to Zhang Zongchang may have been fabricated by a political opponent named Han Fuju who took over Shandong Province after him. Zhang Zongchang despite being a brutal tyrant by all means, did reward his inner circle well, he had a lot of very loyal officers around him. Zhang Zongchang traveled with a teakwood coffin planted atop a car during his campaigns. He had this done to signify his willingness to die in combat, the old “I win or come back on a shield” idea. During of his failed campaigns, Zhang Zongchang paraded himself sitting in the coffin while smoking a cuban cigar.

    So as you can imagine, Feng Yuxiang and Zhang Zuolin were quite different characters to say the least. Yet both these men were born under very similar conditions. Both were born into poverty, both joined the military and were raised through the ranks with the help of patrons. Both became warlords leading cliques that allied themselves to larger cliques. Both men avoided silver bullets, the term silver bullet was used during this era to refer to being assassinated by a subordinate who was bribed by a rival warlord. To avoid such a fate, one had to make sure to conserve the loyalty of their officers, which both men did by very different means. Feng used Christianity like a glue to bind his soldiers together. He provided missionaries to encourage conversion. If christianity did not work, he employed nationalism. In the mid 1920’s he became very hostile to the unequal treaties that Europe and Japan plagued China with. He began indoctrinating his men with anti-imperialistic literature and ironically began brushing shoulders with the anti-religious Soviet Union. The USSR would become his main benefactor, earning him a second nickname “the red general”. Zhang Zongzhang was much more akin to other warlords at keeping silver bullets at bay. He paid his inner circle in silver, he made sure the pockets of his best men were always full. He allowed every evil corrupt thing imaginable to occur under his subordinates hands. Zhang Zongchang was a ruthless tyrannical monster who focused on his own power above all.

    Both warlords had to navigate the extremely complex alliance and rivalry system amongst the warlords. Feng Yuxiang aligned himself with the Yuan Shikai, then against Yuan Shikai, then again for Yuan Shiaki, with the Zhili clique, the Kuomintung, Communists and basically whoever looked to be winning at the time. Chiang Kai-shek said of him “the so-called Christian General was a master in the art of deception”. This was extremely true, Feng Yuxiang was a hell of a backstabber, his career actually was propelled by it. Zhang Zongchang tossed his lot in with Banditz, then Russians, then with the Fengtian Clique out of necessity, brushing shoulders with the Japanese by proxy. Zhang Zongchang really did not have any large ideology, he went with the flow as long as it benefited him. In many ways both men sort of just did what they did to empower their positions.

    The people living under their rule could not have had a more different experience. Under Feng Yuxiang, Christian beliefs were enforced, a more progressive outlook was present. He did a lot to improve the living conditions of ordinary people under his control. He promoted education heavily, healthcare, infrastructure development. He was insane about discipline and thwarting corruption. He stopped gambling, smoking, drug trafficking, prostitution, he really was a man of law and order. Zhang Zongchang was the complete opposite, it was as if he was trying to outdo the devil himself. Zhang Zongchang, ruled with an iron fist, extracting resources from the population through taxation, extortion, and forced labor, while enriching himself and his inner circle. Under Zhang the common people starved, they were pillaged, raped, abused in all manners. Zhang took away funds from education, infrastructure (unless it was a statue of himself), from anything that would benefit the people. Zhang loved to smoke cigars, drank excessively, had 50 concubines, and was literally bestfriends with the black market of China.

    Inevitably given their spheres of influence both warlords would run into each other in the 1920s. Feng Yuxiang’s powerbase was around Shanxi and Hebei while Zhang Zongchang was firmly in Shandong. These territories border another, producing frequent clashes over strategic resources, trade routes and territorial disputes. While Feng Yuxiang betrayed many cliques, he more or less stuck to the Kuomintang. At one point Feng Yuxiang even joined the Fengtian clique to only betray them. Zhang Zongchang remained loyal to the Fengtian clique, pretty much until his death. By the way his death would be at the hands of an officer who served Feng Yuxiang, so I guess Feng won in the end haha.

    Most warlords were ostentatious in their dress and lifestyle, but Feng Yuxiang was quite an exception to this. Numerous photographs show warlords sporting glittering uniforms copied from other nations. For example, Zhang Zuolin wore a large gold braid, numerous decorations, giant gleaming buckles, shoulder pads and white gloves. He had a small peaked cap suggesting he was modeling himself on a Russian Tsar. Chiang Kai-Shek favored an american style officers uniform with a high peaked cap. Many warlords liked French-styled kepis, British ww1 uniforms with sam Brown belts or helmets with enormous plumes. Pull up a picture of Zhang Zongchang and its absolutely ridiculous. He has giant shoulder pads, large medal star decorations, a giant belt, a large ribbon cross over, double golden braids, white gloves, basically he looks like hes trying to out do Zhang Zuolin. But Feng Yuxiang while a warlord wore the same plain dress as his soldiers.

    If you read contemporary or older books on the warlords, you immediately notice the authors favor Feng Yuxiang and talk about him positively, while strongly villianizing Zhang Zongchang. Put simply the propaganda wars that were going on during China’s Warlord Era were exactly that, Feng Yuxiang made sure he was presented as a good Christian General, while Zhang Zongchang really seemed to bask in being the bad boy or base General. Hell Zhang Zongchang publicized most of what was said about him himself! In the end they were two cogs in a very large machine and they played their parts. During for however long this warlord era lasts on the podcast, we will come to learn about as many of the warlords as I possibly can cover. They are colorful characters who had a profound effect on the formation of Nationalist China and the People’s republic of China.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Thus were the tales of the good Christian General Feng Yuxiang and the basest warlord, Zhang Zongchang. We will further tell the tales of their ventures in the battles of China’s Warlord Era, but in the next episode we are going to meet the Southern faction Warlords!





  • Last time we spoke about the May fourth movement of 1919 . The Xinhai Revolution of 1911 sparked the May Fourth Movement marked by nationalism, anti-imperialism, and a quest for modernization. Disillusioned with traditional values and foreign encroachments, Chinese intellectuals, students, and workers embraced Western ideals, particularly Marxism, to reform Chinese society. The movement led to the emergence of the Chinese Communist Party and a broader alliance against warlordism and Japanese imperialism. Tensions arose between reformist liberalism and revolutionary Marxism, reflecting debates over China's path to progress. Despite setbacks, the May Fourth Movement's legacy persisted, shaping China's political landscape and laying the groundwork for future revolutionary action. Its an understatement to say it was a watershed moment in modern Chinese history. But underneath it lurked a new Era, one that was to be fought and ruled by warlords.

    #94 Meet the Northern Warlords

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    How to even begin. I am staring at roughly 10 tabs of books alongside numerous scripts I had written nearly a year ago about China’s Warlord Era. I have already written an extensive series, that I also molded into a long form documentary about the Warlord Era, you can find it at the Pacific War Channel on Youtube or in audio form on all podcast platforms. However, I realize now, I really did not dig deep enough, specifically on….who exactly were the warlords? Its true, I covered their numerous battles, made jokes about them, but I did not really go deep into their backgrounds.To be honest their backgrounds are quite fascinating, they were all kooky characters. Thus I thought what better than to start off the Warlord Era by introducing some of the warlords and their cliques. But because there is literally so many warlords, I literally halfway through writing this one had to change it to just the Northern Warlords, next episode we cover the southern ones.

    After the death of Yuan Shikai China underwent a major shift from being a state-dominated civil bureaucracy overseen by a central authority to military dominated regions. These regions were dominated by the Warlords whom in the words of 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". Most of the Warlords, came from military backgrounds, having gone through the new-style military colleges of the late 19th and early 20th century with foreign instructors. Most of the warlords were extremely brutal to not just their enemies, but civilians and their own troops. They killed without a second thought their own men if they suspected insubordination. They used horrible torture tactics like suspending a victim by the neck in bamboo or wooden cages, breaking knees, slicing limbs, branding and so forth. If railway workers tried to go on strike, a Warlord would often execute a few of them to get them back to work. A British diplomat in Sichuan province witnessed two mutineers being publicly hacked to death with their hearts and livers cut out; another two were burned to death; and others had slits cut into their bodies into which were inserted burning candles before they were hacked to pieces

    Warlords had to depend on subordinate officers, thus personal loyalty was of vital importance. Many Warlords would be betrayed by their officers who were often bribed by other Warlords. During the Warlord period, there was a balance of power. For those who don’t know, the Balance of Power theory suggests states or in this case warlord regions, may secure their own survival by preventing any other state from gaining enough military power to dominate all others. So basically in Europe historically you see this with Britain, France and Spain. Two of the states would always join forces against the largest state to keep everyone in check. During the Warlord Era where there are numerous cliques with their own regional bases, the balance of power becomes quite complicated, but most books or even Youtube videos for that matter focus on 3 big ones, that we will get into soon.

    Now the Warlords entire power scheme relied on their military, thus it was a precious thing to conserve. Going to war with another Clique might increase ones sphere of influence, but it might also weaken ones military so much they become vulnerable to attacks from other Cliques. This is further complicated by all the intricacies of the 20th century, this is an age of industry, economic power, trade and so forth. Not all the Warlords held regions with the economic capacity or logistical strength to wage longterm wars, some needed decisive knockout blows. As you can imagine, theres thousands of variables at play, making it nearly impossible for any given Clique to dominate all of China. The Warlord Era played out during a time when railroads were the fastest and cheapest means of transporting troops, thus capturing railroads was of vital importance. This was also an age directly after WW1 where the armored train was king. An armored train full of artillery and machine guns could land troops and perform fire support for them in battle.

    Warlord armies consisted of common soldiers and more often than naught bandits. These grunt types had no loyalty to anyone, many joined Warlord armies as a means to an end, everyone has to eat as they say. Often a bandit became a soldier during times of war, then during times of peace they went back to banditry, it was a vicious cycle. Warlord armies were a plague upon the populations they came into contact with. They plundered, raped, took hostages for money, took women into sexual slavery, murder was rampant. Warlords often looted the countryside as a means to pay their troops. Peasants often joined a Warlord army, fought a battle, became captured by the enemy who simply enlisted them. Yes, Warlords often incorporated POW’s into their armies, a system that would bite them in the ass often. Since I am the Pacific War Channel, I have to mention, a famous figure of the Pacific War, Vinegar Joseph Stilwell went to China as an attache in the 1920’s and got to see Warlordism first hand. In 1926 he inspected a warlord unit and estimated 20% of the men were 4 foot 6, the average age was roughly 14 and many walked barefoot. Warlord armies were composed of infantry, cavalry, artillery, sometimes armor and even airforces for the lucky big guys. They were organized like any modern military with commanding officers over various units. They were composed of regular units, typically the core of a Warlords army. These were professionally trained soldiers, often equipped with modern firearms and artillery, the backbone of the army so to say. Then there were irregular militias, these were the local recruit types. They were less trained, less equipped, but like in any good army they provided numbers and numbers are a strength of its own. They could be used for garrison duties, patrolling, support roles, freeing up the regular army units. They were more prevalent in rural areas where manpower was always needed to keep control. Next there were foreign advisors and foreign mercenaries. Some Warlords hired foreign military advisors and mercenaries to bolster their strength. The advisors came from any of the great powers, but most especially Japan, Britain, France and Germany. The Russian civil war also added a ton of White Russians to the mix, some Warlords took advantage of this hiring full White Russian regiments like Zhang Zongchang.

    In 1916 China had roughly half a million soldiers, by 1922 this tripled, then it tripled again in 1924. Such manpower cost money, thus Warlords enacted large taxes to keep their armies going. One way of raising funds were specific taxes called lijin, it was a form of internal tariff, placed on the transit of goods being traded between provinces. One example of lijin was seen in Sichuan province were 27 different taxes were placed upon salt and paper going down the Yangtze river to Shanghai. It was taxes 11 different times by various warlords to the sum of 160% of its total value. Warlords also took enormous loans further complicated the economic order. Many Warlords got into the black market, stealing, cultivating and selling opium. Countless Warlords faced insane inflation situations seeing them continuously printing more and more money. As a Canadian under Justin Trudeau I have no idea what that is like, cough cough. Warlords were not all well educated, thus the illiterate Warlord of Manchuria, Zhang Zuolin when facing increasing prices obviously caused by inflation, he assumed it was the result of greedy merchants and began executing them.

    All of these money problems occurred because men and equipment were needed. Warlords bought their military arms typically from foreign nations. They purchased weapons from all sorts of nations like Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, thus there was a plethora of different weapons. For rifles, many used the domestic manufactured Hanyang 88 and Mauser, while also importing rifles like the German Mauser Gewehr 98, British Lee-Enfield, the French Chauchat rifle and Italian Carcano M1891. For handguns the most popular was the Mauser C96. For Submachine guns apparently the Bergman MP28 was a favorite, but of course the Thompson submachine gun and MP18 also were purchased. For machine guns its was the Maxim, Chauchat, Browning, Vickers, MG08, Lewis gun, Hotchkiss m1909, honestly there are too many to list. Bayonets were bought and forged en masse alongside a variety of swords and sabers, the Chinese preferred the Dao and Jian for cavalry and ceremonies. Armored cars and trucks were bought en masse, armored trains were employed by a few warlords like Zhang Zongchang. Zhang Zuolin managed to buy some Renault FT tanks in the later 1920s. All the big warlords scrambled to get their hands on WW1 tanks and aircraft, though few used these effectively in battle. In the case of aircraft they really served primarily as reconnaissance.

    Now lets talk about the Warlords and their Cliques. There were hundreds of warlords, I can’t go through them all, but what I will do is name the larger guys, and throughout the series I am sure we will keep adding more. First, the origin of the warlords is of course the father of warlords, Yuan Shikai. Yuan Shikai built up the strongest army in China, the Beiyang Army that outlasted him. Many of Yuan Shikai’s officers would become Warlords and their loyal followers made up cliques. Two officers very close to Yuan Shikai were Duan Qirui and Feng Guozhang. Both men began their military careers in the Tientsin Military academy a school established by Li Hongzhang ack in 1885. Duan Qirui’s grandfather had served in Li Hongzhangs army, thus he was very much a military son. Feng Guozhang came from a family of landowners who had fallen on hard times, he failed to obtain his second civil service degree dashing his hopes to gain a post in the civilian bureaucracy, so he turned to the military. Both Duan and Feng gained good reputations, prompting Yuan Shikai to bring them into his inner circle. Both served him faithfully during the Xinhai Revolution and were rewarded with high office positions in his new government. Duan received military governorship over Hunan and Hubei and Feng received military governorship over Jiangsu.

    When Yuan Shikai died, Li Yuanghong took the presidency, actually forced by Duan Qirui who became Premier and Feng Guozhang became Vice-President. The Beiyang government henceforth, basically served at the whim to whichever warlord held the strongest army and largest presence within Beijing at any given time. Now leaderless, the Beiyang Army broke apart, its regiments and divisions fell under the control of various warlords in northern China who claimed them for their private armies. The Warlords sought to increase their power by increasing the size of their armies. This also resulted in the creation of major factions, better known as “cliques”. Duan Qirui became the founder of the Anhui clique, it was called this because the majority of its most influential members came from Anhui, including Duan. This clique had close ties to Japan, in previous episodes I mentioned Duan Qirui’s secret Nishihara loans, this was done to bolster the cliques army. The Anhui clique organized themselves very early on and were more politically sophisticated than their rivals. The clique had a political wing known as the Anfu Club meaning “peace and happiness club”. Basically this was a group of Beijing politicians who favored Duan and tried to mold the political order his way. There was also a financial wing known as “the new communications clique” led by Cao Rulin who was a rival to Liang Shiyi’s “Old Communications clique” part of the Cantonese clique, yes this gets really confusing. The Anhui clique basically became the biggest clique at the offset and would be led by multiple figures over the years.

    There were many Beiyang officers who were not allowed into the Anhui clique. In the Beiyang Army as in any army, countless men had been overlooked for promotions by those like Duan Qirui and became bitter. These disgruntled officers who felt Duan Qirui had snubbed them gradually rallied behind Feng Guozhang forming the Zhili Clique. The Zhili Clique had its power base in Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Hubei. The Zhili clique was western oriented relying on western nations for funding and arms. Unlike the Anhui, early on the Zhili lacked strong bonds, thus they were more likely to abandon or betray another. They would be led by multiple figures, but no one would be as popular as Wu Peifu. Now as I very much know after creating my Warlord series on the Pacific War channel, I got a ton of comments about Wu Peifu, he is a fan favorite. Wu Peifu was born in Shandong and he received a traditional confucian education. Most would argue Wu Peifu was a Confucian scholar turned soldier in fact. It seems the Japanese victory over China in 1895 persuaded Wu to join the military. He enrolled in one of the new military academies at the time, the Baoding Military academy in Beijing and graduated in 1903 as a 2nd Lt in the beiyang army. Three years later he was assigned to Cao Kun’s 3rd division and this sprang a 20 year relationship between the two men. Cao Kun took Wu under his wing and would become the leader of the Zhili clique after Feng Guozhang. However, Cao Kun was heavily invested in political matters. Because of this he relied heavily on Wu Peifu to manage military affairs and this paid off big time as Wu Peifu became one of modern China’s greatest military strategists. Think Lelouche from Code Geass, if you get that reference you are a person of culture haha. Wu Peifu earned the epithet “the Jade Marshal” because of his military and intellectual prowess. He would won many battles and campaigns over rival warlords, often outmaneuvering or outwitting them. He also was very committed to maintaining integrity and order within his military. He emphasized professionalism and adhered to codes of conduct, earning a lot of respect amongst his men and China in general. To many he looked elegant and composed, resembling the qualities of Jade. He would brush shoulders with other famous Zhili clique warlords like Sun Chuanfang and Qi Xieyuan, but honestly the list is very large.

    Now if you read about the warlord Era, typically they display three large cliques in the north who influence most of the era, the Anhui clique, Zhili clique and of course the Fengtian clique. They basically form a balance of power in North China. I should also probably note, China is facing a North/South divide during the Warlord Era so you often hear the cliques called Northern faction cliques or SOuthern faction cliques. The Fengtian clique’s sphere of influence was Manchuria and thus was heavily backed by Japan. Like Wu Peifu, the founder of the Fengtian clique is also a fan favorite, his name was Zhang Zuolin, the Tiger of Manchuria. Zhang Zuolin was born in Haicheng in southern Fengtian province, modern Liaoning to a poor family. He received very little formal education, but when old enough he ran a stable at an Inn. He was a slender, kind of frail man with a droopy mustache and a soft voice. He enlisted in the military during the first sino-Japanese war learning how to be a soldier and returned to Fengtian were some say he became a Honghuzi. There is a story, most likely made up by Zhang Zuolin mind you that he was on a hunting trip when he came across a wounded Honghuzi on horseback. He killed the man, stole his horse and took his Honghuzi identity for himself. He gradually organized a small militia force to defend the locality and this became the nucleus of his personal army. Scholars are unsure whether Zhang Zuolin was ever a Honghuzi. Some claim he led a honghuzi gang, others state he was accused of being honghuzi because his local militia was not a regular military unit. During the Boxer Rebellion his gang joined the imperial army and afterwards they worked as security escorts for traveling merchants. During the Russo-Japanese war his men worked as mercenaries for the IJA. After the war he reached an arrangement with the military governor of Fengtien to have his forces become a regiment in the regular Qing army. During the Xinhai revolution as many declared independence movements in Manchuria, the pro-Manchu governor used Zhang Zuolins regiment to set up a “Manchurian People's peacekeeping council”. This was simply done to intimidate and threaten the revolutionaries, but for Zhang Zuolin’s role he was awarded the Vice Ministry of Military affairs.

    When Yuan Shikai was trying to seize the presidency from Dr Sun Yat-Sen, Zhang Zuolin supported him and received military provisions for doing so. Zhang Zuolin murdered a number of leading figures in Mukden and was promoted multiple times by the Ailing Qing dynasty. When it became obvious Yuan Shikai was going to takeover, Zhang Zuolin threw his lot in with him. After 1911 Zhang Zuolin helped quell the rebellion earning a rank of Lt-General. Then when Yuan Shikai declared himself emperor, Zhang Zuolin was one of the very few who supported him. For this Yuan Shikai promoted him to Military governor of Fengtian. In 1916 when Yuan Shikai had to put down rebellions in the southern provinces, Zhang Zuolin supported the effort, however when Duan Qirui sent a new military governor to replace him, Zhang Zuolin went to the Kwantung Army for help. With the Japanese help Zhang Zuolin got rid of the many and would retain his authority over Fengtian. When Yuan Shikai died, Zhang Zuolin was in the perfect position to become a warlord in his region. By 1919 he managed to gain the position of inspector general over all 3 provinces of Manchuria and appointed loyal subordinates all over Manchuria to make sure his control was absolute. By 1920 he was the de facto supreme leader of Manchuria and controlled the Fengtian Army. Zhang Zuolin would dominate the Fengtian Clique nearly its entire existence, only to be replaced by his son Zhang Xueliang after his death. The Fengtian clique produced many warlords, the most notorious being of course, the Dogmeat General Zhang Zongchang. I wont get into it here, but I honestly plan on doing an entire episode to cover Zhang Zongchang’s life story, its too hilarious and horrifying not to.

    The next northern warlord clique was the Shanxi clique of Yan Xishan. Yan Xishan was born in the late 19th century in Wutai county of Xinzhou, Shanxi. His family were mostly bankers and merchants, he himself worked in his fathers bank and pursued a traditional Confucian education. However economic depression in his region, prompting Yan to join a military school in Taiyuan. There he was introduced to western sciences and in 1904 he went to Japan to study at the Tokyo Shimbu Gakko, a military preparatory academy. He enlisted in the Japanese army academy and graduated in 1909. Yan studied in Japan for 5 years and was impressed by Japan’s modernization efforts. He observed much of what he could and would later use it to modernize Shanxi. Yan concluded Japan had successfully modernized largely because of its governments abilities to mobilize its populace in support of its policies and the close respectful relationship that existed in its military and civilian populations. In 1910 Yan wrote a pamphlet warning China that it was endanger of being overtaken by Japan unless it developed a form of Bushido.

    Before going to Japan, Yan had been disgusted with the wide scale corruption of Shanxi officials and believed the Qing dynasty’s hostility towards modernization and industrialization led to its downfall. While in Japan Yan met with Dr Sun Yat-Sen and joined his Tongmenghui. When Yan came back to China he was assigned divisional command of the New Army in Shanxi. Despite his post, Yan actually covertly worked to overthrow the Qing. During the Xinhai revolution Yan led a local revolutionary force to drive out the Qing loyalist troops in the province and proclaimed its independence. Yan hoped to join forces with another prominent Shanxi revolutionary named Wu Luzhen, to resist Yuan Shikai’s dominance over Northern China. However Wu Luzhen was assassinated just before Yan was elected military governor. Yan tried to resist, but Yuan Shikai’s Beiyang Army overwhelmed Shanxi. Yan only survived by withdrawing further north forming alliances with the neighboring Shaanxi province. Yan managed to avoid a military confrontation with Yuan Shikai, thus preserving his own base of power.

    Although Yan was friends with Dr Sun Yat-Sen he did not support his 1913 Second Revolution and instead got closer to Yuan Shikai. Because of this Yuan Shikai allowed him to retake his post as military governor of Shanxi. Yan used this post to build a personal army and by the time of Yuan Shikai’s death solidified his control over Shanxi. Now a little bit about Shanxi, it was one of the poorest provinces in China. Yan believed unless he modernized and revived its economy, Shanxi would simply succumb to rival warlords. As Yan watched from the sidelines in 1919, he saw his province simply could not compete with the bigger boys, thus he took up a policy of neutrality. While the warlord Era wars raged on he instead exclusively worked to modernize Shanxi, particularly developing its resource sector. Yan’s governance of Shanxi led to him being dubbed the “model governor” by foreigners. In 1918 there was a bubonic plague outbreak in northern Shanxi taking the lives of nearly 3000 people in two months. Yan dealt with this by issuing instructions on modern germ theory and plague management to his provincial officials. He told his populace the plague was caused by germs that were breathed through lungs, that the disease was incurable and the only way to thwart it was social distancing. He ordered his officials to keep infected family and friends, even entire infected communities quarantined, by threat of police if necessary. Yan also sought foreign doctors to help suppress the epidemic. When Yan was in Japan he spent time in a hospital for 3 months where he saw X-rays, microscopes and other medical equipment for the first time and it seems this greatly impressed him. The epidemic prompted Yan to modernize Shanxi’s medicine industry, funding the Research Society for advancement of Chinese Medicine in Taiyuan in 1921. The school promoted both western and chinese medicine, teaching courses in German, Japanese and English. While Yan would a isolationist for most of the warlord era, he had a large role in the end of it.

    The next northern clique is one I don’t want to talk too much about because they only come into the scene later on. There is also the fact the leader of this faction happens to be the rival to Zhang Zongchang, and I think I might make the next or in a future episode a comparison of the two because it would be funny. What you should know is the Guominjun were basically a spin off of the Kuomintang. They were more or less a branch of the Kuomintang, but located in the north. The clique was formed by Feng Yuxiang, known as the “christian general”. Again I don’t want to say too much, but this guy was funny, he used to check the fingernails of his troops before battle, no joke I’ve seen footage of it. Feng Yuxiang’s Guominjun would end up being based in northwestern Hebei province.

    The next northern clique was known as the Ma Clique or the “Three Ma’s of the northwest”. This clique goes back to our episode on the Dungan revolt. The Ma cliques traces back to the Qing General Dong Fuxiang, the same man who fought during the Dungan revolt and saved Empress Dowager Cixi during the Boxer Rebellion. He commanded Hui armies whose commanders went on to found the Ma Clique such as Ma Anliang and Ma Fuxiang. During the Xinhai revolution, Ma Anliang led 20 Hui battalions to defend the Qing dynasty by attacking Shaanxi where revolutionaries led by Zhang Fenghui sprang up. Ma Anliang failed to capture Shaanxi and when Puyi abdicated Ma agreed to join the new republic. Unlike Ma Anliang, Ma Fuxiang did not fight for the Qing, but rather the revolutionaries. Ma Fuxiang refused to join the invasion of Shaanxi and instead declared independence of Kansu from Qing control. Because of this Ma Fuxiang was rewarded military governor of Ningxia by Yuan Shikai. Ma Anliang was the founder of the Ma CLique, but died in 1918 leaving the mantle of de fact leader of Muslims in northwest China to fall to Ma Fuxiang. The Ma clique controlled Qinghai, Gangsu and Ningxia. Its three most prominent memers were Ma Bufang, Ma Hongkui and Ma Hongbin known as the Xibei San Ma “thee Ma of the northwest”. The clique would fight the Guominjun and later Xinjiang cliques during the warlord era wars.

    The next northern clique was the Xinjiang clique with their power base in Xinjiang. One thing that is unique to this clique was that some of their leaders were from outside the province. In 1907 Yunnanese Yang Zengxin was assigned governor over Xinjiang. He received support from Ma Yuanzhang, a Sufi Jahriyya Shaykh who enabled him to raise a massive Hui muslim army primarily from Jahriyya communities. Like Ma Anliang, Yang Zengxin was a manchu loyalist, neither trusted the revolutionaries. When the Xinhai revolution broke out, like Ma Anliang, Yang Zengxin fought for the Qing. After Puyi’s abdication, Yang Zengxin supported Yuan Shikai becoming emperor, simply because he believed monarchy was the best system for China. Thus Yang Zengxin invited a bunch of anti-yuan leading officials to a banquet and decapitating them. Yuan Shikai rewarded him with a first rank of count during his brief tenure as emperor. After Yuan Shikai’s death, Li Yuanhong assigned Fan Yaonan to observe Yang Zengxin to see if he could be replaced. Yang Zengxin was not a idiot, he made sure to recognize which ever faction at any given time controlled the Beiyang government to avoid any troubles. He kept his rule over Xinjiang relatively peaceful, at least in terms of Warlord Era China. When the Russian Civil War broke out he remained luke warm to the new Soviet Union, because the reality was, Xinjiang had always been economically dependent on Russia. Under his leadership Xinjiang formed a lot of deals with the Soviets independent of the Beiyang government. To complicate things, certain Ma’s like Ma Fuxiang were also members of the Xinjiang clique and held military positions under Yang Zengxin. Yang Zengxin controlled his province with an iron first, relying heavily on Hui muslims forces to keep conflict at bay. He had absolute power and had a funny habit of keeping the radio station keys on him at all times and read every message that aired on it prior, making sure to get rid of any parts he did not approve of. Because of the geographical location of Xinjiang, the clique did not have as much influence on warlord era china vs others.

    The last northern clique, is honestly not one I really consider a real clique, but then again you could say the same thing about many others. This clique would be called the “Manchu Restorationists” kind of like a Qing white lotus in some ways. They were prominent figures who simply wanted to bring back the Qing dynasty after the Xinhai Revolution. I really don’t want to tell the story just yet, because its a wild and rather comical one, but if anyone was the so-called leader of this clique it was Zhang Xun, the Pigtailed General. But I guess I have to leave you with a bit of a teaser, Zhang Xun technically overthrew the republic and ushered in a Manchu Restoration….for a few days.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    I think I covered roughly 60% of the Northern Warlords and their respective cliques. In the next episode I literally decided just now I will tell the tale of two northern warlords, one a angel and one a devil. I hope you are ready for some comedy and a bit of horror, for it will be the rivals Feng Yuxiang and Zhang Zongchang.

  • Last time we spoke about the New Culture Movement. China had seen humiliation after humiliation and her population was fed up. The leaking of secret dealings by foreign powers, Japan and members of the Chinese government alongside a weak stance at the Paris Peace Conference broke the camels back. The New Culture Movement that was brewing under these circumstances saw the Chinese public begin to question their traditions, confucianism and this feeling of always looking into the past, rather than the future. Things simply could not keep going on the way that they were. Numerous intellectuals began demanding major reforms to really modernize China. From vernacular writing systems, to the emancipation of women and egalitarian rights, the Chinese people were angry and they were soon going to demonstrate their anger towards their government. It would all start with youthful students who would change China forever.

    #93 The May Fourth Movement of 1919

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    The Xinhai Revolution of 1911 had given rise to the spirit of Chinese nationalism, demanding resistance to foreign encroachment and the elimination of domestic autocracy. While the Manchu’s were overthrown, Yuan Shikai was quick to seize the movement hostage. He silenced opposition when the Beiyang Republic was formed. Then WW1 came crashing in like a wrecking ball upon China. The Empire of Japan defeated the Germans and now occupied the Shandong Peninsula. Yuan Shikai protested this of course, but from the publics point of view not too strongly. Taking full advantage of the international situation the Japanese then imposed the twenty-one demands upon China. This was leaked to the world, enraging the Chinese populace. Though Yuan Shikai did negotiate them down into the Thirteen Demands, it was yet again another humiliation and a sign of how weak the Chinese government was. When this occurred Chinese intellectuals, students and workers were beginning to form groups and argue about what should be done. There was a sense of national survival at stake.

    In response to the Twenty-One Demands situation a boycott of Japanese goods was organized in Shanghai, and this rapidly began to spread to other cities. Yuan Shikai ordered the boycotts to seize as they spread to Yangtze port cities. Regardless the people of China still had high hopes by joining the Entente during the war, this would see China reverse her misfortunes and regain things like the Shandong Peninsula. When WW1 ended on November 11 of 1918, there was such widespread hope the national disgrace would come to an end. Chinese intellectual leaders, and leading businessmen believed the defeat of Germany had finally brought an end to the disgusting practice of secret diplomacy, foreign encroachment on their nation, militarism and the dictatorship that was pretending to be a republic. It was assumed the Shandong Peninsula lease that originally was given to the Germans, currently held by the Japanese illegally, would simply be handed back over to China. China had done a lot for the Entente war effort, she had provided hundreds of thousands of laborers at critical moments of the war, many believed, and I would say rightfully so, China earned certain demands.

    Well those hopes were torn to shreds at the Paris Peace Conference. News of the conference reached China, particularly that of Japan being awarded the Shandong Peninsula. The Chinese public found out about the secret Sino-Japanese Treaty deal that Duan Qirui had signed and that of Britain's secret double promising deal to Japan to award her the Shandong Peninsula. There were also the secret Nishihara loans that had first been signed by Yuan Shikai and were then inherited by Duan Qirui. Because of all of this on April 30th, 1919 China lost her entire case at the conference, Japan was awarded the Shandong Peninsula and on top of that, there was zero mention of when the lease would return to China. All of these developments had been followed closely by Chinese intellectuals, political leaders and businessmen who were genuinely concerned about their nation's survival.

    When the Chinese public found out, the first instinct was to demand those responsible for the terrible outcomes be brought to justice. Because of all the secret dealing and other exchanges between leading Beiyang officials in Beijing and Japan, they were the first culprits cited for the failure of China to regain her lost territories and there was a large suspicion there were Chinese individuals basically selling out their country to Japan. It had now become the general feeling of the people, foreign powers had hurt China, but also traitors within her government. Intellectual leaders and students who had been exposed to foreign ideologies were extremely disappointed.

    By the turn of the century, countless Chinese students had gone abroad studying in Japan, the United States and Europe. They encountered new ideas, and they reflected upon them, before proposing how such ideas could be used to solve China’s problems. In the last episode I spoke a lot about the intellectuals who brought these ideas to China. Hu Shih studied in the United States, Chen Duxiu studied in Japan, both men would become leaders of what will become known as the May Fourth Movement and other events later on. Both men would go very different paths, but at this point in time they both understood the dangers facing their nation and wanted to save it. It was within this time period the New Culture Movement sprang up. The leaders of the movement believed China’s traditional confucian based culture was holding her back from actually modernizing into a modern state. Many of them advocated for western ideas to modernize China. Chen Duxiu returned from Japan in 1915 where he had established the New Youth magazine, basically creating the vehicle for intellectuals to bring new ideas to the Chinese public. He was soon joined by Li Dazhao who also returned from Japan in 1916.

    When these intellectuals returned to China, they found her in a highly repressive state. Under Yuan Shikai, there were severe laws governing the press and these laws would survive him until the early 1920s. Yuan Shikai’s dictatorship charade of a republic became even worse when he proclaimed himself Emperor. 83 days of that disaster simply proved to the people of China, the same old tyrants that they had apparently overthrown in 1911 were still large and in charge. Laws restricted speech, association and the press, forcing publishers like the New Youth to constantly reiterate they were not creating political criticisms, just simply talking to the youth of the nation. Both Hu Shih and Chen Duxiu knew the most egregious problems facing China was her inability to toss the yoke of 2000 years of Confucianism. Both men believed it was necessary to destroy some of the old traditions to awaken their countrymen, particularly the Chinese youth so they could build a new modern state.

    Chen Duxiu was perhaps more inclined to want to destroy the confucian ideological bases that held up the monarchy. In 1917 his New Youth began to carry out a program calling for dramatic reforms. At first the New Youth evaluated the pro’s and con’s of vernacular writing over classical; of western science vs chinese traditional beliefs; the virtues of confucianism and so forth. The New Culture leaders began calling for a rejection of the old traditional values and adoptions of western ideals, something they colloquially called “Sai xiansheng /Mr. Science” and “De Xiansheng / Mr. Democracy” who would replace “Mr. Confucius”. Doing such things they argued would strengthen the new Chinese state. Lu Xun wrote famous essays like the Diary of a Madman and the True Story of Ah Q criticizing classical Chinese writing and confucianism. Lu Xun would soon be regarded as one of modern China’s first great writers. The effectiveness of his stories drew from a sort of anger towards Confucianism. For example with the Diary of a Madman, the narrator slowly goes insane, convinced the Chinese people around him are all cannibals. Here is a sort of translated exurb ‘It has only just dawned on me, that all these years I have been living in a place where for four thousand years human flesh has been eaten. They eat human beings, so they may eat me. I look up the history of cannibalism in a book of Chinese history, but all he finds in the book are the two phrases Confucian virtue and morality and eat people. Finally convinced that I may have eaten several pieces of my sister’s flesh unwittingly….Perhaps there are still children who haven’t eaten men? Save the Children”. Within Chinese history, cannibalism has been a powerful image of when a society has lost all of its values and morality and for Lu Xun he was basically assaulting the entire basis of the Beiyang government and their society using this metaphor. Others like Li Dazhao by 1918 began expressing support of the October Revolution in Russia and in september of 1918, a young Mao Zedong became his assistant at the Peking University Library where they organized the Marxist Research Society.

    The Twenty-One Demands had ushered anti-japanese campaigns and the New Cultural movement. Western ideas of science, democracy, criticisms of traditional chinese customs, literature, history, philosophy, religion, social and political issues were all argued over. Political and social ideas like liberalism, pragmatism, utilitarianism, anarchism, socialism, communism all the “isms” were being measured against China’s traditional culture like one of them held the answer to solve her problems. The youthful students were caught up in all of this, and they decided to hold mass demonstrations on May 7th of 1919, the fourth anniversary of Japan’s ultimatum for the Twenty-One Demands. Events however forced these students to initiate their plans 3 days earlier on the morning of May 4th. Student leaders met at Peking college of Law and Political Science. They came from 13 colleges and universities, including the University of Peking, the heart of them all. During their meetings they came up with 5 resolutions to press upon their government:

    Number 1) To oppose the granting of Shandong to the Japanese under former German concessions.

    Number 2) To draw and increase awareness of China's precarious position to the masses in China.

    Number 3) To recommend a large-scale gathering in Beijing.

    Number 4) To promote the creation of a Beijing student union.

    And Number 5) To hold a demonstration that afternoon in protest to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.

    Of the five resolutions, two had special importance: to awaken the Chinese people to the facts of foreign oppression and domestic treachery, and to create a permanent organization of Peking students. At 1:30pm on the 4th, over 3000 students gathered at Tiananmen square. They represented 13 colleges and universities in Beijing. The Beiyang Government tried to prevent their mass meeting by dispatching the Ministry of Education to Peking University at 11am, but he was unsuccessful at stopping the students. By 2pm, the students began to march while distributing leaflets along their way. They carried large placards with slogans written in French, English and Chinese. Slogans read “struggle for the sovereignty externally, get rid of the national traitors at home” “do away with the twenty-one demands” “don’t sign the treaty of versailles”. They also demanded the Japanese collaborationists Cao Rulin, Lu Zongyu and Zhang Zongxiang be brought to justice. They made their way to Beijing foreign Legation quarter, but they were blocked at the gates and refused entry. They waited over 2 hours, demanding entry into the quarter until they were told it was never going to happen. The students then headed north towards the residence of Cao Rulin, the Minister of Finance at the time. They considered him the worst of the treacherous bunch. They rushed into his residence hunting him down and the police intervened. Students were beaten up and 32 were arrested. After the arrests, martial law was enacted around the area surrounding the Legation Quarter.

    Immediately after everything had gone down, the students began to organize the intellectual leaders to support their cause. They tried to win over the public through more demonstrations, mass meetings, public lectures and so forth. The established contacts amongst the masses of less educated, illiterate peoples to try and secure support from the business sector to boycott Japanese products. Their ideals began to spread throughout all of China. Chow Tse-tung a harvard graduate had this to say about the feeling of the time. country. "The Movement's aims, soon won sympathy from the new merchants, industrialists, and urban workers, and the Peking Government was forced to compromise in its foreign and domestic policies. This victory of the new coalition facilitated the expansion of the cultural and intellectual reforms it advocated”.

    Within two months of the incident, a series of student demonstrations and strikes managed to form an alliance between students, businessmen, industrialists and workers. Though on the surface it looked like a purely student movement, the May Fourth Movement was the logical result of the efforts of the intellectual leaders of the New Culture Movement. It was the professors, teachers and writers who had inspired the youthful students to form the mass movement. They were supported wholeheartedly by the intellectual leaders and this formed a de facto alliance between reformists and revolutionaries. The New Culture Movement swelled from this alliance, drawing in people who would have been indifferent to it. Everyone began questioning the old traditional culture, it was like an ideological virus.

    Political organizations, such as the Communist Party of China developed during this time. Among the masses caught up in the movement was a young Mao Zedong who became an active member of the New People’s Study Society. At the time he was the editor of the Student Union Publication of Hunan province which promoted students cause and was critical of the Beiyang government. The weekly publication was quickly suppressed by the military governor of Hunan. This only further intensified Mao Zedong’s anti government activities and drove him further and further towards Marxism. Later in 1939, as the CCP senior leader Mao Zedong would claim the May Fourth Movement was a stage leading toward the fulfillment of the Chinese Communist Revolution “The May Fourth Movement twenty years ago marked a new stage in China's bourgeois-democratic revolution against imperialism and feudalism. The cultural reform movement which grew out of the May Fourth Movement was only one of the manifestations of this revolution. With the growth and development of new social forces in that period, a powerful camp made its appearance in the bourgeois-democratic revolution, a camp consisting of the working class, the student masses and the new national bourgeoisie. Around the time of the May Fourth Movement, hundreds of thousands of students courageously took their place in the van. In these respects the May Fourth Movement went a step beyond the Revolution of 1911”.Other prominent CCP figures would be born from the movement. In fall of 1919 at Wuchang, Lin Biao became an organizer for the Social Welfare Society and the Social Benefit Book Store. In September of 1919 a young Zhou Enlai returned from studying in France and joined the Awakening Society in Tientsin.

    Yet while I just emphasized the communist leaders that emerged, the May Fourth Movement was dominated primarily by western ideas. Liberalism, anarchism, utopian socialism and marxism gradually saw a wedge drive between them forming two competing factions. Mr. Chow Tse-Tung said of this ''The Movement, gradually became involved in politics, and the united front of new intellectuals collapsed. The liberals (reformists) lost their zeal or turned away from political activity, whereas the left wing (the revolutionary intellectuals) of the Movement took the expedient political step of allying itself with the nationalists to overthrow the warlord Peking regime . " Prior to the May Fourth Movement, marxism was not really picking up much speed amongst the intellectuals in China. Li Dazhao just a few months prior to the May fourth movement was the only real Bolshevik in China. Excluding his students, Li Dazhao’s views of the Bolshevik revolution that had recently occurred in Russia was not really taken seriously as a tool to reconstruct China, let alone the world. In January of 1919, Li Dazhao called upon the people of Asia “to rise against the European imperialist robbers, only by overthrowing the capitalist classes of the whole world”. With this he argued the oppressed peoples would do away with the injustice of the international order that allowed the great powers to continue humiliating China. In February of 1919, while everyone was anticipating the outcome of the Paris Peace Conference, Li Dazhao called it “the european division of the spoils conference”.

    Many intellectuals in China still pinned their hopes on Versailles, when the outcome came many were driven to radicalism. Many were driven to socialism and there are many reasons why it was so attractive. Many of the intellectuals saw within socialism many of the same ideals of western democracy. However many of them rejected the existing political and social order of the west…and why wouldn't they, the west was exploiting their nation and others. In many ways they viewed socialism as a sort of marriage between their nationalistic ideals and anti-imperialism. China had suffered greatly due to imperialism from the west and Japan. When they heard about the Bolshevik revolution against their tyrannical Tsarist government it was seen very much as a anti-imperialist movement. In so many ways, the May Fourth Movement of 1919 was akin to a Chinese Renaissance, certainly with its focus upon science and democracy.

    Following the May Fourth Movement came the creation of the CCP in 1921, but also the revitalization of the Kuomintang. Now this is also right smack dab in the middle of the Warlord Era. I am choosing to keep these things separated because the podcasts would just go all over the place, but beginning roughly in 1919 major Warlords would commence in this episode Game of Thrones scenario. Wars, propaganda, diplomacy, alliances, its a crazy history with numerous big figures and it will rage all the way until the Japanese invasion of 1931. We will be stuck in this period for…well I have no idea haha. On my personal channel I tried to tackle the warlord Era, it ended up being 7 episodes long, with one long format to encompass it around an hour and 47 minutes long. Even with that, I barely scratched the Warlord Era, I only tackled the most well known battles and figures, I missed countless ones, thus I am hoping in this podcast series to do a much more full job. I will admit its difficult to get good sources as a non Mandarin speaker, but during my experience researching for my youtube channel I luckily came across a lot. Not to toot my own horn, but other than literally CCTV run channels, I think I am the only person on Youtube who even tried to cover the warlord period effectively. I will give credit to a fellow Quebecois Jesse Alexander from the Great War Channel, they did do a large summarization of the Warlord Era. Anyways getting off track, I now want to finish this episode up just explaining the greater influence the May Fourth Movement would have.

    The emergence of the CCP on the political stage as a form of anti-imperialism was foreshadowed by Li Dazhao. Li Dazhao had been one of the main advocates emphasizing anti-imperialism and political action. His students were pressed to go out and influence the common people of China, from the urban cities to the rural villages. After the May Fourth Movement, Li Dazhao became a major leader and many flocked to him. Li Dazhao’s library at the Peking University where Mao Zedong was working as an assistant became the regular meeting place for student leaders. There they came under his influence. The Marxist Research Society organized by Li Dazhao sent its members across China to spread their ideals. I am no fan at all of communism, but like it or not, this is a hell of a grassroots movement that obviously would become successful in the end. Its important to learn how such mechanism came to be, how they operated and so forth.

    Li Dazhao did not have the firmest understanding of Marxism when he began championing it to China, but he ignited the flame that would turn China ultimately in the Peoples Republic of China. He offered Marxism as a sort of revolutionary ideology that would save China. He did this in a very anti-imperialistic environment, thus it was highly palatable. Chen Duxiu was also drawn to Marxism, a lot so because of the Shandong Problem. He was disgusted with what he saw as treachery on the part of the imperialistic nations and leaders within the Beiyang government. Now Chen Duxiu took up a stance of not getting political involved, that was until the May Fourth Movement. After this he quite literally jumped into the heck of it.

    Chen Duxiu was so politically active, he was arrested on June 11th of 1919 after being caught distributing leaflets across Beijing. He spent 83 days in prison, once he got out he resigned from his position as a professor at Peking University and moved to Shanghai which was becoming a Marxist hub. Numerous Chinese intellectuals became radicalized and this gradually broke the unity of the movement apart. Hu Shih for example had studied in the United States and was deeply influenced by John Dewey and thus came to represent the reformist intellectual side. Hu Shih would go on to write countless articles arguing against the adoption of “isms” and doctrines and instead to suggest it be better to study the practical social problems. Doctrines that advocated fundamental solutions to social problems, were not entirely irrelevant, but probably hindrances to their solutions according to Hu Shih. Li Dazhao once wrote a letter to Hu Shih arguing that specific social problems could not be solved without the participation of the masses, thus there was a need to instill a consciousness of society's problems as a whole, so they could relate this to their own individual problems. Li Dazhao asserted “intellectuals need to go out and work in the practical movement, which to him meant the propagation of socialist theory and its advocacy as a tool to eliminate the non-laboring bureaucratic robbers." Li Dazhao furthered this by arguing to his followers like Mao Zedong the necessity for those studying revolutionary ideals to really study the conditions of the world, so they could adapt the theory to said conditions.

    So there was kind of a battle between Hu Shih and Li Dazhao. Hu Shih advocated for solving China’s problems gradually through social reforms, while Li Dazhao wanted revolution. Now again Hu Shih was deeply influenced at the time by John Dewey, and as American Sinologist Maurice Meisner said about the debates between Hu Shih and Li Dazhao

    “"Hu Shih had formulated his ideas in terms of the American philosophical and sociological tradition . . . The philosophy and sociology of John Dewey did not need to be concerned with the structure of society as a whole because in the American social context it could be optimistically assumed that the whole world would take care of itself. Dewey's program was essentially conservative, assuming that reform would take place within the framework of existing institutions; but it was a product of a society that could afford conservatism, a society that could solve particular social problems because there already existed a viable social structure and a general consensus on the direction of social progress . . .As applied to China, Dewey's program was neither conservative nor radical but largely irrelevant. After the Revolution of 1911 China was confronted with a crisis of social, cultural and political disintegration of massive proportions. The extreme poverty and widespread illite:racy of the masses of the Chinese people and the lack of even the rudiments of responsible political authority negated the possibility of the general social consensus that Dewey's program presupposed. Because of the overwhelming social crisis within and the threat of foreign aggression from without, the very existence of the Chinese nation was in doubt at the time . . . To advocate the study of particular social problems and to call for social reform (piecemeal) was to assume that there existed or would soon arise a viable social and political structure within which problems could be and reforms implemented. This assumption was unwarranted either by the existing situation or by any realistic hopes for the immediate future. In view of the total crisis of Chinese society, Dewey's program was doomed to failure."

    The debate between the two revealed a crucial issue, the necessity of changing words into action. You can criticize Marxism on multiple grounds and rightfully so, but I don’t think anyone would disagree its not effective action wise. By its very nature Marxism enforces real action to take place. By the mid 1920’s Li Dazhao and Chen Duxiu easily looked like they would assume leadership positions in the CCP, and of course in the background was Li Dazhao’s assistant Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong was greatly influenced by the May Fourth Movement and he saw it as a great dividing line between the earlier stage of a bourgeois-democratic revolution in China and for him a later stage, the awakening of the working class in alliance with progressive bourgeoisie. As said by Mao Zedong in his essay on New Democracy:

    " China's cultural or ideological front, the period preceding the May fourth Movement and the period following it form two distinct historical periods. Before the Movement, the struggle on China's cultural front was a struggle between the new culture of the bourgeoisie and the old culture of the feudal class ... the ideology of the new learning played the revolutionary role of fighting the Chinese feudal ideology and was in the service of the bourgeois democratic revolution of the old period ... But since the May fourth Movement, things have gone differently. Since then a brand new cultural force of fresh strength has appeared in China, namely, the ideas of Communist culture guided by the Chinese Communists: · the Communist world outlook and the Communist theory of social revolution. The May fourth Movement occurred in 1919, and in 1921 the Chinese Communist Party was founded and China's labor movement actually began . . . Before the May fourth Movement, the new culture of China was a culture of the old-democratic character and a part of the capitalist cultural revolution of the world bourgeoisie. Since the May fourth Movement, it has become a culture of new-democratic character and a part of the socialist cultural revolution of the world proletariat . . . What is called new democratic culture is the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal culture of the broad masses of the people . ·· . New democratic culture is, in a word, the and anti-feudal culture of the broad masses of the people under the leadership of the world proletariat”.

    Overall the May Fourth Movement had a profound effect on the development of modern China. It convinced many Chinese intellectuals, correctly or incorrectly, the only adequate response to imperialism was revolutionary action seen in form of Communism. Yet something stood in the way of turning China into a communist nation. Warlords. Then after the Warlords were defeated, Chiang Kai-Shek emerged as the leader of the fractured nation, forced to lead the fight for China’s survival against the Empire of Japan. Yet the CCP put its head down, they worked, worked very hard and waited for the right moment. When it came, they struck, and they won.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The May fourth movement was a watershed moment for modern Chinese history. In many ways it was the great moment where two dividing forces emerged that would be embodied later in Chiang Kai-Shek’s nationalists and Mao Zedong's CCP. The fight for the future of China had begun, though it remains in the background as the age of the Warlords has come.

  • Last time we spoke about the end of WW1 and China’s bitter experience at the Paris Peace conference. Yes it WW1 brought a lot of drama to China. Yuan Shikai and later prominent figures like Duan Qirui took the poor habit of making secret deals with the Japanese that would very much bite them in the ass later in Paris. The Chinese delegation came to Paris hoping to secure major demands, most notably to solve the ongoing Shandong Problem. Instead they quite literally found out there were secret deals between China and Japan that completely hindered their war aims. To add insult to injury the western powers, notably Britain had also made secret double dealings with Japan. In the end Japan got her way, China did not, it was so embarrassing the Chinese delegation did not bother signing the Treaty of Versailles. Things could not possible get any worse eh?

    #92 The New Culture Movement

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    To say this is a big event in Modern Chinese history is certainly an understatement. I have to acknowledge over on my personal channel the Pacific War channel I made an episode on this topic. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I am very glad I tackled it. It was the first time a large portion of Chinese audience members came forward and thanked me for covering the subject. I was honestly a bit baffled, the episode picked up steam, I thought, hmmm why is this getting views, its a rather boring, non battle more political episode. Well case and point, this story is really the birth of modern China. If you go searching for books on this subject you will find so many of its impact on just about every facet of China today and even on other nations. Now there is two major subjects at play here, the May fourth movement and the New Cultural movement. I am going to do my best to try and cohesively tell this, but its a rather difficult one to be honest. For the sake of cohesion and to be blunt while writing this I just don’t think I will manage to fit both subjects into one episode, I first am going to tackle what exactly the “New Cultural Movement” was and I am guessing I will have to leave the May Fourth Movement for next episode.

    The New Cultural Movement is intertwined with the May Fourth Movement, or you could call it the progenitor. In essence it was a progressivist movement that sprang up in the 1910’s and would continue through the 1920’s criticizing traditional Chinese ideology and promoting a new culture. This new culture was influenced by new age science and modern ideals. It’s during this period you find many of China’s big scholars start speaking out and making names for themselves. Now we have been talking in length about numerous issues that hit China during the 1910’s such as WW1, Yuan Shikai’s craziness, secret deals getting leaked to the public, the Shandong Problem, the Treaty of Versailles and all of these summed up were just more and more humiliation for China. The people of China were fed up. The people of China wanted change. Now its hard to encompass all that was sought out, but there are 6 large themes of this New Cultural movement that I shall list.

    The first change the public wanted was because of their outdated writing system, they wanted a more vernacular one. Second the confucian based tradition patriarchal family model was very outdated and it was a hindrance against individual freedom and women’s rights. Third the people wanted China to be a real nation, one amongst the other nations of the world, not stuck in its Confucian model. Fourth the people wanted China to adopt a more scientific approach to things rather than the traditional confucian belief system. Fifth, the Chinese people wanted democracy human rights, all of the enlightened values other nations had. Lastly China had always been a nation who looked at the past rather than towards the future, this had to end.

    Now before we hit each of these lets summarize a bit of this time period, the environment and feeling of the day. The Qing Dynasty had fallen during the Xinhai revolution seeing the rise of Yuan Shikai. Yuan Shikai stamped down on all opposition, this included intellectuals also, many were exiled. There of course was a lot of animosity to Yuan Shikai, he was after all the guy who for a lack of better words, stole the leadership from Dr Sun Yat-Sen and he crushed the second revolution. One of these intellectual exiles found himself in Tokyo, Zhang Shizhao, there he founded a political magazine called The Tiger. The Tiger ran for about a year in 1915 and would have a significant impact on other political journals in China. The Tiger was known for probing political questions of the day, its writers often grappled with how underlying cultural values and beliefs shape politics. It inspired others to write similar magazines, notably, Chen Duxiu Now also in 1915 as we know, the Twenty-One Demands were issued, Yuan Shikai was forced to sign the Thirteen demands and all of this got leaked to the public. In 1915, Chen Duxiu founded the magazine “Jinggao qingnian” “New Youth”and he would have future intellectuals as editors of it such as Li Dazhao, Hu Shih and Lu Xun. In its first issue titled Jinggao qingnian literally translate as “letter to Youth”, it encouraged young people to “be independent and not enslaved, be progressive and not conservative, be in the forefront and not lagging behind, be internationalist and not isolationist, be practical and not rhetorical, and be scientific and not superstitious.” Chen Duxiu advocated for science and democracy, these would become rallying cries often in the form of “Mr. Democracy and Mr. Science”. This would spring forth more literature like “Xinchao” “the Renaissance” founded by the Renaissance Society in 1918 whose members included Beijing students directly inspired by Chen Duxiu, Hu Shih and Li Dazhao. The Renaissance promoted western political and social ideology, encouraging the youth of China to embrace progressive politics.

    The New Youth was by far the most influential magazine. In 1917 Chen Duxiu and Zhang Shizhao moved to Beijing University where they became acquaintances and alongside others built up a community that would usher in the New Culture Movement. At this time the intellectual powerhouses were Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing and Shanghai which had a booming publishing industry. Many scholars who would contribute to the New Culture movement would be found at Peking University such as Cai Yuanpei, who served as president of the University in 1916. Cai Yuanpei was a colleague of our old friend Li Shizeng whom both founded the Diligent Work-Frugal Study movement, sending worker-students to France. It was Cai Yuanpei who recruited those like Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao and Hu Shih. Chen Duxiu served as the dead of the School of Arts and Letters at the university; Li Dazhao became its librarian and Hu Shih helped translate and perform numerous lectures.

    These men would lead the fight for “baihua wenxue” or the Vernacular Literature Movement. Yes there’s a lot of movements in this episode. Now Baihua is a form of written Chinese based on the numerous varieties of Chinese spoken in the country vs, “classical Chinese”. This probably sounds a bit confusing, but think of it this way. Going all the way back to the Shang dynasty a process of creating Chinese characters was gradually standardized by the time of the Qin dynasty, so thats 1200 BC to 206 BC. Over the following dynasties the Chinese calligraphy is created, however what also occurs is the evolution of language. The Chinese language branched off into numerous dialects, thus all over China people are speaking different but related forms of Chinese, yet the way they write is using this “classical Chinese writing”. As you might imagine, by the time of the 20th century, the classical chinese writing is so vastly different from what people are speaking, by this time its Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, and many many more. Classical Chinese had become extremely outdated.

    Chinese intellectuals in the early 20th century were looking to reform the literary system. Two of the big proposals that came about were to simplify Chinese characters and create a Chinese writing system using the latin alphabet. Professor at Peking University, Qian Xuantong was a leading figure on the Latinization movement. Chen Dixiu on the topic of Chinese characters had said “backward, difficult to recognize, and inconvenient to write”. He blamed them for China being stuck in conservatism and having lacked modernization. There was a movement to switch to pinyin to spell out Chinese characters, for those who don’t know Pinyin is alphabetically written Chinese, aka the only way Craig is able to read most of his sources haha. The plan to formalize this never occurred, but there was a real fight for it.

    Many scholars began writing in Baihua, one of the most famous works was Lu Xun’s “A Madman’s Diary”. In essence it was a short story criticizing early 20th century Chinese society, trying to challenge its audience into conventional thinking vs traditional understanding. The story has Lu Xun’s madman seeing family and village members around him performing cannibalism which he has attributed to some confucian classics. Basically he implies China’s traditional culture was mentally cannibalistic. Building somewhat on this theme, Chen Duxiu wrote in the New Youth how Mr. Confucius needed to be replaced by Mr. Science and Mr. Democracy. Meanwhile Hu Shih argued “a dead language cannot produce a living literature”. He further argued a new written format would allow the Chinese people with less education to read texts, articles, books and so forth. It was classical Chinese that was holding the less educated back. Basically he was criticizing how scholars basically held a monopoly on information. Hu Shih was highly praised for his efforts, one man named Mao Zedong would have a lot to say about how grateful China should be to him. Mao Zedong of course was a assistant at Peking University's library at the time.

    Now alongside the battle to change the written language of China, there was a feminist movement as well. Women suffered greatly under the traditional system. Prior to the 20th century Women in China were considered essentially different from Men as you can imagine. Confucius argued that an ordered and morally correct society would refrain from the use of force. Violence and coercion were deviant and unwelcomed. Instead a correct person would aim to become “junzi” meaning gentleman or a person of integrity. For society to remain stable, it was crucial correct hierarchies were established. Servants obey masters, subjects obey rulers, children obey parents and women obey men.The association of Women with Yin and Men with Yang, two qualities considered important by Daoism, still had women occupying a lower position than men in the hierarchical order. The I Ching stated “Great Righteousness is shown in that man and woman occupy their correct places; the relative positions of Heaven and Earth”. Women of course were supposed to be submissive and obedient to men, normally forbidden to participate in politics, military and or communal aspects. The traditional Confucian led Chinese society simply valued men over women. To get into the most hardcore aspect of this, did you know China had a near 2000 year history of female infanticide? It was written by many Christian missionaries arriving in the late 16th century to China that they witnessed newborns being thrown into rivers or in the rubbish. The primary cause of this practice was poverty, shortages of food. Confucianism influenced this practice quite a bit. Male children were to work, provide and care for their elders, while females were to be married off as quickly as possible. During the 19th century “ni nu” to drown girls was widespread, because of the mass famines. Exposure to the elements, strangulation, tossing a child into a basket and casting it off were normalized. Buddhists would build these things called “baby towers” for people to dump children at. Later on in 1930, Rou Shi a famous member of the May Fourth movement would write a short story titled “A Slave-Mother” portraying how extreme poverty in rural communities led to female infanticide. Hell turn the clock even more to the 1970’s and we got the One-Child Policy where females were often aborted or abandoned. Alongside this infant girls at the age of 5 or 6 would often have the feet bound, a centuries old practice that would increase their marriageability. This hobbled them for life. When women married, their families pretty much abandoned them. Often this marriages were arranged and the new wife could expect to be at the autocratic mercy of her mother in law henceforth. If her husband died there was great social pressure for her to remain unmarried and chaste for the rest of her life. It goes without saying, suicide rates in China were the highest among young women.

    During the late 19th century the ideal woman was “xiangqi liangmu /a good wife and loving mother”. During the early 20th century the new ideal was becoming “modeng funu / modern woman”. Women wanted to pursue education and careers outside the home. Whether it was by choice or a financial necessity, Chinese women increasingly left the domestic sphere. They entered the workforce in all available forms, typically but not limited to factories, offices, and the entertainment industry. Yet the traditional social norms limited their opportunities in work, education and politics.

    Women according to the traditional system were not supposed to make speeches in the streets. But those like Liang Qichao began calling for the liberation of women, to let them be educated, allow them to participate in Chinese society. The confucian social order held the hierarchy of husband over wife, but within the New Culture Movement that criticized Confucianism and traditions, now there was a deep want for women to be seen as human beings, as independent people who should become actors in the public sphere. When those like Chen Duxiu began writing and lecturing about tossing aside the old and looking at the new, this also included women. Thus the New Culture Movement had a large aspect of gender equality and female emancipation. There was also the aspect of dress. By the 1920’s women would abandon traditional garments of embroidered hip or knee length jackets and trousers. They began wearing short jackets, skirts and the qipao, a one piece dress. Unlike the traditional women's clothing that hung loosely around the body, the Qipoa was form fitting. A women’s suffrage movement began, though it would take some time.

    So you might be seeing the theme here, the old, traditional, confucian past, was needing a new replacement. The written language needed to be updated, women needed to be more equal to men. How about the nation of China itself? The New Culture leaders wanted to see China as a nation amongst nations, not one culturally unique. They began doing what many nations did around the turn of the century, they looked outwards. They looked at foreign doctrines, particularly those that emphasized cultural criticism and were nation building. Many of these intellectuals were the lucky few who went abroad, received foreign educations. They took western and Japanese ideas, seeing what could be used to create a new model for China and her vast population. Many were enthralled by President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points and ideals of self-determination. The Xinhai revolution had ushered in a Chinese nationalist spirit which demanded resistance to foreign impositions and the elimination of domestic autocracy. They had overthrown the Manchu, now they wanted to overthrow the global powers who had been encroaching upon their nation since the mid 19th century. So many of these intellectuals had hoped with the end of the war would come an end to their national disgrace.

    The intellectuals argued China’s failure to modernize was caused by both external and internal factors. Externally, foreign powers had been encroaching upon China for decades. Foreign powers had gone to war and defeated China, forcing her to sign unequal treaties. Internally China’s economy, social system and cultural values were holding her back. This brought forward the need for a “new culture” to kick start the development of a new state. They argued China needed educational and social progress to remedy the states diplomatic weakness and endemic poverty. China’s economy, social fabric and international standing needed to be improved, and the answer was programs of public education. Yet to do so, the less educated needed to be able to read and participate, ie: vernacular writing.

    Liang Qichao was a huge influence on ideas to build China as a modern state. He created the “Xinmin Congbao / new citizen”, a biweekly journal first publishing in Yokohama Japan back in 1902. The journal covered numerous topics like politics, religion, law, economics, geography, current affairs and such. Basically Li Qichao was showing the Chinese public never before heard theories. Liang Qichao got Chinese people to think about the future of China. What did it even mean to identify as Chinese? He allowed more Chinese to look out into the world, so they could see many different paths and ideas. There were countless, Darwinism, liberalism, pragmatism, socialism all these new “isms” could be the tools to a realization of a strong and unified China. And of course there was Marxism, many Chinese laborers who went to Russia saw first hand what the Bolsheviks had accomplished. The principal of Peking University, Cai Yuanpei would resign on May 9th, 1919 causing a huge uproar. What once united all these intellectual New Culture movement types, gradually changed after the May fourth movement. Hu Shih, Cai Yuanpei and liberal minded intellectuals urged for protesting students to return to their classrooms, but those like Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao urged for more radical political action. Marxist study groups would form and with them the first meetings of the Chinese Communist Party. This is of course a story for future podcasts, but it should be noted there would be a divide amongst these intellectuals as to how China should be “modern”. Li Dazhao for example advocated for fundamental solutions, while Hu Shih criticized such thinking “calling for the study of questions, less study of isms”. Those like Chen Dixiu and Li Dazhao would quickly find followers like Mao Zedong.

    Now the overall theme here has been “toss out Confucius!” but it was not all like that. Part of the movement much like the Meiji restoration, was to usher in some new, but to incorporate the old so to not lose ones entire culture. For those of you who don’t know I began my time on youtube specifically talking about the history of Tokugawa to Showa era Japan. The Meiji restoration was an incredible all encompassing hyper modernization, that for the life of me I can’t find a comparison to. But an interesting aspect of it was the “fukko / restore antiquity”. It often goes unmentioned, but the Japanese made these enormous efforts to crop out the outside influences such as Confucianism, Buddhism and such, to find the ancient cultures of their people. This eventually led to an evolution of Shintoism, thus Japan not only wanted to adopt new ideas from the rest of the world, they wanted to find the important aspects of their own cultural history and retain it, make sure they did not lose what made them Japanese. The same can be said of China here.

    Yigupai or the “doubting antiquity school” was a group of scholars who applied a critical historiographical approach to Chinese historical sources. They took their ancient texts and really analyzed them to see what was truly authentic, what should be kept. Hu Shih initiated the movement. He had studied abroad and was deeply influenced by western thinking and argued at Peking University that all Chinese written history prior to the Eastern Zhou, that is the second half of the Zhou dynasty needed to be carefully dissected. Many were concerned with the authenticity of pre-Qin texts and began questioning the writers of past dynasties. There was also Gu Jiegang who formed the “Gushibian / Debates on Ancient history” movement and published magazines of the same name. Later in 1922 there was the Critical Review Journal, involving numerous historians.

    Their work dismantled many beliefs or at minimum cast some doubt on ancient textual writings that had been around for millennia. For example there was the belief Yu the Great or Yu the Engineer who was the first to make real flood control efforts during the Xia Dynasty was an animal or deity figure. There was the notion of peaceful transition of power seen from the Yao to Shun dynasties, but the group found evidence this was all concocted by philosophers of the Zhou dynasty simply to support their political philosophy. They were basically detectives finding the bullshit in their ancient history and this had a profound effect on the current day thinking. The doubting antiquity group’s proved the history of China had been created iteratively. Ancient texts had been repeatedly edited, reorganized, hell many had fabricated things to make ends meet for themselves, you could not take their word at face value. They argued all of the supernatural attributes of historical figures had to be questioned, a lot of it was not possible and thus not authentic versions of their history. But the group also were victims of their own criticisms. Many of them would criticize parts of antiquity history simply to get rid of things they didn't like or that got in the way of current day issues. There was also another element to the doubting antiquity movement. Students were pushed to look over things in ancient Chinese history, chinese folklore that Confucian schools dismissed or ignored.

    Within the background of the Twenty-One Demands, the Sino-Japanese Treaty, the double promising of Britain and other secret deals made over the future of China had angered her people greatly. The common people of China did not feel represented nor heard at all. Japan was encroaching upon them in Manchuria and now Shandong. Their leadership were either making secret deals to secure their own objectives, or they were completely powerless to other nations and crumbling, such as the case at Versailles. With so many students and laborers going abroad witnessing the civilizations of other nations in the west and Japan, they yearned for the things those people had. Democratic and egalitarian values were at the very forefront of the New Culture Movement. Western science, democracy, bills of rights, racial equality, equality of opportunity, opportunity to venture into politics, the list can go on, these were things alien to China. The people began to enchant the masses with such ideas, while simultaneously criticizing traditional Chinese ethics, her customs, literature, history, philosophy, religion, social and political institutions and such. Liberalism, pragmatism, utilitarianism, anarchism, socialism, communism were thrown around like yardsticks so the people could measure China’s traditional culture against them. How did such “isms” match up? Within the current crisis in China which one of these isms might benefit them the most?

    Overall the movement kept up the greatest theme of needing to look forward. China had always looked to the past. They had suffered so immensely, they were after all enduring the century of humiliation as it would famously become known. It was humiliation after humiliation. How could they change so the past would stop haunting them? Things like the Boxer Protocol, how could China rid itself of these humiliating indemnity payments? Britain's Opium had ushered in a poison that still plagued them, how could they finally rid China of it? The war and encroachment of nations like Britain, Russia and Japan, how could they stop them from continuing these actions? China could not stay the way she was anymore, she had to change. Thus overall within every facet of the movement's ideology, they kept emphasizing to stop looking in the past for answers for today. Today would require looking abroad and within and it would not be easy.

    This episode and I do apologize it must be all over the place for you, encompasses a lot of the thoughts and feelings, but its part of a great event known as the May Fourth movement of 1919. China is basically for the first time really going to try and adopt fundamental changes, to become a real modern state. If it were not for lets say, the descent into warlordism, perhaps the Chinese Republican dream could have been started in 1919. Regardless, China will see an incredible amount of change in a short amount of time.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The New Culture Movement saw numerous intellectuals rise up and challenge the prevailing social and political order of their nation. They tried to give the public new answers to old questions, and above all else hope. Hope for a better tomorrow. It was to be a arduous journey, but students would be the vanguard into a new age for China.

  • Last time we spoke about the Twenty-One Demands and the rise of the Walrus Emperor, Yuan Shikai. Japan certainly had their work cut out for them during WW1. Seizing upon every possible opportunity Japan occupied Shandong province after the siege of Tsingtao and forced China to accept the unbelievable twenty-one demands. Yuan Shikai tried to stall and negotiate, eventually reaching thirteen demands, but yet again China was served a terrible humiliation that even became a national day henceforth. Then Yuan Shikai completely, organically, not fault of his own because the Hongxian emperor over a new dynasty. The new monarchy of China lasted a solid 83 days, before Yuan Shikai was forced to abdicate lest every single province declare their independence. All of this was occurring during the vacuum of WW1, which was still raging on. Yuan Shikai was back to being president, over a fractured nation.

    #91 China & the Treaty of Versailles

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Yuan Shikai’s short-lived monarchy did not end China’s national crisis. When he abdicated, you would assume this would have eased tensions a bit, but then the people of China found out Yuan Shikai was going to stay on as president. The people were livid. As you can imagine, the calls for his abdication were followed up by calls for him to step down as president. In early April of 1916 Cai E, speaking on behalf of Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi put forward 6 demands to solve the crisis. 1) Yuan Shikai had to step down and go into exile 2) his stooges, 13 principal monarchist supports were to be executed 3) Yuan Shikai’s vast property was to be confiscated 4) Yuan Shikai’s descendants were to be stripped of citizenship. Apparently Yuan Shikai ignored these demands off the bat, prompting Cai E to add 5) Yuan Shikai would be charged with treason and punished by law passed by Congress.

    In April and May of 1916, more provinces declared independence, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Hunan. Their provincial leaders, many of whom were Yuan Shikai loyalists like Chen Yi of Sichuan or Tang Xiangming of Hunan labeled him an illegal leader, condemned him as a villain and severed their ties to him. Talk about choosing your friends wisely eh? Thus by May of 1916 most of southern china was independent, waiting for Yuan Shikai to step down, and most likely it would be Li Yuanhong who would take the presidency. Dr Sun Yat-Sen did not play a significant role in this anti-Yuan Shikai movement. He did make grand speeches, in April of 1916 for example he said “only after the principal culprit Yuan is exterminated could the constitution be restored and the republic be revived. If Yuan continues to rule, the country cannot be preserved. All Chinese must annihilate the evil thoroughly and never be tolerant towards Yuan, for only after the national thief is wiped out could the republic attain peace.” A barrage of telegrams, letters and personal envoys showed up to Yuan Shikai’s offices asking him to step down.

    Yuan Shikai’s initial reaction was simply to try and suppress his challengers. On April 1st he proposed conditions to Cai E for solving the “crisis”, these were, repealing provincial independence, returning administrative order, disbanding new military units and halting conflicts. Meanwhile Yuan sent secret telegrams to his military commanders at the frontlines ordering the annihilation of the rebels. These men working under him basically had to go with it, his fortune was theirs as they say. But as we have seen, the battles were not going well for him. While he had the best army in China, he could not stand alone against everyone else. Thus he began talking to his closest officials about leaving politics. He also began talking about who would pick up after him. His successor would need to be capable of controlling his northern army, to coordinate his network of military leaders and address the current nations financial issues.

    Yuan Shikai also began screaming and lashing out at those who were once close to him and betrayed him. Such men Chen Yi in Sichuan, Tang Xiangming in Hunan, but above all, Feng Guozhang made him most bitter. As Yuan Shikai thought over his retirement plans, his enemies did not let up at all. Liang Qichao set up the “Junwuyuan”, Military Affairs Council in Zhaoqing, Guangdong on May 8th, 1916. This was a rival government to the Beiyang republic, who began issuing proclamations and coordinated with rebel provincial leaders. The council supported Li Yuanhong as president and according to Liang Qichao’s speeches to the public “the existing national crisis was single-handedly created by Yuan. If Yuan remains in office, the country will confront upheavals and tumult continuously. Once Yuan departs from politics, all military conflicts will immediately vanish.” Yet again China was seeing a north and south governmental divide.

    According to Yuan Shikai’s daughter, Yuan Jingxue, his health deteriorated in early 1916 and he suffered from major depression. Now Yuan Shikai was certainly not a physically healthy guy, again the Walrus quips hold validity. He often got ill, he rarely left the presidential palace, and kept himself very isolated. I would imagine this was to thwart assassination attempts. Apparently all the men in his family lineage tended to die before 50. Regardless, his overeating probably was the main culprit. Despite all of this, he stubbornly would not step down, even while sick in bed he continued to read official documents at the bedside. By June he was quite bedridden and few came to see him, just his closest friends and colleagues Xu Shichang and Duan Qirui. Yuan Shikai was a strong believer in Chinese medicine and tried to fight off his family who emplored him to seek western medicine until he allowed the French doctor J.A Bussiere to treat him. Dr. Bussiere diagnosed him with uremia and tried to treat him, but it was not working.

    Anticipated death was at the door, Yuan Shikai called upon Xu Shichang, Duan Qirui and Wang Shizhen to his bedside where he handed over his last will. He told them he bitterly regretted the monarchy move and blamed everyone for misleading him, what a mensch. Now he trusted these 3 men to care for his family and as for his successor, he told them it clearly needed to be Li Yuanhong. He asked them to swear to him that they would submit to Li Yuanhong for the good of the nation. Then he breathed his last breath and was dead by June 6th of 1916. At the age of 56 Yuan Shikai, a colossal figure of modern Chinese history was gone.

    Now this was perhaps one of the most pivotal moments in modern Chinese history, for you see Yuan Shikai had ushered in something. Yuan Shikai from the beginning of his rule, did so with the might of his Beiyang Army. He built up this army, he modeled it a lot upon the imperial Japanese army. He had procured, some would simply say embezzled and stolen funds to make this army the best in China. His intentions can be seen as merely to solidify his power, but in the long term it was also to build a modern unified army for China. Like everyone else before him, he was tackling the issue of modernization. His process was a lot like a mafia however. He installed men loyal to him in various positions, by this point I’ve named countless of them. Many of these men were basically military-governors. They were trained to lead armies and they all had ambitions politically. There were of course those outside the Beiyang Clique as it came to be called, such as Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s Kuomintang and the provinces that all declared independence like Sichuan, Guangdong, Hunan, Guangxi, Yunnan, later on the CCP will be a player as well. He had set up this elaborate system, that we will call Warlord control, I literally just made that up. Yuan Shikai’s warlords were the baddest of the bunch and with him as the father of Warlords he at least had a firm grasp over China. However when Yuan Shikai decided to play monarch, he royally, pun intended screwed up his own system. This caused what has occurred throughout China’s history, a North-South divide. New Warlords were emerging in the south, but even Yuan Shikai’s Warlords were slowly breaking off from him. When Yuan Shikai died, while on the surface it looked like China would unify….it most certainly was not.

    Its honestly a very complex and confusing situation, known as China’s Warlord Era. On the face of it, China had the “Beiyang Government”, who at all times had a president, cabinets etc etc, but it was all a charade. In reality, the Warlords would fight another for dominance over the military forces in China, as that was what really controlled China. The Beiyang Clique would divide into other cliques, and all over China numerous Cliques and associated Warlords would come and go. But, I just wanted to tease you a bit, for coherency sake I’d like to finish China’s experience of WW1.

    After Yuan Shikai’s death, Li Yuanhong assumed the presidency on June 7th. Li Yuanhong ordered a state funeral costing half a million dollars, taken from Yuan Shikai’s associates such as Xu SHichang and Duan Qirui. In his presidential order Li Yuanhong praised Yuan Shikai for his vital role in the Xinhai revolution and for his industrious spirit, not saying a thing about the monarchy phase. The government flew the Beiyang flag at half mast. With that the anti-Yuan war was over. Liang Qichao dismantled his rival government and the anti-yuan provinces repealed their independence proclamations. All provinces recognized Li Yuanhong as president, a very good start.

    Now the historical narrative had it, that Li Yuanhong’s rise to the presidency was actually at gunpoint. After Yuan Shikai’s death, there was a sealed box with the names Xu Shichang, Li Yuanhong and Duan Qirui found in it. None of the men wanted to stick their neck out to seize the presidency. Its said Duan Qirui forced Li Yuanhong to take the job, but Li Yuanhong was very nervous about it. Why was he? The Beiyang military leaders were all northerners, Li of course was a southerner who also had been the enemy. Duan Qirui consulted his senior military colleagues who all hated the idea of Li Yuanhong being president. But Duan Qirui fought to get the unpopular man as president, because he thought he would make for an excellent puppet. Duan Qirui meanwhile maintained his current position, which was premier. For you Americans who might not be familiar with Parliamentary type systems this is how the Beiyang Government quasi worked. The National Assembly aka parliament elects a president and vice president for 5 year terms and a premier who chooses and leads a cabinet. Typically in these types of systems, the Presidency is more of a ceremonial role. Li Yuanhong’s vice president was Feng Guozhang, Yuan Shikai was rolling in his grave. Meanwhile with the provisional constitution restore, political parties were allowed back and 3 factions emerged: Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s Kuomintang; Liang Qichao’s Constitution Research Clique and Tang Hualong’s Constitution Discussions Clique.

    The first order of business for the new government was the creation of a national army. You might be thinking, err what about WW1? Well with southern China armed and dangerous still, there was a looming fear of further rebellions. There was also the enormous fear, some Beiyang general would renegade and overthrow the government. Meanwhile there was of course WW1. Last episode we talked about China sending laborers to work for France, Britain, Russia and later America. 1916 for the most part saw China providing the labor services, while trying to fix their own nation. Then on February 17th of 1917, the French cargo ship SS Athos was sunk by German U-boat U-65. The ship was carrying 900 Chinese workers on their way to France and 543 of them were killed. Premier Duan Qirui and Liang Qichao both wanted to join the war on the Entente side, seeing it as a tool to help China. President Li Yuanhong and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen both opposed the idea. Duan Qirui strong armed the issue, having China break diplomatic ties with Germany. Duan Qirui also was up to something else.

    In January of 1917, Prime Minister Terauchi of Japan sent a secret envoy who happened to be a private business man named Nishihara Kamezo. Nishihara was given the task of finding out who really controlled the current Beiyang Army, or better said, who controlled the strongest inner clique within it. That man was Duan Qirui. Nishihara had the financial backing of the current minister of finance, Shoda Kazue who also was the former president of the Joseon Bank in Korea. Together they were offering a private loan, done so through private banks to quote “help develop China”. This was absolutely not the case. They negotiated a series of 8 loans totaling 145 million yen to Duan Qirui, to assist him in maintaining his cliques military. You see like everyone else, Duan Qirui feared other northern warlord types would become stronger than his group, can’t let that happen now. To receive these loans, Japan was asking for confirmation of its claims over the former German empires concessions, ie : Kiautschou Bay in Shandong; control over the Shandong railways and some additional rights within Manchuria. All of this was to be kept hush hush, but it would not remain so. I can’t get into it too much here, it will be covered in another episode, but a Duan Qirui’s deal was leaked and it looked to the public that Duan Qirui was trying to take over China using Japanese aid. Li Yuanhong had Duan Qirui removed from his position as Duan Qirui and the majority of the Beiyang Generals ran over to Tianjin forming a sort of base of operations. Then in a rather insane twist, General Zhang Xun offered to mediate the situation between the Government and Duan and by mediate, I mean he showed up to the capital with his army literally besieging it. Yes, boy that escalated quickly, can’t get into the insane story here, again it will be told in a future episode, but Zhang Xun with German funds and arms occupied Beijing and tried to dissolve parliament in an attempt to install Puyi as emperor over the rebirthed Qing dynasty. Needless to say, Li Yuanhong freaked the hell out, reappointed Duan Qirui as premier and begged him to come save Beijing. Duan Qirui defeated the rebels and forced Li Yuanhong to resign as president so Feng Guozhang could take up the role. Duan Qirui then refused to restore parliament which will literally blow the door open to the Warlord wars, but for out story we return to the issue of WW1.

    Having already broken diplomatic ties to Germany, there was still the issue of whether or not to declare war. An intense debate was ignited involving nearly all the influential figures in China. It constituted an unprecedented movement for China. China had neer before taken an active role in a global event, one being played out very far from her borders. By participating in the war, some hoped to regain sovereign rights to Shandong. Liang Qichao criticized German militarism and said he believed Germany could not win. He also argued in order to improve China’s standing, they had to align her with the victors of the war. On the other side, Dr Sun Yat-Sen argued entering the war would alienate China from Germany. Unlike Britain, France and Russia, Germany had not inflicted as much harm to China in the past. He believed Britain and Russia were far more imperialistic and thus bigger threats. He also argued it would be a material gain at the loss of spirit, thus he wanted to see China remain neutral. Duan Qirui was frustrated as Li Yuanhong added his voice to the matter saying he also did not want to enter the war. While this argument was going on, the KMT began establishing a military government in southern China and elected Dr Sun Yat-Sen to be their generalissimo.

    Regardless, Duan Qirui took matters into his own hands and declared war on the Central Powers on August 14th. German and Austro-Hungarian concessions in Tientsin and Hankow were quickly seized. Duan Qirui hoped by entering the war, China might gain some international prestige and eliminate some unequal treaties. He alongside many others hoped to get rid of the indemnity payments, like the Boxer Protocol and to regain control over the Shandong Peninsula. Notably China continued to send laborers to help the war effort, but never sent troops. China’s actual participation in the Great War remained very minimal. It was constrained to confiscating some German ships along their coast and continuing to support the allies with labor. China tried multiple times to offer naval and military assistance, or even a token combat unit to the western front, but it never came to be. Honestly a lost opportunity. If you check out my episode on southeast asia during ww1 or my Asia during WW1 documentary, you will see nations like Thailand did send forces and profited pretty heavily from the experience.

    Germany surrendered on November 11th of 1918, and hopes were so high in China they declared a 3 day national holding. China had achieved her primary goal, being granted a seat at the Paris Peace Conference. She had been given two seats as she had not provided combat troops like other nations who had more seats. For example Japan was given 5 seats since they did provide combat troops. Now because of Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s southern government, there basically was two sets of envoys sent to Paris. The Beiyang or Northern government members and Sun Yat-Sen’s southern government members. Heading the Beiyang was Lu Zhengxiang who was accompanied by Wellington Koo, Cao Rulin, Hu Weide, Alfred Sze and some other advisors. On behalf of the southern government was Wu Chaoshu and although not an official delegate so was C.T Wang. Overall Lu Zhengxiang was the leader of China’s delegation, but Wellington Koo, sort of a master negotiator came to become the main man.

    China’s demands at the conference were territorial, economic and political. In regards to territory, the “delegation proposed the internationalization of the Manchurian railways and rivers” and for foreign treaty ports and communities to remain short-term in order for China to transition them back into her ownership for a long term strategy. In regards to politics, China wanted “the elimination of all legation guards, removal of all foreign troops stationed in China, and the abolition of extraterritorial rights”. In regards to economics, China sought to regain full sovereignty over her tariffs and railways. All together these demands would be a dramatic improvement of her international standings. It would place her on a much more equal footing with the great powers. Now for those of you less familiar with WW1, this came directly at the time of one of America’s worth presidents in my opinion, President Woodrow Wilson's 14 points. Again I will do the boring professor like thing by listing the points, but dont worry its in a summarized form:

    1. Open diplomacy without secret treaties

    2. Economic free trade on the seas during war and peace

    3. Equal trade conditions

    4. Decrease armaments among all nations

    5. Adjust colonial claims

    6. Evacuation of all Central Powers from Russia and allow it to define its own independence

    7. Belgium to be evacuated and restored

    8. Return of Alsace-Lorraine region and all French territories

    9. Readjust Italian borders

    10. Austria-Hungary to be provided an opportunity for self-determination

    11. Redraw the borders of the Balkan region creating Roumania, Serbia and Montenegro

    12. Creation of a Turkish state with guaranteed free trade in the Dardanelles

    13. Creation of an independent Polish state

    14. Creation of the League of Nations

    Given the points, such as the right of self-determination of peoples, the Chinese delegates felt pretty good about their stance. However, what would prove to be the crux between China and her goals were a series of secret agreements and treaties between the Great Powers, China and Japan. Remember Duan Qirui’s little loans? Well when China declared war on the Central Powers, this put her in alliance with Japan, as now they were both part of the Entente. Another large event had unfolded in 1917, the October revolution, seeing Russia fall to communism. The Entente declared the communist government a threat. Vice chief of the Imperial Japanese army general staff, Tanaka Giichi sought to form a military pact with China, including a military alliance against the new common enemy. In late January of 1917 Tanaka sent a message to the Japanese military attache in Beijing to form a Sino-Japanese agreement, but to try and get the Chinese to suggest the idea first.

    The Chinese obviously would be suspicious of forming any type of agreement with Japan given the Shandong situation and Japan’s encroachment into Manchuria. Japanese foreign minister Motono Ichiro offered a military cooperation similar to what the Entente were doing in France, stating if they could operate their military forces in France, why not in Manchuria. The Japanese also hinted as the possibility of just sending troops into Manchuria even if China didn't agree to it. On March 3rd, 1918 the Germans and Soviets signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, leaving some 100,000 German POW’s scattered about Siberia and this scared China quite a bit. Thus on March 8th, the Japanese government began forming plans for a Sino-Japanese agreement and informed the Chinese ambassador in Tokyo, Zhang Zongxiang about it. A team led by Major General Saito Suejiro went to Beijing to negotiate the terms of the agreement. On March 25th, Zhang Zongxiang and Minister Motono both agreed enemy forces were spreading rampantly along the Russia border, threatening the far east. Thus they agreed to a joint defense agreement. This got leaked to the public in early April and opposition in China spread dramatically. Japan pretty much made its intents with the Sino-Japanese alliance known. The alliance would allow for free movement of Japanese troops with Chinese territory, that some resources would be commandeered for the military, a bit of domestic politics would probably be interfered with also and they pretty much were going to plant pro-Japanese forces across China. On May 3rd, Tanaka Giichi visited Zhang Zongxiang and demanded an apology from the Chinese side for doubting Japans intentions and failing to ratify things. He stated if China did not agree to the alliance, the Nishihara loans would be withheld. Duan Qirui could not stomach that so negotiations recommenced on May 16th and the agreement was signed.

    The Sino-Japanese agreement consisted of 12 major articles: The second article establishes the parties of the agreement were equals,; the third article specified that the Chinese authorities must "try their best" to cooperate with the Japanese military in the relevant regions and prevent them from "experiencing any obstacles" in their operations. The fourth article specified that Japanese troops would be "entirely withdrawn" from Chinese territory at the termination of the war. The seventh article specified the placement of liaison officers in each party's military to facilitate communication between the two parties and specified that both parties must provide whatever resources are required to facilitate their joint defense. As usual, Japan demanded the negotiations be made secret, but it was leaked immediately.

    Now back to Paris, China had thus agreed to grant Japan several things and it contradicted what she sought at the peace talks. For one thing, she sought to reclaim the Shandong Peninsula. Back in 1915 Yuan Shikai’s government had signed the thirteen-demands, but Wellington Koo argued that it had been an unequal treaty imposed upon China in a moment of weakness. Wellington Koo, gave an impassioned speech about the importance of Shandong province to China, describing it as "the cradle of Chinese civilization, a Holy Land for the Chinese. It was the birth land of Confucius and Mencius. If Japan was allowed to continue its lease of the Shandong territory, then it would provide the government of Tokyo with a strategic "gateway" to all of north China”. As for the second Sino-Japanese treaty in which China agreed to allow Japan's occupation of Shandong amongst other things, well the Chinese delegation had no idea about this agreement. Yes the delegation team found out about this agreement at Paris, go figure. So yeah it was a pretty big surprise when the Japanese delegation literally read out the treaties signed with Duan Qirui et al, very embarrassing for the Chinese delegation. Then to make matters even worse the Entente powers, specifically Britain and France also acknowledged they had signed secret agreements with Japan giving her the rights to Shandong since she had entered the war to help them. You could hear the sad violin music beginning to play.

    The Chinese delegation in absolute desperation looked towards the United States for help, hoping Woodrow Wilson's right to self-determination would bend to their favor. Woodrow said Shandong should be given to Japan, probably hoping to add Japan’s favor in forming the League of Nations. The global powers then pretty much ignored the Chinese delegation. Hence forth the Chinese felt Woodrow Wilson had betrayed China, though as much as I hate to say it, it really wasn't his fault. He was simply balancing a number of secret agreements made and there were many promising Japan Shandong.

    Thus in article 156 of the Treaty of Versailles the official transfer of the Shandong peninsula was given to the Empire of Japan rather than being returned to China. China denounced this transfer stating Shandong was the birthplace of Confucious, the greatest Chinese philosopher and it would be on par to Christians conceding jerusalem. China demanded Shandong Peninsula be returned to China, an abolition of all the privileges afforded to foreign powers in China such as extraterritoriality and to cancel the thirteen demands with the Japanese government. The Western powers refused all of China’s demands and dismissed them. As a result Wellington Koo refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles in protest. Thus China was yet again humiliated. Worse, the ongoing news of what was going on at Versailles had caused probably one of the greatest movements in modern Chinese history to be unleashed back home.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    China was absolutely devastated by the treaty of versailles. Their fractured nation had been the victim of double dealings and now the Shandong problem would plague them for some years. However back home, an incredible movement was quicking up fueled by the anger of students and workers.




  • Last time we spoke about Chinese laborers during the Great War. Although China took upa stance of neutrality at the offset of WW1, there was still this enormous desire to join the Entente side. The new Republic of China wanted to get a seat at the peace table to hopefully undue some of the terrible unequal treaties. To procure that seat, China approached France, Britain, Russia and by the end of the war America to send their workers to help the war effort. On the western and eastern fronts, chinese laborers made a colossal contribution that tipped the scale of the war towards an Entente victory. On the Eastern front some Chinese fought in irregular units and under emergency circumstances even on the western front some saw combat. When the laborers came back home they brought with them new ideas that would dramatically change China. The people of China demanded change, but how would China fare by the end of the Great War?

    #90 Twenty-One Demands & the Walrus Emperor

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Taking a look back at China at the outbreak of WW1. Yuan Shikai certainly had a lot on his plate. When European nations began declaring war in late July, it brought military conflict to China. Yuan Shikai and his advisors thought over all the options laid bare before them and decided to proclaim neutrality on August 6th of 1914. As we have seen the other great powers, particularly Japan did not care. Japan besieged Tsingtao, despite China tossing protests. Yuan Shikai had little choice but to permit the Japanese military actions against Qingdao. The fighting that broke out in the Kiautschou area would constitute the only acts of war on Chinese soil during the first world war. Unfortunately the Japanese were not going to settle with just defeating the Germans. Japan had already gained a enormous sphere of influence in Manchuria after her victories in the 1st Sino-Japanese war and Russo-Japanese War. When China underwent its Xinhai revolution it became fragile, quite vulnerable and thus opened a floodgate.

    With WW1 raging on in Europe, the global powers were all too preoccupied to contest any actions in Asia, giving Japan an enormous opportunity. Japan sought to expand her commercial interests in Manchuria, but also elsewhere. After seizing Qingdao, Prime Minister Okuma Shigenobu and Foreign Minister Kato Takaai drafted the infamous Twenty-One Demands. From the Japanese perspective, Yuan Shikai’s government looked rogue, untrustworthy, they had no idea how long the thing would stand up, it might crumble at a moments notice. Their leases in south Manchuria were going to run out soon, thus they needed to extend them. Then there was the situation of Shandong province. Its always Shandong as they say. Japan was technically occupying it, having taken it from the Germans who previously held a concession over it. Being a concession, it was known Shandong would be returned to China, but now then when was an unknown variable. Japan also had some economic trade with China that made her somewhat dependent upon her. For example Yawata, Japan’s first iron and steel complex that had been financed with Chinese indemnity payments ironically, was also dependent on Chinese raw materials that had been streaming into Japan since 1901. Japan industrialists needed to firm up their commercial relations with places like the Hanyehping works in Hankou. They hoped to establish joint sino-japanese control over strategic resources. Japan also strongly sought to be the dominate power in Asia, she wanted the western powers to back off. With these things in mind, the twenty-one demands were born. And by demands they were technically more “requests”, nevertheless they amounted to substantial infractions upon Chinese sovereignty. On January 18th of 1915, Japanese ambassador Hioki Eki delivered the twenty-one demands to Yuan Shikai in a private audience. They were delivered with a warning of dire consequences if the Beiyang government were to reject them. I know it might be quite boring and rather a University professor thing to do, but I will read the demands out.

    Now the Twenty-One Demands were divided into 5 groups

    Group 1 (four demands) confirmed Japan's recent seizure of German ports and operations in Shandong Province, and expanded Japan's sphere of influence over the railways, coasts and major cities of the province.

    Group 2 (seven demands) pertained to Japan's South Manchuria Railway Zone, extending the leasehold over the territory for 99 years, and expanding Japan's sphere of influence in southern Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia, to include rights of settlement and extraterritoriality, appointment of financial and administrative officials to the government and priority for Japanese investments in those areas. Japan demanded access to Inner Mongolia for raw materials, as a manufacturing site, and as a strategic buffer against Russian encroachment in Korea.

    Group 3 (two demands) gave Japan control of the Han-Ye-Ping (Hanyang, Daye, and Pingxiang) mining and metallurgical complex in central China; it was deep in debt to Japan.

    Group 4 (one demand) barred China from giving any further coastal or island concessions to foreign powers.

    Group 5 (seven demands) was the most aggressive. China was to hire Japanese advisors who could take effective control of China's finance and police. Japan would be empowered to build three major railways, and also Buddhist temples and schools. Japan would gain effective control of Fujian, across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan, which had been ceded to Japan in 1895.

    Now Japan knew what they were asking for, particularly in group 5 were basically like asking China to become a full colony under Japanese rule. Traditional history holds the narrative that Japan simply was taking advantage of the first world war to press China for imperial gains and Yuan Shikai accepted the demands in exchange for funding and support of his future monarchical project. Yuan Shikai ever since has been vilified as a sort of traitor who negotiated a dirty deal with the Japanese. Its a bit more complicated than that however as you can imagine. Yuan Shikai was outraged when the Japanese minister came over with the demands, it was a heavy blow against him and his new government. Accordinging to US minister Paul Reinsch “Yuan was stunned, unable to speak for a long time”. When the Chinese were trying to smooth talk Yuan and his advisors they made flowery speeches about how Japan would shoulder the modernizing of China, that the demands were in the spirit of Amity, friendship and peace. Yuan Shikai remarked to this “our country would no longer be a country and our people would be slaves.” Yuan Shikai understood full well what Japan sought, but he was powerless to stop them. What he did do to try and curb some of the damage was delay the response by replacing his foreign minister Sun Baoqi with Lu Zhengxiang, whose slow and overly polite manner, greatly frustrated and pissed off the Japanese. The classic Chinese approach to diplomacy, stall stall stall. It is said Lu often spent an hour or more in courtesies like tea-drinking before getting down to business. Over 24 meetings would be held over the demands. Now the Japanese wanted all of this to be kept secret as it would hurt both nations reputations on the world stage. Yuan Shikai did not play by their rules. Instead he leaked the demands to foreign diplomats and representatives, and in turn this got leaked to the media and caused nationwide protests. Yuan Shikai hoped the protests would push the Japanese to back off. Yuan Shikai also tried to persuade foreign intervention. First he sent his Japanese adviser Argia Nagao back to Japan to prod the Genro. Then he began speaking to the Americans who were very focused on maintaining their Open Door Policy and the British who were very suspicious of Japan's intentions. Neither nation wanted to see China simply falling into Japan’s orbit. And of course Yuan Shikai tried to negotiate the demands themselves, particularly the group 5 demands which he pointed out “these items interfere with China’s internal politics and infringe on our national sovereignty. It is hard to agree.” Towards the economic demands he remarked “these demands are too broad and cannot be enforced.” Regarding Japan’s demands that China not lease islands or coastal regions to “Taguo /a third country”, Yuan Shikai wanted to change the words “Taguo” to “waiguo / foreign countries”. That change altered China’s national interests for it meant China would not allow any country, including Japan to lease or rent Chinese islands or coastal regions.

    Overall though, Yuan Shikai was very careful not to be overly aggressive for he knew full well, no one was able to help China at that moment if Japan decided to start another war. He also was playing with fire massively, for he unleashed Chinese nationalism, something that could and would get out of hand. The Chinese stalled for as long as they could, but the Japanese patience would run out on May 7th. Japanese ambassador Hioki Eki issued an ultimatum, but this time with only thirteen demands. Yuan Shikai’s government had only 2 days to accept. After months of tenacious diplomacy, the final version of the demands was quite different. The 5th group had been dropped and more other items were less harsh. Yuan Shikai was powerless he was going to have to accept the demands and he knew full well this was yet another humiliation against China and her people. The supreme state council met on the 8th, where Yuan Shikai told his officials it was a shameful and heartbreaking agony to accept the demons, but they had no choice, lest war ravage them all again. He looked at his council and stated bluntly, China needed to catch up to Japan within a decade to remedy the situation. Yuan Shikai would issue secretly on May 14th, a notice to high ranking officials throughout the country, telling them to expose Japan’s ambitions and China’s debility. He urged them to bear in mind the extreme pain of this humiliation and advised them to work hard to create a bright future to avoid the collapse of the state and the extinction of the nation. The demands were reluctantly accepted on May 9th, and henceforth May 9th was declared “a day of national humiliation” commemorated annually.

    The consequence of accepting the thirteen demands, became colloquially known as “the Shandong problem”, again its always Shandong province haha. Now at the beginning of the war China supported the Entente under certain conditions. One of those conditions was that Kiautschou Bay, the leased territory of the Shandong peninsula belonging to the Germans, would be returned to China. Something that occurred very very often during WW1, particularly on the part of Britain, was the issue of double promising. I literally made up a term I think. Britain during WW1 in an effort to secure allies or certain objectives would promise two different states or non-state actors the exact same thing after the war was done. A lot of the problems facing the middle-east today can be attributed to this. In the case of the Shandong problem, when Japan entered the war on behalf of the Entente, Britain basically promised they could keep their holdings, this of course included Shandong. We will come back to the Shandong problem as its a surprisingly long lasting one, but now I want to take quite a silly detour.

    Yuan Shikai is quite a character to say the least. He was viewed very differently at given times.Take for example the public perception of him after the Xinhai Revolution took place. Many honestly saw him as a sort of Napoleon Bonaparte like figure. Many also questioned what Yuan Shikai truly sought, did he believe in things like democracy? One author I have used during these recent podcasts, who in my opinion is a hilarious Yuan Shikai apologist tried to argue the case “Yuan Shikai did not understand what democracy was, thus that is why he did the things he did”. Now beginning around 1913, there were rumors Yuan Shikai simply sought to make himself an emperor over a new dynasty. This of course came at a time everyone was vying for power over the Republic, China was supposed to be a Republic after all, I think we all know however this was not ever a reality. Yuan Shikai certainly tried to make the case he was a Republican, that he believed in the republicanism espoused by just about all the leading figures. He also would make statements publicly espousing “I will never proclaim myself to be a monarch”. Yet as we have seen he certainly sent the wheels into motion to create a dictatorship. Yet for public appearances he kept the charade he was doing his absolute best as president and that he unwaveringly supported republicanism.

    Thus there were two major hurdles in the way, if lets say he did want to become an emperor: 1) he kept making pledges he would not do so and 2) the republican system obviously did not allow for this, there had been a revolution to stop the monarchy after all! There was little to no options if someone wanted to make themselves emperor over China…unless they made it seem like thats what the people wanted. In 1915, Yuan Shikai quasi stomped all political rivals, I say quasi because there actually were rivals literally everywhere, but for the most part he had concentrated power into his own hands. Now, the apologist author had this to say about Yuan Shikai’s sudden change of heart for the monarchy “His belief in superstition was perhaps another factor, for geomancers had told him that by establishing a monarchy he would smash his family curse, which held that men in the Yuan family would rarely live beyond their fifties. The suggestion here was that he would live long if he founded a monarchy. Also, fengshui masters had told him that his ancestral tombs had shown a blessed sign favouring imperial rule” The author then finishes by stating, its a difficult question and further inquiry should be made. That is the classic end of any scholar article, where they know full well they can’t justify what they are writing haha. According to the high ranking official Zhu Qiqian who was close to Yuan Shikai “Yuan’s monarchical movement started with Kaiser Wilhelm II telling the Chinese that monarchy would be more suitable for China”. British minister Jordan had a meeting with Yuan Shikai on OCtober 2nd of 1915, and on the topic of him becoming emperor, he simply stated “this is China’s internal affairs which should not be interfered with by any others.” American minister Reinsch basically said the same thing when asked.

    News outlets began spreading rumors Yuan Shikai was going to declare himself emperor. In June of 1915, Japanese media reported as such, but Yuan Shikai responded “nothing is more foolish than a man becoming emperor. For national salvation, I have already sacrificed myself, and I would rather not sacrifice my descendants.” Well despite this, a monarchical movement began, orchestrated by many people such as Yuan Shikai’s son Yuan Keding. Our friend from the last podcast, Liang Shiyi, now minister of communications, raised funds and organized popular petitions for Yuan to form a monarchy. Soon numerous petition groups “organically” with quotation marks, sprang up all over Beijing all claiming republicanism held too many weaknesses and that China was in a dire strait needing a strong monarchy. Petition groups sprang up in provinces urging the same thing. Beijing was filled with noisy parades, procession, petitioners ran around rampantly. Then the United Association of National Petition was founded on September 19th, 1915 in Beijing to champion monarchism. Supporters gathered in Beijing, producing this “organic” impression everyone wanted the monarchy back.

    Facing so many petitioners, Yuan Shikai decided to let the people determine the future of the national political system and by the people, I mean him. On October 8th, 1915 he approved the order that a “Canzhengyuan”, political participation council organize a “ Guomindaibiaodahui”, a national representative assembly. They would form a final ruling on the issue. The order required all the representatives had to be elected, each county had to choose one, and various ethnic groups, civil societies and overseas Chinese organizations also needed to select representatives. Yuan Shikai hoped such an arrangement would dispel any perceptions he was just appointing himself Emperor. Each county representative went to his provincial capital to cast a ballot. The political participation council in Beijing collected the ballots and announced the results. The representatives were selected and each received 500$ for travel expenses. Yuan Shikai dispatched Zhu Qiqian to secretly telegram all provincial officials to regulate the “election” air quotes.

    Yuan Shikai had all of his confidents working for this election. High ranking officials, family members, friends and so forth. On December 11, 1915 the Political Participation Council announced the results, all 1993 ballots endorsed a constitutional monarchy with Yuan Shikai as emperor. So yeah, every ballot, hrmmmm. On behalf of the representatives, the council begged Yuan Shikai to assume the throne immediately, claiming it was the will of the people. Yuan Shikai declined, arguing he had pledged to support the republic, that as the guardian of republicanism he would lose trust if he became emperor. He asked the council to find another candidate. What proceeded as you can imagine was simple theatrics. That afternoon, the council held a special meeting and decided to present a second imperial advocacy. In the advocacy were things proving Yuan Shikai was an indispensable ruler, qualified for taking the throne. His 6 great accomplishments were suppressing the Boxer Rebellion, enforcing progressive reforms, achieving a post-revolutionary conciliation, crushing the second revolution and conducting intense diplomacy with neighbors like Japan. To absolve Yuan Shikai of the guilt of violating his republican pledges the document stated “the pledge to the republic was effective only if the peoples’ will supported republicanism. If the people have switched to constitutional monarchy, the previous pledge was automatically relinquished. As the presidency does not exist anymore, the former presidential pledges naturally disappear”. And thus Yuan Shikai reluctantly, under extreme pressure issued a public order declaring his acceptance on December 13th, 1915.

    Thus Yuan Shikai became the Hongxian Emperor and began to implement imperial orders. To woo over the national elites, he created a system of noble ranks and bestowed 130 prominent individuals titles as princes, dukes, marquis, earls, viscounts and barons. His closest friends were given special appellations and exempted from imperial duties. Xu Shichang, Li Jingxi, Zhang Jian and Zhao Erxun, his closest 4 friends became the Songshansiyou “four friends of Mount Song”. Yet just as he was getting down to the work as they say, an anti-yuan movement swept the country, go figure. High ranking Beiyang generals and politicians were amongst Yuan Shikai’s, lets call them, reluctant collaborators, and some were even opponents. His monarchy turned them hostile. Many had supported him for decades and their very careers were beholden to his patronage. But the monarchy was simple incompatible with the times. Li Yuanhong, a leading figure in the Beiyang Clique who was linked to Yuan Shikai through marriage, strongly resisted the monarchy. He was the first to have the title prince bestowed upon him, but he refused and threatened to commit suicide if coerced to take it. Xu Shichang, simply resigned. Feng Guozhang, a military commander in Nanjing was very angry about the situation. Feng Guozhang came to Beijing to try and persuade Yuan Shikai to not become emperor, and Yuan Shikai promised him for months it was only rumors, he’d never do it, not Yuan come on man! Once he became emperor, Feng Guozhang felt betrayed and became quite an obstacle to Yuan Shikai. Then there was Duan Qirui another Yuan Shikai loyalist, but he concealed his anti-monarchy stance. He simply told Yuan Shikai that if he tried to become emperor, he would become a villain in chinese history. Duan Qirui was the only high ranking general not to be given a noble title rank. Instead he was given a personal chef by Yuan Shikai, and Duan Qirui made sure never to eat any food prepared by the man. All these names by the way are important figures of the Beiyang clique, cliques will become a dominating feature when we get into the warlord era. Basically the leader of the Beiyang clique, Yuan Shikai had greatly pissed off all of his followers.

    Of course Dr. Sun Yat-sen responded immediately to Yuan Shikai becoming emperor, calling for another revolution. In his words “the future of our motherland has suddenly became more darkened. The republic built by our martyrs has unexpectedly turned out to be the private possession of the Yuan family. Four hundred million compatriots wept profusely ... and see the third revolution as the best remedy for national salvation.” Dr Sun Yat-Sen portrayed Yuan Shikai as a “minzei” national thief and now the Chinese people lived in bondage. He called upon the people to fight to save the republic. Soon KMT revolutionaries began to seize county seats, first in Shandong led by Ju Zheng, then they occupied parts in Guangdong and attacked the provincial capital there. However Dr Sun Yat-Sen was not the only player in town anymore.

    There was the new Nation Army led by Cai E in Yunnan province and Liang Qichao. Liang Qichao was one of the first big voices against Yuan Shikai’s monarchial movement when they were emerging as rumors. He was also something of a sensei to Cai E, pushing him to coordinate military commanders in the southwest. Liang Qichao left northern China for Shanghai after Yuan Shikai proclaimed himself emperor and then made his way to Hong Kong, before traveling to Vietnam. From there he gradually traveled to join up with the Nation Army in March of 1916. And there he created a rival government. Then there were the liberal types, many intellectuals who had traveled abroad like Chen Duxiu. Chen Duxiu published in the New Youth an article stating “the nomenclatures of emperors and kings should have already perished after the Qing abdication edict, but unfortunately the Prepare for Peace Society led to the problem of the national political system.” Many pro-Yuan Shikai intellectuals suddenly turned against him, such as Li Dazhao. Born in Zhili, Li Dazhao had benefited from Yuan Shikai’s reforms and supported him for quite some time, but the monarchism enraged him. As Li Dazhao joined the anti-Yuan movement he declared “All those who dare to rekindle the tyrannical cinders, or reignite the monarchical flames, whether the followers of the Prepare for Peace Society or the adherents of dynastic restoration, should be regarded as traitors of the state and public enemies of citizens. Their organization should be exterminated, their books burned, their backers eradicated, and their roots removed. Their sprouts should be destroyed so that they could not grow and proliferate. Then, there will be a hope of great prospect for our country”.

    Japan, never one to let an opportunity slip by them, began communicating with Cai E, Sun Yat-sen, Liang Qichao and Beiyang generals like Feng Guozhang and Duan Qirui. Japan began training and arming them. Soon military commanders in Guangxi, Guizhou, Yunnan working in league with Liang Qichao declared war against Yuan Shikai. Zhang Xun in Xuzhou of Jiangxi province refused to fly the Beiyang republic flag and made sure his men grew long queues, expressing their loyalty to the Qing dynasty. Liang Qichao dispatched Cai E to Kunming where he met with Tang Jiyao, a local military commander to begin a rebellion. On December 24th, Yuan Shikai received a telegram from Cai E urging him to return China into a Republic and he had one day to do so, or else. Yuan Shikai rejected the order and on the 25th of December, Yunnan province declared independence, uh oh. The Nation Army consisted of 3 main forces, Cai E’s first army who marched upon Sichuan; Li Liejun’s 2nd army who marched upon Guangxi and Hunan and Tang Jiyao’s 3rd army who were held in reserve. Their goal was to occupy southern China so a Northern expedition could be launched to overthrow Yuan Shikai.

    On January 1st, 1916 they issued an proclamation, claiming Yuan Shikai had performed 20 egregious crimes and must go into exile and let China be a republic again. Within days their armies marched upon Sichuan and Guizhou. By February Guizhou declared independence. Yuan Shikai immediately went to work stripping the rebels of their official titles and ordered Cao Kun to lead a military expedition against Yunnan. Under Cao Kun was Ma Jizeng who took an army through Hunan to attack Guizhou and Yunnan. A second force was led by Zhang Jingyao through Sichuan then Yunnan. A third force led by Long Jiguang went through Guangxi and then Yunnan. There were fierce battles, one particularly rough one at Xuzhou, where Cai E’s armies seized the city in January, but lost it by March. The war was dubbed “the strange war,” because it really became “a war of tongues,”. Each side kept through accusations in telegrams, newspapers and pamphlets. Now Yuan Shikai’s Beiyang forces were superior in terms of numbers, weaponry and such, but the southerners were using terrain against them. All of the Beiyang forces were northern chinese, not used to southern climate and it proved difficult for them to acclimate. They were also not in the greatest state of morale, having to fight for the tin pot emperor as it were. As a result the Beiyang forces did not seize the quick victory they thought they would. Though one major triumph was when Feng Yuxiang took Xuzhou on March 2nd, 1916 earning himself the title of baron. For those who don't know, Feng Yuxiang would famously become known as the Christian warlord.

    Meanwhile, Guangxi declared independence on March 15th led by Lu Rongting. Looking at a brutal stalemate of a war, Feng Guozhang began secretly telegraming Yuan Shikai to give up the monarchy, not a good sign. By early 1916, all the war fronts were seeing disasters. On March 21st, Yuan Shikai convened a special meeting with his high ranking officials. He proposed abolishing the monarchy and only one diehard loyalist general, Ni Sichong said he shouldn't, the rest all said yes. The following day Yuan announced his decision to step down from being an emperor. On March 23rd, 1916 the Hongxian dynasty ended, yes he was emperor for 83 days.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    I bet some of you are wondering why I titled this the Walrus Emperor. I could not help myself, he honestly is such a goofy character and the propaganda outlets of his day drew him as this fat walrus, seriously give it a google “Yuan Shikai Walrus”. You wont be disappointed

  • Last time we spoke about the rise of Yuan Shikai, the outbreak of WW1 and the siege of Tsingtao. Yuan Shikai used every dirty little trick to seize and maintain his authority in the new republic. He forced the KMT’s hand, prompting Dr. Sun Yat-sen to usher in a second revolution, but it ultimately failed as Yuan Shikai controlled the best army in China. Simultaneously world war one broke out and this placed China in an awkward position. Multiple nations held special territorial concessions in China and now they might bring the war to her borders. China protested as much as she could, but the Empire of Japan simply did not care when they came over to lay a siege against the Germans at Tsingtao. The siege of Tsingtao saw many historical firsts and was quite brutal. After all was said and done, China was served yet another humiliation, with many more to come.

    #89 China’s forgotten role during the Great War

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Now this episode is actually going to be a bit of a side step from the chronological narrative so to say. China underwent an enormous amount of events during the course of WW1, most having to do with political relations towards the Empire of Japan. However, quite some time ago, on my personal channel, the pacific war channel, I tackled asia during WW1. I wrote a few episode looking at China, Japan, southeast asian nations, and something I found quite interesting is how China aided the Entente powers. People completely overlook this aspect of the Great War, but China and some of her southeast neighbors provided an incredible amount of manpower to both the western and eastern fronts. Stating that, I want to simply dabble into the specific subject of “what exactly did China do for the war effort?”. In the next episode we will jump into things like the twenty-one demands and the Treaty of Versailles.

    The declarations of war in Europe in late July and early August brought military conflicts immediately upon Chinese territory. On August 6th, 1914 China proclaimed her neutrality and prohibited the belligerents of WW1 from undertaking military operations upon Chinese soil. Now at the beginning it was sort of believed if not perceived the Great War was essentially a conflict between imperial powers, over their colonial possessions in a big game of world supremacy, thus China expected to remain neutral as a partially colonized country. Japan certainly did not care and began a siege against Tsingtao. China initially protested against the Japanese warfare upon her soil, but there was little Yuan Shikai could do about it. We wont get into here, but Japan certainly followed up her disrespect against China immediately after the siege of Tsingtao. Needless to say, China remained neutral for most of the war and this placed her in an interesting position. Now Yuan Shikai secretly offered British Minister John Jorden, 50,000 Chinese troops to help retake Tsingtao, but the British refused. The reason they refused was because of Japan. Japan refused to allow Chinese soldiers to fight in the war, because she was hoping to secure her authority as a powerhouse in the east. While Chinese citizens were not allowed by the Chinese government to participate in the fighting, this did not stop them from other actions

    Liang Shiyi was in charge of railways, the most profitable ministry within the government at the time and he had a grand idea. He called it “Yigong daibing” “laborers in the place of soldiers”. Now during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the idea of Chinese people going abroad to work was unprecedented. Both the Ming and Qing dynasties discouraged citizens from leaving the country and would persecute those who had. The Qing issued decrees banning emigration in 1717 and 1729, which would not be repealed until 1893. Thus when Liang Shiyi brought up the idea in 1915, it sort of showed how much China had changed in a short amount of time. He discussed his idea with Entente diplomats in early 1915. His original suggested to the British was to use military laborers, men who would carry guns, not be hired laborers. Now you might be asking, why do such a thing, what did China have to gain? If Britain accepted the proposal, it would mean China was fighting on the side of the Entente. But Britain turned Liang down in early 1915 and it is obvious as to why. Anyone who officially joined the war on either side, when the war was over would get a respected seat at the peace table, whereupon you could make demands. For a humiliated nation like China, seeing numerous global powers encroach upon her with unequal treaties, it was a no brainer getting a seat at that peace table might gain them what they wanted, to be rid of the unequal treaties, hell maybe even join the big boy club.

    Having received the no from the British as one does, Liang went to the French. Now France from the offset of WW1 was in quite a panic and the idea of acquiring new human resources looked like an amazing idea. For France particularly in the summer of 1915, such an idea might be the decisive factor to win them the war. It also just so happened France was in the processing of securing new human resources from her vast colonial empire. If you want to hear more about French Indochina and Thailand’s experience with WW1, please check out my specific episode on it, or my long format documentary on Asia during WW1 at the Pacific War Channel…or podbean I do have audio podcasts same channel name. Thus France began working with Chinese diplomats on the issue of recruit Chinese laborers. Come the summer of 1916, Britain’s perspective had dramatically changed since 1915, as they were short on manpower.

    Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig requested 21,000 laborers be recruited to fill Britain's manpower shortage. This was to be restricted to the Western Front, as the British home front held domestic labor unions who vigorously fought any attempt to bring Chinese workers to the isles. Beginning in August of 1916, Britain began its Chinese recruitment plan. Now China as I said would remain neutral for most of the war, so technically the Chinese laborers were hired on the basis of a written contract, ie: treated like a regular work force. Now I am going to start off with the western front, thus the Chinese laborers fell into two categories, the travailleurs and spécialistes, translated semi-skilled labor and skilled labor, not literal translations, but as I interpret it. Funny enough my job outside the podcast business has me coordinating semi-skilled educational programs for high school students so I certainly know a lot about this haha. To summarize, semi-skilled labor is a term today referring to basic common labor whereas skilled labor is more difficult requiring more education. You can make a son of comparisons, but I find this one makes sense to the most people: a semi-skilled laborer in the kitchen setting is a dishwasher, you can grab a new worker, show them the ropes rather quickly and let them work, whereas a skilled laborer is a line cook, it takes some culinary education or a lot of training until that person can do the job effectively. I also worked in the restaurant business for a long time haha.

    So with France the general contracts were for 5 years, with the British it was 3 years. The Chinese laborers in France would legally be equal to their french counterparts. They would be allowed to celebrate both Chinese and French holidays with benefits paid about 5 francs per day. For the British the Chinese would work 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, paid one franc per day, while their families back in China received 10 Mexican dollars a month. Its difficult to estimate but a WW1 era franc probably can go for about 15 USD, so thats like 75$ per day for France, while for the British its 15$ a day + roughly 1100 USD a month. Now the laborers needed to be transported, fed, clothed and houses, and this was to be at the cost of France and Britain.

    Between 1916-1918 France recruited roughly 40,000 Chinese laborers, while Britain hired 100,000 who worked in France under their authority. When the United States joined the war, the American Expeditionary Force arranged to borrow 10,000 Chinese laborers from France to employ them under identical terms. The majority of the 140,000 Chinese laborers came from Shandong province. In 1916, the French government approached China asking to recruit its citizens for non-combatant use. A contract was agreed upon may 14th 1916 supplying 50,000 laborers who would make their way to Marseille in july of 1916. This was followed up by Britain’s War Committee in London who formed the Chinese Labour corps, with its main recruiting base established in Weihaiwei on october 31st 1916. The first transport ship carried 1,088 laborers sailing from Weihaiwei on january 18th 1917. The journey took three months, each volunteer received an embarkment fee of 20 yuan, followed by 10 yuan a month paid to their families in China. By the end of the war this would account for roughly 2.2 billion dollars earned by Chinese laborers.

    As a result of the German submarine attacks, Britain needed a safe route and shipped 84,000 Chinese laborers through Canada. This was done in absolute secrecy as at the time Canada had the discriminatory Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and Chinese Head Tax. Thus they boarded trains journeying 6000 kilometers from Vancouver to Montreal never leaving the train. As reported by the Halifax Herald in 1920 “They were herded like so much cattle in cars, forbidden to leave the train and guarded like criminals”. It was a grueling experience to be sure. China began to ship thousands of men to Britain, France and Russia. These non-combatants would repair tanks, assemble shells, transport supplies like munition, and dig trenches amongst many other things. Hundreds of Chinese students served as translators. It should be noted that the Chinese government and many intellectuals saw the overseas work as an enormous opportunity for Chinese youth to learn new technical skills and ingenuity which could be brought back to the homeland.

    The French and British military were the ones doing the recruiting, thus the majority would fall under military management and were organized into military type units commanded by officers. If they broke the rules, they could be court martialed and at least and at least 10 under British authority were executed during the war. It should be noted, during WW1 there were a lot of executions for numerous reasons, such as cowardice on the battlefield. Now the Chinese were promised they would not be working under fire, but more often than not they worked in close proximity to military zones, particularly under the British. Until China officially joined the war, the French kept their Chinese workers pretty far from the front lines. After China joined the war in 1917, the French began to assign Chinese to military zones more frequently.

    There were major differences between the French and British labor programs. The French mainly recruited through the mediation of Chinese contractors, while the British used their own agents. Also as you probably already noticed, the French offered better treatment than the British. For example the French paid higher wages and their labor laws were less restrictive, compared to that of the British labor corps. Now this was the early 20th century, racism was rampant, arguably more so for the British side, who notably locked their worker camps up with wire. The American expeditionary Forces apparently were the most racist, and this is not surprising as America certainly had more experience with Chinese labor. Between 1882-1943 Chinese laborers in American were discriminated against heavily, and the Americans in France had similar attitudes. Racism aside, there obviously were cultural differences, leading to misunderstandings and ignorance on both sides. It did not help that there was a lack of interpreters leading to managerial problems. Despite the racism, cultural misunderstandings and instances of mistreatment it has to be noted, Chinese laborers were a crucial component of the Entente war effort. The great war was a total war, it involved the frontlines and home front. The Chinese who came to France were youthful and strong men. They worked extremely hard, as I said 10 hour days, typically 7 days a week with some holidays.

    By the end of the war and for a considerable amount of time afterwards, virtually all cranes in Dieppe, Havre, Rouen, Calais and Zeneghem were operated by Chinese. The French had a lot of praise for the Chinese laborers. General Ferdinand Foch said of them “Chinese laborers are first-class workers who could be made into excellent soldiers, capable of exemplary bearing under modern artillery fire.” H.R Wakefield of the British had this to say in a report “a splendid and versatile worker, inured to hardship and almost indifferent to the weather . ...It was certain that he would learn rapidly to cope with all the multitudinous kinds of work demanded by the huge British military organization overseas. ...Chinese [laborers] have a marvelous gift of imitation, and consequently they learn new and difficult tasks with great facility. ...[T]heir speed and endurance are phenomenal. Although the introduction of Chinese labor was a great experiment and there were some who shook their heads when it was first suggested…the experiment has succeeded, the doubters have become enthusiasts, the work accomplished has already been enormous, disputes and misunderstandings have been marvelously rare. The credit for this success can be equally shared by the British and Chinese”. It was said the Chinese work ethic impressed the British and French so much they became more welcoming to them compared to Indian and Egyptian workers. The British government began the repatriation of Chinese laborers in the fall of 1919 and this was completed on April 6th of 1920. The French repatriation program ended in March of 1922. By the end of the war, roughly 3000 Chinese laborers remained and settled down in France, including 1850 qualified men who signed new contracts to work for metallurgical industries. Other workers found employment in the mechanical or aeronautical sectors. Many of those who remained married French women. Two lived long enough to receive the French Legion of Honor in 1989.

    The Chinese under the British often found themselves working near battlefields and many did as a result. They were hit by bombardments and some Chinese workers even found themselves tossed into combat against German forces during emergencies. Tragically, after the war was over, there was a colossal amount of work needed for mine clearing and many Chinese would perish during this. By October of 1919, 50,000 Chinese laborers remained in the British camps as they were being evacuated roughly 15,000 per month. Nearly 2000 were buried in France. Many would not even make it to France. On february 17th, 1917 the French passenger ship SS Athos was sunk by the German U-boat SM U-65 off the coast of Malta. The ship was carrying 900 Chinese workers and 543 of them were killed. Roughly 3000 Chinese lost their lives in the Entente war effort in the west. The United States had recently severed diplomatic ties to Germany as a result of its unrestricted submarine warfare and pushed China to do the same. China severed diplomatic ties with Germany in March. The United States further advised China, that if they wished to be at the peace agreements China should declare war on Germany. China took the advice and declared war on the central powers on august 14th 1917.

    Now this was all for the Chinese laborers in the western front, but the Chinese also did the same for the Russian empire. Like Britain and France, Russia’s economy was collapsing as a result of WW1. The massive mobilizations and insane levels of casualties for the Russians forced the Tsarist government to procure labor by unconventional means. At first they began using women and POW’s to compensate, but this quickly proved insufficient, so Russia turned to China. Now Russia had experience hiring Chinese labor since the 1890s, specifically for railway construction. It's more difficult to obtain information on the eastern laborers, but Chinese scholars estimate up to a possible 200,000 Chinese laborers worked in Russia. The system for Russia was nothing like France or Britain. Prior to WW1, private Russian companies and state projects using Chinese agents recruited workers within China, mostly in Shandong, Hebei and Manchuria. They contracted workers individually or in groups, who were given Russian visas and transportation by ship to Vladivostok or by train from Harbin. These laborers helped build the Trans-Siberian railway, local urban infrastructure and agricultural work, playing a key role in the development of the Russian Far East.

    Thus when WW1 came around, Russia already had a system in place to hire workers. They worked in coal mines in the Donetsk region, cut timber in the Siberian Taiga, constructed railways in the polar zones of Northern Russia, carried ammunition and dug trenches in the eastern front.

    Most of their recruitment was done in northeast China by the private companies like the Yicheng company, until 1916 when the Tsarist government tried to simplify things by placing control of recruiting under the Chinese Eastern Railway company in Harbin. The Chinese eastern railway company took care of all the administrative formalities such as performing medical examinations of workers, clothing them, provisioning them for the journey and placing them on guarded trains. And here is where the eastern workers differed rather dramatically from the western workers. Once in Russia, the Chinese workers were pretty much abandoned for a lack of better words. In the west, Chinese laborers worked under contract for the governments of Britain or France who managed them. In the east the Russian government did not manage them, it was private merchants. This meant many Chinese in the east did not receive adequate sheltering, clothing or food once in Russia. Conditions were extremely rough, the Chinese worked 10-11 hours a day, 7 days a week, living out of badly heated and overcrowded barracks. Sometimes they had no water supplies nor basic sanitation facilities. Many fell ill from the cold, lack of any medical care or food. Unlike with the French or British, Russian officers were not always assigned to overlook them, thus countless were just left on their own. Many of these laborers were employed to build a 1044 kilometer railway linking St-Petersburg to a new port in Murmansk. This meant they had to lay a line across frozen marches, lakes, rocky terrains and through countryside that was uninhabited and could supply nothing but timber. They worked in the cold, nights could reach 40 degree celsius. Many died due to extreme cold, lack of nutrition and disease.

    Because of the terrible conditions, Chinese laborers routinely protesting and performed violent riots. The Russians suppressed them very harshly, considering the incidents, mutiny's and a sort of sabotage of war related production. After receiving so many reports of mistreatment of their workers in Russia, the Chinese government demanded their own official representatives be allowed to accompany large groups of the workers in Russia to defend their labor rights. Russia refused to satisfy the demands, but did try to improve the working conditions. Unlike in the west where the Chinese laborers were strictly monitored and confined to specific areas, the Russians kind of dumped them everywhere. With so many Chinese scattered about Russia when the Russian government collapsed because of the Russian revolution, countless were stranded. Many Chinese laborers joined the Red Army or various guerilla groups during the Russian Civil War. Many Chinese laborers truly sympathized with the Bolshevik cause, others simply joined the Red Army to survive. Those who did join the Red Army often did so for food or the opportunity to get back home as the revolution left many stranded. Ren Fuchen was China’s first bolshevik and he was the commander of the Chinese Red Eagle Battalion. Estimates vary significantly, but it is estimated up to 40,000 Chinese laborers joined the red army fighting in multiple fronts like Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, the Caucasus, Volga and Siberia. They had no attachment to Russia or its places and thus were very useful as executioners and many were used as shock troops as no one expected to be attacked by Chinese. Their wartime experiences and cross-cultural exchanges with the Russians would play a critical role in shaping China’s political trajectory during the interwar period. As we will discuss in greater detail in other episodes, the Bolsheviks sprang for the seed that would eventually create the CCP. It was during this cross cultural exchange in Russia that communism made its way to China, on the backs of the laborers coming home.

    Thus this rather extraordinary story of Chinese departing their country to work or in some cases fight in the Western and Eastern front during WW1 was significant both for the history of China, but also global history. Working and fighting side by side with the Entente displayed China’s determination to play a role in world affairs. Taking a step back, think about China’s history until this point. Its more or less always been shutting out the world, rather than embracing it. When China was forced open under very brutal and tragic circumstances, it robbed her of being really able to join the world order. Despite being so ingrained in the global economy for so long, she was a very isolated state. It seemed to China, this was finally the moment she could rise to the occasion, change her fate as it were. China clearly signaled this to the world by her actions during the Great War. Also this was the first major time for her citizenry to really experience the west. It provided them with an opportunity to observe and learn from other civilizations, many students for example who went over would reflect on Chinese society. When they returned home, the brought with them new ideas and a strong desire for change. From the east this brought Marxist ideology, from the west it was various forms of democracy, capitalism, hell things we think of today as basic human rights.

    Chinese laborers abroad came back to China forming a new national identity. There was also a large element of seeking experience and education. It was not simply the common class going out on their own, the Chinese Republic was pushing people specifically to go out into the world, receive education and vocational training to bring back to China. In something of a grand migration scheme the Republic hoped by sending some of their brightest students and technical laborers, they might manage something along the lines of what the Japanese did during the Meiji years. To give a more specific example, take the story of Li Shizeng. Li Shizeng was an intellectual, politician, and entrepreneur who went to study in France at the turn of the 20th century. He was very influential and helped translate many French books into Chinese. He advocated for dramatic reforms in China and was always pushing to have Chinese come into personal contact with the west, encouraging study and work abroad. In 1902 when he went to France for the first time alongside Wu Zhihui, they discussed the possibility of sending ordinary Chinese to Europe. For them the key to China’s salvation was education in western nations. Sending students to the west as laborers was a perfect vehicle. Li Shizhens thought if a 1000 young Chinese workers traveled to France, they would make an enormous impact on Chinese society upon their return, imagine 140,000. In 1912 Li Shizhen alongside a group of other intellectuals, including a young Wang Jingwei formed the “Liu-Fa Jianxuhui” the Society for Frugal study in France. The major purpose of the society was to increase educational opportunities, to introduce Chinese to world civilizations, advanced learning and to develop a Chinese national economy.

    When the Chinese laborers saw what a western country looked like, how their citizens worked and lived, it had a profound effect on them. One laborer named Fu Shengsan, explained the situation in an article titled “ Hua gong zai fa yu zhou guo de sun yi” “Chinese Laborers in France and Their Contribution to the Motherland”for the Chinese laborers weekly. He wrote that Chinese laborers did not really understand the relationship between an individual and their nation, or between a family and a nation, before coming to the west. After witnessing Europeans fighting for their country in WW1, it aroused a sense of nationalism and patriotism amongst the Chinese. Many came back home trying to explain this knowledge. Fu would write that the belief Westerners were superior to Chinese was false and that China just needed to become strong like them. All of this would drive China towards the May fourth movement, a watershed moment in Modern Chinese history, but that is a story for another day.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    China underwent great hardship during the Great War, something I will be talking about in the next episode, but she also became a valued member of the Entente, and helped to win the war. Yet the experience of Chinese laborers would have a profound effect on the future of modern China, showing China’s people they could rise to the occasion.