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List of warlords and military cliques in the Warlord Era

Major Chinese warlord coalitions as of 1925

The Warlord Era is the time period of China beginning from 1916 to the mid-1930s, when the country was divided by various military cliques. Followed by the death of Yuan Shikai in 1916, and nominally ended in 1928 at the conclusion of the Northern Expedition with the Northeast Flag Replacement, beginning the "Nanjing decade". However, "residual warlords" continued to exist into the 1930s under nominal Kuomintang rule, and remained until the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.[1]

The warlords and military cliques of the Warlord Era are generally divided into the Northern Factions and the Southern Factions. The following is a list of cliques within each faction, and the dominant warlords within that clique.

Contents

Northern FactionsEdit

The cliques in the North emerged from the fragmentation of the Beiyang Government/Army. Most of them were generals under Yuan Shikai. After the death of Yuan, they separated and formed cliques in their own sphere of influence.

Anhui cliqueEdit

  • The Anhui Clique was so named because many of its most influential members were from Anhui, including founder Duan Qirui.
  • The clique was removed from power after the Zhili-Anhui War and slowly faded from prominence.
Name Years of dominance Notes
Duan Qirui   1916–1926 - Premier: 1913, 1916–18; President: 1924-26

- Negotiated the Nishihara Loans with Japan in exchange for Shandong Concession, triggering the May Fourth Movement

Xu Shuzheng   1916–1920 - Duan Qirui's right-hand man

- Led expedition that reconquered Mongolia and temporarily brought it back under control

Duan Zhigui   - Minister of War: 1917-1919
Jin Yunpeng   - Premier: 1919-1921
Wang Yitang   - Chairman of the House of Representatives 1918-1920
Lu Yongxiang   - Ruler of Zhejiang and Shanghai, his refusal to hand over Shanghai caused the Second Zhili–Fengtian War
Zhang Jingyao   1917–1920 - Governor of Hunan noted for his exceptional brutality

- Assassinated in 1933 after he became involved with the Japanese plot to enthrone Puyi as emperor of Manchukuo

Wu Guangxin   1917–1920 - Governor of Hunan[2]
Ni Sichong   - former supporter of Yuan Shikai's Empire; eliminated in the Zhili-Anhui War
Qu Tongfeng[3]
Chen Shufan   1916-1921
Zheng Shiqi   1923-1925 Military governor of Shandong (1923–25) and Anhui (1925).[4]

Zhili cliqueEdit

Name Years of dominance Notes
Feng Guozhang   1916–1919 - Served as President 1917-1918

- Died in 1919 and was succeeded by Cao Kun

Cao Kun   1919–1924 - Bribed his way to the presidency and served from 1923 to 1924

- Arrested and imprisoned during the Beijing coup by Feng Yuxiang

Wu Peifu   1919–1927 - Military commander and strategist of the Zhili Clique

- Credited with the victories that pushed Zhili to power but ultimately failed hold onto power in the Second Zhili-Fengtian War

Sun Chuanfang   1919–1927 - Controlled most of the Lower Yangtze

- Defeated in the Northern Expedition

Lu Jianzhang supporter of Yuan Shikai's Empire, killed by Fengtian clique in 1918[7][8]
Li Chun[9]  
Wang Zhanyuan[9]   Hubei warlord
Chen Guangyuan[9]
Wang Chengbin   Ethnic Manchu

Fengtian cliqueEdit

Name Years of dominance Notes
Zhang Zuolin   1916–1928 - Leader of the Fengtian Army, ruler of Manchuria

- Assassinated by a Japanese military officer for his failure to halt the expansion of the Kuomintang

Zhang Xueliang   1928–1937 - Son and successor to Zhang Zuolin

- Eventually reconciled the Fengtian clique with the Kuomintang

Guo Songling   1920–1925 - General in the Fengtian Army

- Rebelled during the Anti-Fengtian War but was defeated and killed in action

Zhang Zongchang   1925–1928 Ruler of the Shandong province
Zhang Haipeng  
Zhang Jinghui   Afterwards Prime Minister of Manchukuo
Li Jinglin[10]  
Tang Yulin  
Wan Fulin  
Wu Junsheng   - Commander of Fengtian Cavalry
Yang Yuting   - Executed by Zhang Xueliang for his part in the assassination of Zhang Zuolin
Liu Zhennian "King of East Shandong"; defected to KMT during the Northern Expedition[11], defeated by Han Fuqu

Shanxi cliqueEdit

Name Years of dominance Notes
Yan Xishan   1911–1949 - Military ruler of Shanxi
- Joined the Kuomintang but later rebelled against Chiang Kai-shek in the Central Plains War[12]
- Defeated by the Communists in 1949, withdrew to Taiwan
Fu Zuoyi   1927–1949 - ruler of Suiyuan; defected to the Communists in 1949

GuominjunEdit

  • Also known as the Northwestern Army; originally sympathetic to the Kuomintang but rebelled in the 1930 Central Plains War and was defeated.[12]
Name Years of dominance Notes
Feng Yuxiang   1924–1934 Leader of the Northwest, initially Zhili warlord
Sun Yue   1924–1928
Hu Jingyi   1924–1925 Military governor of Henan
Bie Tingfang   Henan warlord; switched to KMT
Sun Dianying   Henan bandit; allied with Feng Yuxiang, Zhang Zongchang[13]
Song Zheyuan   1927–1930 Defected to KMT in 1930, warlord of Chahar Province and Rehe Province
Han Fuqu   1930–1938 Chairman of the Shandong Province; Defected to KMT in 1930.[11] arrested and shot after abandoning his province when the Second Sino-Japanese War started.

Ma cliqueEdit

All Ma Clique Generals were Hui Chinese Muslim Kuomintang members. Fought against the Guominjun during the Central Plains War. Attempted to destroy the Xinjiang Clique during the Kumul Rebellion but were defeated by Soviet Red Army intervention.[14]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Ma Anliang 1912–1918 Ruler of the Gansu province, Outranked all the other Ma Clique generals.
Ma Fuxiang   1912–1928 De facto leader after Ma Anliang[15]; Ruler of Ningxia[16] and Suiyuan[17][18][19][20]
Ma Hongbin   1921–1928 brief acting Chairman of Gansu Province and Ningxia Province[21]
Ma Hongkui   1923–1949 Army commander then ruler of Ningxia Province from 1932[22]
Ma Zhongying   1929–1934 Chief of the 36th Division and ruler of Southern Xinjiang (Tunganistan)
Ma Hushan   1934–1950 Chief of the 36th Division and ruler of Southern Xinjiang (Tunganistan)

Qinghai Province Ninghai ArmyEdit

Name Years of dominance Notes
Ma Qi   1915–1931 Ruler of the Qinghai province, influential in Gansu province
Ma Lin   1931–1938 Ruler of the Qinghai province
Ma Bufang   1938–1945 Ruler of the Qinghai province
Ma Buqing  

Allied to the Ma CliqueEdit

Name Years of dominance Notes
Zhang Peiyuan 1929–1934 Commander of Ili, allied with the Ma Clique against the Xinjiang Clique

Xinjiang cliqueEdit

Closely affliated with the Soviet Union.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Yang Zengxin   1912–1928 Ruler of the Xinjiang province.
Ma Fuxing   1912–1924 Titai of Kashgar, Military Commander of Southern Xinjiang
Ma Shaowu   1924–1937 Tao-yin of Kashgar, Military Commander of Southern Xinjiang
Jin Shuren   1928–1934 Ruler of the Xinjiang province.
Sheng Shicai   1933-1944 Ruler of the Xinjiang province and Soviet puppet

Southern FactionsEdit

The military cliques in the South are generally regional revolutionary leaders that took over after the fall of Qing Dynasty in Xinhai Revolution.

KuomintangEdit

Derived from the Tongmenghui revolutionary organization and established a rival government of the Republic of China in Guangdong Province from 1913 to 1928. Nominally reunified China in 1928 after the Northern Expedition.[23]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Sun Yat-sen   1912–1925 Founder of the Republic of China and leader of the Kuomintang
Chiang Kai-shek   1926–1975 Military leader of the Kuomintang and later President
He Yingqin   1926–1950 Senior General in the Kuomintang
Hu Hanmin   1925–1936 Leader of the right wing faction of the Kuomintang
Liao Zhongkai   1923–1925 Architect of the First United Front with the Chinese Communist Party
Wang Jingwei   1925–1944 Leader of the left wing faction of the Kuomintang, later Japanese puppet

Yunnan cliqueEdit

The Yunnan Military Government was established on October 30, 1911, with Cai E elected as the military governor. This marked the beginning of the "Yunnan clique".

Name Years of dominance Notes
Cai E   1911–1916 Leader of the Yunnan Army
Zhu De   1911–1920 protege of Cai, later Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese Red Army[24][25]
Tang Jiyao   1913-1927 Military governor of Yunnan
Hu Ruoyu 1927 Governor of Yunnan
Long Yun   1927-1945 Governor of Yunnan

GuizhouEdit

Name Years of dominance Notes
Wang Jialie   1931-1935

Old Guangxi cliqueEdit

Guangxi province announced its independence on November 6, 1911. Originally, the revolutionaries supported the Qing Governor to remain in position. However, he later left the province, and Lu Rongting succeeded his position.[26]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Cen Chunxuan   1916–1920 Qing Dynasty Governor and Military Governor of Guangdong
Lu Rongting   1912–1922
Chen Binghun   1916-1921
Shen Hongying   1923-1925 Military governor of Guangdong (1923-1924)

New Guangxi CliqueEdit

After the Guangdong-Guangxi War, the Old Guangxi clique was no longer effective, and was replaced by the New Guangxi clique. Supported the Kuomintang's Northern Expedition but rebelled during the Central Plains War.[27][12]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Bai Chongxi   1923–1949
Huang Shaoxiong   1923–1949
Li Zongren   1923–1949

Guangdong WarlordsEdit

Guangdong was independent on November 8. The Guangdong Army was in the early 1920s mostly dominated by Chen Jiongming. In the 1930s, Chen Jitang was chairman of the government.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Long Jiguang   1911-1918 Qing commander, supporter of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China, later affliated with the Anhui Clique
Chen Jiongming   1911–1924 Initially allied to KMT, defected to Zhili clique in 1922 but defeated by Chiang Kai-Shek
Ye Ju   1929–1936 Initially Long Jiguang's deputy, then Chen Jiongming's deputy
Chen Jitang   1929–1936

Sichuan cliqueEdit

During the period from 1927–1938, Sichuan was in the hands of five warlords. No warlord had enough power to take on all the others at once, so many small battles occurred, pitting one warlord against another.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Liu Wenhui   later warlord of Xikang Province, defected to the Communist Party[28]
Liu Xiang   1921–1938
Yang Sen  
Tian Songyao  
Deng Xihou  

Hunan WarlordsEdit

Hunan Province was ruled by successive autonomous warlords.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Tan Yankai   1912-1920 Kuomintang politician
Zhao Hengti   1920-1926 friendly to the Zhili Clique
Tang Shengzhi   1926-1927 Defected to Chiang during the Northern Expedition, rebelled against Chiang during the Central Plains War
Peng Dehuai   subordinate of Tang; later Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese Red Army[29]
He Jian   1927-

ReferencesEdit

Rulers: Chinese Administrative divisions

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  2. ^ Edward A. Mccord, The Power of the Gun, The Emergence of Modern Chinese Warlordism, University of California Press, Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford © 1993 The Regents of the University of California
  3. ^ 保定士官学校第三任校长--曲同丰
  4. ^ Rulers Index Z Archived March 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Nathan, Andrew (1998). Peking Politics 1918-1923: Factionalism and the Failure of Constitutionalism. Center for Chinese Studies. p. 320. ISBN 9780892641314. 
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  10. ^ Waldrun, Arthur (2003). From War to Nationalism: China's Turning Point, 1924-1925. Cambridge UP. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-521-52332-5. 
  11. ^ a b Jowett, Philip S. (2017). The Bitter Peace. Conflict in China 1928–37. Stroud: Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1445651927. 
  12. ^ a b c Taylor, Jay (2009). The Generalissimo. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 83-84. ISBN 0674033388. 
  13. ^ Jowett, Philip S. (2017). The Bitter Peace. Conflict in China 1928–37. Stroud: Amberley Publishing. p. 198. ISBN 978-1445651927. 
  14. ^ Who's Who in China; Biographies of Chinese Leaders. Shanghai: THE CHINA WEEKLY REVIEW. 1936. p. 184. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
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  23. ^ Strand, David (2002). "Chapter 2: Citizens in the Audience and at the Podium". In Goldman, Merle; Perry, Elizabeth. Changing Meanings of Citizenship in Modern China. Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States: Harvard University Press. p. 59-60. ISBN 978-0-674-00766-6. 
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  29. ^ Domes, Jurgen (1985). Peng Te-huai: The Man and the Image (A ed.). C. Hurst & Company London. p. 37. ISBN 0-905838-99-8.