Military Problems and Policies of the Provincial Regimes
One undeniable result of the 1911 Revolution was the enhancement of the prestige and power of the Chinese military. Military support had been essential for the success of the revolution, and military men had been important partners in the elite coalitions that had formed new provincial governments. Once peace was restored, however, the military presented the provincial regimes with a new set of problems and challenges, not the least of which was how to deal with its expanded political role. With the success of the revolution, the objective that had drawn the military into politics had supposedly been achieved. Therefore the way was open for the army's return to its "normal" defense and peace-keeping duties. The question remained, though, of whether the military's acquired political habit could be broken. It is significant that the pattern of military intervention that threatened in Hubei and Hunan in this period was somewhat broader than the warlord model. Political danger did not come only, or even primarily, from senior commanders who used their units to advance their own political positions, but from the politicized rank and file and lower- and middle-echelon officers, who remained open to a variety of political appeals.
Other problems created by military expansion during the revolution complicated the political threat posed by postrevolutionary armies in Hubei and Hunan. The revolution halted the military progress that had been achieved with the formation of the New Armies in these two provinces. As a result of hurried revolutionary recruiting, the provincial armies became a bloated hodgepodge of ill-disciplined troops that were both expensive to maintain and difficult to control. In a very
short period, the military forces that had helped bring the new provincial regimes into existence became a major threat to their stability.
Ironically, while the expanded numbers of politicized troops increased the military's potential political threat, the organizational effects of this expansion in Hunan and Hubei undermined the military's political strength. In some provinces, New Armies emerged intact from the revolution as strong, cohesive organizations and so wielded greater political power. Thus, in the provincial case studied by Donald Sutton, the New Army dominated Yunnan's postrevolutionary government. The New Armies of Hunan and Hubei, in contrast, were dispersed among the various military forces raised during the revolution. This situation again points to the difficulty of using a single organizational model to explain the political position of the military in early Republican China. In the cases of Hunan and Hubei, unlike in Yunnan, no single cohesive military organization represented the military's interests in the postrevolutionary political arena. As a result, the potential political threat of the military was more easily dealt with in a manner beneficial to civilian power.
Ultimately, both Hubei and Hunan found only one solution to the problems raised by their military forces—disbandment. The decision to disband turned out to be easier to make than it was to implement. Each province had to develop its own distinct disbandment strategy to deal with the specific conditions within its military forces. The results, however, were largely the same. In both provinces, most of the military forces that had emerged from the revolution were successfully demobilized. More than anything else, the disbandments carried out by these two provincial governments set them apart from later warlord regimes, which regarded the maintenance and the expansion of military forces as a primary goal. The successful disbandments carried out by these provincial regimes provide further evidence of their fundamental civilian orientation, and the potential they offered for a political future other than warlordism.
The Impact of Military Expansion
A large-scale expansion of armed forces was one immediate effect of the 1911 Revolution in most revolutionary provinces. In Hunan, for example, an estimated fifty to seventy thousand new troops were raised in the first weeks after the Changsha uprising. One account reports that as many as two hundred thousand men were ultimately recruited in the province over the course of the revolution. Even though such figures are possibly exaggerated, military recruit-
ment was a priority of the early revolutionary regimes and was carried out with considerable success, with important consequences.
One particular manifestation of successful military recruiting was a proliferation of military units. In both Hunan and Hubei, the creation of new units was encouraged by policies that rewarded effective recruiters with the command of the forces they raised. Thus a man who recruited enough soldiers, or collected enough arms, for a battalion was appointed battalion commander. This process was especially apparent at Wuhan, where the Hubei military government was under pressure to strengthen its defenses against a Qing counterattack. The original New Army participants in the October Wuchang uprising would only have filled a single infantry brigade, but by the end of November eight infantry brigades had been formed in the Wuhan area alone, along with expanded artillery, cavalry, and engineering corps. This "regular" army was joined by numerous irregular units of various sizes, including a student army and a special women's corps. Finally, Hubei's troop strength was also swollen by a number of large expeditionary forces from Hunan and other neighboring provinces.
Over the course of the revolutionary struggle, the organization of revolutionary armies underwent considerable changes. Military forces from Hubei and Hunan suffered heavy losses in battles with Qing forces on the Hubei front, especially during their unsuccessful defense of the cities of Hankou and Hanyang in late November 1911. Some units disintegrated as a result of these battles, and their soldiers either deserted or were absorbed into other units. The military situation only stabilized after a cease-fire was negotiated in early December, which lasted until the abdication of the Manchu emperor on February 12, 1912. Even with wartime casualties and desertions, though, the Hubei and Hunan military forces that survived into early 1912 were considerably larger than the armies the two provinces had fielded before the revolution. The Hubei army in early 1912 was estimated at between 100,000 and 120,000 soldiers, approximately three times the size of the province's prerevolutionary forces. Tan Yankai estimated that Hunan's army emerged from the revolution with some 50,000 men, more than double the combined strength of Hunan's New Army and Patrol and Defense forces before the revolution.
The final organization of revolutionary forces after the cessation of hostilities also reflected the tremendous military expansion that had taken place. In January 1912, Hubei's main revolutionary forces were reorganized into a new eight-division regular army. The eight infantry
brigades originally formed at Wuhan, as well as other irregular units, provided the foundation for the army's first six divisions. In western Hubei, a large army formed around a core of New Army troops that carried out the revolution at Yichang became Hubei's 7th Division. The 8th Division designation was assigned to a consolidation of forces raised by local revolutionary leaders along the Han River in north-western Hubei. The creation of these eight divisions stands in sharp contrast to Hubei's one division and one mixed brigade New Army before the revolution.
Few if any of Hubei's eight divisions actually had the full complement of soldiers, let alone equipment, that would have been required for a New Army division. These new divisions generally consisted of only two infantry brigades, and many of these brigades were considerably undermanned. Indeed, one estimate puts the average size of Hubei's divisions at six thousand men, only three-fourths the troop strength required for two New Army brigades, and only half the size of a full New Army division. Most of these eight divisions also lacked the non-infantry components required by New Army standards. Instead, independent cavalry, artillery, engineering, and transportation units were created. Since it is questionable whether actual troop strength and equipment could have justified the formation of so many divisions, this expanded military organization seems to have been based largely on political considerations. On one hand, this divisional strength fortified Hubei's political position vis-à-vis the provisional government at Nanjing. On the other hand, the formation of these divisions created many new officer's positions that the Hubei government could use to reward revolutionary participants. For whatever reason, the proliferation of military units was an important reflection of the military expansion of the revolutionary period.
The complexity of the Hubei army in early 1912 is further revealed by the number of units remaining outside the eight-division regular army. Some irregular forces, such as the student army, retained their original organizations, while others were combined into special guard or police units. Many revolutionary troops were incorporated into a specially designated Area Defense Army (Jinweijun), which expanded from a brigade to a full division in February 1912. A two-thousand-man Training Corps (Jiaodaotuan) was another special force based on Hubei's original New Army 31st Regiment. This regiment participated in the revolution in Sichuan, where it had been sent before the Wuchang uprising to suppress that province's railroad-protection movement. Receiving this special designation after returning to Hubei
in mid January 1912, the New Army troops of this regiment were theoretically reserved to fill army instructors' posts as they became available.
A number of revolutionary forces outside the Wuhan area also retained independent designations. One example was Liu Gong's Northern Expedition Army, stationed in northern Hubei. This army had been organized in Wuhan with about one thousand troops and then expanded to some five to six thousand men during Liu's northward march. Another large independent unit garrisoned in northern Hubei was commanded by Zhang Guoquan, a New Army cavalry soldier who had led a revolutionary uprising at Xiangyang. Taking the title of commander-in-chief of the Xiangyang Branch Military Government, Zhang raised an army of some twenty thousand largely unarmed men. By early 1912, though, Zhang was forced to contract his army to a mixed brigade of five to six thousand men.
The departure of most non-Hubei forces for their home provinces in early 1912 somewhat reduced the diversity of armed forces in Hubei. One exception was a division under the command of Li Tiancai. Li originally commanded a brigade of Guangxi troops that had joined revolutionary forces in the capture of Nanjing. After the expansion of this brigade to a division with local recruits, Li had been sent to reinforce the Wuhan front. Unlike most other extraprovincial forces, Li's division remained in Hubei, perhaps because its mixed composition left it without a true home province.
Although Hunan's postrevolutionary troop strength was only half Hubei's, the organization of its military forces was equally complex. An initial consolidation created a "regular army" of five divisions and two independent infantry brigades. As in Hubei, these units fell short of New Army standards, with only five to six thousand men per division and many more men than arms. Lacking sufficient equipment to provide each division with its required artillery, cavalry, engineering, and transportation components, independent regiments or battalions were again created in each of these categories.
In Hunan, as in Hubei, a number of forces remained outside the organizational structure of the regular army. First there were the unreconstructed remnants of Hunan's old-style forces. The disbanding of Green Standard forces ceased with the revolution, and nine to ten thousand of these troops remained at their garrisons in western Hunan. Before the revolution, disbandment had reduced Hunan's Patrol and Defense forces to thirteen thousand men. Most of these troops were eventually incorporated into revolutionary units and then
into the province's new divisions. However, some three thousand men still remained in a number of scattered companies. A number of irregular revolutionary units also remained, particularly those that returned relatively late from the Hubei front. One such force was the Nanwu (Southern Martial) Army of Zhang Qihuang. Before the revolution, Zhang had been Hunan's south route Patrol and Defense commander. After Jiao Dafeng's assassination, Zhang joined the revolution and was sent with his troops, redesignated the Nanwu Army, to the Hubei front. After some disbandment, the Nanwu Army returned to Hunan in mid 1912 with between one to two thousand men. Another similar force was an army of approximately two thousand men raised during the revolution by Wang Zhengya, a retired official from northern Hunan. On orders from Tan Yankai, Wang led this force to join the siege of the Manchu garrison at Jingzhou in Hubei and remained there until returning to Hunan in mid 1912. Hunan also had a number of smaller irregular units garrisoned at Changsha, such as special guard battalions and a Training Corps formed from New Army veterans.
Hubei and Hunan both faced serious financial problems as a result of the expansion of their military forces. Pay increases granted to encourage recruits and to reward revolutionary soldiers exacerbated an already difficult situation. Before the revolution, New Army soldiers' monthly pay of approximately six yuan had been considered generous. With the revolution, a common soldier's pay in Hubei was raised to ten yuan a month. In Hunan, Jiao Dafeng promised a similar pay increase for new recruits. Tan Yankai met considerable opposition when he tried to restrict this pay to those troops who actually served at the Hubei front. In the end, he was forced to grant uniform pay of ten yuan for all soldiers. Needless to say, the salaries for new officer and staff positions created in the proliferation of military units also increased military costs. Before the revolution, financial problems prevented the completion of the two-division New Army planned for Hubei or Hunan's projected one division. After the revolution, the new provincial regimes suddenly faced the necessity of providing for not only a much larger but a much more expensive army.
Military expansion during the 1911 Revolution thus saddled the provincial governments of Hunan and Hubei with unprecedented military expenditures. In the early months of 1912, troop pay in Hunan was estimated at about 600,000 taels a month. In the end, the province's military expenses for 1912 reached a total of 8,675,580 taels. As seen from 1911 budget figures provided in Table 3, this
was more than double Hunan's military expenditures for the year before the revolution. Hubei's military expenses were even higher. Li Yuanhong estimated that military expenses in early 1912 cost the Hubei government nearly 1,700,000 taels a month. If extended over an entire year, Hubei's military expenditures would have reached the incredible sum of twenty million taels, nearly four times higher than the province's military outlay the previous year.
The impact of postrevolutionary military expenses on provincial finances can be gauged by looking at their increased share of provincial budgets. As seen in Table 4, military expenses were by far the largest item on Hunan's 1912 budget, representing 49 percent of provincial expenditures. This is in contrast to 1911, when, as seen in
Table 3, military outlays made up 39 percent of provincial expenditures. Although no similar Hubei budget for the entire year of 1912 is available, a budget for the first six months after the Wuchang uprising, reproduced in Table 5, gives some idea of the disproportionate share of the province's funds that went to military expenses. Another source confirms that at least 60 percent of Hubei's monthly expenses in the first half of 1912 went to military pay and supplies. This is in contrast to only 35 percent before the revolution.
Existing provincial revenues in Hunan and Hubei could not meet the new financial demands created by military expansion. Indeed, in 1912 each province's total military expenditures alone exceeded its total income from the previous year. One consequence of military expansion in the revolutionary period, then, was to force the new provincial regimes to find new means of revenue enhancement. Hubei was fortunate in that a large surplus totaling some three million taels, or five million yuan, was discovered in provincial treasuries. With this money in hand, the Hubei government initially sought to strengthen its popular base by remitting land taxes and eliminating several other
taxes, including the lijin commercial tax. Nonetheless, the surplus was quickly spent and soon all the eliminated taxes had to be reinstated. Lacking the financial surplus that had buffered Hubei's early months, Hunan was forced to take more immediate steps to meet its increased expenses. Ultimately, the province's revenues were raised by some six million taels through a number of extraordinary measures, including special levies on the rich, a tax on rice exports, and an increase in salt taxes. In the end, neither Hubei nor Hunan was able to raise sufficient funds to meet all its expenses. For example, as seen in the budget in Table 4, Hunan's 1912 expenditures still exceeded its income by over four million taels. Both provinces eventually turned to printing money as the only way to meet their deficits.
Joseph Esherick has shown that the need for greater revenues in Hunan and Hubei was also caused by the commitment of the provincial governments to extend late Qing reform programs. Thus, non-military expenditures in areas such as industrial development, education, judicial and constitutional reform, and transportation and communication also showed significant increases. Nonetheless, as seen in Tables 4 and 5, the expenditures in these areas were dwarfed by the tremendous growth in military expenses. If anything, the enormous demands of military financing must have inhibited the full extension of reform programs that may have been envisioned by the elite supporters of the new provincial regimes. In this regard, the expanded military that had seemed so necessary during the revolution quickly became a financial impediment once the revolution was over.
Military Control and Discipline
The obvious solution to the financial burden created by enlarged provincial armies was to reduce their size. Recognizing this solution and carrying it out, though, were two different things. For the provincial governments to be able to implement an extensive program of disbandment, they had to be sufficiently in control of their armies to ensure obedience to demobilization orders. In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, this was by no means a foregone conclusion. In both Hubei and Hunan, rapid military expansion was accompanied by a considerable weakening of the chain of command and a slackening of military discipline, which raised serious doubts about the ability of the provincial governments, or their military governors, to control their provincial armies. While making disbandment more difficult, the problem of military control became an additional argument for its necessity.
The proliferation of military units during the 1911 Revolution, however necessary, was hardly conducive to the establishment of a unified command. Lacking time to create a more elaborate military structure, new units were generally established as independent commands. This loose organization of revolutionary forces, and internal rivalries among them, made military coordination quite difficult. At the same time, the revolutionary inclination toward collective decision-making also worked against the consolidation of military command. Important military decisions, like other major policies, were often made by consensus in conferences of revolutionary leaders and military officers. While helping to legitimate revolutionary decision-making, this consensual equality also validated the independent political roles of individual commanders. Under field conditions, many commanders were not above taking action on little authority but their own. The success of revolutionary forces was generally owing more to their common purpose and high morale than to a strong unified command.
Simply in terms of military command, Li Yuanhong and Tan Yankai faced special problems in trying to assert the military authority they supposedly wielded as military governors. Even though both men owed their positions to a consensus of military and civil elites, this by no means assured them of unqualified military support. Indeed, they faced considerable resentment and antagonism within the military, particularly from revolutionary officers and soldiers. In Hunan, many revolutionary activists in the army harbored a grudge against Tan for what they saw as his acquiescence in the assassinations of Jiao Dafeng and Chen Zuoxin. In Hubei, many military men shared the general revolutionary disregard for Li as little more than a useful figurehead. Lacking strong military commands of their own, neither Tan nor Li could be assured that his military orders would always be obeyed.
Li Yuanhong was particularly troubled by the independence shown by the commanders of revolutionary forces outside the Wuhan area. One such commander was Ji Yulin, a revolutionary activist who had been appointed pacification commissioner (zhaotaoshi ) over Hubei's northwestern prefectures. Ji used this position to create a military power base for himself by consolidating various revolutionary forces that had arisen along the Han River. Ji also assumed control over northern Hubei's civil administration, appointing local officials and collecting taxes to support his army. In late December 1911, Ji joined Liu Gong to launch a "northern expedition" against imperial forces in Henan Province. This campaign was initiated after the declaration of a cease-fire and was continued even after the supposed
targets of the campaign declared their allegiance to the new Republic. Trying to preserve the peace, Li repeatedly ordered Ji to cease his advance. However, Ji ignored these commands and continued his attack until he had seized his objective, the southern Henan city of Nanyang. Thus, in the pursuit of their own revolutionary objectives, commanders like Ji Yulin did not necessarily feel bound to follow Li's orders.
Despite the initial weakness of their positions, Li and Tan were not without some means of consolidating their military authority. First, the political consensus that had made them military governors provided them with enough legitimacy to inhibit open opposition from most military commanders. Commanders might protest their orders, find ways to obstruct them, or, like Ji Yulin, even dare to ignore them, but to go any further would be an act of rebellion against recognized Republican authority. Second, as military governors, Li and Tan also held the power of appointment. As they consolidated their positions, they used this power both to undercut recalcitrant commanders and to build their own bases of military support.
One effective use of the power of appointment was the cancellation of branch military governments and other special titles that revolutionary commanders used to build local power bases. The elimination of such offices was noted in Chapter 3 as an important step in the restoration of provincial authority over local administration. An equally important goal, though, was to establish control over military forces that were only weakly subordinated to the provincial government. As such, the assertion of the military governor's authority had the general support of provincial officials and metropolitan commanders who favored the limitation of the civil and military autonomy of local commanders. The method pursued was not the total elimination of such commanders, but their restriction to military offices and their subordination to higher command structures. Thus, the cancellation of Ji Yulin's appointment as pacification commissioner was balanced by making him commander of the 8th Division. Likewise, the commander-in-chief of the branch military government in western Hubei, Tang Xizhi, was reappointed as commander of the 7th Division. The power of the commander of the Xiangyang branch military government, Zhang Guoquan, was reduced by his appointment as a brigade commander. Though these men retained control over their military forces, they lost the broader military and civil powers they had originally claimed.
Li and Tan also used the power of appointment to install military
officers more amenable to their control. For example, Li made noticeable efforts to place non-revolutionary officers in middle and lower officers' positions. Li won the loyalty of these men through this patronage and could use them to counterbalance revolutionary officers who had less respect for his authority. The divisional reorganizations carried out in early 1912 also provided Li and Tan with a means of increasing their military influence. First, the consolidation of miscellaneous military forces under these divisions helped to reestablish a military chain of command. Second, Li and Tan were able to fill some of the top positions in these divisions with comparatively loyal commanders. Insofar as patronage was being used to ensure loyalty, though, these actions did reintroduce a stronger element of personalism into the command structure.
Li's authority was weakest among the Hubei military commanders who gained their positions as a result of their revolutionary achievements and thus owed little to Li's favor. Four of the eight Hubei division commanders listed in Table 6 clearly belong in this category: Zhang Tingfu, Deng Yulin, Tang Xizhi, and Ji Yulin. Indeed, most officers listed on this table as having previously been junior officers or common soldiers owed their advancement to their revolutionary credentials. Nonetheless, other officers listed in Table 6 just as clearly owed their positions to Li's patronage. Most of these men were former company, regiment, or battalion commanders, usually with more advanced military educations, who had not been members of the revolutionary organizations that had planned the Wuchang uprising. One example was the 6th Division commander, Wang Anlan, who prior to the revolution was a member of Li's staff and a close companion. Two other prominent examples were the 1st Division commander, Tang Keming, and his subordinate 1st Brigade commander, Shi Xingchuan. Though Hubei natives, these men were Beiyang Army regiment commanders who came to Hubei after the outbreak of the revolution to offer their services to Li. These men all repaid Li's favor with loyalty. Tang even acknowledged this by changing his surname to Li. By using such men, Li was also able to take advantage of the rivalry that existed between officers who claimed revolutionary merit in the Wuchang uprising and those who arrived on the scene later.
Although Li could place some of his own men in military positions, he was not strong enough at first simply to remove revolutionary officers he saw as too independent. He did, however, take every opportunity to promote those willing to give him their support. One such opportunity arose with the February 1912 coup against Sun Wu.
Zhang Tingfu, the 2d Division commander, was killed during this incident, and Deng Yulin, the 4th Division commander, resigned in its wake. Li replaced Zhang with Du Xijun, a former Hubei New Army battalion commander and one of Sun Wu's close associates. Du was already inclined to follow Sun's lead in support of Li against more radical revolutionary officers, and this appointment drew him even closer to Li's side. Deng's replacement was the commander of the 7th Brigade, Cai Hanqing. Cai had been a soldier activist in the Forward Together Society, where he was also closely allied to Sun Wu. During the February 12 incident, Li was impressed by Cai's vigorous suppression of rioting soldiers and so selected him for advancement. Li's favor was justified, inasmuch as Cai proved to be one of his most dependable commanders. By such means, Li built a base of support among the senior commanders of the Hubei army.
Tan Yankai was in a better position than Li to select reliable senior commanders during the reorganization of the Hunan army in early 1912. Hunan's revolutionary organizations were relatively immature in contrast to Hubei's, and the province never became a part of the revolutionary battlefield. As a result, Hunan's revolutionary activists had less opportunity to establish their own strong military commands, thus giving Tan greater influence over military appointments. As seen in Table 7, the common soldiers and junior officers who advanced to top positions in the Hubei army were noticeably absent in Hunan. In their place, Tan patronized a more homogeneous and elite group of officers. With the obvious exception of Zhao Chunting, who had been a Patrol and Defense commander before the revolution, most of Hunan's brigade and division commanders had been mid-level New Army officers—that is, regiment or battalion commanders. Some of these men had joined the Tongmenghui in their student days, and most were sympathetic to revolutionary goals. As near as can be determined, though, none participated in the Changsha uprising; rather, they offered their services after its success. Although these officers' military credentials contributed to their selection, they ultimately owed their appointments to Tan. Furthermore, as indicated by their backgrounds (particularly the number with Japanese educations), these officers were a fairly upper-elite group, who would have had much in common with the other members of Tan Yankai's elite regime. Tan thus had reason to expect that they would prove amenable to his control.
Simply placing reliable men at the top of the command structure was not, however, enough to solve the problem of military control. Of equal or perhaps greater importance was the general lack of military
discipline within the provincial armies. In March 1912, Li Yuanhong gave this critical description of Chinese military forces in the wake of the revolution: "As warfare between north and south continued from autumn through winter, troops were hurriedly recruited, and they were all without discipline. They regarded destruction as meritorious action, and disorder as correct conduct. Insolence was equated with equality, and coercion with freedom . . . Reward and punishments ceased to be distinct, and orders were no longer obeyed." Other evidence confirms the accuracy of this pessimistic assessment. In December 1911, a British consular report from Changsha observed that "the local government is at the mercy of a military mob. One of the inevitable effects of the revolution has been a subversion of all military discipline, and the troops have been quick to realize their newly found power." Another critical account noted: "Middle and lower officers were unable to command their soldiers; senior officers could not command their subordinates. All sense of obedience to duty was gone." In Hunan, troops returning from the Hubei front proved particularly difficult to control, and there were many reports of disorderly soldiers wandering the streets at will, brawling and inciting conflicts with civilians. The picture was not much different in Hubei, where in early 1912 a visiting military officer observed that the "arrogance" of Hubei troops made them nearly impossible to control.
As suggested by Li Yuanhong's statement, the disciplinary problems of the postrevolutionary provincial armies were partially rooted in hurried and indiscriminate recruiting. The urgency of the revolution dictated that the quantity of soldiers be given higher priority than the maintenance of recruitment standards. The call for recruits received an enthusiastic response from all segments of society, including large numbers of student intellectuals. Nonetheless, many recruits were also drawn from the peasantry, the working class, and the urban and rural unemployed. A large number of these men had backgrounds that would have made them unacceptable as recruits to the earlier New Armies. One cynical account characterized Hunan's new troops as "chair-bearers, ruffians and beggars," whose idea of soldiering was to assume the poses of military figures in traditional opera. Although this influx of "ruffians" into the revolutionary forces may have affected general discipline, an equally important consequence of hurried recruiting was a lack of adequate training. Indeed, the only training many recruits got was the experience they received under fire. The high morale and enthusiasm of revolutionary soldiers may have made up for this deficiency, but these men were ill prepared to settle into a strict military regimen once the war was over.
The opportunity of preserving a block of more highly trained and disciplined troops was lost as a result of the failure to keep the New Armies intact. Instead, new forces were generally formed by mixing small bodies of New Army troops with greater numbers of old-style troops and new recruits. The formation of Hubei's 7th Division was a fairly typical example. This division's core consisted of three New Army battalions that had seized control of the western Hubei city of Yichang during the revolution. This force quickly expanded by absorbing three local Patrol and Defense battalions and by recruiting large numbers of new troops, including over a thousand Hubei-Sichuan railroad construction workers left unemployed by the outbreak of the revolution. Most of the original eight revolutionary brigades established at Wuhan were also built around one or two New Army battalions. In the end, Hubei's Training Corps was the only force more-or-less entirely made up of New Army troops. The dispersal of New Army soldiers among larger revolutionary units served the practical purpose of providing them with a leavening of better-trained and more experienced troops. At the same time, it also lowered the overall quality of the provincial armies and reversed most of the progress toward military modernization achieved in the New Armies.
Military discipline problems were no doubt also heightened by a severe deficiency of experienced officers. The late Qing military education system had barely been able to meet the needs of the New Armies. With the revolution, many senior and middle-level officers were forced out or abandoned their posts. Meanwhile, the proliferation of revolutionary forces created an even greater demand for officers. This left no alternative but the very rapid promotion of men whose qualifications would have restricted them to much lower positions in the New Armies. Thus, many junior officers, or even common soldiers, who had played leading roles in revolutionary uprisings assumed senior positions in new revolutionary forces. Other high positions were awarded to non-revolutionary lower- or middle-level officers who offered their services after the success of the uprisings. Thus the brigade and regiment commanders in the original revolutionary brigades at Wuhan included one former New Army battalion commander, eight company commanders, two platoon commanders, one sergeant, and eight common soldiers. Another practical reason for the dispersal of the provincial New Armies was that their educated and trained soldiers could fill lower officers' positions in expanded revolutionary units. Indeed, this sort of advancement was so common that bitter New Army soldiers who had not received such promotions became a major source of
trouble. At the same time, the inexperience of many senior officers, and the appointment of so many junior officers directly from the ranks, made it difficult to establish control over the great numbers of poorly trained new troops.
There was, however, an entirely different aspect to the problem of military discipline, which had little to do with the quality of soldiers or officers. What was often critically reported as troop arrogance or lack of discipline was actually a manifestation of an egalitarian spirit that had arisen within politicized revolutionary forces. In both Hubei and Hunan, soldiers and junior officers carried out revolutionary uprisings in defiance of their commanders. Revolutionary experience therefore rationalized the right of subordinates to challenge their superiors on political grounds. At the same time, many uprising participants were reluctant to accept the authority of new officers, especially non-revolutionary officers who had not participated in the uprisings. Thus, Hunan soldiers confronted officers attempting to restore discipline by saying, "We soldiers created the Republic in Hunan. What contribution did you officers make?" Taking pride in their own revolutionary achievements, such soldiers saw little reason to give these officers their obedience.
Joseph Esherick has noted that one aspect of this egalitarian spirit was a type of "soldiers' democracy." This phenomenon was largely an outgrowth of the system of elected revolutionary representatives that had developed within the Hubei and Hunan New Armies before the revolution. As previously noted, many of these representatives assumed the leadership of their units during revolutionary uprisings. In a number of cases, soldiers met to elect new commanders from among their unit representatives after the flight of their senior officers. In Hunan, a system of elected unit representatives was established outside the regular command structure. These representatives not only had direct access to the military governor but met to discuss the affairs of their units and expected their commanders to implement their decisions. The democratization of the military seen here may, as Joseph Esherick notes, have made the army into something of a "popular" revolutionary force. At the same time, this democratization clearly had a destabilizing effect on attempts to rebuild a military chain of command.
One later account cites two specific ways in which the spirit of "equality and freedom" that permeated Hubei's postrevolutionary army contributed to a lack of discipline. First, many units simply refused to accept officers appointed by the military governor or their di-
vision commanders, insisting instead on their own nominees. Second, unpopular or excessively strict officers soon found their subordinates plotting their removal. Many such cases occurred in the year after the revolution. For example, troops in Hunan's 3d Brigade refused to accept a new brigade commander, and only the timely intervention of a more popular commander saved the appointee from bodily harm. Wang Longzhong, commander of the Hunan 4th Division, sponsored plays and banquets for his troops to gain their support to resist a takeover of his command by the man who had been his superior before the revolution. Hunan's 3d Division mutinied at Yuezhou and imprisoned its commander, Zeng Jiwu, because of his supposed favoritism toward new recruits. In the end, Zeng was forced to resign, while a brigade commander who had actively supported the mutineers went unpunished. In March 1912, the troops of a Hubei engineering battalion turned against their commander (whom they had elected during the revolution) and his staff. The soldiers barred them from the camp and elected replacements—and this outcome had to be accepted by Li Yuanhong. There were, of course, many other cases where attempts to remove officers failed. But these incidents contributed to an atmosphere where no officer could really be secure in his post.
It is hardly surprising that professional military men such as Li Yuanhong, who saw discipline as essential for military efficiency, were concerned about the condition of postrevolutionary provincial armies. But there was more at stake than military efficiency. One overriding concern uniting most elite supporters of the provincial regimes was the maintenance of public order. Lack of discipline not only limited the army's capacity to preserve order, it made the army itself a potential source of disorder. The threat was increased by the fact that the politicized rank and file of the expanded provincial forces now represented a broader social stratum than the prerevolutionary New Armies. These forces thus posed a danger not only to the general public order but to the specific elite-based political order established in the new provincial regimes.
The Political Threat of the Military
The late Qing politicization of the military culminated logically in the revolution that brought the Manchu dynasty to its end. At the same time, the revolution itself was a politicizing event. Officers and soldiers who had previously stood aside from politics had to make political decisions either to support or to oppose the revolution. For many men who responded to the revolutionary call, enlistment in the
revolutionary armies was itself an act of political commitment. At the same time, more than simply providing the manpower for the revolution, the military also played an active role in the political decisionmaking of the early revolutionary regimes. Thus, military representatives were participants in the informal meetings held in the wake of revolutionary uprisings to organize military governments, select top officials, and determine major policies. The success of the 1911 Revolution therefore validated the military's political role and set a precedent for further political activism.
During the revolution, some military men made broad claims on behalf of an expanded political role for the military. "The military shall have the right to participate in decisions on constitutional law and the organization of parliament, as well as all other affairs of national importance," prorevolutionary mutineers in the Beiyang Army demanded, for example. Such statements, though, clearly represented a minority view. Very few people, even within the military, actually expected or advocated regular political participation by military men in government once the revolution had succeeded. Indeed, as the new provincial regimes stabilized, such participation was sharply reduced. Military men continued to hold posts in military administration, but few were considered for civil government positions. Indeed, the exclusion of military men from such posts was so pronounced that several incidents occurred in Hubei and Hunan in which soldiers expressed their resentment of civilians whom they saw appropriating the political benefits of the revolution, which, in their eyes, had been won with military blood. Even so, it was difficult to translate such dissatisfaction into a demand for greater military representation in government. No matter what political interests or ambitions individual military men may have had, the prevailing political culture continued to view military participation in politics in a negative light. This was evident in the widespread support of Li Yuanhong's characterization of the baneful effects of military rule in his April 1912 proposal for the separation of military and civil administrations. Likewise, drawing on the model of the Western democracies, the regulations establishing new provincial assemblies forbade military men in active service to seek seats in the assemblies or vote in their elections. Therefore, with the obvious exception of military governorships, there was no real consensus for the broader institutionalization of the military's political role.
If the opportunity for legitimate political participation by military men was somewhat restricted, the possibility of more irregular exercise of political influence by the military remained a constant threat. Inci-
dents following the revolutionary uprisings in both Hunan and Hubei suggested the military's continuing potential for violent political intervention. Hunan saw the New Army assassination of Jiao Dafeng, and Hubei experienced the February 1912 military disturbance aimed at the removal of Sun Wu and his faction from the provincial government. These incidents were not military coups in the usual sense of military seizures of power. They were, however, violent military interventions serving political ends, pointing to the susceptibility of the provincial regimes to military pressure. Certainly Jiao's assassination worked to Tan Yankai's benefit, and the removal of Sun Wu may have also aided the consolidation of Li Yuanhong's political position. Nonetheless, neither Tan nor Li could be comfortable with the knowledge that similar military pressure might well be directed against them in the future.
The political participation of the military that began in the revolution carried over into the political conflicts of the new regimes. In both Hubei and Hunan, officers and soldiers formed political factions and joined political parties. As a result, wider political disputes were often replicated inside the military itself. The increasing antagonism among Hubei's political parties manifested itself in a July 1912 military conference when Republican Party officers openly charged Tongmenghui leaders with plotting against the government. The danger in such situations was the temptation to apply military force to settle political disputes. One such case occurred in April 1912 in a conflict over a proposal in the Hunan Provincial Assembly to abolish the Revenue Bureau. This proposal arose from complaints about the heavy levies assessed by the bureau on many of Hunan's leading gentry families. As military expenditures relied heavily on these revenues, these complaints also sparked discussions about the need to disband excess troops and cut troop pay. Using this connection, supporters of Zhou Zhenlin, the revolutionary activist who headed the bureau, were able to incite a military mob to march on the Provincial Assembly to protest the proposal. Threatened with physical abuse, the assembly adjourned, and its president fled to Hubei. Such military interventions not only heightened the potential for violence in politics but increased the military's political volatility.
The politicization of the military also had a very direct effect on the problem of military discipline and control. Li Yuanhong cited one reason behind the breakdown of military order as the tendency "to take military rank as an asset in forming [political] parties, and to see military command as a protective talisman." Tan Yankai was likewise said to harbor concerns that within the Hunan army "there
were many cadres who relied on their revolutionary achievements at every turn to organize meetings and make threats, until discipline completely disappeared." Insofar as military men saw themselves as participants in politics, they became less reliable as instruments for the enforcement of the political will of the provincial regimes.
While the political activity of the military in the first year of the Republic appears in some ways to be the harbinger of warlordism, in other ways it was significantly different. One characteristic of warlordism was that armies were essentially the political tools of their commanders. Revolutionary politicization, however, had included lower officers and even common soldiers. The combination of this broader politicization with the breakdown in military discipline meant that the political instability of the Hubei and Hunan armies came less from "proto-warlords" among their commanders than from the lower ranks. The greatest political threats to Tan Yankai and Li Yuanhong came when opponents of their regimes periodically attempted to replicate the success of the 1911 uprisings by the subversion of the military rank and file.
Although exact comparisons are difficult to make, contemporary accounts give the impression that the Hubei army remained much more politically active, and politically divided, than the Hunan army. This difference was no doubt related to the comparative strength of revolutionary organizations within the Hubei army before the revolution, and the persisting influence of these organizations into the early Republic. Indeed, as Chapter 3 noted, the prerevolutionary division between the Literature and Forward Together Societies generally defined Hubei's early Republican political factions. The particularly strong political involvement of the Hubei army also explains the special efforts taken by Li Yuanhong to depoliticize it.
From the beginning Li took an unforgiving stand against military plots or coup attempts. Li had little choice but to accept the immediate political effects of the February 1912 military riot, and he may have even benefited from it. Nonetheless, he expressed his outrage over the "inappropriateness" of such actions, charging that the infant Republic's reputation and foreign recognition might be endangered. More important, Li tried to make sure that the perpetrators of the coup did not go unpunished, approving the summary execution of several dozen soldiers charged with inciting riot and forcing the resignation of the brigade commander who had instigated the incident. Attempted military uprisings in Hubei in the following year would be met with even more executions as a warning to political conspirators.
As factional political infighting intensified in Hubei, Li also sought
means to limit the military's involvement in politics in order to reduce the likelihood of military conflict. He reminded military men that their primary duty to obey the government was inconsistent with political activity and ordered them to sever their connections with political parties and associations. Li also appealed to his officers' sense of military professionalism by pointing out the non-involvement of Western military men in party politics. In July 1912, the majority of Hubei's senior officers responded to Li's pleading with a public statement renouncing their political affiliations. In August 1912, Li issued another order that not only prohibited officers and soldiers from belonging to any type of party or society, but even barred them from participating in any public meeting. Summary execution was the penalty for anyone attempting to entice military men to violate these orders.
These attempts to depoliticize the military by fiat were never completely effective. Nothing shows this more than Li's periodic repetition of his orders prohibiting military men from joining political parties. Even the pledge he received from his officers agreeing to sever their party ties was qualified in such a way as to show their reluctance to relinquish their political influence. Instead of forswearing politics entirely, they claimed that by their ending their party affiliations the army would be better able to act in a proper "supervising" position to "arbitrate" in party conflicts. The most telling sign of Li's failure to depoliticize the Hubei army, though, was the recurrence of revolutionary-inspired military uprising plots.
It is important to note that Li himself did not provide the best example of what he expected from the rest of the military. Li's political opponents did not hesitate to point out the incongruity between Li's call for military men to sever their ties with political parties and his own willingness to accept the presidency of a party like the People's Society while serving as military governor. Nor was Li himself beyond using military power for political purposes. For instance, in May 1912, Li enlisted the support of Hubei's military commanders to encourage Fan Zengxiang to take office as civil governor. A more blatant example occurred in the political turmoil that followed the execution of Zhang Zhenwu in August 1912. Criticism in the National Assembly of Li's role in engineering Zhang's death was countered by telegrams of support for Li from Hubei's senior military officers. These wires justified the execution as a military matter approved at a military conference in accord with military law. Ominously, they warned that Hubei would be "shaken" if Li were forced to leave his post and asked
if politicians seeking his removal would accept responsibility for the disorder that was certain to follow. Li also received support from civilian quarters, with wires from chambers of commerce and other public organizations in Hubei expressing similar concern for the preservation of order. This combination of military and civilian backing enabled Li to offer his resignation over the issue confident that he would be "forced" to stay in office.
Li Yuanhong was not the only political figure to use the threat of military disorder to solidify his political position. Earlier in 1912 Yuan Shikai had used a military riot in Beijing to resist revolutionary pressure to move the national capital to Nanjing. Later warlords would perfect the application of military intimidation to silence opposition to their regimes. As such, Li's political use of his military commanders in the Zhang Zhenwu case was a foreshadowing of warlord tactics. At the same time, Li's ability to engineer such support from his senior officers also reveals some of his success in bringing the commanders of the Hubei army under his control. Nonetheless, this did not mean that Li had solved the political problems presented by the Hubei army. Indeed, a major uprising by cavalry troops garrisoned at South Lake outside Wuchang in September 1912 served as a reminder of the army's more pervasive political instability.
In the end, the political behavior exhibited by the postrevolutionary provincial armies strengthened arguments for their disbandment. The politicized condition of these forces contributed to their poor discipline, undermined the institutionalization of new political processes, and even threatened the existence of the provincial regimes. It was unlikely that troops who had grown accustomed to treating authority in a cavalier fashion could be turned back into disciplined fighting men, or that their habit of political participation could be easily reversed. The obvious solution was the demobilization of these forces to make way for new troops who could be better trained and disciplined, as well as free of the political habits of their predecessors.
Disbandment in Hunan
There was a substantial consensus among provincial and national leaders that the large-scale disbandment of provincial armies was the only real solution to the problems created by revolutionary military expansion, but while the advantages of disbandment were easily recognized, its implementation was fraught with difficulties. The extra financial costs needed to meet the discharge pay and pensions of large numbers of troops would add considerably to the already heavy
burden of military expenses. Disbandment would also threaten the livelihoods of common soldiers and the careers of officers. Men who had benefited from the opportunities for military advancement created by the revolution might well be expected to resist any threat to their positions. An ill-conceived disbandment policy might actually produce the military disorder that disbandment sought to forestall. Thus, although many provinces recognized the need for disbandment, not all were able to surmount the problems disbandment itself would cause. In this context, Hunan's success in carrying out a nearly complete demobilization of its provincial army stands out as a significant achievement.
Disbandment proposals began to be raised publicly within the Hunan government in early 1912, ranging from a plan for the forced discharge of all untrained troops to a project for the rehabilitation of excess troops as railroad construction workers. At this early stage, Tan Yankai was unwilling to commit himself publicly to any one specific plan. This was not because of any hesitancy by Tan about the need for disbandment. Indeed, he ultimately supported a radical scheme for the complete demobilization of Hunan's regular army. He was concerned, though, that premature discussion of disbandment plans might provoke military resistance. Tan and a small group of advisers therefore worked secretly on a disbandment strategy that would not be unveiled until they were sure of their ability to carry it out.
Tan and his advisers recognized that enforcing disbandment might in itself require the application of some military force. To show favoritism by excepting any one regular army unit from disbandment to perform this function might increase general military discontent. Likewise, there was no assurance that any Hunan troops could be relied upon to suppress provincial comrades-in-arms who resisted demobilization, so Tan and his advisers turned to the idea of using non-Hunan troops, whose lack of ties to the Hunan army would make them more amenable to this task. To this end, Tan first sent an emissary to Beijing to explore the possibility of transferring some northern army units to Hunan. This idea was abandoned, however, as a result of fears that the mere presence of northern troops might provoke such popular distrust as to make it impossible for them to preserve order. A better solution presented itself in the form of a unit of Guangxi troops commanded by a Hunan native, Zhao Hengti.
Zhao Hengti's background and connections made him a suitable ally for Tan and his elite government. Zhao was a member of a prominent landowning family from Hengyang and a 1908 graduate of
Japan's Army Officers' Academy. After returning from Japan, he was assigned to Guangxi, where he rose to the command of that province's New Army cadets. With the outbreak of the 1911 Revolution, Zhao volunteered to join an expedition of Guangxi's best troops to the revolutionary front. Passing through Changsha on the way to Nanjing, the disciplined troops under Zhao's command made a favorable impression on Hunan's leaders. After reaching Nanjing, Zhao's unit was designated the 16th Brigade of the 8th Division, with Zhao as brigade commander. A number of circumstances favored Zhao's reassignment to Hunan. First, his position in Nanjing was insecure because of conflicts with his superiors in the 8th Division. Second, although Zhao might have been sent back to Guangxi, that province's new military governor, Lu Rongting, was an old-style military commander who was not eager for the return of Zhao's New Army troops. Third, Zhao was easily approached because he was engaged to the sister of Tong Meicen, a member of Tan's staff who was assisting in the preparation of Hunan's disbandment plans. Finally, Huang Xing, as commander of Nanjing's military forces, had begun his own program to disband excess soldiers and was likely to welcome any proposal to take the burden of supporting Zhao's troops off his hands. Zhao's reassignment to Hunan was therefore a proposal readily acceptable to all parties.
The need to obtain Huang Xing's approval for Zhao's transfer to Hunan also created an opportunity to acquire Huang's political support for Hunan's disbandment plans. Huang had already spoken out in favor of the elimination of military governments and the disbandment of excess troops, so his approval could be expected. To approach Huang properly, though, Tan first broached the idea with the commander of Hunan's 12th Brigade, Cheng Qian. Cheng was a useful intermediary because he had been an active member of the Tongmenghui in his student days in Japan and had worked closely with Huang at Wuhan during the revolution. Cheng readily agreed that "all patriots" knew the necessity of disbandment, and he facilitated the dispatch of secret emissaries to meet with Huang.
Tan's negotiations with Huang Xing revealed the extent of his disbandment plans. As a Hunan native, Huang was concerned about the disorderly condition of the Hunan army and willingly gave his backing to the general principle of disbandment. He had some qualms, though, about totally disarming a major revolutionary province and sought the retention of several divisions to replace Hunan's original New Army. On this point, Tan argued adamantly that "the process of weeding out and reorganizing the army would most certainly cause a number of
conflicts. It would be better to disband the entire army and rebuild the New Army afresh."
Although Huang would later have reason to regret his decision, he accepted Tan's argument. As expected, Huang was quite willing to reassign Zhao Hengti to Hunan to provide military support for Tan's plans. To maintain secrecy, it was announced that Zhao's troops were being sent back to Guangxi via Hunan. Once Zhao arrived in Changsha, though, he was to place his unit at Tan's disposal. Tan's approach to Huang had thus obtained two objectives. First, he gained a reliable military force he could use to enforce his disbandment program. Second, he secured support for this program from one of China's most eminent revolutionary leaders. This would help undercut any opposition to disbandment from revolutionary officers or soldiers.
Tan also sought to bolster his position with central support for his disbandment plans. At Tan's request, Yuan Shikai dispatched a military "inspector" to assist in these plans. It was no coincidence that the man Tan sought to fill this position was Wang Zhixiang, Guangxi's former vice military governor and Zhao Hengti's former military superior. Besides acting as a further tie to Zhao, Wang's main function, as envisioned by Tan and his advisers, was to step forward at the appropriate moment to announce that the disbandment of the Hunan army had been centrally sanctioned. Thus with Huang Xing's blessing in one pocket and central authorization in the other, Tan could claim a mandate for disbandment that went beyond his own authority as military governor.
A reliable bureaucratic staff was also needed to carry out preparations for disbandment. Hunan's Ministry of Military Affairs (Junshibu) would have been the obvious office to perform this task. However, vested military interests within this ministry made its cooperation uncertain. Therefore, the ministry was circumvented by a new office, designated the Department of Military Affairs (Junshiting). Although its immediate task was the secret coordination of disbandment plans, the department was purposefully organized to duplicate the functions of the Ministry of Military Affairs. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, the minister of military affairs protested this arrangement, but to no avail. As he feared, once the new department was in place, his now redundant ministry was abolished.
The reliability of the Department of Military Affairs was enhanced by the appointment of Zhang Qihuang, the commander of the Nanwu Army, as its head. Zhang was a member of a prominent Guangxi gentry family and a jinshi degree-holder. Thus he could be counted on to
share the basic interests of Tan's elite regime. More important, Zhang had received his jinshi degree the same year as Tan Yankai, and on the basis of this traditionally important tie he had already formed a particularly close relationship with Tan. Indeed, Zhang's original decision to join the revolution was largely the result of Tan's influence. Another factor in Zhang's favor was his Guangxi background. Despite his original posting as a Hunan Patrol and Defense commander, Zhang remained something of an outsider in the Hunan military, and he was thus less susceptible to pressure from other army officers. Finally, Zhang was particularly suited to this task because he had already gained experience in troop disbandment when he demobilized a large part of the Nanwu Army before returning to Hunan from Hubei.
Zhang Qihuang's reliability also resulted in another decision to retain the comparatively well armed and well trained Nanwu Army as an auxiliary force to assist Zhao Hengti's troops in case of any disturbance during the disbandment process. Many of Zhang's soldiers were Guangxi men recruited before the revolution along Hunan's southern border. Therefore, like Zhao's troops, the Nanwu Army was an "outside" force that could be trusted in the event that action had to be taken against Hunan troops. With this in mind, Nanwu Army men replaced the Hunan troops standing guard at the military governor's office. In case of any trouble, the military governor would thus be protected by reliable troops.
Another feature of Hunan's carefully considered disbandment plan was financial incentives to persuade Hunan's troops to accept disbandment willingly. Along with his last month's pay, each soldier was to be offered a bonus ranging from thirty to a hundred yuan depending on length of service and revolutionary merit. At the very least, each soldier would thus be guaranteed the equivalent of three months' pay. Disbanded soldiers were also designated reserve troops, and as such were to receive a gradually decreasing pension for more than a year. Naturally, demobilized officers were to be remunerated on a higher scale. Efforts were also made to secure other placements for these officers, for example by recommending them for central government posts. The cost of this program, estimated at well over a million yuan, was carefully calculated to make sure sufficient funds would be on hand. In the event, the overburdened provincial treasury only met the demand by printing new bank notes, but taking the long view, disbandment would result in savings that would reimburse the province in less than half a year.
Tan and his advisers were successful in completing most of their
preparations for disbandment without revealing their intentions, but this secrecy could not be maintained indefinitely. Zhao's troops arrived at Changsha in mid August, and questions were raised as to why they were delaying their journey to Guangxi. Wang Zhixiang's appointment as military inspector also raised suspicions. So as not to lose control of events, a decision was made to move forward with disbandment in early September 1912. Tan therefore called a conference of military officers to explain his reasons for the complete disbandment of the provincial army and to outline the procedures to be followed. To make sure that disbandment was carried out in a timely fashion, Tan declared that any troops not demobilized by the end of September would lose their pay and suffer cuts in their pensions for each day of delay.
The army's response to this disbandment announcement was better than expected. A number of units immediately sent representatives with petitions volunteering to do their patriotic duty by disbanding. In general, the army's senior officers, especially those who had despaired of asserting tighter control over their units, were ready to acquiesce to disbandment. Some were approached in advance to obtain their cooperation. It had been foreseen that the greatest opposition would come from middle-or lower-level officers who had been quickly promoted during the revolution and now saw their careers aborted. The only hope such officers had to resist, though, depended on their ability to stir up opposition within the ranks. This proved a difficult task. More than anything else, the fragmented response of officers and soldiers to disbandment demonstrated the lack of cohesion in Hunan's postrevolutionary army, and it was this that ultimately gave the disbandment program its chance of success.
Tan and his advisers had correctly perceived that financial inducements appealing to the common soldier would smooth acceptance of disbandment. One of Tan's associates later made this cynical observation about the soldiers' acquiescence:
The lower and middle officers all said that there would be mutinies if [disbandment] was forced, but they didn't realize that the soldiers were already quite willing. Why? Originally these men were not conscripts but a mob collected on the spur of the moment. Their dutiful intentions were less than their thought of profit. By enlisting and then quickly retiring, they could easily acquire a sum of money. The more law-abiding would put this money to use in farming or other jobs, while the shiftless would squander it in a boastful display. This is after all human nature.
Although this statement ignores the patriotic motives that inspired many recruits during the revolution, once the revolution was over, monetary gain became an important consideration. Tan was also careful to make sure that soldiers were aware of the financial incentives being offered them. Since he feared misrepresentation by dissatisfied officers if the information were transmitted through regular military channels, details of these financial inducements were circulated in public notices. This created a demand for disbandment in the ranks that could not be thwarted.
Little trouble accompanied the actual process of disbandment. The only serious disturbance occurred during the demobilization of one brigade of Mei Xing's 5th Division. The presence of a Nanwu Army guard around Tan Yankai during his farewell address to this unit was taken as a sign of his distrust. Disbandment under the guns of "foreign" troops was especially insulting to soldiers who felt they had been responsible for putting Tan in his position. For a time, defiant soldiers took up armed positions on the city walls. However, after being calmed by their officers, and surrounded by Zhao Hengti's troops, the soldiers gave up their arms and dispersed. After this incident, the demobilization of other units continued according to plan. In little over a month the entire regular army had been disbanded.
After the completion of disbandment, the Hunan regime still had periodic trouble with its former troops. Reports came in from the countryside that disbanded soldiers were "behaving lawlessly, interfering in public affairs, cheating the common people, and causing disorder through unlawful assemblies." A large number of disbanded soldiers congregated in Changsha, where they continued to be a political menace to the Hunan regime. This was particularly evident in early 1913, when fears were raised about the government's ability to meet military pensions and disbanded soldiers and officers began to agitate for a lump sum payment. A bomb was thrown at the head of the Finance Department after he voiced his opposition to this proposal. During this period, many disbanded soldiers also joined secret organizations plotting the overthrow of "corrupt officials," and they were prominent participants in a number of unsuccessful antigovernment plots and uprisings. Nonetheless, disorganized and disarmed, these disbanded troops were much less a threat to the Hunan regime than if they had remained in active service.
Despite his radical disbandment program, Tan never intended to strip Hunan of all armed forces. If nothing else, the depredations of disbanded troops alone pointed to the need to maintain some forces to
safeguard local order, a major concern among Tan's elite supporters. Therefore, after completing the disbandment of the regular army, Tan instituted a new military system designated the Guard Corps (Shoubeidui). Under this system, Hunan was divided into six districts, with five to ten battalions per district, and 240 men per battalion. (See Table 8 for a breakdown of these units, their commanders, and their headquarters.) The troops for this new system were drawn primarily from the remnants of old Patrol and Defense units or other miscellaneous forces that had not been included in the postrevolutionary regular army. For example, Wang Zhengya led his troops back to their original home area as commander of the 4th District. Zhang Qihuang's Nanwu Army was reorganized as the Capital Guard Corps, with six battalions, under one of Zhang's old subordinates. Altogether the Guard Corps system contained forty-seven battalions, a total of some eleven thousand men. Except for the Capital Guard Corps at Changsha, these forces were dispersed into local garrisons that functioned much like the Patrol and Defense Force system. As in this previous system, these garrisons were large enough to provide for local order but too small to pose a military threat to the provincial government. In western Hunan existing Green Standard troops also remained in their garrisons, with no more than a few efforts to modernize their weapons and training.
Beyond the Guard Corps system, Tan had originally committed himself to establishing a new force modeled after the New Army. Indeed, Tan had used this commitment to entice the support of Huang Xing and the Hunan officer corps to his disbandment plan. Tan was in no hurry, though, to fulfill this promise, citing Hunan's continuing financial troubles to delay new troop recruiting. Only in mid 1913 were Nationalist Party leaders, foreseeing imminent conflict with Yuan Shikai, able to obtain Tan's agreement to appoint Cheng Qian to head the Department of Military Affairs so that he could oversee the creation of a new provincial army. Conflict with Yuan broke out, however, before the recruitment of this force could be completed. The only New Army-style force in Hunan in the last year of Tan's regime was therefore Zhao Hengti's Guangxi brigade, which contained only the actual troop strength of one regiment.
The military policies pursued in Hunan after the 1911 Revolution largely reflected the elite and civil nature of Tan Yankai's government. The maintenance of local order was clearly a primary concern of the provincial regime. Both the disbandment of revolutionary forces and the establishment of the Guard Corps served this basic purpose. It was hardly surprising that Tan Yankai was less committed to continuing the Qing New Army program. The main function of the New Armies was to provide for the national defense against foreign threats. Given Hunan's inland location, there was little likelihood of a foreign threat sufficient to justify the immediate rebuilding of the New Army. Hunan's difficult financial situation also provided little incentive to assume the burden of supporting an army intended to serve national rather than local defense needs. Provincial military power was therefore reduced and restructured to meet the regime's concern for order while staying within the province's means. With the success of his disbandment program, Hunan's "civilian military governor" had shown that it was possible to subordinate the military to civilian authority and civilian interests.
Disbandment in Hubei
Faced with military-related problems equal to if not greater than those of Hunan, Li Yuanhong carried out a program of military disbandment nearly as extensive as that of his southern neighbor. The manner in which this program was carried out, though, was significantly different. Instead of the fairly rapid demobilization of troops seen in Hunan, disbandment in Hubei was accomplished in a piecemeal fashion over a period lasting more than a year. On the one hand, the
slowness of this process suggests that Li found himself in a weaker position in relation to Hubei's military forces, precluding the more precipitous disbandment carried out by Tan. On the other hand, there are some indications that Li was also more committed than Tan to retaining a core force to meet national defense needs. Unfortunately, unlike in the case of Hunan, where the memoirs of some men involved in planning the province's disbandment are available, the sources on Hubei's disbandment are largely limited to official pronouncements and press accounts. Therefore the considerations that may have underlain Hubei's different course of action are more difficult to ascertain. Indeed, it is unclear whether Hubei ever had a single comprehensive disbandment scheme, or whether disbandment planning was as piecemeal as the process itself. In any case, persistent troop disturbances throughout this period served as a constant reminder of the instability of the Hubei army and as a goad to further disbandment.
Despite his early agreement that the stability of the Republic required a reduction of revolutionary armies, Li Yuanhong only raised specific proposals for a "contraction" of the Hubei army in May 1912. Li's immediate concern appears to have been Hubei's increasing difficulty in meeting troop pay. At this stage, Li did not call for an across-the-board elimination of specific units. Rather, perhaps in an attempt to give the appearance of evenhandedness, he proposed a reduction of the troop strength of all units. By weeding out "the old, the weak, and the unarmed," the number of soldiers per company was to be brought down to sixty men, or about half its regulation size according to New Army standards. In the following month, another target of bringing each company down to forty men was set. It was reported that once these reductions were achieved, Li hoped to consolidate Hubei's eight divisions and other miscellaneous forces into four or five divisions.
Hubei's initial disbandment approach relied almost entirely on voluntary demobilization. Unlike Tan, Li lacked either the power or the will to enforce a program of mandatory disbandment. Indeed, attempts to muster soldiers out forcibly provoked violent resistance. For example, soldiers from Hubei's 2d Brigade rioted in August 1912 when their commander attempted to meet disbandment quotas by arbitrarily selecting men for demobilization. At the same time, the bonuses initially offered to induce disbandment in Hubei were usually deemed inadequate. Thus the violent reaction of 2d Brigade soldiers to their forced discharge was exacerbated when they learned they were only to be given a paltry ten yuan. Later disbandment pay was officially set at two months' pay, or twenty yuan, but this too fell short
of Hunan's standard. The Hubei government set a bad precedent in the summer of 1912 when it offered a generous nine-year pension for the dissolution of an organization of uprising participants, the Blood Pledge Society (Bixuehui). Soldiers on active duty who had participated in the revolution quite naturally felt that they deserved equal consideration. As a result, soldiers in some units organized to offer voluntary demobilization provided they were granted higher bonuses or pensions, often referring specifically to the precedent of the Blood Pledge Society. In most cases, Li had to accept such demands, and their additional costs, in the interest of achieving peaceful disbandment.
Although the process was far from trouble-free, a considerable number of troops did agree to disband. By July 1912, more than ten thousand troops had been discharged, and by late October the Hubei army had been reduced to around sixty thousand men. About one half of these men were in the eight-division regular army. Thus the total troop strength of these eight divisions was brought down to a little more than one-third the regulation size of eight New Army divisions.
As in Hunan, the greatest resistance to disbandment came not from soldiers but from career-minded officers seeking to maintain their positions. The reduction of general troop strength prior to any elimination of military units was an adroit strategy to forestall such opposition. By decreasing the troop strength of each unit while temporarily preserving command structures, few officers' positions were immediately endangered. According to one account, the underlying goal was to ensure that once the consolidation of units began, affected officers would have fewer troops with which to resist the elimination of their commands. At the same time, attempts were made to gain the acquiescence of officers by offering them either remuneration or reassignment. For those willing to retire, varying bonuses were provided according to rank. As to the rest, plans were proposed for them to fill future military vacancies, serve as advisers in the military government, or enroll in Chinese and foreign military schools. However, most officers refused these inducements and clung to their posts. As late as January 1913, Li noted that, despite the disbandment of half of Hubei's soldiers, enough officers remained to staff all eight divisions.
Largely as a result of resistance from officers, the consolidation of Hubei's military forces made only limited progress in 1912. The greatest effort in this period was directed at the elimination of miscel-
laneous and irregular units. Some smaller forces, such as the student army, were dissolved with little or no trouble. Other units resisted reorganization or dispersal in ways that boded ill for the disbandment program. For example, in the summer of 1912, Zhang Guoquan led his troops in armed resistance against maneuvers to subordinate his independent brigade to one of Hubei's regular divisions. The military suppression of Zhang's rebellion by other Hubei forces resulted in the dispersal of his army, but it was not a solution that anyone wanted repeated. Likewise, Liu Gong doggedly resisted efforts to eliminate his Northern Expedition Army for several months, until finally pressured to resign in late September 1912. Only then was it possible to incorporate his remaining troops into the 6th Division. In the end, though, most of Hubei's irregular forces were eliminated by one means or another. The main exception to this rule was Li Tiancai's army, designated in early 1913 as the Jiangnan 1st Division. As a non-Hubei force that lacked strong local military or political ties, Li's army was perhaps allowed to remain intact because, like Zhao Hengti's Guangxi brigade in Hunan, it was seen as more reliable than many Hubei units.
Progress in the consolidation of the regular army was slower than the elimination of irregular forces. Throughout 1912, periodic announcements appeared of plans to reduce the regular army to four divisions. Nonetheless, all eight divisions remained firmly in place. Finally, in early 1913, a new scheme was introduced to reorganize the army into three divisions and two independent infantry brigades. From January to March, new officers' appointments were made for these units. Artillery and cavalry regiment appointments were also made, revealing a determination to create the auxiliary units that would bring these divisions up to New Army organizational standards.
It is no accident that the only division commanders left in the 1913 reorganization were Li's most loyal supporters, Tang Keming, Cai Hanqing, and Wang Anlan (see Table 9). The new divisions were not, however, simply based on these men's commands. Their former divisions were contracted to form one brigade under one of their previous brigade commanders. The second brigade in each division was taken from a different division, under one of its original brigade commanders. By these means at least some charges of favoritism could be avoided. By this time troop disbandment had been sufficiently successful for the placement of soldiers in a smaller number of divisions to occur without creating any great difficulty. However, an excessive number of officers still remained, and efforts had to be redoubled to
encourage their retirement or to find other placements for them. As a result, it would be several months before this reorganization could be completed.
There were two divisions, the 2d and the 8th, not incorporated into the new structure of the Hubei army. The commander of the 2d Division, Du Xijun, as one of Li's loyal supporters, received a special appointment as Hankou garrison commander. His remaining troops were reassigned as patrol battalions to protect this important commercial port. The commander of the 8th Division, Ji Yulin, received no such special consideration. There were obvious reasons for this omission. First, Ji's army was the only division that had been organized entirely out of local revolutionary forces and had no New Army base. Furthermore, its officers were largely revolutionary activists with little military education or experience. Ji and his officers had also shown little respect for Li's authority and had been a constant source of trouble for the Hubei government. Li therefore had sufficient reasons to seek Ji's removal and his division's total elimination. Early in 1912, Ji offered to resign and disband his army as a patriotic gesture. He soon regretted this offer, though, and adamantly resisted all attempts to cancel his command. Only when Ji and some of his officers were implicated in an uprising plot in April 1913 was it possible to close his headquarters and incorporate the remnants of his army into the new 3d Division.
With a few exceptions, such as the case of Ji Yulin, Li's cautious approach to the reorganization of the Hubei army forestalled potential opposition. As such, the slow pace of disbandment was as much a sign of Li's continued weak control over the army as it was a reflection of his concern for its officers and men. Nonetheless, at no point did Li consider replacing the Hubei army entirely with a simpler system of local defense forces, as in Hunan. Thus he was apparently committed to preserving the Hubei army, albeit after considerable weeding out, in its form as a New Army—style force. This, then, may have been another factor in the decision to pursue a slower, staged demobilization. Whatever Li's intentions, the Hubei army in early 1913 was still far removed from the New Army ideal. Partial disbandment only reduced the size of the problems presented by the Hubei army rather than eliminating them entirely. The remaining troops were still of a lower quality than their New Army predecessors, while at the same time more highly paid and less disciplined. Revolutionary influences inside the Hubei army also continued to make it a potential political threat to Li and his government, as evidenced by the South Lake uprising of August 1912. A more permanent solution to these problems was found in a plan to rebuild the Hubei army by combining continued disbandment with new recruitment by conscription.
As early as April 1912, Li had advocated the establishment of a conscription system as a way to improve the quality of the new Republic's soldiers. In doing so, Li followed the path of late Qing New Army reformers, who had likewise proposed, but generally failed to implement, the institution of a draft. Li's early disbandment proposals also promoted the idea of a conscription system to serve Hubei's future recruitment needs, even suggesting the establishment of a model brigade or division on this basis. Not until early 1913, though, did Li finally propose the replacement of all existing troops with new draftees. An added benefit of this plan was the financial saving that could be obtained by replacing older soldiers paid at a rate of ten yuan a month with new troops who were to be given six yuan a month.
Concerned about releasing large numbers of potentially disorderly soldiers into society at one time, Li did not intend his conscription proposal to be implemented immediately. Nonetheless, when news of this proposal reached the Hubei army, the reaction of many soldiers was to petition for immediate disbandment. Up to this point, disbanding soldiers had been able to demand demobilization bonuses much higher than the regulation twenty yuan. Now those who remained feared that because of their decreasing numbers they would be forced
to accept a lower amount. By uniting to ask for immediate disbandment, they would still have the strength of numbers to demand higher bonuses. The result was a rush of disbandment demands from many different army units in late March and April of 1913. The soldiers successfully used past precedents, and the implicit threat of disorder if their terms were not met, to negotiate bonus payments ranging from fifty to seventy-five yuan. Concerned that insufficient military forces might be left to maintain order, Li had to plead for some soldiers to remain at their posts, promising that they too would receive the higher bonuses when their own time for disbandment came. Although the negative side of this disbandment rush was to saddle the Hubei treasury with an even greater financial burden, on the positive side it eased the reorganization of the Hubei army by removing remaining troop surpluses from as yet unreconstructed units. Indeed, the large number of troops discharged at this time appears to have left even the newly formed divisions undermanned.
The level of disbandment achieved in Hubei by spring 1913 appeared on the surface to be quite favorable for Li's plans to rebuild the Hubei army on a conscript basis. Nonetheless, no progress was made toward this objective. One reason for this was Li's increasing preoccupation with the growing political conflict between China's revolutionaries and President Yuan Shikai. As discussed in Chapter 5, this conflict ultimately led to an unsuccessful rebellion, known as the Second Revolution. Li's refusal to join the struggle against Yuan exacerbated revolutionary opposition to his own regime. Seeking military support for the overthrow of both Yuan and Li, Hubei revolutionaries, including a number of discharged army officers, sought to take advantage of their remaining contacts within the Hubei army. In the spring and summer of 1913, Li uncovered and suppressed a series of plots aimed specifically at the subversion of the Hubei army and the incitement of disbanded revolutionary troops.
The problems faced by Li Yuanhong in mid 1913 highlighted the continuing political dilemma presented by the Hubei army. On the one hand, some military forces were needed to maintain local order and, increasingly, to suppress revolutionary plots. On the other hand, the continued political unreliability of the Hubei army meant that it could not be depended upon to perform these tasks. Therefore, when political tensions were at their highest, Li restricted most Hubei units in Wuhan to their camps. To forestall political trouble from the Hubei army during the Second Revolution, Li dispersed most of it to scattered garrisons around the province, leaving only some three thousand
Hubei soldiers around the capital. Although the need for more reliable troops might have been solved in the long run by Li's plan to conscript a new army, in the short run there was no time, or money, to recruit or train new soldiers. Li's ultimate solution, then, was to depend increasingly on non-Hubei troops.
Li's use of outside forces began in the fall of 1912, when he welcomed two regiments of Zhili and Jiangsu troops to aid in the preservation of order in Wuchang following the South Lake uprising. In the troubled spring of 1913, Li also frequently relied on Li Tiancai's non-Hubei army to help maintain order in the Hubei capital. The most important step toward an increased dependence on outside forces came after the discovery of another major revolutionary plot in April 1913. At this point, Li asked Yuan Shikai to send northern troops to help defend Wuhan. By mid April, over three thousand northern troops were stationed around the city. In the following weeks more northern units were dispatched to Wuhan and other major cities. Although these troops had been called in to strengthen Hubei's own defenses, Yuan took advantage of Li's invitation to initiate a buildup of forces in Hubei, which he would use during the Second Revolution to extend central control into Jiangxi Province.
With the conclusion of the Second Revolution, the balance of military power in Hubei shifted decisively in favor of the northern armies over Hubei's own military forces. As a participant in this process, Li was by no means simply a dupe of Yuan's political machinations. Li had initially requested northern troops on his own volition, and he then allowed Hubei to be used as a base for Yuan's war against rebelling southern provinces. At the close of the war, Li did not seek to have the northern armies removed from Hubei; rather, he asked that a substantial northern force be left as a permanent garrison. Indeed, concerned with continuing revolutionary disturbances, Li even requested that more northern troops be sent to the province. Meanwhile, Li also continued the disbandment of Hubei troops. By August 1913, for example, the troop strength of Hubei's 2d Division had been reduced to one regiment. Finally, Li proposed that the remaining Hubei army be further consolidated into one division and two mixed brigades, and that they only be used to guard the province's outlying areas. For Wuhan itself he advocated forming a new division, and it is significant that he suggested that its troops be recruited in northern provinces. Having welcomed northern troops into Hubei, Li found in them the solution to the dilemma of the Hubei army's political unreliability.
Chinese historians have commonly criticized Li's disbandment of the Hubei army as part of an overall scheme to eliminate revolutionary power and consolidate his own military authority. There is little question that the political threat presented by strong revolutionary influences within the Hubei army was a major concern in Li's disbandment policies. Likewise, some of Li's actions, such as the appointment of his three most loyal commanders to head the army's reorganized divisions in early 1913, clearly sought to strengthen his own authority over the army's chain of command. It would be disingenuous, however, to suggest that Li, as military governor, did not have the right to expect the Hubei army and its commanders to respect his authority. At the same time, it would be simplistic to view all of Li's actions as motivated solely by a desire to consolidate his own power. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Li's concern to reduce military expenses and to provide his province with a more stable and orderly military force. Seen in this light, Li's willingness to have Hubei's own army largely supplanted by northern troops becomes more understandable. Certainly Li wanted Yuan's army to help defend his regime from revolutionary attack, but no future warlord would have been so careless about shoring up his own military base. Indeed, by placing his desire for order ahead of the strengthening of his own personal military power, Li put his own political future in jeopardy.
The expansion of provincial military forces, and the politicizing effect of the 1911 Revolution on these forces, made military control a key issue for the early Republican provincial regimes. Unlike later warlord military governors, Li Yuanhong and Tan Yankai did not gain their positions because of their personal military authority. Rather, one of their main concerns was how to establish their authority as military governors over the disparate military forces that had emerged from the revolution. Some of their efforts to this end, such as using personal ties and patronage to strengthen the loyalty of military commanders, resonate with warlord practice. They also did not hesitate to use whatever loyal military support they had at their disposal to suppress plots against their governments. At the same time, it would be difficult to argue that Li and Tan did not have the right to expect obedience from their provincial armies or the prerogative of using these armies to defend their regimes. More important, unlike in the case of the warlords who arose later, personal military power never became the main foundation of their authority as military governors. Indeed, the con-
tinuing weakness of their military control was an important factor in their decision to disband their provincial armies. At the same time, their commitment to general rather than selective disbandment shows that the preservation of order and the general stability of the provincial regimes were their main political objectives, not the acquisition of personal military power. As a final solution to depoliticizing the military, disbandment may have reduced military threats to Li and Tan's own positions, but it also removed a threat to the civil polity they represented.
The process of troop disbandment in Hunan and Hubei reveals a relationship between military and political power that was more complex than the future pattern of warlordism. The general failure of military commanders to mount any effective resistance to disbandment shows that they, as well as the military governors, lacked the confident personal power that future warlords would have over their troops. One reason for this was that most of their commands were too newly formed for them to solidify their personal control. At the same time, these commanders were restrained by the general lack of discipline in their units, a condition exacerbated to no small degree by the democratic spirit that had infused the rank and file during the revolution. As a result, the greatest political threat from the military in Hunan and Hubei did not come from ambitious commanders at the head of personal armies, but from the politicized lower ranks, with their potential to duplicate the military coups of the revolution. This form of military political intervention pointed in a direction quite different from the development of warlordism. It was, however, a line of development that disbandment purposefully, and with a large degree of success, brought to an end.
The programs of disbandment carried out in Hunan and Hubei after the 1911 Revolution were major achievements of their provincial regimes. The success of disbandment showed that the politicization of the military that had occurred as a result of the revolution did not necessarily lead to the subordination of politics to military power and military interests. Rather, the provincial regimes showed their potential to reconstitute government and politics on a civil basis. This civil potential, though, developed within very specific provincial contexts. In the end, the ability of the Hunan and Hubei regimes to hold warlordism at bay on a provincial level was upset by the intrusion of broader political problems on a national level.