The Provincial Regimes of the Early Republic:
Civil Government under Military Governors
China's 1911 Revolution was an epochal event, which not only brought down the Manchu dynasty but ended a two-thousand-year-old tradition of imperial government. Supporters of the revolution clearly hoped that the Republic would provide a new foundation for national strength. Instead, the decade following the revolution was characterized by increasing political instability, recurring civil warfare, and the devolution of political power into the hands of competing military commanders. The rise of warlordism, then, was the most obvious sign of the ultimate failure of the 1911 Revolution to achieve its intended goals. In acknowledging this outcome, though, historians are still faced with the task of trying to explain how a revolution that held out such promise could produce such a contrary result.
As noted in the Introduction, many studies of warlordism portray the establishment of military rule as an immediate consequence of a collapse of civil government, or a political vacuum, created by the 1911 Revolution. "Militarism, whether Central or regional, emerged in response to the disorder created by civil weakness, by the vacuum at the centre of the Chinese polity and in the regions," Diana Lary observes in a precise statement of this theory. Scholars who follow this interpretation usually suggest that no civil groups or organizations existed in the early Republic strong enough to fill the void created by the collapse of the imperial state and its bureaucracy. Consequently, only the military was left to step into the political breach. Indeed, Lucian Pye takes the appearance of Chinese warlordism as a model for cases "in which the military stand out because in a disrupted society they represent the only effectively organized element capable of competing for political power and formulating public policy."
Those who see a political vacuum resulting from the 1911 Revolution as initiating military rule do not always agree on when this condition became "warlordism." One side sees the start of warlordism as conterminous with the founding of the Republic in 1912. Diana Lary argues for this date "on the ground that thereafter China was clearly under military rule, that military might had become the ultimate arbiter and legitimator of power holding." The other side contends that military rule in the initial years of the Republic did not yet have the fragmented character essential to define it as warlordism. In particular, the first president of the Republic, Yuan Shikai, is often seen as having maintained a semblance of unitary control over the nation as a result of his military rule through the Beiyang Army. Thus, Donald Sutton differentiates between the onset of militarism in 1911 and the debut of warlordism in 1916: "The age of militarism began in 1911, when the New Armies overthrew imperial authority and established a Republican government. Politics from then on was militarized: military men ruled directly or permitted a facade of civil rule. For a time military institutions, chiefly the Peiyang [Beiyang] Army, preserved a kind of unity, and central authority was reconstituted until 1916, the start of the period of warlordism." Warlordism in this view thus begins when Yuan's death in 1916 facilitated the fragmentation of the Beiyang Army and ended central restraints on provincial militarists. This dispute over whether warlordism per se began in 1912 or 1916 does not, however, alter the widespread consensus that civil government effectively gave way to military rule with the 1911 Revolution.
A closer examination of the political conditions following the 1911 Revolution raises questions about the assumptions of this political vacuum theory. The demise of the imperial state was, of course, an important effect of the 1911 Revolution. Nonetheless, the fall of the Qing dynasty did not automatically cause the collapse of civil administration. At the central level, the negotiated transfer of power from the last Qing emperor to Yuan Shikai as president of the Republic ensured the survival of much of the imperial bureaucracy. Equally important, there was no general collapse of civil administration at local or provincial levels. The cases of Hubei and Hunan in particular show how provincial revolutionary regimes often worked with local elites to minimize the disruption of local government. They also moved quickly to reorganize provincial administrations and to select civil bureaucrats to replace imperial appointees. Simply in terms of administration, the revolution caused some temporary disruption but certainly no general political vacuum.
The strength of civil administration in the provinces was the result of something more than bureaucratic inertia. It derived from the active involvement by politicized elites in the establishment of revolutionary regimes, and as such represented the culmination of a decade of expanding elite politics. One special feature of late Qing elite politicization that became even more evident in the new revolutionary regimes was its provincialist cast. Although primarily driven by nationalist concerns, many progressive elites in the decade before the revolution were frustrated by their failure to achieve their political goals at the national level. They therefore turned their attention to the implementation of political, social, and economic reforms at the provincial level. It was, as Ernest Young has noted, "the infusion of what we would call nationalist goals into a provincial framework." This provincialist orientation expressed itself in a wide variety of organizational forms, from provincially based reform clubs to revolutionary societies. This provincialism found its greatest expression though in the newly established provincial assemblies, and their demands for greater participation in the administration of local and provincial affairs. As Young again notes, the provincialism of this period "rested upon a strong assertion of rightness: provinces should run their own affairs." Late Qing political developments therefore laid the organizational and ideological groundwork for a "provincialist" alternative to the imperial government structures that were to be overthrown by the revolution. Here indeed was an "element" other than the military able and willing to compete for political power in the context of the new political conditions created by the revolution.
The cases of Hunan and Hubei clearly show how the establishment of elite-based provincialist regimes provided a foundation for the continuation, rather than collapse, of civil government. During the revolution, provincial military governments not only maintained civil administration but assumed control over most state functions previously claimed by the central government, including the organization and command of military forces, the collection and allocation of taxes, and the appointment of local and provincial officials. This increased provincial autonomy did not represent a total rejection of central authority. Indeed, the new regimes nominally subordinated themselves first to the revolutionary provisional government at Nanjing and then to the republican government organized under President Yuan Shikai at Beijing. Nonetheless, the self-governing demands of provincialism justified the expanded claim of provincial governments over administrative affairs within their own borders. Meanwhile, the expansion of
political participation through representative institutions and political parties reinforced the new and essentially civil base of political authority of these regimes. A view from the provinces in these cases reveals, not a vacuum in civil politics and government, but rather a vibrant new civil polity.
Before totally discounting the assumption that military rule began in the provinces with the 1911 Revolution, one must acknowledge that the nomenclature assumed by the new provincial regimes sometimes obscured their civil features. In 1911, most revolutionary provinces followed Hubei's lead in forming military governments (junzhengfu ) headed by military governors (dudu ). Civilian elites normally acquiesced to these military governments as a wartime necessity, or even insisted upon them as an aid in the preservation of social order. One important result was that the top provincial executive changed from being a civil official, with some supervisory authority over military forces, to a military official with even greater control over both military and civil administrations. I argue, however, that the existence of military governors did not necessarily mean the establishment of actual military government. By examining the civil administration and politics of Hubei and Hunan, this chapter will show that these military governors to a large extent derived their authority from roles they fashioned for themselves in the vibrant civil polity of the early Republican period. An examination of the military policies of these governors in the next chapter will further show the relative weakness of military force in the foundation of their political power. When seen in this light, the non-military rule of the early Republican military governors in Hunan and Hubei appears quite distinct from that of their warlord successors.
In the end, the assumption of a postrevolutionary political vacuum leading to military rule oversimplifies a much more complicated political situation in early Republican China. The concept of a political vacuum appears in the general literature on military interventions as an example of one particular structural condition that may leave a society open to military rule. It is not, however, the only political condition that may contribute to this outcome. Sidney Finer, for example, makes a careful distinction between military interventions that result from political vacuums and those that are responses to political crises. Thus he notes that the military may also intervene in states with well established civil institutions where fundamental political conflicts result in military violence. Recognition of the strength of the Chinese civil polity following the 1911 Revolution, at least at the provincial
level, clears the way for a better understanding of the more specific political conditions that ultimately brought military force into Chinese politics.
Continuity and Change in Local Administration
In Hubei and Hunan, as in most other provinces, the 1911 Revolution began first in the provincial capital and then spread outward to other cities, towns, and rural districts. A close examination of this process shows that the effect of the revolution on local government was much less disruptive than might have been expected. This was largely the by-product of elite control of the revolution at both provincial and local levels. In most cases, local elites, with the full approval of the revolutionary governments in the provincial capitals, stepped in to ensure the continuation of local civil administration and the preservation of local order.
As a matter of survival, the consolidation of the revolution within their provincial borders was an immediate concern of the Hubei and Hunan revolutionary governments. Thus, among their first proclamations were appeals to local governments to accept the new republican order. These proclamations showed a strong interest in avoiding the disorder that might occur if the revolution resulted in the breakdown of local administration. By presenting the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty as the main goal of the revolution, they argued against any more radical social or political change. Thus, the provincial governments explicitly called for the continuation of normal local administration and urged local officials who were willing to renounce their allegiance to the dynasty to remain at their posts.
The spread of the revolution in Hubei and Hunan followed fairly rapidly on the heels of the successful uprisings in their capitals. There was, however, considerable variety in the course of the revolution from one locality to the next. As noted in Chapter 2, one determining factor was the position of local military forces. However, military support, or opposition, mainly affected the course of the revolution in larger cities that had substantial army garrisons. In other places, especially those with smaller garrisons, the main force for the revolution often came from secret society or peasant forces raised by local revolutionaries. At the same time, many towns and counties avoided military or revolutionary conflict entirely when local officials took flight or declared their support for the revolution. Support for the revolution by a prefectural capital usually led to more or less spontaneous revolutionary declarations by the prefecture's subordinate counties. In other
cases, county magistrates submitted to the revolution at the behest of touring "pacification commissioners" sent out by provincial or local revolutionary governments. Although more attention is usually given to places where revolutionary struggles took place, in most counties the revolutionary transition took place with little or no bloodshed.
As in the Wuchang and Changsha uprisings, elite support was an important factor in the fairly rapid spread of the revolution. In some cases, local elites met with revolutionaries in advance to assure them of their backing. In other cases, elite delegations welcomed revolutionary forces into their cities. Those local officials who came over to the revolution usually did so either with elite support or under elite pressure. Local elite support for the revolution was seldom simply a result of newfound revolutionary idealism. In his analysis of the spread of the revolution in Hunan and Hubei, Joseph Esherick has shown that local elites in most cases decided to join the revolution when they saw that this was the only way to prevent even greater disorder: "When army revolutionaries or secret societies—or both together—made it impossible to resist the revolution without severely threatening social stability, the elite opted for revolution. This choice was made easier by the willingness of the active revolutionaries, also largely from gentry families, to ally with the local elite and address themselves to the problems of law and order." Thus, on the local as well as provincial level, elites saw more benefits in joining the revolution than in opposing it.
Elite anxiety about the danger of social disorder during the revolution was not unfounded. In many areas, bandit bands took advantage of the temporary political confusion to expand their forays, sometimes under the guise of supporting the revolution. An even greater threat to the existing social order came from secret-society forces that rose in response to the revolution in many localities. Not all of these forces were under the control of revolutionaries sympathetic to elite concerns, and they were much less inclined to see the social status quo as sacrosanct. By joining the revolution themselves, local elites were able to define the goals of the revolution and thus ensure that it did not threaten their own interests.
The provincial revolutionary governments also encouraged the active participation of local elites in the revolution as a means of preventing social and political disorder. Thus, while urging local officials to stay at their posts, the Hubei government called upon elite-run local self-government offices to take more direct responsibility for local affairs. The priority placed on the maintenance of order was seen in
instructions for these offices "to take police administration and militia as their most important business." Tan Yankai's government also supported the formation of militia by local elites as a way of ensuring the preservation of order in the aftermath of the revolution. Thus, in most areas, the forces of order mobilized quickly to prevent any threat. Secret society forces were instructed to disband, and those that refused were treated as bandits or rebels and forcibly suppressed by local militia or government troops. Elite participation ensured that the revolution remained a political not a social revolution.
Elite support for the revolution also minimized any potential disruption of local government that might have occurred. Local elites generally stepped in to fill any breaches in local administration caused by the flight of Qing officials or to assist revolutionaries in the formation of new local governments. Given this situation, it is hardly surprising that one of the results of the revolution was an increase in elite influence in local administration. Joseph Esherick notes that if the danger of social disorder was one incentive for elite participation in the 1911 Revolution, the opportunity to use the revolution to increase elite power was another. Even before the revolution, self-government offices established by the Qing as local advisory bodies offered a vehicle for expanded elite participation in local government. With the revolution, elite-dominated local assemblies asserted an even stronger political role. This was particularly true in Hunan, where local assemblies arose in nearly every county. The powers sometimes wielded by these bodies can be seen in one county, where an assembly claimed the authority to veto the local magistrate's orders and to appoint his staff.
Although elite influence over local government did increase as a result of the revolution, it did not lead to complete local independence from higher governmental authority. Rather, the most important change was a devolution of central authority over local administration to the provincial governments. There was, of course, some delay before this provincial authority could be exerted. The Hubei government in particular had to concentrate all its initial energy on defending itself against a Qing counterattack. Under these conditions, responsibility for local administration was left in the hands of whatever combination of elite or revolutionary forces had taken control of different localities. In both Hubei and Hunan, the establishment of local branch military governments complicated local administration in the early stages of the revolution. Led by prominent revolutionaries or military commanders, these governments often assumed fairly autonomous control
over both military affairs and civil administration. Once peace was restored, though, these branch military governments were abolished and provincial governments began to establish more direct control over local administration.
The most obvious substitution of provincial for central authority over local government was in the appointment of county magistrates. Under the Qing, provincial governors had appointed county magistrates from lists of expectant officials assigned to them by the central government. After the revolution provincial governments began to replace late Qing holdovers, or ad hoc substitutes, with men selected by their own criteria. One of the main effects of provincial government control over local appointments was the abandonment of the law of avoidance. Under the Qing, this regulation inhibited any identity of interests between officials and the areas they governed by keeping them from holding posts in their home provinces. With the establishment of military governments dominated by provincial elites, provincial natives were now given preference for local government posts. A chart of county magistrates appointed after the revolution in Hubei shows that 90 percent were Hubei natives. Interestingly enough, none of these magistrates served in their home counties. This suggests that the assertion of provincial appointment powers may have included a new unspoken law of avoidance based on county rather than provincial distinctions.
In conclusion, there is little evidence to suggest that the 1911 Revolution did more than temporarily disrupt local government in most areas. In general, elite concerns for order ensured the continuation of local civil administration, albeit with an accompanying increase in elite influence. Likewise, although the 1911 Revolution may have undermined central power over local government, total administrative fragmentation was prevented by the assumption of this power by the new provincial regimes.
Civil Administration and Politics under the Provincial Military Governments
Although military concerns took top priority at the beginning of the revolution, the new provincial regimes did not ignore civil administration. Indeed, civil government structures were quickly organized and staffed. They did not, however, simply replicate preexisting Qing governmental institutions. Rather administration was rationalized to meet the practical needs of the new governments and tailored around the reformist goals of the elite coalition that had formed them. At the
same time, struggles over the structure and staffing of the new civil administrations set patterns that would come to define the civil politics of the provincial regimes.
In both the Hubei and Hunan military governments, provincial civil administration was initially concentrated in a single office. In Hubei, Tang Hualong drew up a set of regulations, approved on October 17, creating four ministries (bu ) under the military governor. The first three ministries handled military affairs, while the fourth, the Ministry of Government Affairs (Zhengshibu), supervised civil administration. The Ministry of Government Affairs was further subdivided into seven bureaus (ju ): Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Finance, Justice, Transportation and Communications, Records, and Organization. In Hunan, regulations approved on October 25 divided military and civil administration between the Ministry of Military Government (Junzhengbu) and the Ministry of Civil Government (Minzhengbu). Six departments (si ) were created under the civil branch: Civil Government, Finance, Education, Justice, Transportation and Communication, and Foreign Affairs. While all ministries in both provinces were placed under the military governors, the creation of a single ministry for civil administration gave considerable power to their civilian heads, namely, Tang Hualong and Tan Yankai.
In both Hubei and Hunan, the staffing of newly formed civil administrations quickly became a source of political conflict between constitutionalists and revolutionaries. Before the revolution, political competition between these two groups reflected opposing views as to whether national strength would best be achieved by reform under a constitutional monarchy or by the establishment of a republic. By 1911 many constitutionalists had grown disheartened over the pace of reform under the dynasty and had opted for revolution. Even though the revolutionaries welcomed this change of heart, years of antagonism had left an undercurrent of mutual distrust between the two groups. Many constitutionalists continued to see revolutionaries as radical extremists whose predilection for violent political action endangered public order. Revolutionaries on the other hand tended to see the constitutionalists as conservative opportunists whose commitment to the revolution was still suspect. To some extent, the conflict between the two groups was also a matter of practical politics. As a result of their commitment to work for reform through legal channels, the ranks of the constitutionalists were dominated by members of the gentry who had either served as government officials or had gained
political experience through new legal institutions such as the provincial assemblies. These men naturally felt that they were the best qualified to take over the administration of the provincial governments. Meanwhile, many revolutionaries were reluctant to let Johnny-come-lately constitutionalists benefit politically from the revolution in this manner. With Tang Hualong and Tan Yankai controlling their provinces' civil administrations, this was exactly what seemed to be happening.
The civil administration bureau heads under Tang Hualong's Ministry of Government Affairs in Hubei were all men with constitutionalist ties, primarily provincial assemblymen or former Qing officials. None of these men had originally been members of revolutionary organizations. In Tang's eyes, the qualifications of these men no doubt made them excellent candidates for their posts. For some revolutionaries, though, these appointments seemed a deliberate attempt to keep the fruits of the revolution out of revolutionary hands. Therefore, on October 25 a group of revolutionaries pushed through a reorganization of the Hubei government eliminating the Ministry of Government Affairs. The ministry's seven bureaus were transformed into six ministries and a secretariat and placed directly under the control of the military governor. As a result of this reorganization, Tang lost his position as head of civil administration and was left with a less significant post as the minister of organization. All the bureau chiefs originally selected by Tang were removed and the new civil ministers, with the exception of Tang, were all Tongmenghui or local revolutionary society members. Unable to continue working under a cloud of revolutionary distrust, Tang gave up his post in late November and left the province.
In Hunan, the political struggle for the control of civil administration took place against the backdrop of the conflict over Jiao Dafeng's military governorship. Indeed, while the Ministry of Civil Government had been placed under the military governor, one of Tan Yankai's supporters had originally proposed to make this office equal to the military governor so as to remove civil administration entirely from Jiao's control. As seen in Chapter 2, the political struggle between revolutionaries and constitutionalists in Hunan initially focused on the institution of a senate claiming authority over the military governor. The revolutionary counterattack that forced the abolition of the senate and Tan's resignation from his posts as senate president and head of civil administration turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. With
Jiao's assassination, the benefits of the revolutionary insistence on strengthening the military governor's authority over civil administration accrued to Tan Yankai.
Although the struggle over civil administration had a different political outcome in Hubei and Hunan, the organizational effects were the same. In both provinces single offices with general authority over civil administration were eliminated in favor of a larger number of functional offices, eventually all labeled departments (si ), placed directly under the military governors. After some adjustments, each province ended up with a total of eight departments: Military Affairs, Internal Affairs, Finance, Education, Justice, Transportation and Communication, Foreign Affairs, and Industry. Besides being a rational reorganization of provincial administration, the emphasis given such areas as industry, transportation, and communications revealed the reform interests of China's politicized elites.
As in the case of local government, the most significant change in provincial administration resulting from the revolution was a loosening of central control. The provincialism that justified this change was again most apparent in the manner in which provincial offices were filled. Under the Qing, all provincial officials were centrally appointed. While governors were generally responsible for the administration of their provinces, the court also appointed financial, educational, and judicial commissioners, as well as a number of other specialized officials, who were accountable only to central ministries. The independence of these officials acted as a central check on the governors. During the revolution, the provincial governments assumed appointment powers over all provincial as well as local offices. The duties of the former provincial commissioners were taken over by provincial departments headed by men appointed by, and accountable to, the military governor. Although arguably a progressive step that eliminated some of the confusing welter of offices and overlapping authority of Qing provincial administration, this structure also meant that the military governors emerged with far greater administrative power and political autonomy than their Qing counterparts. As with local officials, the law of avoidance was abandoned and provincial administrations were staffed with members of the provincial elite. Thus one newspaper characterized Hubei's postrevolutionary administration by saying: "After the revolution, all government power was in the hands of natives of the province. Officials were gentry, and gentry were officials; it was difficult to make a distinction between them."
The provincialism that led to the staffing of government posts with
natives of the province also assumed that the provincial regimes would provide a vehicle for greater political participation. As in the late Qing era, the main expression of this demand for political participation would be found in deliberative assemblies. By claiming to express the "will of the people" (minyi ), these assemblies served an even more important function in the revolution by legitimating the new provincial regimes. At this time, few questioned the assumption that the determination of this "will" should be left in the hands of the elite. Even so, a rudimentary concept of popular sovereignty was established that provided the basis for a new form of political authority.
During the early stages of the revolution, elite political participation was mainly effected through ad hoc public assemblies, such as those that first met to form the provincial military governments and elect military governors. Similar meetings approved successive changes in government structure and personnel, as well as making major policy decisions. These meetings generally reached their decisions by consensus, and they were informal in the sense that they had no defined membership. At the same time, they were very clearly elite meetings whose participants were confident of their right to govern. It was possible, though, to "stack" a meeting by ensuring that one's supporters turned out in force. Thus the revolutionaries who sought to abolish Tang Hualong's Ministry of Civil Government and Tan Yankai's senate organized sympathetic assemblies to achieve their ends. Inasmuch as these meetings chiefly expressed the political will of the provincial elite, they also gave voice to the political divisions within it.
Although informal meetings served their purpose in the early stages of the revolution, there were soon efforts to supplement or replace them with more formal representative assemblies. The provincial assemblies of the late Qing era might well have served this purpose. The meetings forming Hubei and Hunan's military governments were held in provincial assembly halls, and provincial assemblymen, not the least of whom were their presidents, Tang Hualong and Tan Yankai, played important roles in the new governments. John Fincher has shown how provincial assemblies generally helped to legitimate not only the 1911 Revolution but the provincial governments that emerged from it. However, in Hubei and Hunan many assemblymen returned to their home counties at the outbreak of the revolution. Even if all these assemblymen supported the revolution, they could not be quickly reconvened. Likewise, under the conditions of the revolution, the holding of new elections would have been difficult if not impossible. Thus, in both Hubei and Hunan, "provisional" assemblies
were established as temporary expedients. In Hubei, this provisional assembly was created in January 1912 by holding elections for county representatives among the natives of those counties present in Wuhan. The result of this election was that most provisional assemblymen were drawn from the administrative staff of the provincial government. In Hunan, the formation of the senate might be seen as a first attempt to establish a truncated version of the provincial assembly. Later in December 1911, a provisional assembly was finally formed by reconvening those members of the previous provincial assembly who were willing to return to Changsha and serve the new regime. These provisional assemblies were significantly different from their late Qing precursors because they were legislative rather than simply consultative bodies and had broad new powers, including the raising of taxes, the approval of provincial budgets, and the right to impeach officials. Thus late Qing demands for more representative government were met in these early Republican assemblies.
The provisional assemblies remained in force until early 1913, when new elections were held in both provinces. These elections were linked to plans to replace the provisional National Assembly formed during the revolution with a more regularly constituted body. As the upper house of the new National Assembly was to be elected by the provincial assemblies, new elections for these bodies also had to be held. By February 1913, provincial elections in Hubei and Hunan were completed. In March the new provincial assemblies were seated, and in April they finished their selection of national assemblymen.
The most important political development accompanying the 1913 elections was the formation of electoral parties. Following the revolution there was a proliferation of political "parties," many of which were little more than factional groupings. The exigencies of representative government, however, demanded the consolidation of these smaller groups into larger parties capable of building electoral majorities. The most successful party to emerge in this period grew out of the Tongmenghui. The Tongmenghui had formally reorganized itself from a revolutionary society into an open political party in March 1912. In preparation for upcoming elections, the party joined with several other minor parties in August and assumed a new name, becoming the Guomindang, or Nationalist Party. Vigorous electioneering by Guomindang leaders paid off when the party gained the largest representation in both houses of the National Assembly, as well as majorities in a number of provincial assemblies. Hunan was one province where the Guomindang achieved a clear majority in provincial assembly elec-
tions. In Hubei's Provincial Assembly, the Guomindang came in a close second to its main rival, the Republican Party (Gonghedang).
The election of assemblies, and the development of political parties, were the main manifestations of the emergence of a new postimperial polity. Certainly this new polity was not without its problems. As might be expected, given the immaturity of the political system, elections were marred by incidents of bribery, corruption, and other irregularities. There was also little question that politics in this period was still an elite affair. The assemblies largely remained elite-dominated bodies, and the political parties were more associations of politicized elites than popular or mass parties. Nonetheless, the elitist nature of early Republican political institutions does not mean that they were not viable or that they were incapable of adapting to broader and more popular political demands. Indeed, the early Republic had already seen a dramatic increase in the size of the electorate as a result of lower voter qualifications in early Republican election laws. Whereas the electorate for late Qing assemblies was less than 1 percent of the population, the registered electorate in the 1913 elections represented between 6 and 10 percent of the population. This figure compares favorably with the size of the electorate in Japan at this time, the beginning of its period of "Taisho democracy." For all its faults and limitations, the new polity provided a context for increasing political participation and a foundation for the establishment of civilian political authority.
Rather than showing a collapse of civil government, the administration and expanded politics of the postrevolutionary provincial regimes in Hubei and Hunan give every indication of a potentiality for the continuation of civilian rather than military rule. Such a conclusion, however, seems to be at odds with the fact that the top executive positions in these provincial regimes continued to be military posts. The existence of military governors did not, however, simply reflect the existence of military rule. Ultimately, the authority of the military governors in Hubei and Hunan was based more on their adjustment to, and manipulation of, civilian politics than on their control of military force.
Hunan's "Civilian Military Governor"
Tan Yankai was perhaps the most unmilitary of the military governors to emerge from the 1911 Revolution. Indeed, the political capital Tan brought with him to the post was almost entirely civilian in nature. One of Tan's main assets was his family's, and his own,
high status within Hunan society. Tan was the scion of a prominent and wealthy gentry-official family. His father had attained the jinshi degree, the highest degree awarded in the traditional examination system, and served in a succession of provincial governorships and governor-generalships before his death in 1905. Tan Yankai also showed an early talent for classical studies, calligraphy, and the other cultural skills that were the accouterments of the Chinese gentry. He rose rapidly through the examination system, and in 1904, at the youthful age of twenty-four, also achieved the jinshi degree. Tan brought added glory to his family and his province by placing first among all jinshi candidates and was rewarded with a position in the famed Hanlin Academy. Thus through his family background and his own precocious success, Tan attained the status and prestige that gave him easy access to the network of elite and official contacts that was the channel to power in traditional Chinese society.
Tan Yankai's special position in Hunan society was, however, based on more than the traditional criteria of family background and educational achievement. Of equal importance in his rise to political leadership was his participation in Hunan's progressive reform movement. Returning to Hunan after his examination triumph, Tan turned his attention to more modern concerns. His initial public role was as a promoter of modern schools, serving as the director of one modern school and acting as a fund-raiser and a sponsor for several others. On this basis he also served for a time as head of the Hunan Education Association. Tan soon expanded his activities beyond education to involve himself prominently in both the railroad-protection and constitutionalist movements. In 1908, Tan was elected to represent Hunan's opposition to foreign railroad loans in Beijing. He was also selected to participate in the preparations for the establishment of Hunan's Provincial Assembly. When this assembly was formed in 1908, Tan was elected its first president. He went on to achieve national prominence through his participation in the 1910 petition movement for the early opening of a National Assembly. Tan's disillusionment with the dynasty's response to this appeal was instrumental in his final decision to support the revolution. Thus on the eve of the revolution Tan had emerged as the clear leader of Hunan's reform-minded political elite. It is not surprising that many would look to Tan for leadership during the revolution, and in particular to provide an alternative to the relatively unknown and politically inexperienced Jiao Dafeng.
Despite his obvious qualifications, Tan's position at the beginning
of his military governorship was by no means secure. The greatest threat he faced was the possibility of a revolutionary countercoup. The assassinations of Jiao Dafeng and Chen Zuoxin shocked and angered their revolutionary comrades. In the days after the coup, Changsha was alive with rumors that Jiao's followers were preparing to move against Tan to retake control of the Hunan government. From the other side, the New Army units involved in Jiao's death were reportedly preparing to extend their purge to Jiao's associates. This volatile situation was quickly defused when revolutionary leaders reached an accommodation with Tan, accepting his leadership as a means to prevent further disorder.
There are a number of reasons why this accommodation was possible. First, there is some question as to whether Tan himself was personally involved in the coup, the main evidence of his complicity being his failure to punish its perpetrators. Indeed, most of the conspirators received high posts in Tan's administration, including a division commander's position for Mei Xing. At the same time, there is the contrary evidence that Tan and his family seem to have been noticeably surprised by the coup. It is possible that Tan's "cover-up" was simply an effort to prevent further disorder once the deed was done. In any case, Tan was careful to express his sorrow over Jiao and Chen's deaths. The Hunan government gave the two men elaborate official funerals and provided their families with financial compensation. By such actions, Tan sought to heal the breach with Hunan's revolutionaries, giving them a chance to cooperate without too much loss of face.
The revolutionaries also had to be concerned about how an open break with Tan and his constitutionalist allies might affect the revolutionary cause. Cooperation with prominent gentry leaders like Tan could contribute to the stability and prestige of the new military government, whereas conflict with them might slow broader acceptance of the revolution. During the conflict over the senate issue, some radical revolutionaries had proposed strengthening Jiao's position by assassinating senate members and Tan's appointees in the civil administration. However, the opponents of doing so won the day with this argument: "To carry out the revolution, we need to enlist the services of talented men, and to plan our advance in concert with them. Only then can we achieve our greater goal. The men on this list [marked for assassination] are all well-known Hunan personalities. If they are killed, how can we win the hearts of the people? In the future who will dare work with us for the revolution?" Even in the light of Jiao's
assassination, this argument still carried weight as long as Tan and his allies had not forsworn the revolution altogether.
The division between constitutionalists and revolutionaries was also not as broad as it is sometimes portrayed. Before 1911 the two groups were divided over the tactical issue of the necessity of revolution, but at the provincial and local level they generally agreed about types of reforms needed for China's national regeneration. The barrier between the two groups was, as a result, quite permeable. As circumstances changed, individuals could and did shift easily from one camp to the other. Indeed, in 1911 the circumstances were such that both sides finally came together in agreement on the need for a political revolution. As previously noted, the underlying issue behind the coup against Jiao was that his secret society activities might lead to social as well as political revolution. Joseph Esherick has shown that the revolutionaries themselves were far from united on this issue. The majority of revolutionary leaders were, after all, drawn from the same broad elite as the constitutionalists. Although many saw the secret societies as a revolutionary tool, few were any more willing than the gentry as a whole to accept the social disorder that might result if secret societies were given a free hand. Therefore, once Jiao's death eliminated the immediate threat of secret-society revolution, the way was cleared for increased cooperation between revolutionaries and constitutionalists.
On a more personal level, Tan Yankai's past relationship with Hunan's revolutionary movement, and its leaders, eased the path to accommodation. Although Tan's conversion to revolution had come relatively late, his attitude toward the revolutionary movement was generally more tolerant than antagonistic. For example, in 1904 Tan had used his influence to protect the Mingde School, which harbored a number of revolutionary teachers, such as Huang Xing and Zhou Zhenlin, from attacks by conservative gentry. According to one account, when orders for Huang's arrest were issued after the discovery of an uprising plot, Tan aided his escape by intervening with the Hunan authorities to prevent an overly energetic search. By this action, Tan built a basis for later cooperation with the man who was to become the second most important revolutionary leader in the Tongmenghui after Sun Yat-sen.
In the end, Huang Xing himself played a major role in re-cementing the revolutionary alliance with Tan in the aftermath of Jiao's assassination. Since Hunan was his home province, Huang had watched the course of the revolution there with special concern. Upon receiving
news of the coup, Huang immediately sent calming instructions to revolutionary leaders in Changsha. In his message, Huang stressed that the most important objective was to prevent any further instability that would either discourage other provinces from joining the revolution or adversely affect Hunan's ability to assist the revolutionary war in Hubei. Although expressing sympathy over Jiao's death, Huang therefore urged his comrades to give their support to Tan. To this end, Huang's emissary, Zhou Zhenlin, called a mass meeting of soldiers and civilians to relay Huang's instructions. Zhou's impassioned speech was well received and the immediate danger of a revolutionary countercoup was reduced. "Tan's first term as Hunan's military governor was, under the pressure of events, supported by revolutionary party members," Zhou noted.
Despite this general accommodation, a few revolutionaries continued to seek revenge against those they saw as responsible for the anti-Jiao coup. For the most part, these were men who had been active in fomenting secret-society revolution or revolutionary soldiers who had worked closely with Jiao and Chen Zuoxin during the Changsha uprising. These men were responsible for a series of assassination attempts and uprising plots that would continue through 1912 and 1913. For example, Mei Xing was permanently crippled in a bomb attack. In March 1913, a number of military officers and local revolutionary activists, including Liu Wenjin, were implicated in a military uprising attempt against Tan. Such incidents have sometimes been cited to show the continuation of a revolutionary struggle against Tan's constitutionalist regime. In fact, these plots only represented a minority revolutionary faction, which did not have the backing of Hunan's most important revolutionary leaders. Tan, for his part, exhibited leniency toward prominent uprising suspects. For example, Liu Wenjin and other officers implicated in the March 1913 plot were given short prison terms or simply removed from their posts. In general, the accommodation forged between Tan and Hunan's revolutionary leadership at the beginning of his term of office was never seriously challenged.
Finally, Tan's success at preserving good relations with revolutionary leaders was very much owing to his own character and approach to politics. One quality frequently attributed to Tan was bamian linglong , the ability to be pleasing to all parties. As one memoir notes, "Whether with the constitutionalist clique or the Nationalist Party, northern or southern powers, old or new factions, politicians or military men, elders or youths, Tan was able to project feigned sincerity to
all." Tan's detractors saw this quality as simple political opportunism, and charged him with the manipulation of factions for his own ends. Irrespective of whether his sincerity was feigned, Tan used his personal skills to build and maintain a political consensus in support of his rule. In the end, one of Tan's main strengths as military governor was this ability to act as a political mediator among Hunan's various political forces.
One particular example of the consensus-building politics characteristic of Tan's regime was the attempt to balance Hunan's sectional interests. The traditional examination system had divided Hunan into middle, western, and southern "routes" (lu ), and the self-interested ties that developed among the gentry of these routes in the late Qing period provided the basis for sectional political factions in the early Republic. In order to lessen the conflict among these factions, attempts were made to divide political appointments equally among men from each route. For example, the president and two vice presidents of the Hunan Provincial Assembly were each from a different route. Tan, likewise, spread department-head appointments in his administration equally among the three routes.
For the most part, Tan did favor men with constitutionalist backgrounds in his appointments in Hunan's civil administration. Here too, though, it is possible to see too great a division between constitutionalists and revolutionaries. Most of Tan's appointees were men with modern, often Japanese, educations, who interacted easily with revolutionary leaders with similar backgrounds. Although predominantly active in the constitutionalist movement, many of these men, like Tan himself, had at different points shown some sympathy for the revolutionary cause. Furthermore, as noted by Tan's minister of foreign affairs, in appointing these men Tan not only paid attention to their talents and character, but demanded their support for the revolution. Finally, it should be noted that men with revolutionary backgrounds were not completely excluded from Tan's administration. For example, the head of the Justice Department was a Tongmenghui member, and under him this department remained very much a Tongmenghui preserve. Perhaps an even more important revolutionary appointment was that of Zhou Zhenlin to head a special financial institution, the Revenue Bureau. According to Joseph Esherick, Zhou's position at the head of this bureau was an "opening to the left" whereby Zhou carried out a program of "iconoclastic egalitarianism" through extortionate exactions from conservative or loyalist gentry families. Through this post, Zhou exerted a considerable revolutionary
influence on Hunan's provincial government. Thus Tan did allow revolutionaries to maintain some footholds in his administration.
There is also other evidence of Tan Yankai's efforts to ensure continued revolutionary cooperation in the political consensus supporting his government. For example, Tan was careful to maintain good relations with Huang Xing and other Tongmenghui leaders. He frequently sought Huang's advice on major policy issues and gave Huang an elaborate official welcome when he visited Changsha in October 1912. The most obvious indicator of Tan's special care to preserve his accommodation with the revolutionary party, though, was his role in establishing the Hunan branch of the Nationalist Party in the summer of 1912.
In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, there was in Hunan, as elsewhere, a proliferation of small political societies and parties. In this early period, while political alliances were just being established, it was not unusual for a single individual to belong to a number of different parties. Not surprisingly, Tan allowed several of these small parties to claim him as their leader. Such a position was consistent with Tan's bamian linglong character and with his efforts to build as broad a political consensus as possible behind his regime. As the home province of a number of important revolutionary leaders, though, Hunan remained a particularly strong base for the Tongmenghui. Indeed, Song Jiaoren, the mastermind behind the expansion of the Tongmenghui into the Nationalist Party, was a Hunan native. Hunan was therefore an obvious organizing focus for the new party.
In July 1912, Qiu Ao, a prominent Hunan Tongmenghui activist, arrived in Changsha at the behest of party leaders to organize a Hunan branch of the Nationalist Party and to prepare the party's campaign for upcoming provincial and national assembly elections. Qiu soon discovered that Tan was willing to join forces with the Tongmenghui in the establishment of the new party. Having obtained Tan's support, Qiu easily drew other members of Hunan's constitutionalist elite into the Nationalist Party. When the Hunan branch was formally established in September, Tan was named its head and nearly all the other important officials in Tan's administration were assigned posts in the branch organization. At the same time, Tan also appointed Qiu to head the Department of Civil Government, an important office supervising local administration and elections. Qiu took advantage of this position to appoint sympathetic magistrates and election officials in order to give Nationalist Party candidates an edge in the upcoming elections. As might be expected, the Nationalist Party won large
majorities in Hunan's national, provincial, and most county assembly elections.
Tan's ability to bring about an effective amalgamation of Hunan's constitutionalist and revolutionary elites was no doubt facilitated by the Nationalist Party's attempt to broaden its base by casting off some of the more radical principles that had been associated with the Tongmenghui. For example, the Nationalist Party dropped Sun Yat-sen's program of land reform and the Tongmenghui's original call for the political equality of women. These changes made it possible for the party to appeal to a more socially conservative constituency than it had in the past. The party's platform also contained strong support for increased local self-government, an obvious attraction for the politicized elites who were Tan's main allies. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that the Nationalist Party could have been as successful as it was in Hunan without Tan's personal and active support. In Tan's mind, it seems, the Nationalist Party was less important for its political program than for its potential to provide an organizational basis for a continued elite consensus of revolutionaries and constitutionalists. At the same time, in his desire for consensus, Tan also continued to maintain good relations with other political factions and parties even after his commitment to the Nationalist Party.
The military governorship of Tan Yankai provides one of the best examples of the fact that, at least within some provincial regimes, there was a potentially strong political basis for the continuation of civilian rule after the 1911 Revolution. Although he was officially Hunan's military governor, Tan's political power was primarily based on his status in Hunan's civilian society, and was strengthened by his skills as a politician in the context of the emerging postrevolutionary civil polity. Tan, as one of his contemporaries would later write, essentially served as a "civilian military governor" (wenzhi dudu ).
The Consolidation of Hubei's Military Governorship
Unlike Tan Yankai, Li Yuanhong was, of course, a military man, and his military rank and reputation were important factors in his selection as Hubei military governor. His control of military force, however, was not an asset he brought with him to the post. On the contrary, his inability to prevent his own troops from joining the Wuchang uprising showed the weakness of his personal military power. Furthermore, because of his initial opposition to the revolution, Li began his tenure as
military governor with very little power of any sort. This was recognized even by those who supported his selection as military governor. One revolutionary activist later recalled: "At the time, Li only had the empty title of dudu . The actual intention of revolutionary party members was only to use Li's name to calm the hearts of the people. They saw no need for Li to bear any real responsibility or to interfere in any practical matter." Despite this weak beginning, within a year of the Wuchang uprising, Li had consolidated his position as Hubei's military governor and had become a political force to be reckoned with, both provincially and nationally. Chapter 4 will show that Li's careful attention to the problem of military control was one element in the strengthening of his position. At the same time, an equally important factor was Li's ability to take advantage of the political consensus that had brought him to the military governorship in the first place.
In the first two months after the Wuchang uprising, Li had to face a number of challenges from revolutionaries who were uneasy with the authority that had, at least theoretically, been placed in his hands. The first challenge came with the establishment of a branch military government in Hankou immediately after that city's New Army uprising. The organizers of this government were primarily members of the Literature Society who were disturbed by the prominence of non-revolutionaries such as Li Yuanhong and Tang Hualong in the Wuchang military government. In establishing the Hankou branch government, these men consciously saw themselves as creating a more revolutionary alternative to the Wuchang government, and they ignored its orders as they saw fit. This attempt to create an autonomous revolutionary base was, however, short-lived. With the Qing reconquest of Hankou in early November, the Hankou branch government disintegrated, and most of its leaders left Hubei to assist revolutionary struggles in other provinces.
A different sort of challenge to Li's authority came when Huang Xing arrived in Wuhan on October 28 to take command of military defenses against counterattacking Qing forces. Huang's Tongmenghui entourage assumed that his leadership would be accepted by Hubei's revolutionaries, and sought a position for him that would make him equal if not superior to the military governor. They quickly found that there was strong opposition to this proposal, and not just from constitutionalists and moderate New Army officers. Local revolutionary activists, who were proud of Hubei's achievement in initiating the revolution, were unwilling to subordinate themselves to a late-arriving outsider, even one with Huang's revolutionary status. Eager to avoid
any break in revolutionary ranks, Huang placed himself under the Hubei military government by accepting the post of commander-in-chief from Li. It is possible that an important military victory by Huang might have strengthened his position enough to make him a threat to Li. However, when Hanyang fell to Qing forces on November 27, many Hubei revolutionaries, rightly or wrongly, held Huang responsible. Shortly after this defeat, Huang and his entourage left Hubei for Nanjing, where they made a fresh start in the establishment of a Tongmenghui-dominated government.
Finally, there was one other equally unsuccessful attempt to create a revolutionary post with authority over Li in the establishment of the Office of General Supervision (Zongjianchachu) under Liu Gong, the president of the Forward Together Society. This office was supposed to have supervisory powers over the entire military government, including the military governor. However, having largely obtained his position in the Forward Together Society because of his financial contributions, Liu did not have sufficient status within the revolutionary movement to turn his post into a position of real political strength. Recognizing this, Liu finally left Wuchang in early 1912 to organize an expeditionary army in northern Hubei.
Despite these efforts to place some check on Li Yuanhong's authority, there was rarely any serious discussion about replacing him. One exception to this occurred when Wuchang came under Qing artillery fire after the loss of Hanyang. Fearing for his own safety, Li left the city and set up headquarters in a neighboring town. This outraged many revolutionaries determined to defend the capital, some of whom proposed removing Li from office on the charge of deserting his post. Just at this point, though, a cease-fire was arranged between the Qing and revolutionary forces. Cooler heads argued that, to preserve revolutionary strength in the upcoming peace negotiations, every effort had to be made to prevent any break in revolutionary ranks. So Li was encouraged to return to Wuchang, and the incident was forgotten. This affair reveals one reason Li Yuanhong was able to survive in his post. Since he had been raised up as a figurehead to inspire popular confidence in the revolution, any attempt to remove him might have the opposite effect. Indeed, Li's flight from Wuchang had caused a panic among the city's inhabitants, who feared that it presaged a revolutionary defeat. The maintenance of popular morale was a strong argument against any attempt to oust Li from his post.
Li's official position as head of the military government was also never effectively challenged for the same reason he had been chosen
for the post in the first place. No one else in Hubei was acceptable as a leader to all the different supporters of the revolution. Li's selection as military governor had been instrumental in winning the support of non-revolutionary elites and New Army officers. Whereas these people were willing to serve under Li, they were less willing to accept the leadership of revolutionary activists. The revolutionaries might have ignored this sentiment if the revolutionary party itself had presented a united front. This was not, however, the case. Forward Together Society members, who had a strong presence in the Wuchang government, opposed the autonomy of the Hankou branch government, with its predominantly Literature Society leadership. Literature Society members, meanwhile, were unwilling to accept the authority of Forward Together Society leaders such as Liu Gong. Huang Xing likewise found his efforts to assert a broader Tongmenghui-based authority over the Hubei government blocked by the provincialist sentiments of Hubei revolutionaries. Given their own factional differences, Hubei's revolutionaries found they could only compromise on a non-revolutionary military governor.
Finally, revolutionary unease about Li's authority as military governor may have been mitigated by apparent revolutionary control over Hubei's military government in its early stages. In the first few days after the Wuchang uprising, the actual day-to-day decisions of the Hubei government were made by revolutionary activists in a specially created Strategy Council (Mouluechu). In the subsequent reorganization of the military government, this power was passed to the Ministry of Military Affairs (Junshibu), which was again controlled by revolutionaries. Wartime exigency allowed this ministry not only to have final authority over military affairs, but to intervene in civil administration and foreign affairs. Despite the military governor's nominal authority, real power was in the hands of this ministry, which wielded it with little reference to Li. Finally, major policy decisions in the first months of the new regime continued to be made in assemblies that were easily dominated by revolutionaries. Thus the revolutionaries had no trouble undermining Tang Hualong's attempt to keep civil administration in constitutionalist hands. Given these conditions, most revolutionaries saw no immediate need to force Li Yuanhong's removal. At the same time, many of them bore little personal respect for Li except in his role as a useful puppet.
Despite initial revolutionary disregard for his authority, Li Yuanhong had the potential to be much more than a figurehead. Even if he had not originally been a supporter of the revolution, Li gained
prestige simply by being the first military governor in the province that had initiated it. Li's prestige was further enhanced when, in recognition of Hubei's contribution to the revolution, he was elected vice president of the Republic in December 1912 by the provisional national government at Nanjing. As Li's reputation grew, he also began to take a more active role in the actual administration of the Hubei government. Hubei's revolutionaries had insisted on a concentration of power in the military governor's office, and Li was the ultimate beneficiary of this policy.
Continuing political divisions within the revolutionary camp also aided the consolidation of Li's political authority. In Hubei, unlike in Hunan, revolutionaries, not constitutionalists, emerged from the revolution as the more powerful political force. Hubei's revolutionaries, though, remained sharply divided into factions largely rooted in the original division between the Forward Together Society and the Literature Society. Two Forward Together Society leaders, Sun Wu and Zhang Zhenwu, and one Literature Society leader, Jiang Yiwu, were the most important faction leaders at this time. Because of the common character in each of their names, they were often referred to collectively as the "Three Wus." Not coincidentally, Sun Wu was the head of the powerful Ministry of Military Affairs, while Zhang and Jiang served as its vice ministers.
One of the most divisive issues for Hubei's revolutionaries in early 1912 turned on their relationship to the national leadership of the Tongmenghui, and to the Tongmenghui-dominated Nanjing provisional government. Given their province's contribution to the revolution, Hubei revolutionaries had expected to be well represented in the Nanjing government. A number of them, including Sun Wu, had gone to Nanjing in the hope of receiving high posts. However, when ministerial appointments were announced, no Wuchang uprising participants were included. Another event that poisoned relations between Nanjing and Wuhan was a Nanjing proposal to raise funds through a foreign mortgage on Hubei's mines. The defense of provincial resources against central actions favoring foreign control had played an important role in elite disaffection from the Qing dynasty. No matter how this proposal was justified by the new "center," it raised the same defensive nationalist response among Hubei's elite. Playing on these antagonisms, Sun Wu banded together with a number of other disappointed office-seekers to organize a new political party, the Minshe, or People's Society. Although the party was open to all, its active membership was predominantly Hubei-based. The principles of
the Minshe were vague, except for consistent opposition to the Tongmenghui and its leaders, Sun Yat-sen and Huang Xing. In order to create a political alternative to the Tongmenghui, the party threw its support to Li Yuanhong.
The establishment of the Minshe was a key event in the development of political parties in Hubei. Originally a haven for revolutionaries alienated from the Tongmenghui, the Minshe soon drew close to other political parties formed from the Tongmenghui's constitutionalist opposition. In mid 1912, the Minshe merged with these parties to form the Republican Party. Meanwhile, the Literature Society faction around Jiang Yiwu became the main base for the Hubei branch of the Tongmenghui, and later the Nationalist Party. Many of the more radical members of the Forward Together Society, especially those associated with Zhang Zhenwu, also turned away from Sun Wu to support the Tongmenghui. Zhang Zhenwu himself though remained something of a political maverick and was frequently at odds with both Sun Wu and the Tongmenghui.
Li Yuanhong benefited from the political infighting among Hubei's revolutionaries in several ways. Most obviously, the lack of revolutionary unity weakened their ability to act as a counterforce to the powers of the military governor. At the same time, factional struggles within the Hubei government also forced many revolutionary leaders from their posts. The worst offender in this case was again Sun Wu, who used his influence as minister of military affairs to keep Literature Society leaders from positions of power. Sun's blatant attempts to strengthen his own faction's power created many enemies, some of whom began to plot his overthrow. On the night of February 27, 1912, these conspirators led a mob of troops and disbanded soldiers to attack the Ministry of Military Affairs and other offices of Sun's supporters. Although originating as a coup against Sun Wu, a riot ensued that became an opportunity for others to settle their own political grudges. For example, rioting troops killed Zhang Tingfu, the only member of the Literature Society to attain the rank of division commander in the Hubei army. Other civil officials and military officers unconnected with Sun were also attacked and the entire government was thrown into temporary disorder.
The February 27 incident was essentially an internal struggle among revolutionaries, and Li Yuanhong emerged from it unscathed. At the same time, the restoration of administration in the wake of this disorder provided Li with a golden opportunity to strengthen his own position vis-à-vis Hubei's revolutionaries. Sun Wu and many of his
followers were forced to resign from their government and army positions in the face of the opposition shown to them in the incident. In the confusion of the moment, other revolutionary officeholders also fled their posts or resigned. Li was therefore given a chance to refill these offices with men more to his own liking. The most important change was the appointment of Zeng Guangda, a non-revolutionary New Army regiment commander, to succeed Sun Wu. This began the breakup of the independent revolutionary power base that had existed within the Ministry of Military Affairs. This change was symbolically represented by the ministry's demotion to the level of a department. In replacing other officials, Li announced his intention to seek out "famous scholars and gentry of high repute." To give a few examples, Li nominated Fan Zengxiang, a former Qing provincial treasurer, as minister of the interior, replacing a Japanese-educated Tongmenghui and Forward Together Society member. Likewise, the minister of education, another Forward Together Society member, was succeeded by a former Hanlin scholar and president of the Hubei Education Association. Under Li's influence, then, the administration of the Hubei government was slowly placed in the hands of more conservative gentry and former officials. At the same time, Li was able to carry out this pervasive administrative shake-up without attracting too much antagonism from outgoing officeholders, who blamed their factional enemies, not Li, for their problems.
Li was also very careful to make sure that these personnel changes did not take on the look of a purge of revolutionaries. Thus he made a special effort to placate Sun Wu with praise for his achievements, even while accepting his resignation. A number of revolutionaries also continued to hold important positions in the Hubei government at the ministerial or department-head level. What mattered more to Li was not their revolutionary backgrounds but their willingness to accept his authority. Finally, Li tried to give the appearance of favoring "new men" in assistant positions where they could gain experience. By this means, Li avoided alienating the large number of revolutionary appointees at the lower levels of his administration. Li can therefore be seen as performing a delicate political balancing act. While clearly attempting to replace independent-minded revolutionaries in his administration, he tried to do so without turning the entire revolutionary camp against him.
Li's ability to maintain amicable relations with many revolutionaries, even while consolidating his own political power, was consistent with his general response to the political struggles that emerged in
Hubei after the 1911 Revolution. An American consular report written in February 1912 noted that Li was becoming a strong leader precisely because he belonged to no one faction, and so remained the one person that all different factions could unite behind. The pattern of Li's actions in 1912 suggests that he was very aware that he had gained his position by being acceptable to a broad spectrum of political forces. He sought to strengthen his position, not by throwing his support to any one group, but by maintaining his place above them all. As noted in a later consular report, as a result of his nonpartisan appearance, all political factions willingly supported Li as an alternative to seeing any other faction gain a dominant position.
Li's nonpartisan approach characterized his relationships with emerging political parties. Like Tan Yankai in Hunan, Li did not, in the beginning, tie himself to any one party. Certainly, Sun Wu's People's Society, and the Republican Party that succeeded it, looked to Li as their leader, and Li was more than willing to accept their political support. However, Li's association with the People's Society was not proof, as some historians have asserted, of Li's break with the revolutionary party. Indeed, Li also joined the Tongmenghui after its transformation into a legal political party in early 1912 and was elected as one of its vice chairs (xieli ) along with Huang Xing. Hubei's factional politics were increasingly subsumed within the conflict between the Republican Party and the Tongmenghui, but Li retained his connections to both parties and was usually seen as taking an unbiased position between them.
Li did not, however, simply stand aloof from Hubei's political struggles. Rather, he took advantage of his position to mediate political disputes. One example of this occurred when Sun Wu returned from his failed attempt to acquire a post in Nanjing and created a political controversy by suggesting that Hubei should withdraw its recognition of the Nanjing government. Li stepped into this conflict to reconcile Sun Wu with angry Tongmenghui supporters and to prevent a break with Nanjing. Newspaper accounts of conflicts between the Tongmenghui and the Republican Party in Hubei also frequently note Li's role as a mediator. Indeed, he acquired the sobriquet "Auntie Li" for his likeness to an aunt conciliating her quarreling nieces and nephews. Through this role, Li effectively strengthened his political role as the neutral representative of Hubei's political consensus.
By late 1912, when Hubei's political conflicts began to take a more violent turn, Li's position as military governor was strong enough for him to take a more forceful approach to challenges to his authority. In
July 1912, persistent rumors began to circulate that Tongmenghui activists in Hubei were plotting to overthrow Li's government. Finding this useful political ammunition, the Republican Party openly charged the Tongmenghui with subversion. A military conference called by Li in early July dissolved into a fistfight when Republican Party members repeated these charges against several Tongmenghui officers. Tongmenghui leaders consistently denied these rumors and generally blamed Sun Wu for spreading them. Nonetheless, some revolutionary activists had indeed become dismayed with the increasingly conservative cast of Li's administration, and a number of them had begun to consider such action. On July 17, three such men, all former Literature Society activists, were arrested in Wuhan, accused of fomenting rebellion, and summarily executed. The furor over this incident had barely died down when, in mid August, Yuan Shikai, on Li Yuanhong's request, had Zhang Zhenwu and one of his close associates arrested in Beijing. Without bothering with a formal trial, Yuan had both men immediately executed.
The execution of Zhang Zhenwu severely shook Li's reputation for political nonpartisanship and changed his relations with Hubei's political parties. In arranging Zhang Zhenwu's death, Li clearly overstepped his legal authority. After the fact, Li issued copious evidence of Zhang's supposed crimes. However, given the irregularity of the execution, and the known enmity between Zhang and Li, it was easy to see Li's action as politically motivated. For many Tongmenghui members, it was also disturbing evidence that Li was drawing closer to Yuan Shikai. Although Sun Yat-sen hoped to avoid an open break with Li, most of the Tongmenghui leadership felt that cooperation with Li was no longer possible, and he was therefore expelled from the newly formed Nationalist Party. From this point on, Li had no alternative but to look increasingly to the Republican Party as his main base of political support. The success of the Republican Party in the Hubei Provincial Assembly elections in early 1913 was in turn influenced by the stronger support it began to receive from Li.
Another result of the deteriorating relations between Li and the revolutionary party after Zhang Zhenwu's death was that more revolutionary activists began to plot in earnest for Li's overthrow and linked this to a broader struggle against Yuan Shikai. Most of these plots sought to replicate the success of the Wuchang uprising by organizing sympathetic troops in the Hubei army to carry out a military coup. The result was a series of military revolts, beginning with an uprising by cavalry troops at South Lake outside Wuchang on September 24,
1912. Li's response to such plots was forceful and unhesitating. The South Lake uprising, like others that followed it, was quickly and bloodily suppressed by troops that remained loyal to Li. To stop these plots, Li also resorted to the declaration of martial law and the summary execution of suspected rebels. By late 1912, Li's regime began to take on a more authoritarian cast, with the expansion of secret police forces, the surveillance and harassment of revolutionary leaders, and the censorship of newspapers .
Despite their best efforts, revolutionary plots against Li were never able to repeat the success of the Wuchang uprising. This failure cannot simply be attributed to the effectiveness of Li's political suppression. Rather, these plots clearly failed to evoke the same broad response that had been the key to the success of the 1911 Revolution. In trying to raise support for their cause, revolutionary activists declared that "the good fortune of the Republic could not truly be enjoyed" unless Li and Yuan were overthrown. This rather ill-defined goal no doubt suggested to many that the uprisings were motivated more by hopes of personal gain than by principled ideals. As such, the broader political elite saw no reason to risk potential disorder by supporting a struggle against Li. Indeed, the membership of the Nationalist Party itself was hardly united on this course of action. The uprisings against Li rested on a narrow base and so remained isolated military putsches.
It would appear that, rather than being shaken by revolutionary plots, Li's authority in late 1912 and early 1913 grew even stronger. There is little question that some of Li's increased power came from the consolidation of his control over Hubei's military and the use of coercive force to defend himself against revolutionary plots. Accounts sympathetic to the revolutionary cause have sometimes used this to portray Li as a militarist who only held power through the application of military force. Less attention is usually given, though, to the fact that the revolutionary plotters Li suppressed had themselves already abandoned civilian politics for military force as a means to achieve their political objectives. Under such circumstances, any government would claim the right to respond with force to prevent a military coup. At the same time, the complete failure of these plotters to provoke a popular uprising against Li suggests his success in maintaining the strong consensus he had built around himself in the first year of his rule. Finally, there is little indication that Li's own goal was to make himself into a provincial military dictator. Indeed, his advocacy of a division of civil and military power suggests quite the opposite intent.
The Establishment of Hubei's Civil Governorship
The supremacy of military governors over both civil and military affairs had been accepted by revolutionary regimes as a matter of wartime expediency. Once peace was restored, the continuation of such authority in a military post was less justifiable. It was another matter, though, to expect these governors to give up the expanded powers they had become accustomed to exercise. Therefore, it was an act of some boldness when in early 1912 Li Yuanhong placed his considerable prestige as the first revolutionary military governor, and vice president of the Republic, behind a proposal to separate military and civil powers in the provinces. Going beyond lip service to this principle, Li proposed that Hubei lead the way with the appointment of a civil governor (minzhengzhang ).
Li's initial proposal for the separation of civil and military administration, issued on April 10, 1912, was a remarkably harsh critique of what he saw as the "baneful effects" of military rule. Li charged reliance on military power in government with causing defiance of central authority, favoritism in personnel appointments, excessive military recruitment, wasteful military expenditures, and incessant fighting over political spoils. One of Li's main concerns, though, was to avoid any repetition of the military fragmentation that had occurred in previous periods of Chinese history. The special danger of this situation at this particular time was that it might open the way for the partition of the nation by foreign powers.
It is significant that Li did not call for civil supremacy over the military but for an equal division of authority between military and civil governors. From the vantage point of a professional military man whose main concern was national defense, Li saw problems in the combination of military and civil power in either office:
At the beginning of the revolution, [military and civil] rule could be combined because there was civil war. After the revolution, though, future wars will be directed outside our borders. If a civilian official controls both military and civil governments, but is without military skills, how will the soldiers obey his commands? If a military officer controls military and civil administration, and then there is an incident that requires him to go on campaign, who will be left in charge of local government?
There are indications that Li also sought to prevent civilian control of the military at the provincial level as a first step toward unification of the country's military forces into a truly national army. "As long as
military and civil administration are not separated, then there will be no military unification," he said. "As long as there is no military unification, there will be no advancement in the nation's defense plans." To the extent that Li was calling for military autonomy from provincial civilian authority, though, the effect was to reduce, not increase, the political power of the military governors.
Many historians have doubted Li's sincerity in proposing the separation of military and civil powers. The conventional interpretation has been that Li's main goal was to curry favor with Yuan Shikai, since Yuan also favored this proposal. This argument becomes less convincing, however, when Li's actions are seen in the context of his political career as a whole. Revisionist historians such as Xiao Zhizhi and Ren Zequan have shown that a stand against military rule was a consistent feature of Li's political position throughout the Republican period.
Li wasted no time in carrying out his pledge to have Hubei lead the way in the separation of military and civil power. The selection of a civil governor for Hubei was completed within a week of Li's original proposal. The manner in which the governor was selected is a good indication of the new configuration of provincial political power in the early Republic. On April 16, the Hubei Provincial Assembly fulfilled its legitimating role by electing a governor. In this election, the assembly accepted Li's nominee, Fan Zengxiang, the former Qing provincial treasurer whom Li had appointed minister of internal affairs the previous month. Finally, central approval came on April 19 in the form of a presidential "appointment" from Yuan Shikai. There is little question here, though, that the province, not the president, controlled the selection process. After the election, Li urged Fan to take up his new post, promising that he would restrict himself entirely to military administration.
Belying the speed and apparent ease of this process, there had been some opposition inside Hubei to Li's proposal for the establishment of a civil governorship. Contrary to what might be expected, this opposition did not originate within the military, but came from the staff of the civil administration and, more important, from the Tongmenghui. Opposition within the civil administration reflected the concerns of bureaucrats that a new governor might make personnel or administrative changes that would threaten their positions. The opposition of the Hubei branch of the Tongmenghui followed the position of its national leadership. Their main argument was that a centralization of provincial authority under the military governors was still necessary
for the effective consolidation of the Republic. Underneath this, however, there was a political concern that the establishment of civil governors, with Yuan Shikai's support, might be used to undercut the revolutionary party's power in provinces controlled by Tongmenghui military governors. Owing to this opposition, Fan's election in the Provincial Assembly had only been achieved through special lobbying efforts, at Li Yuanhong's behest, by the president of the assembly, Liu Xinyuan. This opposition did not cease after Fan's election, but shifted into political attacks directed against Fan himself. Li attempted to mediate this conflict within his administration and with Hubei's political parties, but refused to change his position on the necessity of an independent civil governor. Nonetheless, under a barrage of attacks, Fan finally declined the office.
The initial setback over Fan Zengxiang was overcome by his replacement with Liu Xinyuan. Liu actually began to serve as acting civil governor while Fan's position was still in question. But this arrangement came under attack by Liu's political opponents, who objected to his combination of legislative and executive power. This issue was resolved when Fan's resignation was accepted, and Liu officially resigned the presidency of the assembly on July 1, 1912, to take up his duties as civil governor. Before doing so, Liu demanded, and received, full assurance from Li that he would be given complete control over Hubei's civil administration and its personnel. Announcing Liu's assumption of the post, Li declared that the civil governor would have full authority over the province's civil departments, as well as local and provincial police affairs.
Liu Xinyuan was a Hanlin scholar who had held several important provincial posts under the Qing dynasty. He was also a prominent member of Hubei's constitutionalist gentry and had been active in the railroad-protection movement. His presidency of the Republican Provincial Assembly was preceded by a vice presidency in Hubei's late Qing assembly. Contact Liu had had with Li in earlier reform activities facilitated their cooperation in this period. Quite naturally Liu's personnel preferences were very much in accord with Li's own. For example, in plans for the reform of local government, Liu reportedly hoped to use degree-holding gentry to replace many of the inexperienced government students who had been appointed county magistrates in the aftermath of the revolution. To one office-seeker, Liu reportedly said: "All my advisers and the members of my staff are hanlin, juren, daotai , or zhifu [i.e., degree-holders or former Qing officials]. If a person is from this society or that party I certainly won't
use them [for that reason]." In theory, Liu was not opposed to the use of "new men" if they showed signs of talent, and many such men were present on his staff. Nonetheless, his preference for employing gentry officials was no secret. It is no wonder, then, that the news of Liu's assumption of office created a minor panic within the Hubei bureaucracy.
Liu's tenure as civil governor was troubled from the beginning. He did indeed create enemies by staff changes and personnel cuts. Those who lost their jobs quickly joined failed office-seekers in charging Liu with undue favoritism. The political factions that had opposed the separation of military and civil administration in the first place were especially antagonistic to Liu. This was particularly true of the Tongmenghui and its successor, the Nationalist Party. Beyond whatever antagonism Tongmenghui members may have harbored against Liu because of his constitutionalist background, the party was also the representative of the "new men" of revolutionary merit who felt that their opportunities for political advancement were blocked in Liu's administration. In this sense, the establishment of the civil governorship acted to exacerbate Hubei's increasingly bitter political conflicts.
As Liu Xinyuan came under increasing political attack, he was further weakened by Li's failure to provide the full support for the civil governor's position that he had promised. Despite Li's pledge to restrict himself to military administration, there was a general assumption that he would still exercise some informal supervision over civil affairs. Furthermore, since the Hubei government had originally been organized around military concerns, civil and military affairs were still closely intertwined in many areas. The heads of the civil departments and offices used claims of military ramifications to circumvent Liu's authority with direct appeals to Li. When Li, as was his habit, stepped in to mediate these disputes, he acted as a final arbiter with authority over, rather than equal to, the civil governor. Such interventions by Li steadily eroded Liu's power in the government. Some civil offices even refused to acknowledge Liu's authority over them. One such case involved the Records Office, an archive created to collect historical materials on the 1911 Revolution, which was staffed primarily with uprising participants. This office refused to accept orders from Liu on the official exchange rate to be used in government offices, claiming that, since the military governor had established this office, it was not subordinate to the civil governor. The conflict over this relatively petty issue escalated after the Records Office charged
Liu in the Provincial Assembly with abusing his authority. It is significant that Li resolved this issue by co-signing the questioned orders, so that although Liu's order was upheld, his authority was compromised.
Liu also failed to gain the complete control over personnel he had demanded as a condition for taking office. To begin with, Liu found his own political power base insufficient to remove officeholders with strong party connections. Several such attempts were halted after they provoked strong opposition in the Provincial Assembly. In the end, Liu could only enforce his personnel decisions if he had Li's backing. This meant, in turn, that Liu found it difficult either to remove men whom Li had originally appointed or to refuse men whom Li recommended. In the final analysis, then, the power of appointment, especially to higher administrative posts, remained in Li's hands.
Over time, Liu found his position as civil governor growing steadily more untenable. He had been unable to achieve the complete authority over administration and personnel that had been promised him when he assumed the post. Offices under Liu continued to appeal to Li over his head in order to block his orders. At the same time, Liu was continually attacked by political parties, and obstructed by opposition in the Provincial Assembly. Finally, in October 1912, Liu resigned, claiming ill-health.
The political struggle that erupted over Liu's replacement is a good example of the highly factionalized nature of Hubei's politics. The Republican and Nationalist parties naturally had their own nominees for the post. Smaller factions, such as a group centered on Sun Wu and a clique of politicians from Li's home county, also had their own candidates. The Provincial Assembly as a whole favored selecting a "new man" rather than another relatively conservative gentry official. Li, on the contrary, showed a continued preference for experienced former Qing high officials. Li's initial nominee, Zhou Shumo, was a Hubei jinshi who had held a provincial governor's post in the late Qing period. However, Zhou had also been a prominent loyalist during the 1911 Revolution, and opposition from the Provincial Assembly forced Li to withdraw this nomination. This outcome is significant in showing that Li, for all his power, was still susceptible to political pressure.
The candidate who finally received approval, Xia Shoukang, had a background very similar to Liu Xinyuan's. Xia was a jinshi and a Hanlin scholar who like Liu had served as vice president of the Hubei
Provincial Assembly before the revolution. Since June 1912, Xia had been head of Hubei's Department of Internal Affairs, so he had some experience in provincial administration. Despite these credentials, all parties in the Provincial Assembly originally rejected Xia's candidacy. However, when the Nationalist Party focused its opposition on the fact that Xia was a member of the Republican Party, albeit an inactive one, Li was able to negotiate with the Republican Party to drop its candidate in favor of Xia.
Xia's succession solved none of the problems that plagued Liu Xinyuan's governorship. If anything, Xia proved to be even weaker in his post than Liu. This weakness was evident from his first days in office, when he was forced to accept Li's recommendation of Rao Hanxiang, Li's personal secretary and close confidant, to head the Department of Internal Affairs, rather than his own nominee. To save Xia's face, Li accepted the appointment of the rejected nominee as head of the Department of Finance. This appointment, however, was attacked in the Provincial Assembly and had to be withdrawn. This incident was symptomatic of the problems faced by Xia's administration. First, the support of the Republican Party, only reluctantly given in the first place, was not sustained. As a result, Xia could marshal little political support to defend himself against constant attacks by opposing political parties and factions. Second, it was already obvious that Xia could not count on Li's unqualified support. Without this support, Xia had little hope of restrengthening the authority of the civil governorship.
By the time of Xia Shoukang's administration, there was no longer much question that Li Yuanhong remained the real head of both the civil and military administrations. Li's interference in, or contravention of, Xia's decisions showed that "in all matters Xia did not dare to act on his own without Li's approval." Xia was limited in particular by Rao Hanxiang's placement in the Department of Internal Affairs. Because of Rao's influence with Li, Xia found it necessary to defer to him in areas where the civil governor should have had final authority. Rao's position in Xia's administration meant, in effect, an extension of Li's influence more directly into civil affairs. According to one contemporary criticism, Rao's appointment was a "reunification of Hubei's divided military and civil powers." With his authority compromised by Li from above, and by Rao from below, Xia could do little more than simply hold onto his post. The effective resubordination of the civil governor to the military governor was com-
pleted when Xia resigned in September 1913 and was replaced by Rao.
In the end, the inability of Hubei's civil governors to form their own independent political power bases doomed the attempt to separate civil and military administrations. Both Liu Xinyuan and Xia Shoukang were men of considerable status and political experience. Yet, within the context of Hubei's factionalized politics, neither man was able to build the broad political consensus among Hubei's political parties, or within the Provincial Assembly, that he needed to make the civil governorship a strong position. Without their own base of political power, both men had to rely on support from Li. When Li's support weakened, so did the civil governor's authority.
Much of the blame for the lack of success in Hubei's separation of military and civil power must therefore go to Li's failure to give his unqualified backing to the decisions and policies of the civil governors. By continuing to act as a final political arbiter, Li increasingly undercut the independent authority the civil governors expected to wield. Nonetheless, to interpret Li's behavior simply as an attempt to maintain his own power fails to explain why Li advocated the separation of military and civil powers in the first place. Granting that Li may have found it difficult to give up the power he held, he also remained Hubei's political arbiter precisely because this was the role demanded of him by Hubei's factionalized politics. Because of his unique status in the establishment of Hubei's new provincial regime, Li was perhaps the only person with sufficient authority to make political decisions that could be accepted, or at least enforced, with any finality. Thus political parties fought for his support, and conflicts within the government, military or civil, were brought to his attention. The result was a further consolidation of Li's power that was as much a product of the structure of politics in early Republican Hubei as it was of his own volition.
Hubei's attempted separation of civil and military power was not without some effect. The principle of civil administration and civilian rule was reasserted, even if not fully implemented. Furthermore, the office of civil governor was established, and even given its limited authority this was still a step away from the unchallenged position of the military governor that had preceded it. It is not unreasonable to think that if Hubei's civilian politics had had more time to mature, this post might eventually have provided the basis for even further restoration of the principle of civilian rule. Unfortunately, other events intervened to prevent this.
The provincial regimes that emerged from the 1911 Revolution in Hunan and Hubei did not represent the triumph of military power amid the wreckage of civil government and civilian politics. Rather, they reflected the formation of a new civil polity founded on late Qing demands for increased political participation, a polity that derived its legitimacy from the elite consensus that had formed around the 1911 Revolution. The end of the imperial system may have meant a decline in the power of the central government, but elite political participation prevented the collapse of civil administration at the local and provincial levels. As seen in the cases of Hunan and Hubei, even the establishment of military governors at the head of these provincial regimes was not evidence of the victory of military over civilian political power. Like the provincial governors and governors-general they replaced, the military governors were strong executives. There is no indication, though, that they achieved this through the inheritance or formation of regional military power bases. Tan Yankai and Li Yuanhong's political authority as military governors was primarily based in their ability to represent the elite consensus of the provincial regimes. Rather than filling a vacuum left by the absence of civilian politics, these men established their positions to a large extent by acting as civilian politicians.
The strong civilian foundation of the Hunan and Hubei regimes was not necessarily representative of all postrevolutionary provincial governments. Indeed, the character of provincial governments varied considerably, depending on the specific conditions in each province. In a typology of provincial power patterns following the revolution, Jerome Ch'en notes that several northern provinces and regions that never declared independence remained largely under central bureaucratic control before and after the revolution. In revolutionary provinces, the priority of civil or military elites in the coalitions that formed new provincial regimes depended on the exact mix of forces that arose in response to the revolution. Thus, Ch'en finds four provinces where civil gentry emerged as the dominant force in revolutionary civilian-military elite alliances. Interestingly enough, in Ch'en's typology, Hubei and Hunan are listed among the ten provinces where there was a military preponderance in provincial government after the revolution, though he admits "nominal" gentry leadership in Hunan's case. Certainly the military did come out on top in many provincial governments. Donald Sutton, for example, argues persuasively that
civilian participation in the Yunnan provincial regime was subordinate to military leadership. Nonetheless, the evidence from Hubei and Hunan also suggests that insufficient attention may have been given to the possible civilian political foundations of provincial regimes often characterized as representative of military rule. Before any final conclusions as to the relevance of the Hubei and Hunan cases to the broader issue of early Republican military-civilian political relations can be reached, however, some attention must be paid to the military side of these regimes.