Late Qing Military Organization
Many commanders who emerged as warlords in the early Republican period began their military careers in the armed forces of China's last imperial dynasty. A brief outline of the late Qing military system is therefore a logical starting point for any investigation into the origins of Chinese warlordism. This task is complicated, though, by the considerable changes in military organization that occurred in the late Qing period. Beginning in the mid nineteenth century, a succession of internal and external threats compelled the Qing dynasty to seek ways to improve its military defenses, including the introduction of new forms of military organization. Beyond the issue of military efficiency, the creation of new military forces also altered the traditional arrangements by which the dynasty had ensured its control over its armies. The tension between these two objectives, military strength and military control, largely framed changes in military organization in this period.
The original Qing military system represented the culmination of long-standing efforts by the imperial Chinese state to ensure the political reliability of its armed forces. Reacting against previous historical usurpations of the imperial throne by military commanders, the Song dynasty (960–1279 A.D. ) and its successors commonly sacrificed some military efficiency to prevent a concentration of military power in individual hands. In the mid nineteenth century, the Qing dynasty reluctantly deviated from this policy. Faced with widespread rebellions that threatened its survival, the Qing court allowed the formation of new armies that achieved greater military effectiveness by relying on personally oriented command structures. In doing so, though, they also increased the power of military commanders. As noted in the Introduc-
tion to this study, some scholars have viewed the appearance of these new nineteenth-century armies as initiating a devolution of central power to regional military organizations, ultimately giving rise under the Republic to warlords who drew their power from these same personally oriented regional military bases. Some attention must be paid to the debate that has surrounded this theory because of its past influence in framing the study of warlord origins. On an empirical level, though, this theory cannot show a consistent causal connection between the regional military organizations it finds in the late Qing period and actual warlords under the Republic. Indeed, the theory's greatest weakness is a failure to account properly for the effects of more complicated changes in military organization that immediately preceded the fall of the dynasty and the rise of warlordism.
A second stage in the transformation of late Qing military organization occurred around the turn of the century in response to increased threats from Western and Japanese imperialism. In order to meet the challenge of foreign armies, the court approved the creation of new forces based organizationally on Western military models. By building an officer corps selected for its professional expertise in Western military science, and not for its particularistic ties, these new forces not only increased military effectiveness but lessened the dangers of personalism. Strictly in organizational terms, these Western-style forces reduced the problem of military control seen in earlier, personally oriented armies.
A survey of military forces in Hunan and Hubei shows that the efforts of the Qing dynasty to strengthen its military power through new types of military organization never resulted in the creation of a single, uniform national army. The Chinese army on the eve of the 1911 Revolution remained a confusing hodgepodge of forces, ranging from remnants of traditional armies to newer Western-style units. Since almost all of these forces were represented in later warlord armies, no particular form of military organization can be held completely accountable for the rise of warlordism. Late Qing military disunity was further complicated by the geographical division of military authority along provincial or regional lines. On the one hand, this situation reflected the inability of the late Qing court to provide the organizational and financial resources necessary for a cohesive national army. On the other hand, organizational fragmentation was yet another way in which the imperial state traditionally protected itself from military usurpations. Whatever advantages a fragmented military might have had for the imperial system, they quickly disappeared after
its demise. Military reforms, particularly the introduction of Western armaments, increased the relative coercive power of the Chinese army in Chinese society. In its fragmented state, though, the army was not prepared to act as a unifying national force in the face of political instability. Military intervention, when it occurred, would reflect the disunity of the military itself and thus contribute to fragmented political rule in the shape of warlordism.
The Traditional Qing Military System and the Rise of the Yongying
For the first two centuries of its existence, the Qing dynasty's army was divided into two distinct branches. The first branch was the Banner Army (baqi , literally the "eight banners"), an organization of hereditary soldiers established before the Manchu penetration of the Great Wall. This army was primarily a Manchu force in that most adult male members of the Manchu tribal population were enrolled in it, but elements of it were also culled from Chinese and Mongol subject populations. After the Manchu conquest of China proper, most of the Banner Army was concentrated in garrisons around Beijing as a capital guard. Another large portion, stationed in the northeast, protected the Manchu homeland. Finally, other Banner garrisons were located at strategic points throughout the provinces and along the northern frontier. The second branch of the Qing military was the Green Standard Army (lüying ). This was a predominantly Han Chinese force, formed after the Manchu conquest, largely modeled on the military organization of the preceding Ming dynasty. Charged primarily with the maintenance of local order, Green Standard troops were scattered throughout the country in small garrisons.
One significant feature of the traditional Qing military system was its careful elaboration of checks and balances aimed at preventing the concentration of military power in a manner that might present a threat to dynastic rule. The separation of Banner and Green Standard armies was in itself an attempt to make each branch serve as a check on the other. Thus, no unified command was ever created over both of these branches, and each had its own distinct administration. Even the troop deployment of the two branches had a counterbalancing purpose. Although the Green Standard Army was over twice as large as the Banner Army, the Banner Army's larger, strategically placed garrisons served as a check upon the more fragmented Green Standard forces.
Internal divisions of authority within each of the two military
branches also hindered any concentration of military power. The Banner Army derived its name from the individual "banners," or units, of which it was composed, each identified by its own distinctive colored flag. While each banner had its own separate command structure and bureaucratic administration, Banner Army garrisons were formed not by one banner but by a combination of forces taken from a number of different banners. Thus even within the dynasty's most loyal forces, organizational divisions weakened the power of individual garrison commanders. The lines of authority in the Green Standard Army were even more intricate. Provincial commanders-in-chief (tidu ) theoretically had direct command over all the Green Standard units in any one province. However, provincial governors and governors-general also had broad supervisory powers over the Green Standard forces in their territories, and sometimes even more direct command over specific Green Standard units. At the same time, the military authority of these two offices overlapped in a way not unlike the counterbalancing of their positions in the civil administration. Finally, in major military campaigns, special expeditionary forces were formed by combining a number of different units from both Banner and Green Standard armies. The commanders of such campaigns were often appointed, not from among the officers of any of its component forces, but from the ranks of the civil bureaucracy. Thus, the traditional organization of Qing armies blurred military authority and chains of command in such a way as to hinder the accumulation of military power in the hands of any one official or any one military officer.
Beyond the division of authority between and within its two military branches, the Qing court also relied on other measures to enhance dynastic control over its armies. First, the court appointed most military officers directly, thus keeping them dependent on imperial favor. As with civil officials, Green Standard commanders were not allowed to serve in their home provinces. This "law of avoidance" hindered possible combinations of military power with local interests. At the same time, frequent rotation of military officers at all levels prevented the establishment of close ties among officers, or between officers and their men. Finally, all military units were kept financially dependent by direct funding from the central Board of Finance. By such policies the dynasty carefully guarded against the development of independent personal or local bases of power within the military.
While the complicated system of checks and balances within the Qing armed forces protected the dynasty from a military threat from below, it also reduced military effectiveness by hindering coordination
and initiative. The advantages of the traditional system might have offset its disadvantages if the quality of the troops themselves had remained high. Unfortunately for the dynasty, the fighting ability of both Banner and Green Standard forces deteriorated steadily over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The Banner Army began to decline soon after the Manchu conquest of China was completed. The quality of Banner officers suffered inasmuch as talented Manchus found better career opportunities within the dynasty's civil administration, leaving less able men in command of Banner forces. With fewer wars to fight, sedentary garrison life also quickly blunted the military skills and martial ardor that had originally characterized the frontier soldiers of the Banner Army. Banner soldiers, forbidden to leave military service for other occupations, were also demoralized by policies that kept their pay constant despite rising prices. By the mid eighteenth century the Banner Army had become an indolent force that could no longer be relied on to meet the dynasty's defensive needs.
Green Standard forces maintained their effectiveness for a longer period, but they also suffered from officers who ignored military training and lined their pockets with cuts from their men's already low pay. In order to survive, Green Standard soldiers were forced to moonlight; often they simply deserted. This only encouraged further embezzlement by officers who maintained the fiction of full-strength units. By the nineteenth century, many Green Standard units were reduced to one-half, and in extreme cases to one-sixth, of their official size. In 1851, officials responding to a call for counsel from the Xianfeng emperor recited a familiar litany of the problems besetting the dynasty's armies: underpaid and abused soldiers, corrupt officers, padded enrollments, and neglected training.
The serious consequences of the decline of the Qing army did not become fully apparent until the mid nineteenth century, when the dynasty faced a conjunction of serious external and internal military threats. The Opium War (1839–42) initiated a period of more forceful Western pressure on China to open up to foreign trade and religious proselytization. China's defeat in this war exposed the weak and demoralized condition of its armies and raised questions about the Qing dynasty's ability to provide more than minimal defense, but Western military threats were for a time blunted by treaty concessions. A more serious challenge came from a series of internal rebellions, the most significant of which was the Taiping Rebellion (1851–64). The steady defeat of both Banner and Green Standard forces by Taiping armies
endangered the very existence of the dynasty. The crisis of the Taiping Rebellion forced the dynasty to abandon some of its military traditions in order to experiment with new and more effective types of military organization.
As its armies fell back before the spread of rebellion, the court's attention was drawn to the only forces that were showing some success against the rebels, namely, militias (tuanlian ) and more highly militarized local mercenary corps (xiangyong , literally "village braves") raised by local elites for community self-defense. The dynasty conceded that its best hope for survival might lie with these local units. At the same time, it also retained ambiguous feelings about the existence of armed forces outside the more carefully controlled traditional military system. Thus while officially approving the organization of local forces, the court also sent a number of high civil officials back to their home provinces as "militia commissioners" to supervise, and ensure the loyalty of, these forces. One of these commissioners, and the most important person in the subsequent development of new military forces, was Zeng Guofan. Returning to his native Hunan in 1852, Zeng realized that purely local-level militarization would be insufficient to defeat the Taipings. While retaining the fiction that he was simply promoting militia recruitment, Zeng set about creating a new and larger military organization. By absorbing local mercenary corps and new recruits, Zeng eventually raised over 130,000 men for his Xiang (Hunan) Army. This army became the model for the formation of other similar forces, the most important of which was Li Hongzhang's Huai (Anhui) Army. These new forces, the yongying (literally "brave battalions"), provided the military power that finally defeated midcentury rebellions and restored peace to the empire.
One reason for the success of the yongying was an organizational structure that provided a degree of cohesion lacking in Banner and Green Standard forces. Departing from the depersonalized bureaucratic structure of the traditional military system, yongying leaders like Zeng and Li chose their own subordinate commanders, often from among their relatives, friends, or classmates. These commanders then selected their subordinate officers, who in turn personally supervised the recruitment of their soldiers. Reflecting this personally based organization, yongying units at the lowest level were often identified by the names of the men who both recruited and led them. Yongying units were in fact so closely identified with the men who formed them that they often had to be disbanded upon their deaths. As a further cohesive measure, individual yongying units were usually recruited from
specific localities, and the army as a whole from one particular region or province. As seen in the names of Zeng Guofan's Xiang Army and Li Hongzhang's Huai Army, the regional bases of the yongying also became one of their identifying characteristics. Yongying units were therefore bound together by a chain of consciously promoted personal loyalties and local ties. These particularistic features of yongying organization fostered better coordination among officers, closer relations between officers and men, and higher overall morale. At the same time, an uncomplicated pyramidal organizational structure permitted an efficiency of command that was impossible under the traditional military system. The formation of the yongying provides an interesting example of a situation where a search for military effectiveness led to rejection of more impersonal, bureaucratic organizational features that would normally be considered more "modern" and hence more effective.
While the organizational features of the yongying had undeniable military advantages, they also gave an unprecedented amount of power to yongying leaders. First, these leaders were largely free of the overlapping checks and balances that had limited the military authority of army commanders under the previous military system. Second, since these commanders personally controlled recruitment, appointments, and promotions in their armies, they were able to ensure a high level of personal loyalty from their subordinate officers and men. Finally, measures taken to meet the financial and administrative needs of the yongying also served to increase the powers of their commanders. The financially strapped court could not provide sufficient funds to meet the basic needs of these new military forces, let alone maintain the high pay standards needed to preserve troop morale. Therefore, following precedents established in the financing of local militias, yongying commanders gained permission to impose local commercial taxes, called lijin , for the support of their armies. These taxes provided yongying commanders with funding sources largely independent of central control. At the same time, by becoming the paymasters of their own armies these commanders again strengthened their personal control over their men. To administer the personnel, logistical, and financial needs of his army, Zeng Guofan also expanded his personal secretariat (mufu ) into a sophisticated private bureaucracy. Other yongying leaders followed Zeng's example in creating large support staffs that remained largely free of central bureaucratic control.
As the value of the yongying became clear, the Qing court pro-
moted many yongying commanders to governorships and governor-generalships, giving them further powers to marshal local resources to meet the needs of their armies. Such commanders thus extended their authority from their military commands into civil administration. Other yongying commanders and officers were also rewarded with other civil titles and appointments. As a result, in the postrebellion period a large number of high court and provincial posts were in the hands of men with yongying backgrounds. Top yongying leaders like Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang would emerge as the empire's leading statesmen. In the context of the midcentury rebellions, new forms of military power had thus become a medium for political advancement.
The principle behind the traditional system of military organization had been to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of military commanders. Military exigency in the mid nineteenth century forced the dynasty to modify this principle and allow an unprecedented aggrandizement of military, financial, and administrative powers by yongying leaders. Although these new forces may have saved the dynasty from defeat at the hands of internal rebels, the court's acceptance of these personally oriented organizations was something of a political risk. In the end, only the yongying commanders' loyalty to the Qing ensured the commitment of their armies to dynastic interests. Except for this loyalty, the personal military power of yongying leaders in many respects resembled that of warlords under the Republic. It is hardly surprising, then, that some scholars have seen the rise of yongying as a pivotal event that led inexorably both to the collapse of the Qing dynasty and to the rise of warlordism.
The Political Legacy of Yongying Organization
In studies published in Chinese in the 1930s, Luo Ergang first linked the origins of warlordism to the development of the yongying . Luo particularly focused his attention on the personalization of military power that was manifested in yongying organization. According to Luo, the yongying were not national armies; rather, they "belonged" to their commanders. While this personalization of military power in itself undermined the central power of the court, it had an even greater political effect when yongying commanders obtained posts as governors or governors-general and thus gained control over provincial administrations and finances. According to Luo, the possession of personal armies allowed late Qing governors and governors-general to emerge as provincial "dictators" capable of resisting central orders, or even threatening the court, in the pursuit of their own interests. The
rise of the yongying therefore resulted, not only in the loss of central control over military force, but in a broader devolution of central political power to provincial governors and governors-general.
Luo Ergang's interpretation was further elaborated, and introduced to Western scholars, through the work of Franz Michael. Michael's main contribution was the development of the concept of "regionalism" to describe the decline of central power that began with the formation of the yongying . According to Michael, "regional leaders" such as Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang "organized their own military forces in their home regions, combined this locally-based military power with political organizations loyal to them, and drew their financial support from the regions they occupied. These regional organizations provided their leaders with bases of autonomous power." Thus, for Michael, the personal military power provided by the yongying , which he refers to as "regional armies," was responsible for a broader "regional" combination of military, administrative, and financial powers by yongying commanders. Michael also notes that the ascension of these commanders to positions as governors and governors-general institutionalized the autonomous power bases they had created as army leaders.
Both Luo and Michael maintain that the personalist organization of the yongying became an enduring characteristic of Chinese military organization from the mid nineteenth century on. It both created regional autonomy under the Qing and served as the foundation for warlordism after the fall of the Manchu dynasty. Thus the rise of warlordism is directly connected to changes in military organization that began in the mid nineteenth century. "The situation of 'soldiers belonging to the generals' began with the military expansion during the reign of the Xianfeng emperor [1851–61]," Luo observes. "Undergoing a number of developments, this situation led first to the dufu (governors and governors-general) of the Guangxu reign [1875–1908], and then progressed further to create the regionally separate warlords of the Republican period." Michael likewise sees Republican warlords as the direct heirs of nineteenth-century regional leaders. "Regional power, once established, eventually held its own," he notes. "The organizations of Tseng Kuo-fan [Zeng Guofan], Li Hung-chang [Li Hongzhang] and other regional leaders of the nineteenth century marked the beginning of the disintegration of dynastic power that finally led to the collapse of the dynasty and to the system of warlordism that replaced it." One appeal of the Luo-Michael thesis is that it sees warlordism as the result of a lengthy process of general political
decline rather than as a temporary aberration. The widespread influence of this theory is seen in its frequent citation in both general textbooks and specialized studies of warlordism.
This interpretation of the origins of warlordism has not gone completely unchallenged. Criticism of the thesis, however, has come not from the field of warlord studies but from scholars of late Qing political and military organization. These scholars have argued convincingly that the personal powers of the midcentury yongying commanders, and later governors and governors-general, were never as great nor as autonomous as portrayed by Luo and Michael. To the extent that these scholars present a different view of late Qing political structure, they also challenge the suitability of the Luo-Michael thesis as an explanation of the origins of warlordism.
Ralph Powell, Wang Ermin, and Liu Kwang-ching have all questioned the tendency of the Luo-Michael thesis to discount the loyalty of the yongying commanders to the dynasty as a factor enabling the court to maintain considerable central control. According to these scholars, as long as the legitimacy of the Qing emperor was recognized, the court retained key central powers, which were effectively used to hinder the development of regional political autonomy. The most important of these powers was that of appointment. First, the appointments of yongying commanders as provincial governors and governors-general need not be seen as the court's de facto recognition of the power of military commanders who had gotten beyond its control. Chinese emperors traditionally used senior civil posts as rewards for men who had performed significant military services for the dynasty. Such appointments did not therefore automatically signify a devolution of central power. Second, up to the fall of the dynasty, the court proved quite capable of transferring or removing these top officials at will. Even though some leading figures, such as Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang, had lengthy tenures in important posts, Liu Kwang-ching has shown that most provincial governors continued to be rotated on a regular basis. Finally, Liu also notes that although the governors were largely able to select yongying officers and staff for their expanded personal secretariats, the dynasty maintained its power of appointment over most regular military and civil bureaucrats. Under these circumstances the autonomy of provincial governors does not appear to have been as great as Luo and Michael would have us believe.
Although the considerable degree of independent military power exercised by yongying commanders during the period of rebellion is sel-
dom denied, critics have also noted that the lack of central authority over these forces was not as complete or as lasting as claimed by the Luo-Michael thesis. This is most notably seen in the court's ability to order drastic reductions in yongying strengths after the rebellions ended. Indeed, in the case of Zeng Guofan's Xiang Army, the demobilization was nearly complete. The dynasty furthermore retained ultimate authority over the deployment of the yongying and was able to enforce the transfer of forces from one province to another over the opposition of provincial governors. Liu Kwang-ching has also shown that the court increased bureaucratic control over many yongying officers by giving them concurrent appointments in the Green Standard Army. Thus the court had means to assert its authority over the yongying and did so with some success.
Some scholars have also raised questions about the supposed financial independence of yongying commanders and late Qing governors and governors-general. David Pong's study of military financing in Jiangxi Province during the Taiping Rebellion shows that yongying commanders such as Zeng Guofan were indeed able to gain unprecedented control over certain revenues, such as the lijin . Nonetheless, he also shows that these sources of income were never sufficient for their needs. In the end, Zeng remained dependent on the court for access to provincial revenues from Jiangxi and other provinces to meet his military expenses. Liu Kwang-ching also notes that the court never lost its power to approve financial disbursements and by this means prevented the yongying commanders from achieving complete fiscal independence. Furthermore, he shows that after the suppression of the rebellions, the central government gained access to a large portion of the revenues from new provincial sources such as the lijin by demanding special remittances for central expenses. Thus, the special sources of income created to support the yongying did not become the exclusive financial preserves of the post-Taiping governors and governors-general.
Franz Michael's concept of the development of regionalism is considerably weakened by the picture of more limited autonomy of yongying commanders and provincial governors presented by these scholars. In a study of the Huai Army, Wang Ermin goes even further, raising questions about the application of the concept of regionalism to the yongying . Although their officers and men were predominantly drawn from one province or area, the yongying often campaigned or were stationed in other provinces. Wang notes that the Huai Army was never stationed in Anhui, where it had originally been formed,
and was eventually scattered, on court orders, over a number of provinces. Likewise, in spite of its Anhui origins, the Huai Army received financial support, not from the province of Anhui, but from Li Hongzhang's main financial base in Jiangsu. Thus, according to Wang, aside from their original recruiting bases, the "regional" character of yongying forces is not easily identifiable. In the end, Wang is unwilling to characterize yongying commanders like Li Hongzhang as nascent warlords controlling autonomous regional power bases. Instead, he proposes that yongying leaders simply used their positions to build "military factions" (junxi ) that were little different from the personal political factions commonly found in the Chinese bureaucracy in any dynastic period.
Finally, scholars studying the role of provincial governors and governors-general in the late Qing political structure have challenged the view embedded in the Luo-Michael thesis of an oppositional relationship between these officials and the central government. While not ignoring the contradictions that often existed between the court and its provincial officials, these scholars offer convincing evidence that late Qing governors and governors-general generally acted more as centralizing agents than as autonomous "regional leaders" undermining central power. According to Wang Ermin, the powerful military organization created by Li Hongzhang in northern China while he was Zhili governor-general served dynastic policy aimed at increasing military strength in the capital area. Li's power was thus not organized in opposition to the central government but in support of it. Liu Kwang-ching complements Wang's conclusions with a study of Li Hongzhang's role as leader of the "self-strengthening" reform movement. On the one hand, according to Liu, court support remained essential for the implementation of Li's modernizing program. On the other hand, with this support Li performed central government functions in pursuit of clearly national goals. Daniel Bays reaches a similar conclusion about another leading Qing provincial official, Zhang Zhidong, during his tenure as governor-general at Canton (Guangzhou). According to Bays, Zhang could not act independently of imperial sanction, and his power depended less on any personal power base than on imperial favor. As governor-general, Zhang pursued national goals and acted as an agent for central interests. In this regard he often conflicted with, rather than represented, entrenched local or regional interests. Livingston Merchant has even shown how the Qing court used the establishment of a new governor-generalship over the three northeastern Manchurian provinces in 1907 to strengthen both central
and civil control over the region. Given such evidence, it is untenable simply to view late Qing governors and governors-general as autonomous regional "dictators" who accumulated power at the expense of the Qing court.
The critics of the Luo-Michael thesis do not deny that late Qing provincial governors and governors-general were in some regards more powerful figures than their pre—Taiping Rebellion predecessors. Their studies, however, reflect a more complicated understanding of the sources of late Qing political power beyond the control of personal military forces. In particular, late Qing governors and governors-general gained power through their leadership in various "self-strengthening" or reform programs. While these programs depended on court support and served national aims, the governors who were most successful in their promotion also obtained a larger share of national and local revenues and control over the personnel of new agencies outside the regular bureaucracy. At the same time, leadership in these programs resulted in the creation of power not so much at expense of the central government as through the general expansion of state activity.
The strength of late Qing governors and governors-general does suggest a more indirect factor that may have influenced the later rise of warlordism. When military commanders in the Republican period took control over provincial governments, they quite naturally looked to late Qing governors and governors-general as models that allowed for a strong executive with broad authority over both military and civil administration. The only difference was that provincial warlords were able to operate in the absence of the central controls that had restricted the autonomy of their late Qing predecessors.
On a more general level, the combined civil-military authority granted late Qing governors also reflected a mutual permeability between civil and military spheres in late imperial China that may have had some influence on later warlordism. At least in principle, Chinese tradition praised the combination of civil and military talent in cultivated gentlemen. Chinese officials were generalists, expected to be competent in both civil and military affairs. As seen in some instances described above, civil officials were often given supervisory powers, or even direct command, over military forces. Similarly, members of the civilian gentry led the way in the organization of the yongying . Conversely, successful military commanders might be rewarded with civil titles or posts. Within this cultural and institutional tradition, the assumption of civil powers by military men in the Re-
public was not necessarily looked upon askance. At the same time, however, the mutual permeability of the civil and military spheres cannot in itself be seen as causing warlordism. Indeed, this permeability obviously allowed a flow in two directions. While it may have lowered inhibitions against the rule of military men in the Republic, for most of the late imperial period this permeability functioned more to maintain civil control over the military.
Returning to the issue of the legacy of the yongying , the more detailed research that has emerged since Luo and Michael presented their views suggests that they may have exaggerated the effects of yongying organization on late Qing political structure. The works of revisionist scholars generally fail to support the conclusion that the formation of the yongying was responsible for a serious decline of central power and the rise of autonomous regional power bases. However, one further aspect of the Luo-Michael thesis remains to be explored: the effect of the yongying on subsequent Chinese military organization. It is, after all, the similarities between the personally oriented yongying and the private armies of the warlords that appear to be the strongest sign of a causal relationship between mid-nineteenth-century changes in military organization and the rise of twentieth-century warlordism. However, to show this linkage, continuity must also be traced through the intervening military developments of the late Qing period.
Military Self-Strengthening in the Late Nineteenth Century
Despite the obvious superiority of the yongying to the Banner and Green Standard armies in the suppression of mid-nineteenth-century rebellions, the yongying never completely replaced these more traditional forces. Vested interests within the older armies were one obstacle to this, but the Qing court also had its own reasons for opposing the total elimination of its traditional forces. Even in their weakened condition, the Banner and Green Standard armies could still serve dynastic purposes by acting as a check on the yongying . The rise of the yongying did not, therefore, lead to the total transformation of the Qing military system but simply added a third branch to it.
The ability of Banner and Green Standard forces to counterbalance the yongying would be limited, however, if they remained in their deteriorated condition. Thus in the 1860s and 1870s several attempts were made to strengthen and retrain some Banner and Green Standard units to a level more equal to the yongying . Because inertia in the Banners proved to be almost impossible to overcome, most of these
attempts focused on the Green Standard Army. Zeng Guofan, while serving as governor-general of Zhili Province, provided the model for the reform of the Green Standard Army through the application of certain yongying features, such as more simplified organization, higher pay scales, and more rigorous training. With dynastic encouragement, a number of provinces followed Zeng's lead in an attempt to revitalize all or part of their Green Standard forces, which were then designated the lianjun , or "Trained Armies." In the end, though, these efforts met with only limited success. In most areas, the lianjun , like the Green Standard Army, continued to be relegated to the task of preserving local order, while the yongying remained the dynasty's real defensive force.
In general, the main focus of military reform in the second half of the nineteenth century was not military reorganization but the spread of Western military technology. Despite the dynasty's eventual success in quelling internal rebellions, China's 1860 defeat in the Anglo-Chinese War was a reminder of its continued vulnerability to foreign threats. Even as they emerged as the dynasty's strongest forces, the yongying remained vastly inferior to the armies of the foreign powers. Therefore, as part of a more general program of self-strengthening, the dynasty approved a number of measures aimed at revitalizing its armed forces through the adoption of Western armaments.
The Qing dynasty's military self-strengthening was a comprehensive effort that involved both its naval and land defenses. On the naval side these efforts entailed nothing less than the creation of a modern navy based on Western models. By 1894 this new navy consisted of sixty-five warships and forty-three torpedo boats. Efforts to strengthen the dynasty's land armies focused primarily on introduction of modern Western military weaponry into established forces. Some yongying had been partially equipped with Western arms during their struggle against midcentury rebellions, and this was another factor in their effectiveness. With the restoration of peace, concerted efforts were made to arm all armies, including Green Standard and Banner forces, with modern weaponry. One problem the Chinese faced in these efforts was their dependence on foreign armament sources. Therefore, another goal of the self-strengthening movement was to lessen this foreign dependency by the construction of arsenals, or factories, for the manufacture of modern weapons and ammunition. By 1894 there were nearly ten such arsenals, the most famous of which was the Jiangnan Arsenal, established by Li Hongzhang at Shanghai in 1867. The production of these arsenals, however, was uneven and never
completely met the needs of China's armies. In the end, many Chinese soldiers, especially those in unreconstructed old-style forces, continued to be armed with traditional weapons.
One of the greatest obstacles to China's military reforms in this period lay in the quality of its officer corps. The effective introduction of Western weapons hinged on the training provided to the soldiers who were to use them. Although some training was initially provided by hired foreign instructors, this function ultimately had to be taken over by China's own officers. On the whole, Chinese officers proved ill-suited to this task. Non-yongying officers continued to be chosen through a traditional military examination system that, except for some rote memorization of passages from military classics, mainly emphasized physical prowess in certain martial skills, such as archery, horseback riding, and weight-lifting. The products of this system were poorly equipped either to understand or to adapt to changes in military technology. Because many yongying officers had come from the ranks of the civilian gentry, they were generally better educated than the products of the military examination system. At the same time, they seldom had any specialized military training. Many of these men also exhibited the civil elite's traditional disdain of the military and saw participation in military drill as a demeaning exercise. Thus, in all branches of the military, training remained lax and officers continued to respond slowly to the new demands placed on them by the introduction of Western technology.
In the mid 1880s, the establishment of two military academies based on Western military instruction marked an effort to provide a more thorough remedy for the deficiencies of the Chinese officer corps. The first academy was established by Li Hongzhang in Tianjin in 1885 and the second by Zhang Zhidong in Canton in 1887. Both academies used German instructors to train a small number of officers in Western military practices. Although the establishment of these academies was an important step, their graduates were still too few to effect a real transformation of the Chinese officer corps.
In the end, military reforms in the late nineteenth century were half-measures that proved incapable of meeting the dynasty's defensive needs. Attempts to revitalize the Banner and Green Standard armies failed to bring them up to yongying standards. They remained more of a burden on the dynasty's resources than an aid in its defense. Very quickly, the yongying also began to show signs of degeneration similar to that which had occurred earlier with the Banner and Green Stan-
dard armies. Indeed, the close relations among officers that gave the yongying their cohesion also made it difficult to enforce discipline or prevent corruption. Some progress was made in the introduction of modern Western arms, but inadequate training, the poor quality of the officer corps, and the preservation of organizational forms ill-suited to new military technology reduced the impact of these new weapons on Chinese military efficiency. While the rise of the yongying and subsequent military reforms enabled the dynasty to keep internal order, in the long run they proved incapable of defending the nation against foreign armies.
The Organization of the New Armies
The real test of the effectiveness of the military self-strengthening reforms of the late nineteenth century came with the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. The army and navy units that bore the brunt of this war were considered China's best, namely, Li Hongzhang's Huai Army and the Beiyang, or "Northern," Navy. Nonetheless, the outcome of the war showed that the best was not good enough. The Huai Army was shattered and the Beiyang fleet totally destroyed. The shock and humiliation of this defeat by a much smaller Asian nation acted as a catalyst for even more fundamental military reform. At the same time, the efficiency of Japan's more thoroughly Westernized army showed the direction these reforms would have to take.
Two strong proponents of Western military organization, Zhang Zhidong and Yuan Shikai, provided leadership for this next stage of military reform. In 1895, Zhang established a new force, the "Self-Strengthening Army" (Ziqiangjun), at Nanjing, while Yuan formed the "Newly Created Army" (Xinjianjun) in Zhili Province. With court approval, these units were the first military forces in China to be based entirely on Western models. Thus, these armies were not only equipped and trained with Western arms, but were also organized along the lines of Western armies. The simple yongying pyramidal structure was abandoned in favor of a functional division of units adapted to the use of advanced military technology. Thus, following German tables of organization, both armies were divided into three main branches—infantry, cavalry, and artillery—along with separate engineering and other technical components. German officers were employed to aid in the initial training and organization of these new units. To maintain the high quality of their armies, both Zhang and Yuan also emphasized careful recruitment, strict discipline and train-
ing, and generous pay. Nonetheless, their adoption of modern European military organization was the most radical and significant feature of the Self-Strengthening and Newly Created armies.
For a number of years, the Self-Strengthening and Newly Created armies remained experimental units with little impact on the Chinese military system as a whole. China's humiliation at the hands of the foreign armies sent to suppress the anti-foreign Boxer Uprising in 1900 provided the stimulus for further military reorganization. The Self-Strengthening and Newly Created armies then became models for the establishment of other Western-style armies, conventionally labeled the "New Armies" (xinjun ) by scholars.
The most important of the New Armies was the Beiyang Army built by Yuan Shikai after he succeeded to the Zhili governor-generalship following the death of Li Hongzhang in 1901. With the Newly Created Army as its core, the Beiyang Army grew by new recruitment and the incorporation of other forces (including the Self-Strengthening Army), until by 1906 it contained six divisions. Beginning in 1901, the dynasty also developed a series of plans aimed at the establishment of Western-style forces in every province. In 1901, a weeding-out process was initiated within yongying, lianjun , and unreconstructed Green Standard forces. The best troops were to be reorganized along Western lines as provincial "standing armies" (changbeijun ), the second best were to be reorganized as reserve or constabulary units, and the worst were to be disbanded. The standing armies, usually expanded by new recruitment, became the foundation for provincial New Armies. In late 1903 a Commission for Army Reorganization was established to centralize military policies and to standardize the organization of the New Armies. In 1906 the commission unveiled a ten-year plan setting the size of Western-style New Armies in each province, and establishing a goal of thirty-six divisions for the entire nation. By 1911 considerable progress toward this goal had been made. Although few New Army units ever reached their full strength, seventeen New Army divisions and twenty independent infantry or mixed brigades were established. Although only in existence for a few years, by 1911 these new forces became the dynasty's main military force.
Beyond changes in organizational structure, another important measure that accompanied the development of the New Armies, and contributed to their superiority, was a greater commitment to the creation of a professional, Western-trained officer corps. This also reflected the acceptance of a more "scientific" or intellectual approach to military education than was seen in China's traditional military organizations.
Before the turn of the century, the only new additions to the military academies founded by Zhang Zhidong and Li Hongzhang in the 1880s were a few schools established by Zhang and Yuan Shikai in the late 1890s to provide officers for their Western-style forces. In 1901 the court finally abolished the traditional military examination system and ordered the establishment of military academies in every province. Promising students were also sent abroad, particularly to Japan, for higher military educations. In 1904, the Commission for Army Reorganization issued a more complete plan for a nationwide system of military education. Following Japanese models, military primary schools were to be established in each province, secondary schools in four major cities, and officer and staff colleges in the capital area. By 1911, most of this system was in place and graduates of Western-style military schools began to fill positions in the New Armies.
The Luo-Michael thesis discounts the changes that occurred with the formation of the New Armies and instead finds only the continuation of trends seen in the organization of the yongying . Since they were still organized provincially, the New Armies are perceived as the personal armies of governors and governors-general, and as serving as the basis of continued regional autonomy. The New Armies, then, are simply viewed as transformed yongying providing a bridge to the later private armies of the warlords.
The case of Yuan Shikai and the Beiyang Army is usually singled out as the most important example of this linkage. Since Yuan succeeded to Li Hongzhang's posts as Zhili governor-general and commissioner of northern trade in 1901, he is seen as the direct heir to Li's regional organization. Yuan's Beiyang Army is likewise seen as a yongying offshoot, since initial recruits for Yuan's Newly Created Army were culled from Li's Huai Army. Despite Yuan's use of German military organization, Luo Ergang notes that Yuan's personal control of the Beiyang Army resulted in a situation "that was in fact not the slightest bit different from that created by the Xiang Army system." In the end, the Beiyang Army is seen as providing Yuan with the personal military base he later needed to seize political power as president of the Chinese Republic. Likewise, the emergence of Yuan's Beiyang Army subordinates as warlords after his death is seen as the result of their inheritance of the fragments of his regional military organization. Thus the perpetuation of yongying -style military organizations is presented as leading directly to warlordism.
In an effective extension of earlier critiques of the Luo-Michael
thesis, Stephen MacKinnon has challenged the above interpretation with his own studies of Yuan Shikai's rise to power and the development of the Beiyang Army. First, MacKinnon has shown that Yuan's power over the Beiyang Army was more limited than usually assumed. "Although Yuan Shih-k'ai [Shikai] had considerable influence over the Peiyang [Beiyang] Army, the central government in Peking [Beijing] had ultimate financial and administrative control," he observes. "Yuan's influence over the army depended upon the strength of his political position in Peking and not upon his control of an autonomous regional base in Chihli [Zhili]." MacKinnon notes that Yuan's own financial resources were insufficient to meet the needs of the Beiyang Army. Expansion, or even maintenance, of the Beiyang Army was only possible because of court support that ensured the allocation of other funds for Yuan's use. Yuan's ability to obtain this financial support, and to maintain administrative control of the Beiyang Army, was dependent on his influence over the Empress Dowager and his facility at court politics.
Second, MacKinnon rejects the idea that Yuan Shikai controlled a regional base autonomous from the central government. Rather, Yuan was a nationalist who "saw the salvation of the Chinese nation in the creation of a strong, centralized state." When combined with the previously cited revisionist studies of late Qing governors and governors-general, MacKinnon's interpretation suggests a more sophisticated picture of the structure of power in the late Qing period than a steady devolution of power to regional military leaders. Indeed, MacKinnon proposes an alternative model of "three simultaneously expanding and overlapping modes of power" at central, provincial, and local levels.
Finally, MacKinnon uses the case of the Beiyang Army to address the issue of the personal organization of military power that supposedly linked the New Armies to the private armies of the warlords. According to MacKinnon, the centralized and functionally divided structure of the Beiyang Army followed "comparatively modern professional bureaucratic lines" that contrasted sharply with the simple, personalized organization of the yongying . At the same time, these organizational differences were also accompanied by a reduction of the personalism that had characterized the yongying . For example, MacKinnon shows that Beiyang officers were regularly rotated. This functioned to eliminate the ties of personal loyalty within specific units between soldiers and officers, and between lower officers and their superiors. Furthermore, whereas yongying officers were selected on the
basis of personal or regional connections, Yuan emphasized military education and training in the recruitment of his officers. Because of their independent military qualifications, MacKinnon finds that their loyalty to Yuan was based more on professional expediency than on personal loyalty. In conclusion, given its dependence on court financing and support and its modern organizational structure, MacKinnon argues that the Beiyang Army was a "national" rather than a "private" army.
MacKinnon's study of the Beiyang Army shows that the Luo-Michael thesis assumes a continuity in Chinese military organization that ignores the fundamental changes that took place in the formation of the New Armies. In their organization, the New Armies more closely resembled the Western and Japanese armies of their day than the earlier, personally oriented yongying . This was not true merely of Yuan's Beiyang Army. Donald Sutton's study of the Yunnan Army also notes that this New Army "entered the Republic with an essentially modern, non-private structure." To a large extent, then, the development of New Armies marked a rejection, not a continuation, of yongying organizational features. Contrary to the claims of the Luo-Michael thesis, the New Armies cannot be shown to have been a vehicle for the transmission of the principles of personalist organization from the yongying to later warlord armies.
Although the perpetuation of personalist military organizations may not have been responsible for the rise of warlordism, it is still possible to see some significance in the appearance of personalist structures in both mid-nineteenth-century yongying forces and later warlord armies. Personalism as an organizing principle of Chinese military organization was a recurring pattern in times of state weakness, sufficiently so for precautions to be erected against it in the late imperial military system. On a deeper level, the problem of personalism in the military was simply one manifestation of a fundamental tension in the traditional Chinese state between the social values of Confucianism, with its emphasis on personal relationships, and the bureaucratic interests of the imperial government. In this regard, while personalism may not have been the primary organizing principle in the New Armies, it may be going too far to say that it was totally eradicated in the relations between New Army commanders and their subordinates. Some scholars have indeed criticized MacKinnon for underestimating the personalist ties Yuan fostered by patronizing young officers in his army. Nonetheless, too much can be read into such personal ties, which after all are not uncommon in the functioning of
any organization. The rise of warlordism was not predicated on the continuing and growing strength of personalist organizations within China's military forces. Rather personalism reappeared as a stronger organizing force in Chinese armies as emerging warlords gained political autonomy.
Although the establishment of the New Armies initiated a major transformation of China's military system, they never completely supplanted the empire's older forces. The Banner Army in particular survived with very little change. Periodic efforts were made to incorporate some Banner troops into the new military system, and one of the Beiyang Army's six divisions was formed from retrained bannermen. But in general it was acknowledged that there was little to be salvaged from the Banner Army. In 1907 a decree was finally issued calling for the gradual disbandment of the Banner garrisons and ordering bannermen to seek civilian occupations. Nonetheless, the Qing court found it nearly impossible to free itself of its obligations to the Manchu bannermen, and by 1911 almost no progress had been made toward this goal.
More success was achieved in the reduction of non-Banner forces. As already noted, the 1901 orders initiating the establishment of Western-style provincial armies began the process of weeding out and demobilizing the worst of the older provincial forces. According to the plan formed at that time, 20 to 30 percent of the empire's Green Standard and yongying troops were slated for disbandment. In 1907 the Commission on Army Reorganization reiterated the intention to disband the worst of these troops and reorganize the remainder, along with better-quality recruits, into provincial "Patrol and Defense Forces" (xunfangying ). These units were to do double duty as a constabulary in times of peace and as reserve forces for the New Armies in times of war. Like the New Armies, they were to be equipped and trained with modern weapons. Because of the priority given to the New Armies in training and weaponry, most Patrol and Defense Forces fell far short of the new standards expected of them. Nonetheless, by 1911 Patrol and Defense Forces had been established in most provinces and they became a semimodern military presence between the New Armies and the remnants of old-style forces that remained scattered across the country.
One of the peculiar features of military reform in late Qing China, especially when contrasted with countries like Japan, was its failure to establish a single, unified national army. Certainly, vested interests as well as central administrative and financial difficulties slowed the
elimination or reorganization of old-style forces. Nonetheless, the preservation of some old-style units, along with the formation of Patrol and Defense Forces, also revealed a continuing reluctance to concentrate all military power in one organization. Purely in terms of military strength, there could be little argument against the advantages of a unified army. At the same time, the fragmentation of military power as a means of maintaining dynastic control over the military was a tradition not easily repudiated, and a strategy that continued to have some validity. Indeed, with the outbreak of the 1911 Revolution, the dynasty relied on loyal but weaker old-style forces to counter rebellious New Armies in some provinces. The failure of this effort suggests that dynastic interests might have been better served by giving more attention to counterbalancing forces. In any case, the disunited state of the Chinese army was an important military legacy of the Qing dynasty for the succeeding Chinese Republic. The specific configuration of military forces in the provinces of Hunan and Hubei on the eve of the 1911 Revolution gives a clear picture of the nature and extent of this military fragmentation.
Provincial Military Organization in Hunan and Hubei on the Eve of the Revolution
One particular feature of the fragmentation of China's armed forces grew out of the imperial court's decision to rely on provincial initiative for the actual implementation of military reforms. Most newly created or reorganized military forces, including the New Armies, were under provincial control, and thus were in effect "provincial armies." To a certain extent, this decision simply recognized that the creation of a truly unified central army was beyond the existing organizational and financial means of the central government. The organization of New Armies on a provincial basis was therefore something of a concession to the superior ability of provincial governors to organize the necessary resources. At the same time, the division of the New Armies into separate provincial forces also served more traditional balance-of-power concerns. Efforts by the Commission for Army Reorganization to standardize the New Armies sought to facilitate their integration into a unified command in times of need, but maintained the fragmented organization that had always characterized the Qing military. As a consequence of this decision, allowances also had to be made for different conditions that would affect the pace of military reforms in each province. As seen in the cases of Hubei and Hunan, the exact composition of provincial forces varied widely depending on each
province's resources and the vigor and interests of its resident governor or governor-general.
Compared to most other provinces, Hubei had a very early start in the formation of its New Army. The main influence in the development of Hubei's New Army was Zhang Zhidong, who, except for two short interludes, held the post of Huguang (Hunan-Hubei) governor-general at Wuchang for the entire period from 1889 to 1907. As already noted, Zhang was one of the leading proponents of military modernization, and during a short tenure as governor-general at Nanjing in 1895 he had pioneered the introduction of Western military organization with the establishment of the Self-Strengthening Army. Upon his return to Hubei in early 1896, Zhang was only allowed to bring one battalion of the Self-Strengthening Army back with him. Once in Hubei, though, Zhang expanded this force with some of Hubei's better yongying soldiers to form a two-battalion "bodyguard" (hujun ) of one thousand men. This unit, organized primarily on Western principles, was the beginning of Hubei's New Army.
In subsequent years, Zhang continued to add new Western-trained battalions to Hubei's military forces. By 1902, the size of Hubei's New Army had grown to over seven thousand men. By 1904 it exceeded eleven thousand men. According to the 1906 plans of the Commission for Army Reorganization, Hubei was slated, on Zhang's recommendation, to support two New Army divisions. By this year, Hubei's New Army was already large enough to organize one of these divisions, designated the 8th Division, and to establish a mixed brigade, the 21st, which was meant to serve as the base for the second division. After Zhang's departure from Hubei in 1907, however, the expansion of the Hubei army stalled, and by the outbreak of the 1911 Revolution this second division was still not completed. Nonetheless, with over sixteen thousand men, Hubei's New Army was one of the largest and best trained of the provincial New Armies in south and central China.
Zhang Zhidong was generally pessimistic about the possibility of turning Hubei's old-style troops into effective soldiers. In 1897 he did establish a program that brought troops and officers from old-style forces to the provincial capital to receive further military training. In the end, though, Zhang favored the demobilization of these older forces, especially the less efficient Green Standard Army, to free funds for the recruitment of better-quality soldiers for the New Army. In the late nineteenth century, the Green Standard Army was Hubei's largest military force, numbering, according to one account, over
eighteen thousand men. As early as 1897 Zhang initiated a program for the staged disbandment of these troops. This program continued even after Zhang's departure. Although some seven thousand troops may have remained in Hubei's Green Standard Army as late as 1910, by mid 1911 they had all been disbanded. The size of Hubei's yongying forces fluctuated considerably over time, making an exact accounting of their number difficult. A rough estimate, however, would place them at half the size of the Green Standard Army. Because yongying soldiers were generally of higher quality than Green Standard troops, Zhang made more of an effort to salvage some of them. Thus, as noted above, some yongying soldiers were used in the initiation of Hubei's New Army in 1896. After the demobilization of the worst yongying troops, the remainder were eventually organized into Hubei's Patrol and Defense Forces. Sources vary in their accounting of the size of these forces, from several thousand to over seven thousand men.
Because provincial governors and governors-general had no supervisory powers over the Banner garrisons in their provinces, these forces were largely unaffected by provincial military reforms. In Hubei, though, nearly two thousand bannermen were recruited into newly trained military and police forces, including the New Army. After this, over seven thousand bannermen still remained in Hubei's Banner garrison at Jingzhou. As elsewhere in China, this garrison survived until the 1911 Revolution despite the 1907 imperial decree calling for the elimination of the Banner system.
Military reforms in Hunan were not carried out at the same pace or on the same scale as in Hubei. One reason for this was Hunan's smaller provincial revenue. Another contributing factor, though, may have been differences in administrative leadership. Despite his position as governor-general of Hunan and Hubei, Zhang Zhidong focused his military reform efforts almost entirely in Hubei Province. Hunan's military reforms were left primarily in the hands of its provincial governor. Here Hunan no doubt suffered from a fairly rapid turnover of governors: twelve different men held the governorship from 1895 to 1911, none of them for longer than four years, a lack of administrative continuity that may have slowed Hunan's implementation of military reforms.
In contrast to Hubei's early start, a Western-style New Army was not formed in Hunan until 1904. This force began with a core selected from the province's best yongying troops, which was then expanded through new recruitment. According to national plans, Hunan was
slated to support one New Army division. However, by 1907 it only had sufficient troops to organize one mixed brigade, designated the 25th Mixed Brigade. By 1911, Hunan's New Army was still limited to this one unit of approximately 4,500 men.
In comparison to Hubei, a far greater number of old-style troops also survived in Hunan to 1911, even considering the fact that Hunan had no Banner garrison. In the late nineteenth century, Hunan had a large Green Standard Army, numbering around 23,000 men. In 1902, in preparation for the formation of the province's New Army, a ten-year plan was issued for the staged demobilization of most of Hunan's Green Standard Army, excepting only eight specific units containing a total of about ten thousand men. By 1910, the Green Standard Army in Hunan was reduced to around sixteen thousand men, and perhaps as many as four thousand more were disbanded before the 1911 Revolution. Almost no effort was made to retrain Hunan's Green Standard units, and those that survived to 1911 were little changed from their original organization. At the end of the nineteenth century, there were only some five thousand yongying troops in Hunan. These forces doubled in size from 1897 to 1904 as new recruitment was carried out so that these troops could take over local defense duties from the debilitated Green Standard Army. In 1906 these troops were reorganized to meet new national standards for Patrol and Defense Forces. The actual size of Hunan's Patrol and Defense Forces varied considerably in the following years, and estimates of their total number range from twelve thousand to over fourteen thousand men. There was some attempt to provide modern training and arms for Hunan's Patrol and Defense Forces, but in the end they remained a semimodern force in contrast to the New Army.
The cases of Hunan and Hubei exemplify the variety of military forces that existed in the provinces on the eve of the 1911 Revolution, ranging from the relatively modernized New Armies to the anachronistic Banner and Green Standard forces. At the same time, these two cases also show the considerable differences in the composition of military forces that could exist from one province to another. (See Table 1 for a comparative listing of military forces in Hunan and Hubei in 1910.) This inconsistency reflects the basically decentralized manner in which military reforms were implemented. The overall result was to complicate further the fragmented state of China's military system.
The provincial variation in military forces illustrates the importance of individual governors and governors-general in determining the pace
of provincial military reforms and the composition of provincial military forces. Nonetheless, the provincial forces were far from being the "personal armies" of these officials. In Hunan, the rapid turnover of governors alone shows that these men were easily separated from the military forces they had helped mold. Even Zhang Zhidong, with his long tenure as governor-general and his preeminent role in military reforms, was unable to ensure that the military forces he had created would remain solely under his control. Thus, Zhang was forced to abandon nearly all the Self-Strengthening Army he had established at Nanjing when he was ordered back to Hubei in 1896. Likewise, during a temporary appointment to Nanjing from 1902 to 1903, he was allowed only a bodyguard to accompany him to his new post. On a number of occasions Zhang was forced to revise his own plans for the development of Hubei's New Army to comply with central orders. The court was even able to effect the permanent transfer of some of Zhang's best Hubei troops to other provinces. Therefore, even though it is true that the court gave governors and governors-general considerable leeway in implementing military reforms, these officials did not have absolute control over the forces they created. Likewise, the court's continued power of appointment, seen in its ability to shift important figures like Zhang from post to post, shows that the governors had not acquired political autonomy as a result of their authority over provincial military forces. Late Qing governors, with their
broad authority over civil and military administration, may have served as executive models for Republican warlords, but they were hardly proto-warlords.
Searching for the antecedents of warlordism in specific forms of late Qing military organization does not in the end seem a particularly constructive exercise. Nearly all the different types of military forces that existed on the eve of the 1911 Revolution were represented in the ancestries of various warlord armies. This alone suggests that no one form of military organization was specifically related to the rise of warlordism. Any attempt to draw a connection between warlord armies and late Qing military forces is further complicated by the expansion and restructuring of military forces during and after the 1911 Revolution. The armies of many warlords had no late Qing roots but were based on military forces that were only formed after the revolution. In terms of organizational influence rather than direct ancestry, it was paradoxically the least "personal" of the late Qing military forces, the New Armies, that would serve as the model for most warlord armies. Because the New Armies were the Qing dynasty's best-trained and most effective troops, military commanders seeking to survive the civil warfare of the Republican period naturally attempted to organize their forces according to this standard. Nonetheless, in the context of this warfare, warlord commanders often found the implementation of the New Army model no easier than it had been for late Qing officials. Amid the proliferating armies of the Republican period, organizational diversity remained even more evident than had been the case in the late Qing era.
There is ultimately more significance in the similarity between the fragmented state of the late Qing military system and military conditions under the warlords than in the continuity of any particular military organizational form. China on the eve of the 1911 Revolution had no single unified army, and the growth of provincialism during the revolution did nothing to alter this situation. Thus, the Chinese military did not enter the Republican period as a single corporate body that might have acted as a focus of centralizing power. Rather, the lack of military unity exacerbated the political instability of the early Republic. When the military did exert its influence, the result was not the emergence of a single strong military dictator but a plethora of independent warlords.
To discover the reasons for the rise of warlordism, one must look
beyond the nature of Chinese military organization to the broader conditions that actually encouraged military men to intervene in politics. The natural starting point for this is an examination of the historical circumstances that led to the military's first important political intervention, the 1911 Revolution. Significantly, the provincial New Armies were the major force in this crucial first intervention.
There is nothing in the organization of the New Armies per se that would lead one to expect this outcome. Rather, the changing social composition of the New Armies in the context of new political conditions politicized them and prepared them for their revolutionary role. At the same time, the fragmentary application of military power in modern Chinese politics also became evident for the first time in the revolution. Military support for the revolution was determined on a province-by-province basis. Even within revolutionary provinces, military support of or opposition to the revolution was decided on a unit-by-unit basis, sometimes even dividing a unit into two camps. The fragmentary form of the military's participation in the revolution, encouraged by the disunified structure of the Chinese army, was a pattern that would continue into the warlord era.