The Anti-Monarchical War and the Inception of Warlordism
Yuan Shikai's attempt to make himself emperor provoked China's third civil war in only five years. The military struggle began with a declaration of independence by Yunnan Province in late December 1915, followed a month later by Guizhou. The Yunnan army, calling itself the National Protection Army (huguojun ), launched an attack on Yuan's forces in Sichuan, while a second front was opened by Guizhou forces on Hunan's western border. Despite the numerical superiority of the military forces Yuan sent to block these attacks, he was unable to achieve a decisive victory. The conflict soon settled into a seesaw war along the Sichuan-Yunnan and Hunan-Guizhou borders. As Yuan failed to suppress the rebellion, more provinces joined the "National Protection Movement" against the monarchy. Failing at his military objectives, Yuan tried to placate his opponents in March 1916 by renouncing the throne. By this time, though, Yuan's opponents were not even willing to allow him to remain as president. The number of defecting provinces soon reached eight. Yuan's chances of victory disappeared long before his death on June 6 officially ended the civil war.
The Anti-Monarchical War revealed all the weaknesses of Yuan's centralizing dictatorship, particularly the effects of his dependence on military power. James Sheridan has aptly summarized the consequences of the coercive basis of Yuan's rule:
To the extent that he used military force to gain his ends, he undermined the office of the presidency, and intensified the weakness of the political parties and republican civil authority in general. His reliance on force or the threat of force had the effect of rendering the already puny Republic virtually impotent, and of strengthening the arm that he flexed, the
military. Since the republicans could not restrain Yuan by political means, they also turned to armed force.
These deleterious consequences became fully apparent when Yuan attempted to make himself emperor. Given the coercive tactics of the monarchist movement, its opponents were left with no recourse but to take up arms. Thus Yuan's reliance on coercion created the conditions for the further militarization of politics. At the same time, the monarchical issue provided a new call to arms for the anti-Yuan cause. Unlike the controversies surrounding the Second Revolution, this fundamental betrayal of the Republic was sufficient to build a broad-based anti-Yuan political consensus. A considerable number of military men shared in this Republican consensus and were thus drawn into the political struggle. At this point, the lack of other peaceful means to resolve this issue ensured that it would be settled on the battlefield.
The rise of military opposition to Yuan's plans to make himself emperor also revealed a structural weakness in his dependence on military force. Theoretically, few would disagree with the generalization that military coercion provides a weak foundation for long-term political legitimacy. Nonetheless, sufficient military force can establish political dominance, as the record of many military dictatorships attests. Yuan's reliance on military coercion was only a weakness because of his incomplete control of China's fragmented armies. After Yuan's victory in the Second Revolution, all Chinese military forces pledged their obedience to his government. Yuan was never strong enough, though, to reorganize all these forces into a single cohesive, loyal military structure. No less than under the Qing dynasty, the Chinese army remained a hodgepodge of military forces, over which Yuan had varying degrees of control. Yuan's influence was weakest in the southwestern provinces that continued to be garrisoned only by their original provincial armies. It was hardly surprising that the antimonarchical revolt began within the military forces of these provinces. The fragmented organization of the Beiyang and other northern forces that made up Yuan's "central army" also limited his ability to counter the revolt. Rather than acting as a united force in support of the monarchy, the disaffection of a significant portion of these forces over the monarchical issue undermined Yuan's ability to impose his political will.
Finally, the outbreak of the Anti-Monarchical War created an opportunity for military commanders on both sides of the conflict to increase their political influence, starting many of them on the path to
warlordism. The transition to warlordism was most obvious in rebelling provinces where military governors effectively freed themselves from remaining central constraints and consolidated their authority over provincial administrations. This process was not, however, limited to the anti-monarchical side. The commander of the Beiyang 2d Division, Wang Zhanyuan, for example, exploited Yuan's need for military support to establish his influence over Hubei's provincial government and to engage in independent political activity. Wang emerged from the war with all the characteristics of a warlord, even while remaining nominally loyal first to Yuan and then to the postwar central government.
The transition to warlordism seen in this period was by no means a uniform process. Here the case of Hunan is particularly instructive. Once Yuan's power began to collapse, Tang Xiangming joined the anti-Yuan opposition in order to preserve his position as military governor. He then began to take steps to shore up his military and political power that, if successful, would have facilitated his emergence as a warlord, but a special set of circumstances in Hunan prevented this outcome. Not only was Tang driven from the province, but no other military commander arose to take his place. Instead, the postwar period saw the establishment of a new provincialist regime under Tan Yankai with a strong civilian foundation. Thus the path to warlordism was defined, not simply by the ambitions of military men, but by the military and political contexts in which they operated. In Hunan these conditions thwarted the effects brought on by the militarization of politics during the war to allow a brief civil respite.
Wang Zhanyuan and the Beginning of Beiyang Warlordism
Yuan's inability to respond effectively to the anti-monarchical rebellion was owing in part to flaws in his organizational control of Beiyang and other northern forces he counted on for support. In the late Qing era, control over the Beiyang Army was enhanced by rotating the commanders and officers among its divisions. This not only prevented the development of close personal ties within specific units but created greater cohesion within the army as a whole. In the early Republic, Yuan sharply reduced this practice. Many of the divisions Yuan used as his main centralizing agents remained under the same commanders for the entire period of his presidency. Many of their subordinate officers were also permanently assigned to their commands. This practice allowed these forces to develop their individual corporate
identities and to strengthen the personal ties within their command structures, both of which were centered on the persons of their commanders. Beneath what seemed to be the extension of central military power, there was an insidious growth of personal military bases.
In the context of the early dictatorship, the dangers of these developments were not readily apparent. Indeed, they were to a certain extent incorporated into Yuan's techniques of military control. Although a variety of personal factors may have influenced the loyalty of different commanders to Yuan, it was basically a "clientalist" relationship. Yuan's ascension to the presidency enhanced the patronage he could bestow on his favored Beiyang commanders and allowed him to draw in other northern commanders as his clients. Granting these commanders a certain degree of personal aggrandizement over their forces was one reward Yuan could use to solidify this relationship. At the same time, Yuan retained punitive powers, because the insubordination of one commander could easily be dealt with by other commanders eager to retain Yuan's favor. The corporate fragmentation of the army thus worked here as a control mechanism. Certainly the total reorganization of the Chinese army along more strictly bureaucratic lines might have exerted stronger control. Given the size and preexisting organizational diversity of China's military forces, however, such a reorganization was clearly beyond Yuan's immediate means. The methods Yuan used for military control were probably the best available given the conditions he was forced to deal with. As seen in Chapter 5, Yuan's ability to shift military assignments to support his centralizing program in the provinces shows these methods were not without their effect.
The flaw in this control structure was that it only remained effective as long as Yuan's own political position remained secure. While Yuan was strong, his military commanders individually needed him more than he needed them. The threat of disorder growing out of the monarchist movement, and then the outbreak of war, reversed the poles in this dependent relationship. The war gave Yuan's commanders other political options. Even if they were unwilling to break openly with him, a lukewarm commitment could still have a detrimental effect on Yuan's cause. Individual commanders were therefore in a position to seek concessions from Yuan to enhance their own political powers.
One of the first commanders to take advantage of this situation was Wang Zhanyuan, commander of the Beiyang 2d Division in Hubei. The prize Wang sought and obtained from Yuan was the Hubei military governorship. Once having gained this position, though, Wang
was not willing to risk it by tying his fortunes to Yuan's, and he joined other northern commanders in seeking Yuan's retirement. With the establishment of his own power base in Hubei, and these initial steps toward political activism, Wang began the transition to warlordism.
Wang Zhanyuan's association with Yuan Shikai went back to the formative years of the Beiyang Army. In this early period, the efforts to change the low status of the military had only begun. Thus, like many early Beiyang officers, Wang came from a humble social background and had a lower educational level than many later New Army officers. At the age of twenty, Wang fled his home town in Shandong province, where he worked as a peddler, after coming under suspicion for petty thievery. A short time later, in the early 1880s, Wang enlisted as a common soldier in Li Hongchang's Huai Army. A crucial turning point in Wang's life came when he was selected from the ranks to attend the Tianjin Military Academy (the first military school founded by Li in 1885). After his graduation, Wang was assigned to a junior officer's position in Yuan Shikai's Newly Created Army. By 1911 he had been promoted to the post of brigade commander in the Beiyang 2d Division. During the 1911 Revolution, Wang's brigade was included in the Beiyang expeditionary force sent by Yuan, under the command of Feng Guozhang, to assault the revolutionary position at Wuhan. During this conflict, Yuan recommended Wang for promotion to the command of the 2d Division. For a man of fairly humble origins, the Beiyang Army offered Wang an extraordinary opportunity for advancement. Yuan might well have expected Wang's loyal service in return for his past patronage. Instead, Wang's ambitions brought him into conflict with the policies of Yuan's presidency that sought to keep the powers of military commanders within manageable limits.
As the commander of the main Beiyang force garrisoning Hubei at the end of the Second Revolution, Wang saw himself as the logical candidate to succeed Li Yuanhong as Hubei's military governor. Yuan was not, however, willing to give this post to the strongest military commander in the province. As noted in Chapter 5, after a brief transitional period in which the military governorship was held by Duan Qirui, Yuan appointed Duan Zhigui as Hubei's "high general." Almost from the beginning, Wang's resentment of Duan Zhigui was a source of tension between the two men. Yuan tried to mollify Wang by creating a special position for him as "assisting manager" (bangban ) of Hubei's military affairs. But this failed to satisfy Wang's ambitions. In August 1915, chafing at Wang's insubordinate attitude, Duan finally persuaded Yuan to let him change assignments. Again ignoring
Wang's obvious desire for the Hubei post, Yuan ordered the military governor of Fengtian, Zhang Xiluan, to exchange positions with Duan Zhigui.
The successive appointments of Duan Qirui, Duan Zhigui, and Zhang Xiluan to Hubei's top military post reflected Yuan's consistent policy of limiting the personal military power of the holders of this office. Although Duan Zhigui had been allowed to raise a "Hubei" brigade under his own authority, Wang's 2d Division remained the largest military force in the province. Zhang Xiluan was ordered to Hubei without accompanying troops, putting him in an even weaker military position in relation to Wang. At the same time, by withholding the military governorship from Wang, Yuan limited Wang's military authority to the troops under his own direct command. Yuan's obvious intention was to keep Wang as an agent of central military power in Hubei province, acting as a counterbalance to the administrative power of the military governor, without allowing Wang to extend his own influence over provincial government. Although Yuan's policies made sense in terms of his broader political goals, they could hardly please Wang. Even the popular press interpreted Yuan's appointment of Zhang over Wang as revealing a lack of confidence in Wang's abilities. In August 1915, Yuan was still confident enough of his own power to risk Wang's discontent.
Conditions in the fall of 1915 soon gave Wang a chance to change his fortunes. Duan Zhigui's departure from Hubei had come just as Yuan initiated the monarchist movement. As opposition to the monarchy grew. Yuan needed to be sure of Wang's support to suppress any opposition that might arise in Hubei. Meanwhile, realizing the situation he would face in Hubei in relation to Wang, Zhang Xiluan repeatedly delayed his departure for Hubei. This left Wang in actual control of the Hubei government as acting military governor. Wang was more than willing to take advantage of this situation. While publicly announcing his eagerness to "welcome" Zhang to Hubei, Wang sent word to Yuan of his intention to retire after Zhang's arrival. This proffered resignation was a subtle piece of political blackmail. With opposition to his monarchical plans brewing, Yuan could not risk disrupting a major component of the Beiyang Army by seeming to force the departure of its commander. Finally, on December 23, Yuan accepted Zhang's resignation. Temporarily Yuan left the issue of Zhang's successor unresolved, but he had little room left to maneuver. With Yunnan's declaration of independence on December 25, Wang's position in Hubei became crucial. Military supplies and troops head-
ing to the front, either south by rail or west along the Yangzi River, would all have to pass through Hubei. So, on January 8, 1916, Yuan finally appointed Wang "general" in charge of Hubei's military affairs. The only slight to Wang's ambition was that he was not granted the "high general" title given his predecessors.
Wang Zhanyuan's successful struggle for the Hubei military governorship marked an important shift in the balance of power between Yuan and his putative military supporters. By failing to keep this post from Wang, Yuan revealed his dependence on his military commanders exactly when he needed them most. One effect of this exposed vulnerability was to encourage other commanders to seek similar concessions. Equally important, it emboldened those commanders who questioned Yuan's attempt to make himself emperor to take a more independent political role in attempting to resolve the conflict. Indeed, Wang also made his first significant foray into the political arena in connection with the monarchical issue.
The Beiyang Army was far from united behind the reestablishment of the monarchy. Indeed, many of Yuan's top subordinates informed Yuan of their opposition before the monarchist movement was formally initiated. Feng Guozhang, the commander-in-chief of Beiyang forces at Nanjing, was particularly open in his opposition. When war broke out, and then became stalemated, Feng became the focal point for a movement inside the Beiyang Army seeking a political solution to the conflict. With the support of other generals, Feng sought an abrogation of the monarchy as a first step toward cessation of hostilities. Yuan's concern to prevent any further disaffection within his own camp was an important factor in his decision to abrogate the monarchy in March 1916. After this concession failed to placate Yuan's enemies, Feng organized a conference at Nanjing in May that brought together representatives of military commanders from fifteen provinces. Under Feng's leadership, the majority of the participants at this conference were prepared to urge Yuan to retire from the presidency. It may be that only Yuan's death saved him from being hounded from office by his own erstwhile supporters.
Wang Zhanyuan's political response to the monarchy largely followed Feng Guozhang's lead. Wang has sometimes been viewed as a die-hard supporter of the monarchist movement. This conclusion is easily drawn from Wang's public pronouncements, which expressed nothing but total support for Yuan, and his consistent suppression of all anti-monarchical political activity. A memoir by an intimate member of Wang's staff, Yang Wenkai, has revealed, however, that
underneath this public behavior, Wang had serious reservations about the monarchist movement and its political effects. At the first stirring of the movement in 1915, Wang sent Yang to discuss the situation with his old commander, Feng Guozhang. Feng reassured Wang by reporting that he had received Yuan's word that he had no intention of ascending the throne. When Yuan violated this understanding, Wang sent Yang back to Feng to "await Feng's orders." Wang then joined the ranks of Beiyang commanders who gathered around Feng in opposing the monarchy. In May 1916, Yang represented Wang at the Nanjing conference, declaring that Wang's primary aim was to achieve a peaceful resolution of the war. Acting on Wang's orders, Yang took Feng's side against those who wished to continue the war and supported the call for Yuan's retirement. Although he never made a public break with Yuan, Wang's actions were in effect a political declaration of his independence of Yuan's authority.
The contradiction between Wang's public professions of loyalty to Yuan and his private politicking for Yuan's removal can be explained by the problems Wang faced in trying to maintain his own position in Hubei. Hubei was far enough removed from the southwestern front to be under no immediate military pressure from National Protection forces. By the same token, as Hubei was surrounded by provinces occupied by other northern armies, Wang could be threatened by Beiyang commanders who continued to support Yuan's position. Thus, no matter what qualms he may have had about Yuan's monarchist venture, Wang sought to avoid a public confrontation with Yuan and his supporters.
Political concerns inside Hubei also influenced Wang's decision to avoid an open break with Yuan. According to one account, Wang refused to consider declaring independence because he believed it would result in the reappearance of factional political conflicts. Throughout his career, Wang showed an antipathy for the "disorder" of partisan politics not uncommon among military men and a preference for more "orderly" bureaucratic rule. The "disorder" of anti-Yuan political activities was sufficient reason for Wang to suppress them. Nonetheless, other more self-interested calculations were also at work. Wang no doubt sympathized with officials in his administration who reportedly worried that if Yuan fell, "assembly politics would certainly revive, and the province's gentry would arise again to contest for political power. No matter how one predicted the future, it would certainly not be a situation beneficial to present officials." Any open declaration against Yuan would risk legitimating anti-Yuan political forces in Hubei. Even if Wang broke with Yuan, Yuan had still been respon-
sible for Wang's presence in Hubei in the first place. Once unleashed, there was no assurance that indigenous political forces would not take Wang as their next target for elimination. This gave Wang another reason to suppress anti-monarchical activity in Hubei even while exerting his own influence behind the scenes to bring the monarchy down. Wang saw such activity not so much as a threat to Yuan as a threat to himself.
Wang's cooperation with Feng offered the best possible solution to these various political problems. Wang's careful consultation with Feng at every stage of the monarchist movement kept him from becoming politically isolated. By following Feng's lead, Wang could dissociate himself from Yuan's monarchical plans and still avoid the dangers of an open break with Yuan's remaining Beiyang supporters. At the same time, the alliance with Feng provided a way to mediate a resolution of the conflict with the southwest without requiring any accommodation with potentially dangerous political forces inside Hubei. Equally important, Wang's actions reflected the concern of many Beiyang commanders that the positions they had gained during Yuan's dictatorship survive Yuan's demise. In late May 1916, Wang reportedly acknowledged that although Yuan's position could no longer be maintained, "it was necessary to unite strongly to preserve the present power of northern military men and officials." His cooperation with Feng was one way to achieve this end.
The monarchist movement and the war it provoked were politicizing events for Beiyang commanders such as Wang Zhanyuan. On one hand, the crisis enabled Wang to strengthen his own political position in Hubei vis-à-vis Yuan by manipulating Yuan's need for military support. On the other hand, the conflict also allowed Wang to take his first steps toward the assertion of his own political influence. At stake were not only the issues raised by the war, but the survival of his own political interests. When Yuan's monarchist venture appeared to threaten the structure of Beiyang power as a whole, Wang joined his fellow generals in an exercise of political power directed against Yuan himself. In the context of war, Wang's ability to exert political influence was linked to his control of military power. In applying this military power, Wang began to emerge as a warlord.
The Anti-Monarchical Struggle in Hubei and Hunan
Politically, the anti-monarchical movement that coalesced in late 1915 resembled the broad elite coalition that had formed around the 1911 Revolution. One wing of this coalition consisted of revolutionaries
who had maintained their opposition to Yuan since the Second Revolution. Once Yuan's monarchist plans became clear, they found new allies among the more moderate members of China's political elite, many of whom had supported Yuan in 1913, including prominent constitutionalist leaders such as Liang Qichao. Widespread elite support, though, was not enough. The main problem confronting the antimonarchical movement was how to obtain sufficient military power to make their opposition to Yuan effective. Because of its distance from the center of Yuan's power, and its independent provincial army, Yunnan became a natural target for anti-monarchy activists. As shown by Donald Sutton, though, the ultimate decision to break with Yuan was made within the Yunnan army itself. The Yunnan army provided the military cornerstone of the National Protection Movement, without which the extension of the anti-monarchical struggle into other provinces would have been impossible.
The forces of suppression in Hubei and Hunan severely limited the potential for anti-Yuan struggles in these provinces. Supported by strong occupying northern armies, both Wang Zhanyuan and Tang Xiangming harshly repressed any anti-monarchical activity. Cao Kun's appointment to command Yuan's counterattack against Yunnan resulted in the transfer of much of his 3d Division from the Hubei-Hunan border to the Sichuan front. However, Wang's 2d Division was still sufficient to maintain a dominant military position in Hubei. The military situation in Hunan was complicated by the opening of the war's second front on the province's western border. This resulted in an even greater influx of northern troops into Hunan.
Confronted by the need to raise a military response against such overwhelming odds, revolutionary activists mainly assumed the leadership of anti-monarchical struggles inside Hubei and Hunan. While political support for the anti-monarchical movement may have been fairly broad, the revolutionaries' past experience in organizing military uprisings predisposed them to this task. Nonetheless, the revolutionaries were also hampered by the weakness of their own organizations. After the failure of the Second Revolution, Hubei and Hunan revolutionaries who remained committed to Yuan's overthrow were forced to shift their main base of operations to the relative security of Japan. There many of them cooperated with Sun Yat-sen's 1914 transformation of the Nationalist Party from an open electoral party into the more tightly organized and uprising-oriented Revolutionary Party (Gemingdang). Others rejected the new party and founded their own anti-Yuan organizations. Many Hunan revolutionaries did both, join-
ing the Revolutionary Party as well as forming a separate organization, the People's Will Society (Minyishe), to concentrate on organizing opposition to Yuan in their own province. Despite these efforts at revolutionary reorganization, by early 1915 the struggle against Yuan had reached a low ebb. Persistent political suppression thinned revolutionary ranks and shattered anti-Yuan organizational efforts. Some revolutionary activists even ceased their opposition to Yuan in order to support the central government's negotiations with Japan over the Twenty-one Demands. Just when revolutionary prospects seemed at their lowest, however, they were revitalized by the perfidy of Yuan's attempt to make himself emperor—although this did not make the task of initiating a military struggle against Yuan any less daunting.
As might be expected, many Hubei and Hunan revolutionary activists hoped to revive the strategy that had been the key to their success in 1911. Returning secretly to Wuhan and Changsha, they hoped to subvert sympathetic military forces around these capital cities to carry out an anti-Yuan coup. However, conditions had changed drastically from 1911. First, most of the provincial military units where revolutionary influence had been strongest had long since been disbanded. The successive failure of previous plots had also removed most revolutionary sympathizers from the smaller provincial forces that remained. Second, ubiquitous detectives made revolutionary organizing in the provincial capitals, especially the subversion of soldiers, a perilous undertaking. Finally, to avoid detection and to make a timely contribution to the Anti-Monarchical War, a strategy of hasty military putsches now superseded the slower infiltration and subversion of the military that had preceded the 1911 Revolution. Under these conditions, the effort to replicate the 1911 Revolution had little chance of success.
The revolutionary attempt in Hubei was led by Cai Jimin, a former Hubei army officer and long-time revolutionary activist, who received the title of commander of the Hubei Oust-Yuan Army from Sun Yatsen. At this point, this army existed in name only, and it was Cai's task to create it. Returning to Wuhan in early 1916, Cai placed his hopes on the subversion of the Hubei 1st Division, the last remnant of the province's 1911 revolutionary forces. The only part of this division stationed near Wuhan was artillery and cavalry regiments camped at South Lake outside Wuchang's walls. This may have seemed auspicious, since the first shots of the 1911 Wuchang uprising were also fired by soldiers garrisoned at this site. Despite the persistent efforts to
remove revolutionary influences from these troops, Cai's organizers won over enough soldiers to set the date for a February 18 uprising. Unfortunately, Wang Zhanyuan became aware of the revolutionary plot. When the date arrived and the subverted troops began to move out, they were easily surrounded and suppressed by northern forces.
In the aftermath of this uprising attempt, Wang stepped up precautions to prevent its repetition. Not trusting the rest of the Hubei 1st Division, or even Li Tiancai's 9th Division, Wang surrounded their camps with northern troops and restricted their access to ammunition and arms. He also censored mail to the garrison areas of these two forces to guard against further revolutionary contacts. After this point, a fairly large revolutionary presence grew up within Hankou's protected foreign concessions. However, an equally strong buildup of official precautions around the concessions resulted in a situation where the revolutionaries were "safe but could do nothing." Some revolutionary frustration was vented in bomb attacks against Hubei officials, in particular against the heads of police and detective bureaus. Although perhaps serving to increase political tensions, the turn to assassination as a political tactic revealed a loss of hope in the possibility of a successful military coup.
Hunan activists pursuing the same strategy met with no more success than their Hubei counterparts. In early 1916, revolutionaries associated with the People's Will Society, with Sun Yat-sen's support, began to return secretly to Changsha. The extensive disbandment of the Hunan provincial army left them no ready target for their revolutionary organizing. Nonetheless, they pinned their hopes on the subversion of the new Hunan 1st Mixed Brigade. Although this brigade had been recruited by Tang Xiangming, the Hubei origin of these troops was perhaps seen as making them amenable to revolutionary persuasion. Revolutionary hopes were buoyed when successful contacts were made within the brigade that promised some support for an uprising. Premature action was precipitated, though, when an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Tang by a few impatient revolutionaries exposed the broader plot. On February 21, a hundred odd revolutionaries made a desperate attack on Tang's heavily guarded yamen . After a short battle, the revolutionaries were defeated. Most of those who had not died in the attack were captured and summarily executed. Not expecting the uprising for another week, the supposedly subverted troops within the 1st Mixed Brigade failed to respond. The political terror instituted by Tang Xiangming in the aftermath of this uprising effectively prevented any further revolutionary coup attempts.
A different revolutionary strategy, which grew in importance after the failure of these coup attempts, was the encouragement of popular uprisings by local "National Protection" forces or "people's armies" (minjun ). This strategy met with more success. According to one account, by May 1916 over ten counties west of Wuhan had experienced sporadic "revolutionary-bandit" uprisings or the organization of popular forces operating under National Protection designations. Popular uprisings were even more widespread in Hunan, eventually accounting for over a hundred incidents. The situation in Hunan may have reflected a popular reaction against the particularly fierce political terror carried out by Tang Xiangming. Hunan antagonism to Yuan also increased as a result of the rapacious behavior of many northern units sent into the province to bolster the western Hunan front. As a result, the proliferation of people's armies was particularly evident in western Hunan.
The size, origin, and composition of these people's armies varied considerably. They ranged from groups of several dozen men to large bands of several thousand. In many cases, revolutionaries organized these forces using local contacts with secret societies or disbanded soldiers. For example, many of the local uprisings in Hubei were attributed to revolutionaries who left Wuhan after the failure of the South Lake coup attempt. In eastern Hunan, revolutionaries associated with the People's Will Society led an uprising that seized control of the city of Pingjiang. Liu Zhong, a seasoned Hunan revolutionary who had organized popular uprisings in 1911 and had participated in the 1914 Chenxian mutiny, raised a large secret-society-based force that succeeded in capturing several important towns in central and southern Hunan. In other cases, people's armies arose more spontaneously, with only tenuous revolutionary links. For example, in western Hunan some local communities raised forces to defend themselves from northern army intrusions. In Xinhua County in central Hunan, striking miners seized guns from mine guards and proclaimed themselves a National Protection Army. In some areas, peasant uprisings, often with secret-society bases, raised National Protection banners in assaults on local government offices. Finally, some local National Protection Armies were little more than transformed bandit bands who found the title a useful cover for illegal activities. Whether under revolutionary influence or not, the people's armies became expressions of broader popular discontent that found a justification for revolt in the anti-monarchical movement.
The proliferation of people's armies in Hubei and Hunan had only
a limited impact on the course of the anti-monarchical struggle. Many of these forces were ephemeral groups that dispersed as quickly as they arose. With very few exceptions, even the larger people's armies were unable to withstand assaults from regular military forces, armed as they were with superior weapons. In Hubei, the popular uprisings may have been an annoyance to Wang Zhanyuan, but they never came close to threatening his military hold on the province. Local National Protection Armies in Hunan, despite their greater numbers, were never a real danger to northern military control either. Even the larger forces that seized county seats were easily routed by regular army units. Only in western Hunan did some people's armies survive with greater success to make a real contribution to the war effort. The rugged terrain of this area, and the generally disordered conditions of the war zone, hindered efforts to suppress these forces. West Hunan popular forces operating near the front also obtained direct assistance from the Guizhou army and found a safe haven behind Guizhou lines. In return, the popular forces did their part by harassing northern defenses and supply lines. Such activities may have helped the much outnumbered Guizhou army halt the advance of the northern forces, thus stalling Yuan's counterattack. Nonetheless, these poorly organized and ill-equipped forces remained incapable of dealing a decisive defeat to the northern forces of occupation in Hunan.
Besides these military coup attempts and popular uprisings, there was one other specific attempt to raise an anti-Yuan military force in Hunan, which ultimately proved the most successful. This was an eclectic combination of regular troops and popular forces under the leadership of the revolutionary military officer Cheng Qian. After the failure of the Second Revolution, Cheng had left his post as the head of Hunan's Department of Military Affairs and fled to Japan. Although declining to join Sun Yat-sen's Revolutionary Party, Cheng maintained contacts with revolutionaries committed to reviving the struggle against Yuan. In November 1915, Cheng joined a group of anti-Yuan conspirators in Shanghai in plotting nationwide resistance to Yuan's monarchical plans. There he accepted responsibility for organizing Hunan's anti-Yuan struggle. Learning of plans by the People's Will Society to organize an uprising in Changsha, Cheng reasoned, correctly as it turned out, that the great number of northern troops in central Hunan would doom the attempt to failure. He therefore argued that western Hunan would provide a better base for a military struggle. As a professional military man, Cheng also believed that regular military forces, not just popular uprisings, would be
essential to overcome Yuan's military power. Finally, Cheng concluded that it would be necessary to obtain direct assistance from the non-Beiyang armies of the southwestern provinces to counter the northern forces in Hunan.
In the pursuit of his plans, Cheng Qian left Shanghai in mid December to join the stream of anti-Yuan activists congregating in the southwest. He arrived in Hong Kong two days before Yunnan's declaration of independence and reached Kunming, Yunnan's capital, the same day that Guizhou broke relations with Yuan. Tang Jiyao, Yunnan's military governor, welcomed Cheng's plans to organize an anti-Yuan army in western Hunan and provided him with a battalion of Yunnan troops. Cheng then proceeded to Guizhou, whose military governor promised him the cooperation of the Guizhou army and provided him with twenty thousand yuan to defray his expenses. Finally, in late March, Cheng crossed into Hunan and established his headquarters at Jingxian in Hunan's southwestern corner.
Cheng took a decidedly eclectic approach toward the organization of the anti-Yuan struggle in western Hunan. With a staff of Hunan military officers he had collected on his journey, Cheng outlined a number of broad objectives, including the encouragement of local declarations of independence, the organization of militia for local self-defense against northern troops, and the general mobilization of the population to harass northern armies. Cheng's main goal remained the organization of an anti-Yuan army, however, and an important part of his strategy was to win over the Hunan provincial forces that survived in western Hunan. He attained some success in this soon after his arrival in Jingxian when Zhou Zefan, the acting commander of the local Hunan Guard Corps garrison (the 5th District forces previously under the command of Tao Zhongxun), pledged all five of his battalions to Cheng's cause. Cheng combined his battalion of Yunnan troops with these forces to create a brigade, which he then placed under Zhou's command.
Another commander from western Hunan, who would later attach himself to Cheng's side, was the West Hunan garrison commander, Tian Yingzhao. Tian's case shows how the civil war pressured individual military commanders to make political decisions about the use of their armies. Cheng claimed to have received an early pledge of support from Tian, but it was not until two months after Cheng's arrival in western Hunan that Tian acted on it. Because of the proximity of Tian's troops to the front, he was assiduously courted from all sides. The commander of Guizhou's forces in western Hunan tried to use ties
with Tian from their school days together in Japan's Army Officers' Academy to persuade him to join the rebellion against Yuan. Meanwhile, Lü Jinshan, commander of the Hubei 3d Brigade, tried to use the same old school connection to retain Tian's loyalty. Tian took the safest way out by remaining neutral until the course of the war in Hunan clearly turned against Yuan.
Cheng's success in establishing a solid, albeit small, military force in western Hunan provided him with a political foundation to expand his leadership over Hunan's anti-monarchical movement. He sent emissaries to contact the leaders of local people's armies and other revolutionaries active in the anti-Yuan struggle in other parts of Hunan to urge more coordinated action. In late April 1916, Cheng convoked a "Hunan People's Oust-Yuan Assembly" at Jingxian, with representatives from forty-eight Hunan counties. This meeting formally declared Hunan's independence. Cheng then accepted the participants' unanimous nomination to serve as commander-in-chief of the Hunan National Protection Army.
Cheng Qian's Hunan National Protection Army was the most important indigenous anti-Yuan military force to be raised in either Hunan or Hubei during the Anti-Monarchical War. Cheng also made some progress in the creation of an alternate political center directly challenging Tang Xiangming's authority over the province. Nonetheless, Cheng's actual territorial base remained very limited, and the strength of his army, and his control over other Hunan anti-Yuan forces, remained too weak to alter the stalemated war in western Hunan. The ultimate success of the National Protection Movement in Hunan depended less on the formation of revolutionary military forces inside Hunan than on changing political conditions outside Hunan.
The Fall of Tang Xiangming
One of the heaviest blows Yuan Shikai received during the Anti-Monarchical War was the betrayal of Tang Xiangming. From the beginning of the monarchical movement, Tang sought to prove his loyalty to Yuan by harshly suppressing anti-monarchical dissent and using his administration to generate support for the monarchy. The outbreak of war, however, created conditions that forced Tang to reconsider his position. In an opportunistic leap, Tang joined Yuan's opposition. With Yuan's death and the war's end, Tang turned his attention to the consolidation of his military and administrative authority over Hunan province. If he had been able to achieve his goals, Tang would have made the transition to warlordism. Instead, Tang's
own military power remained too weak to survive in the militarized conditions that emerged from the war.
Tang's first cause for concern in the Anti-Monarchical War was the poor showing of Yuan's troops on the western Hunan front. Despite their numerical superiority, the northern troops Yuan sent into the province could do no more than block the advance of Guizhou National Protection forces. Cheng Qian interpreted the stalemate in western Hunan as an indication of the loss of faith in Yuan by his own Beiyang commanders. Tang could certainly draw the same conclusion. Still, Tang's position in Hunan was not seriously endangered until March 15, when Guangxi's military governor, Lu Rongting, declared his province's support for the National Protection Movement. By April, Guangxi troops were massing for an invasion on Hunan's southern border, creating the threat of a two-front war. Tang therefore began searching for a way to dissociate himself from Yuan while still preserving his own political position.
Tang's first move was to open negotiations with Yuan's opponents to see if some political accommodation was possible. Here Tang had an advantage in his influential brother, Tang Hualong. Although Tang Hualong had served in a number of important positions in Yuan's government, he withdrew his support for Yuan at the outbreak of the war and joined other non-revolutionary but anti-monarchical politicians in supporting the National Protection Movement. Originally, Tang Hualong had tried, without much success, to persuade his brother to bring Hunan out against the monarchy. Once Yuan's position began to deteriorate, though, Tang Xiangming was able to turn to his older brother to initiate secret talks with Yuan's political and military opponents. As a result of these contacts, Tang was able to obtain an agreement from top National Protection leaders, such as Cai E, Liang Qichao, and Lu Rongting, allowing him to retain his military governorship in exchange for Hunan's declaration of independence.
Seeking to forestall political opposition inside Hunan to his continuation in office, Tang also used his brother's assistance to open secret negotiations with Tan Yankai. As a result of his role in the Second Revolution, Tan had been placed under house arrest in Beijing. After being pardoned in 1915, he took up residence in Shanghai, a gathering point for civilian politicians and military officers fleeing the political terror in Hunan. Negotiations between Tan and Tang's emissaries in Shanghai soon expanded to include Tan Zhen, the head of the Hunan branch of the Revolutionary Party, and other revolutionary activists. The negotiations resulted in another agreement guaranteeing
Tang's position as military governor in return for his breaking with Yuan. At the same time, concessions were also extracted from Tang to share power with Hunan's "popular party" (mindang ), an umbrella term chosen to cover the range of Yuan's political opponents from moderate politicians to revolutionary activists. Under the terms of the agreement, Hunan's civil governorship, as well as certain military positions, would be filled by "popular party" nominees. Thus Tang agreed to a partial return to the provincialist regime destroyed after the Second Revolution.
In negotiating these agreements, Tang was playing a dangerous game. On the one hand, the agreements would not go into effect until he actually declared independence. Until then, he was still vulnerable to attack by National Protection forces. On the other hand, if any word of his perfidy leaked out, he could expect retribution from the northern forces occupying the province. To defend himself in either eventuality, Tang sought to increase his own military power. Yuan, of course, was no longer in a position to object to Tang's military aggrandizement. First, Tang recalled the Hunan Mixed Brigade from western Hunan to strengthen Changsha's defenses. Second, he began the rapid recruitment of new troops. Under the guise of creating a new "Patrol and Defense Force" (Xunfangying), Tang soon raised fifteen battalions, largely recruited from disbanded Hunan soldiers. These troops were placed under Li Youwen, a Hunan naval officer and a member of Tang's staff. Tang also authorized Guo Renzhang, a former military officer and national assemblyman, to recruit five battalions of "mine guards" in the counties south and west of Changsha to provide additional protection.
Tang's next task was to keep from being caught in a clash of opposing forces. Lu Rongting's Guangxi forces still planned to advance into southern Hunan. The first obstacle to their advance was the army of the Lingling garrison commander, Tang's protégé Wang Yunting. Unwilling to bear the brunt of a Guangxi attack, Wang declared independence on April 26 and assumed the title of commander-in-chief of the South Hunan National Protection Army. Guangxi troops then began to move freely across the border. There is reason to believe that Tang gave tacit approval to Wang's action as a means of exerting pressure on Yuan Shikai. In negotiations with Lu Rongting, Tang devised an agreement that could be presented to Yuan promising the withdrawal of Guangxi and Guizhou troops from Hunan if Yuan would do the same with his northern forces. Yuan agreed to this settlement after receiving Tang's assurance that he would keep Hunan
loyal after the mutual withdrawal had taken place. Tang then worked out agreements with the main northern commanders in Hunan to begin the pullback of their troops.
As it turned out, fast-moving events forced Tang to declare independence before all these arrangements were completed. The end of April and early May saw an eruption of popular uprisings across Hunan. In this period, Liu Zhong's secret-society forces captured a string of important towns in central Hunan (Xiangxiang, Shaoyang, Xinhua, and Hengshan) before being forced to retreat by northern troops. On May 15, a battle broke out in the streets of Changsha when Tang's supposed ally Guo Renzhang, hoping to make himself military governor, attempted an unsuccessful coup against Tang with his mine guards. Meanwhile, Cheng Qian's Hunan National Protection Army was expanding its influence over Hunan's southwestern counties. By late May, Cheng claimed control over a force equal to three brigades. On May 24, western Hunan's Tian Yingzhao finally ended his fence-straddling and declared support for the National Protection Movement. Meanwhile, contrary to their agreement with Yuan, Guangxi troops continued to advance into Hunan on the heels of the withdrawing northern armies, threatening to expose Tang's treachery. Afraid to lose control over the situation. Tang finally denounced Yuan on May 29 and declared independence.
Despite the blow of Tang's betrayal, Yuan attempted to salvage the situation by reversing his orders for the withdrawal of northern troops from Hunan. Before these orders could take effect, though, Yuan died. This effectively ended the civil war by meeting, even if by default, the National Protection Movement's main objective. Having already initiated the withdrawal of their troops, the northern commanders in Hunan decided to honor their agreements with Tang to leave the province.
The end of the civil war did not bring political peace to Hunan; rather, it raised new questions about Tang's position as military governor. The withdrawal of northern armies removed most of the military forces that had previously guaranteed Tang's authority in the province. More important, Yuan's death destroyed the foundation for the expedient agreements guaranteeing Tang's continuation in his post. Immediately after Yuan's death, conflicts began to arise over the terms of the agreement Tang had negotiated with the "popular party" and their applicability in this new situation. With the end of the war, Tang saw less need to make concessions to the "popular party" and more opportunities to shore up his own military and political position.
By taking a perfunctory attitude toward the implementation of the agreement, though, Tang also provided new justification for opposition to his rule.
Tan Yankai and his allies were acutely aware that no real political compromise with Tang would be possible if he maintained a monopoly over provincial military forces. One of their most important demands was thus for the creation of a new Hunan National Protection Army, to be placed under the command of officers representing the "popular party." On Tan's recommendation, a group of Hunan military officers were dispatched to Hunan before Tang's declaration of independence to implement this proviso. This group was led by the former commander of the Hunan 3d Division, Zeng Jiwu. Among the officers accompanying Zeng were Zhao Hengti, the former Guangxi brigade commander, and Chen Fuchu, 3d District Guard Corps commander, both of whom had joined Tan in Shanghai after their prison sentences for their participation in the Second Revolution were commuted. Immediately after Tang's declaration of independence, Zeng Jiwu received the title of commander-in-chief of the Hunan National Protection 1st Army, while the other members of his entourage were given subordinate military appointments. Zeng's army was supposed to be created by the transfer of troops from existing Hunan units under Tang's control, along with new recruitment. Yuan's death, in Tang's eyes, eliminated the need for this army, so few troops were assigned to Zeng's command, and the National Protection 1st Army remained a hollow shell. Insofar as the purpose of the army was not solely to prosecute war against Yuan but to provide military support for the "popular party" in Hunan, Tang's neglect of this provision became a serious point of political contention.
Matching Tang's reluctance to support the organization of a new Hunan National Protection Army was his effort to disperse irregular anti-Yuan people's armies. Seeing these armies as patriotic forces, and potential military backers, some revolutionaries advocated arming and provisioning them as regular army units. Originally, Tang made some concessions to this view by agreeing to have some of these forces incorporated into the Hunan army. In the name of carrying out this agreement, though, Tang ordered the people's armies to submit to inspections and ordered the immediate disbandment of all forces found lacking "true patriotism, a strict military appearance, or complete arms." Not surprisingly, those that submitted to inspection were quickly rejected and dispersed. Perceiving the sham, most forces re-
fused to comply. This gave Tang an excuse to carry out the forcible suppression of the most threatening people's armies.
The other side of Tang's determination to prevent the establishment of military forces not under his control was his effort to strengthen his own military power. After the withdrawal of the northern armies, the only effective troops left around Changsha were the Hubei-recruited Hunan Mixed Brigade and Li Youwen's newly created Patrol and Defense army. Tang quickly sought to increase his own military strength further by raising several new "supplemental regiments" (buchongtuan ). Although these regiments were recruited within Hunan, Tang sought to ensure their loyalty by placing them under the command of Hubei officers. In every regard, Tang's military policies appear to have been aimed not at reaching an accommodation with his new "popular party" allies but at preparing for a confrontation with them.
The "popular party" also found itself thwarted in its efforts to extend its influence into Hunan's civil administration. The last centrally appointed civil governor left his post amid deteriorating political conditions in early May, leaving the administration of civil affairs completely in Tang's hands. Tang's agreement with Tan Yankai committed him to accept a civil governor nominated by the "popular party." With Yuan's death, the disparate groups that had been subsumed under the rubric of the "popular party" broke down into numerous political factions, which made reaching any decision in its name a difficult task. Indeed, some complained that even former monarchists now claimed to be members of the "popular party." Many of the participants in the agreement with Tang agreed that the civil governor's post should go to Long Zhang, a prominent and progressive member of the Hunan gentry who had held a number of important posts in Tan's earlier provincial regime. It was impossible though to obtain a consensus on this nomination. Tang took advantage of the political dissension to maintain his own control over civil government. Disregarding the civil governor's office entirely, he even established a Department of Civil Government (Minzhengting) within the military governor's office.
Tang's actions put him at odds with the political aspirations of a wide segment of Hunan's political elite for restoration of a self-governing provincial regime. In an interview with the U.S. consul at Changsha, Long Zhang noted an overriding desire by the people of Hunan for a return to the political conditions that had existed before the Second Revolution—including the recall of the original National
and Provincial assemblies, the revival of local self-government, and the removal of officials appointed by Yuan. There were also widespread demands that civil officials either be popularly elected or be approved by the Provincial Assembly. Tang was not inclined to accept any of these demands. Although members of the Provincial Assembly regathered in Changsha and unofficially began to reassert their role as Hunan's representative body, Tang attempted to create an alternate "senate" (canyiyuan ) with an appointed membership to act in its place. Tang also maintained complete control over civil appointments, and continued to favor non-Hunan men for important provincial posts. All Tang's actions were directed at preventing the revival of a provincialist regime that he saw as inimical to his own interests.
In both military and civil affairs, Tang showed no qualms about violating his earlier agreements if he could enhance his own political position. In doing so, he disappointed the postwar expectations of both revolutionary activists and more moderate politicians for a restoration of some degree of Hunan self-government. As a result, most believed that they were released from their promises to support the continuation of Tang's military governorship. Given Tang's resolve to stay in power, though, the only way to remove him was by force. Unfortunately for Tang, there were military forces in Hunan willing to perform this function.
Cheng Qian had never been a party to the agreements to preserve Tang's position and still considered the removal of "Butcher Tang" to be as important as the defeat of Yuan Shikai. Cheng's troops thus continued to advance toward Changsha after Tang's declaration of independence, drawing in popular forces opposed to Tang's administration along the way. By mid June, although avoiding any open military conflict with Tang, Cheng's forces were deployed in Ningxiang and Xiangtan, the two counties directly west and south of Changsha. Acting alone, though, Cheng could not be sure of victory against Tang. Therefore he set out to win the support of Lu Rongting, whose large Guangxi forces had by this time taken up positions in southern and central Hunan and on the outskirts of Changsha itself. Visiting Lu's headquarters in Hengyang, Cheng convinced Lu that Tang's unpopularity would be a continuing source of political instability. Furthermore, he argued that Tang's presence provided a possible foothold for the return of the Beiyang Army, thus presenting a danger to the entire southwest. To make the threat from Tang more personal, Cheng also confided that he had intercepted an assassin sent by Tang to take Lu's life. Finally, Lu agreed to abrogate his guarantee of Tang's posi-
tion. On July 1, with Lu's backing, Cheng ordered his troops to advance on Changsha.
As Cheng's intentions became clear, Tang Xiangming found himself in an increasingly untenable situation. Lu Rongting had deployed Guangxi artillery and infantry units in a threatening position on Yuelu Mountain, directly across the Xiang River from Changsha. Meanwhile, Hunan politicians and revolutionary activists who had regathered in Changsha, including the military officers under Zeng Jiwu, began to plot an uprising against Tang. When Tang received the news that the troops he had sent to block Cheng's advance had been defeated, he decided to abandon his post. Late at night on July 4, Tang and other members of his administration embarked on a steamer for Hankou.
In the final analysis, Tang Xiangming's fall was determined by the new alignment of military power that had been created in Hunan as a result of the Anti-Monarchical War. The weakening of Yuan's power in the period immediately before his death had given Tang an opportunity to build his own military forces in Hunan. After his declaration of independence and Yuan's death, Tang attempted to strengthen his position by new military recruiting and by blocking, when possible, the formation or survival of other independent forces. In the end, though, most of Tang's forces were too recently recruited to be completely loyal to him, and too few to be effective replacements for the withdrawn northern troops. Faced with the threat of Cheng Qian's growing alliance of local troops and popular forces, and the forbidding presence of Lu Rongting's Guangxi army, Tang had little choice but capitulation.
The Restoration of Hunan's Provincialist Regime
Tang's flight freed Hunan from Yuan Shikai's centrally imposed provincial administration and ended the possibility that Tang would create his own personal dictatorship over the province. More unclear, though, was what or who would take Tang's place. Given the military struggle that had just occurred, and the profusion of armed forces that had converged on Changsha, some form of military rule was an obvious possibility. Interestingly enough, the very array of military forces in Hunan after Tang's fall contributed to the restoration of a largely civilian provincialist regime, represented by the eventual return of Tan Yankai as military governor. This new regime was nonetheless sensitive to the issues of military power. In contrast to his earlier term of office, Tan was now more concerned about maintaining a military
base for his government. At the same time, he was no less concerned to keep the military under control. Tan's successful reorganization of Hunan's armed forces showed that, at least in Hunan, military power alone was not yet the sole source of political authority.
At first, the Hunan military governorship almost seemed up for grabs. Immediately following Tang's departure, Zeng Jiwu stepped in to proclaim himself acting military governor. However, with only his position as commander of the largely nonexistent Hunan National Protection 1st Army, Zeng had insufficient status or military power to retain this post for long. A serious competitor for the office arrived two days later when Cheng Qian led his army into Changsha. Cheng's military qualifications were certainly equal to Zeng's, and he was less than pleased with Zeng's hasty move into the military governor's seat. However, even Cheng could only claim authority over about half of the military forces in Changsha, and many of these forces were more loosely allied to him than under his direct control. Therefore, although Zeng was willing to yield the military governorship himself, he did not see that Cheng had any greater right to it. The other miscellaneous forces and people's armies that had converged on Changsha also complicated this issue. Some of their leaders established headquarters in the city on no authority but their own and considered themselves candidates for the top office. Amid this confusing array of military forces, the Guangxi army remained an unknown factor. Although Lu Rongting kept his headquarters at Hengyang, only his withdrawal from Hunan in August would remove the possibility that he might wish to claim Hunan's military governorship for himself or one of his subordinates.
In the absence of a single dominant military commander, a consensus soon emerged that returned the military governorship to civilian hands. Only two days after his own assumption of the post, Zeng Jiwu called a meeting of civilian and military elites to select a replacement. This was a conscious replication of the legitimating process that established Hunan's military government during the 1911 Revolution. By invoking the authority of a broader elite consensus, this meeting was able to defuse the competition among various military candidates and put forward a civilian alternative, Liu Renxi. Liu was a Hunan jinshi who had previously served in 1912 as head of Hunan's civil administration (minzhengzhang ). One reason for Liu's selection was simply that he was one of the most highly respected public figures in Hunan society present in Changsha at this time. As an educator and newspaper publisher, Liu had gained a reputation for his courageous,
though subtly veiled, opposition to the monarchy. Equally important, Liu had served as a Qing official in Guangxi, where he developed close personal ties to many Guangxi officials and military commanders. This Guangxi connection was expected to aid in retaining the support of Lu Rongting during this crucial transitional period. Indeed, before taking up his duties, Liu made sure that he had Lu Rongting's approval. A narrower civilian group meeting at the same time elected Long Zhang to the post of civil governor, but this election was not broadly accepted. Liu therefore assumed control of both military and civil administrations.
Liu Renxi's assumption of the military governorship was generally viewed as a temporary expedient pending more regular elections. Already in his sixties, Liu was not eager for a long term of office. Liu's replacement, though, also needed to be a man of sufficient prestige to transcend the squabbling of Hunan's various military commanders. At first, the favored candidates were Hunan's two most prominent military native sons, Huang Xing and Cai E. Huang Xing was obviously the candidate of Hunan's revolutionaries. Cai was a Hunan military officer who had led the Yunnan army in support of the 1911 Revolution and then became Yunnan's first military governor. In late 1915, Cai returned to Yunnan to assume leadership of the National Protection Movement. With strong ties to prominent constitutionalists such as Liang Qichao, Cai was the choice of Hunan's political moderates. Both men, however, declined all appeals to return to Hunan. After this, the most obvious compromise candidate became Tan Yankai. Prior to this, there was an emerging agreement that Tan should become civil governor under either Cai or Huang. It was an easy step, then, to a new consensus to have Tan reassume the military governorship. Always the careful politician, Tan remained in Shanghai until he was assured of support from all quarters. This not only included acceptance by the various political and military factions in Hunan but an official acknowledgement from the new central government at Beijing appointing him civil governor and acting military governor. Only then did Tan set out for Changsha. On August 22 Tan Yankai took control of Hunan's provincial government for the second time.
The election of Liu Renxi as military governor and then the return of Tan Yankai marked the effective reestablishment of a semiautonomous Hunan provincial regime. As a wave of popular antagonism to northern officials swept the province, most officials appointed by Yuan or Tang fled their posts. Provincial control over appoint-
ments was returned as first Liu and then Tan placed Hunan natives in most local and provincial offices. Amid speeches praising the benefits of self-government, the Hunan Provincial Assembly officially reconvened on July 20, disregarding a later date recommended by the central government. The assembly quickly reassumed its role as the active protector of provincial interests and the promoter of elite-supported reform programs derailed by Yuan's dictatorship. Whatever degree of central control had been instituted under the dictatorship was reversed by this provincialist resurgence.
The loss of central power was apparent in the failure of Li Yuanhong, who had succeeded Yuan as president, to place his own nominee at the head of Hunan's government. After learning of Tang's flight, Li immediately issued a presidential order appointing his fellow provincial Chen Yi as Hunan's military and civil governor. This was a particularly inept move inasmuch as Chen had served under Yuan as military governor of Sichuan and so was as much a symbol of Yuan's rejected rule as Tang Xiangming. This appointment provoked a popular uproar in Hunan and angry protests from nearly every prominent public figure in Hunan society. Responding to this opposition, Li temporarily tried to acknowledge Liu Renxi as acting military and civil governor without withdrawing Chen's appointment. Still unable to mollify Hunan opinion, Li accepted Chen's resignation. In the face of overwhelming Hunan provincialist sentiment, the central appointment Tan had demanded for his return to Hunan was then begrudgingly granted. Only by making Tan's appointment as military governor an "acting" position did Li suggest that the central government still retained the right to appoint a "regular" military governor at a later date.
Hunan's revived provincialism also thwarted efforts by Duan Qirui, who as premier represented Yuan's original northern military and bureaucratic power base, to reextend central, and his own, influence into Hunan. In mid July 1916, Duan sent his brother-in-law, Wu Guangxin, with a small force to reestablish a northern military foothold in Yuezhou. By regathering disorganized northern troops that had fled from Hunan, Wu soon built an army of occupation in this strategic city. This occupation provoked many rumors as to Duan's intentions. At first, many believed that Wu's forces might be employed to back up Chen Yi's appointment. A more likely scenario emerged with reports that Duan hoped to place Wu Guangxin as Hunan's military governor. Duan hesitated to take this step, though, because of the widespread opposition in Hunan at its mere suggestion. Li and
Duan's failures to influence the appointment of Hunan's military governor showed the degree to which central power had declined with Yuan's death.
Another issue of importance in postwar central-provincial relations was the disposition of the expanded provincial military forces raised during the civil war. Both Li and Duan advocated unified central military control and saw the disbandment of excess military forces as essential. Li's position reflected a consistent concern about the dangers of unchecked military expansion, and he proposed an evenhanded reduction of military forces both north and south. Duan Qirui had a more self-serving strategy. Through the Ministry of War, he unveiled plans for a new national military system composed of forty divisions and twenty independent brigades. Under this plan, Beiyang Army units, which already had "national" designations, would remain unchanged. Provincial armies, however, were to be sharply reduced or given "temporary" designations pending eventual disbandment. In the case of Hunan, the expansion of various military forces over the course of the Anti-Monarchical War was estimated to have produced a provincial force with a troop strength equivalent to five or six divisions. According to the Ministry of War's plans, these forces were to be reduced to a regular army of one division and one mixed brigade. In the end, though, decisions about the organization of Hunan's armed forces would be made at the provincial, not the central, level.
One of Tan Yankai's first actions after returning to Hunan was to establish a new command structure for the various military forces that had gathered around Changsha. The political stability of Tan's government clearly required that the confusing array of forces that had arisen during the war be brought under control. One commentator observed that "the city [Changsha] is full of soldiers, no two bands of which seem to be equipped the same, nor do they seem to have allegiance to any one single commander." Tan therefore reorganized these forces into a new Hunan regular army of four divisions. As seen in Table 11, the first two divisions of this new army were placed under the command of two prominent Hunan officers who had accompanied Zeng Jiwu back to Hunan, Chen Fuchu and Zhao Hengti. The core of these two divisions appears to have consisted of Tang Xiangming's Hunan-recruited troops, some of whom had originally been slated for inclusion in Zeng's National Protection Army. Thus Li Youwen's Patrol and Defense Force was placed within Zhao's 2d Division, and Li was made a brigade commander. The 3d and 4th Divisions were organized primarily from forces that had been part of Cheng Qian's
National Protection Army. The 3d Division was based on the expanded 5th District Guard Corps forces that had joined Cheng under Zhou Zefan. The original 5th District commander, Tao Zhongxun, regained his control over these forces by his appointment as 3d Division commander, while Zhou retained a brigade commander's position. The 4th Division was formed from Cheng Qian's remaining troops, with Cheng giving up his title as commander-in-chief of the National Protection Army in return for the post of division commander.
In establishing these divisions, a clear preference was shown for retaining the best-armed and best-trained troops from regular local or provincial army units. Meanwhile, the dispersal, and even suppression, of irregular people's armies that had begun under Tang Xiangming was continued under both Liu Renxi and Tan Yankai. Certainly many local "National Protection" armies were no more than renamed bandit bands and needed to be eliminated. Nonetheless, most of the popular forces raised by local revolutionary activists were also slated for disbandment. Oddly enough, then, the triumph of the National Protection Movement in Hunan led to the dispersal of the people's armies that had arisen to oppose Yuan and Tang, while many of Tang's own Hunan levies were allowed to survive. This paradox is easily understood if it is remembered that the government that emerged under Liu and then Tan represented a restoration of a provincial elite regime. Ultimately, this regime was no more willing to legitimate popular forces that might challenge elite power in 1916 than Tan's earlier government had been in 1912.
A month after the formation of the four-division army, a second reorganization reduced it to two divisions. Conflicts between troops from the 3d and the 4th Divisions gave Tan an excuse to abolish both these designations and to remove Tao Zhongxun and Cheng Qian from their posts. One brigade from each of the four divisions was then retained to form the two new divisions. As seen by contrasting the earlier organization shown in Table 11 with the later one in Table 12, Zhao Hengti was appointed 1st Division commander, retaining control over Li Youwen's brigade and adding Lin Xiumei's brigade from the 4th Division. Chen Fuchu's designation was changed from 1st to 2d Division commander, retaining control over Chen Jiayou's brigade, and adding Zhu Zehuang's brigade from the 3d Division.
The reduction of the Hunan army from four to two divisions to some extent answered calls from the Hunan Provincial Assembly to lower provincial expenditures with military cutbacks. This reorganization was also portrayed as an attempt to bring the Hunan army
closer to the one division and one mixed brigade recommended by the Ministry of War. Strictly in terms of troop strength, however, the reduction from four to two divisions was more apparent than real. Instead of disbanding the four brigades removed from the regular army, Tan shifted them into revived Guard Corps and garrison command positions. As seen in Table 13, 6th Brigade commander Zhou Zefan took over Tao Zhongxun's original posts as West Hunan vice garrison commander and 5th District Guard Corps commander, the 2d Brigade's Qing Heng was placed as Chang-Li vice garrison commander, while the 4th Brigade's Wu Jianxue and the 8th Brigade's Zhou Wei were appointed as 1st and 2d District Guard Corps commanders in central and southern Hunan respectively. Tian Yingzhao, Wang Yunting, and Wang Zhengya were also allowed to retain their respective West Hunan, Chang-Li, and Lingling garrison commands.
Tan's second administration clearly did not have the same zeal for disbandment as his first. After the dispersal of the people's armies,
little effort was made to reduce the total troop strengths represented in the regular army, Guard Corps, and garrison commands. Attempts to force Wang Yunting to disband some of the extra troops he had recruited during the war (reported at twenty battalions) seem to have been the only exception to this. Obviously there were political reasons to reduce the military power of this Tang holdover. Otherwise, while there was some talk within Tan's government about further military consolidation, no action was taken. It might be argued that the conditions that had called for large-scale disbandment in Tan's first administration were even stronger in his second. There are, however, several plausible explanations for Tan's failure to pursue this policy. Tan may have lacked his earlier confidence in the possibility of carrying out major disbandments without serious resistance from military commanders and their men. More likely, Tan had gained a new appreciation for the necessity of provincial military power to avoid the fate that had befallen his first administration. Later events would show that this apprehension was fully justified. Although not
unconcerned about the problem of exerting control over the military, Tan sought to attain this control through organizational means rather than by disbandment.
When examined closely, the successive reorganizations of the Hunan army reveal patterns that served to enhance Tan's control over the military. The most important political objective carried out in these reorganizations was the elimination of Cheng Qian's military power. Tan and Cheng had diverged politically in their approaches to the National Protection Movement. Tan and his associates had sought to speed Hunan's entry into the anti-Yuan struggle by compromising with Tang Xiangming, but Cheng had taken a more radical stand by insisting on Tang's removal. Cheng's continued advance after Tang's declaration of independence showed his refusal to accept Tan's compromise. The hasty assumption of the military governor's post by Tan's military emissary, Zeng Jiwu, immediately before Cheng's own entry into Changsha created further disharmony between Cheng and Tan's followers. Although Cheng had accepted Tan's return to the military governorship, Tan would sit uneasy as long as Cheng's military base survived.
The first reorganization of the Hunan army began the process of undermining Cheng's power. Cheng's forces were effectively divided into two separate divisions, leaving Cheng himself with the command of only one division. Meanwhile, the formation of the 1st and 2d Divisions under the command of two members of Zeng Jiwu's military delegation actualized the military force originally promised in Tang's agreement with the "popular party." The creation of these divisions after Tang's departure, though, changed their function from that of a counterforce against Tang to that of a counterbalance to Cheng. As both Chen Fuchu and Zhao Hengti had proven their usefulness to Tan in his earlier administration, their appointment to the commands of these two divisions was a calculated move to strengthen Tan's influence over the Hunan army. The subsequent reduction of the regular Hunan army into two divisions under Zhao and Chen completed the dilution of Cheng's military power. The cancellation of Cheng's command was a surprising finish for a man who only a short time before had been Hunan's single most important military leader. It is nonetheless a sign of the strength of the political consensus that brought Tan back to power that Cheng did not resist the loss of his command. At the same time, Tan's care in ensuring placements for Cheng's brigades, either in the regular army or in the Guard Corps, no doubt lessened the chance that they would risk their own positions to oppose their commander's removal.
The final arrangement of brigades in the two-division army also showed the use of personal ties to reinforce military control. At the top, of course, the appointments of Zhao and Chen as division commanders linked these forces to Tan. The retention of Li Youwen's brigade under Zhao was influenced by the fact that many of Li's troops had been recruited from disbanded soldiers who had previously served under Zhao. According to Zhao, he had also maintained good relations with Cheng and this facilitated his ability to work with his other brigade commander, Lin Xiumei, one of Cheng's closest associates. Chen Fuchu's command over another of Cheng's wartime allies, Zhu Zehuang, was aided by the fact that Zhu had originally been Chen's protégé (mensheng ). Chen's other brigade commander, Chen Jiayou, was already close to both division commanders, having been part of Zeng Jiwu's military entourage. Chen Jiayou was also the son of Chen Binghuan, one of Tan's closest associates who had served as finance minister in Tan's first administration. Thus his placement, like that of Zhao Hengti and Chen Fuchu, clearly sought to strengthen Tan's influence in the military.
Another significant feature of the new Hunan army with political ramifications was the general composition of its officer corps. As seen in Table 12, most of the army's senior officers were late Qing graduates of either Japan's Army Officers' Academy or the Hunan Military Academy (Hunan wubei xuetang). In early 1917 over a hundred new Hunan graduates from the Baoding Military Academy were also accepted for in-service training for junior officer positions. Tan's patronage of these educated officers certainly ensured that the Hunan army would be well-staffed with trained military professionals. Nonetheless, it also strengthened the army's political loyalty to Tan's regime. Given their educations, most of these officers, new and old, would have come from elite families. It could be reasonably expected that the army's reliability would be increased by an identity of interests between its officer corps and Tan's elite regime.
Finally, the interests of Hunan's new provincialist regime were also served by the reinforcement of the provincial character of the Hunan army. Reflecting the resurgence of provincialism that had swept through Hunan with Tang's fall, most non-Hunan troops were driven from the province. A deliberate effort was also made to staff the Hunan army with native Hunan officers. This use of both personal and provincial ties begins to bear some resemblance to similar practices in the mid-nineteenth-century yongying . The main difference was that the loyalty of the yongying was channeled through their commanders to the dynasty, while the Hunan army's loyalty was focused on the province. This application of provincialism in the military, though, was a change in strategy for Tan, who in his first administration had sought to neutralize the army politically by relying on non-native troops like Zhao Hengti's Guangxi brigade. The use of such "outside" troops would also become a common pattern for warlords seeking to establish their dominance over provincial or local interests. Tan's primary concern now though was to preserve the interests of his provincialist regime from outside threats, and the strengthened provincial identity of the Hunan army served this end.
The Consolidation of Wang Zhanyuan's Warlord Regime
Conditions in Hubei at the end of the Anti-Monarchical War were radically different from those faced by Tang Xiangming in Hunan. The war never reached Hubei's borders, and Wang Zhanyuan's position as military governor was never seriously threatened by either extraprovincial or local forces. Wang therefore emerged from the war
strong enough to avoid the type of internal political or military conflict that had led to Tang's downfall. Indeed, in the period immediately after Yuan's death, Wang consolidated his political and military power in Hubei, strengthening his position as an emerging warlord.
Wang's main political opponents at the end of the war were revolutionary activists who had led uprisings against him as part of their efforts to bring Hubei into the anti-monarchical struggle. Although weakened by repeated defeats, a large revolutionary presence remained ensconced within the security of Hankou's foreign concessions. Yuan's death divided anti-monarchical activists in Hubei into two camps, radicals who called for a continuation of the struggle against Wang and moderates who felt that peace should be made with Wang to avoid further political strife. This moderate position received support from many eminent Hubei political figures, including Li Yuanhong. After succeeding to the presidency, Li expressed his support for Wang and used his personal influence to urge Hubei's revolutionaries to reach a compromise. Finally, in July 1916, Wang negotiated an agreement with a majority of "popular party" leaders in Hankou to dissolve all political parties or organizations that had been formed in opposition to the monarchy. In doing so, these leaders acknowledged their acceptance of Hubei's political status quo. In exchange, Wang offered revolutionary leaders and their followers "passports" guaranteeing their safety and traveling stipends to help them leave the province.
A small group of revolutionaries, particularly those connected to Sun Yat-sen's Revolutionary Party, refused to accept this settlement. Aware of this, Wang also negotiated with concession authorities to expel the dissenters from their safe bases. Forced into action, the revolutionaries led an ill-disciplined mob of several hundred men out of the concessions on July 30 in a last-ditch uprising attempt. Whatever the political goals of the uprising's leadership, they were soon lost in the ensuing riot. Seeing little hope of success, the mob turned its attention to looting Hankou's shops. The Chinese city of Hankou suffered considerable damage before Wang's troops arrived to disperse the rioters. The suppression of this uprising removed the last revolutionary threat to the consolidation of Wang's rule.
The weakness of the July 30 uprising reflected a general lack of popular support for a struggle against Wang Zhanyuan. Here another contrast with Hunan is apparent. Whereas widespread popular antagonism contributed to Tang's fall, Wang enjoyed a fairly good popular reputation. Wang's late assumption of the military governor's chair
meant that Duan Zhigui bore the brunt of antipathy in Hubei for implementing the policies of Yuan's dictatorship. Equally important, in contrast to the arrogant attitude Duan exhibited in the performance of his office, Wang was generally regarded as a modest, amiable man. He made particular efforts to show his sensitivity to the interests of the common people and the merchant community. To give but one example, while serving as acting military governor for Duan, Wang abandoned Duan's habit of clearing the streets before his passage. Traveling instead with only a few guards, Wang reportedly commented, "How can I harm business by forcing merchants to clear the way just because a single person like myself wants to go out?" Wang also created a favorable impression by the strict enforcement of discipline among his troops. Newspaper accounts praising this discipline noted Wang's execution of soldiers caught stealing, his insistence that his men pay market prices for goods and services, and even a ban on the use of rickshaws by soldiers after reports of abusive behavior toward pullers. At a time when the deportment of so many northern armies in southern provinces was far from exemplary, the orderly behavior of Wang's troops was widely appreciated. As a result, Hubei public opinion was generally supportive when Wang first succeeded to the military governorship, and little occurred over the course of 1916 to alter this situation.
The most important factor working in Wang's favor, though, was continuing popular concern for the preservation of order. After the devastation that had been visited upon Hubei during the 1911 Revolution, few were eager to see their province swept into the disorder that engulfed their southwestern neighbors during the Anti-Monarchical War. The presence of Wang's disciplined troops seemed to guard against this eventuality. Indeed, Li Yuanhong based his support for Wang on his "merit" in keeping order. Wang himself encouraged the assumption of his indispensability by playing on the fear of disorder, often commenting, "Who else but I has the ability to preserve Hubei's local order?" Wang's reputation for keeping order was generally seen as a major reason for the lack of broader support for the July 30 uprising. Indeed, the desire for peace and order, and Wang's ability to provide it, would be the main yardstick used to judge Wang's rule for some time to come. Even an anti-Wang account written after his fall from power concluded a long catalogue of Wang's transgressions with the comment that "the foolishness of the Hubei people can be seen in that despite such policies toward Hubei, they still praised Wang Zhanyuan for preserving order." Hubei's case
shows that in a condition of persistent civil war, politically ambitious generals could gain some popular acquiescence for their rule by promising to provide peace.
Wang's ability to present himself as the guarantor of order in Hubei was, of course, ultimately based on his control of military force. As military governor, Wang made every effort to maintain the core military force that was the basis of his power and strengthen his personal control over it. Upon assuming the military governorship, Wang nominally gave up his command of the 2d Division. He assured his continued control over it, though, by transferring the command to a trusted subordinate, Wang Jinjing. As noted in Chapter 5, Wang Jinjing had originally been a brigade commander under Wang in the 2d Division. In 1914, he had been given command of the National 6th Mixed Brigade, a unit created out of supplemental troops added to the 2d Division. To keep the 6th Mixed Brigade under his influence after Wang Jinjing's promotion, Wang Zhanyuan appointed another of his subordinates, the 2d Division brigade commander, Wang Maoshang, to its command. Wang Zhanyuan's influence over these two officers was based on close personal ties developed during their long service together in the 2d Division. Indeed, Wang Zhanyuan's rise through the 2d Division, culminating in his years as division commander, helped him to build strong ties with most of its officers. Here the effect of Yuan's failure to continue the rotation of Beiyang commanders becomes particularly clear. The authority Wang gained as military governor over pay and promotions increased his ability to act as these officers' patron. Control of such resources thus helped Wang turn the 2d Division and offshoots of it, like the 6th Mixed Brigade, into his personal army.
Wang Zhanyuan's appointment as military governor also enhanced his military power by extending his authority over other forces garrisoned in Hubei. First, he gained direct control over provincial forces such as Shi Xingchuan's Hubei 1st Division and Lü Jinshan's Hubei 3d Brigade. Second, the weakened condition of the central government also increased Wang's supervisory authority over "national" forces based in Hubei, such as Li Tiancai's 9th Division and some lesser units withdrawn to Hubei from southern war zones. With these forces added to his 2d Division base, Wang's military power far exceeded that of any of his immediate predecessors in the Hubei military governorship.
Aware of the importance of military power to his position, Wang took every opportunity to expand the armed forces under his control.
The Anti-Monarchical War provided a perfect justification for such expansion, even though the war never reached Hubei's borders. Early in the war, Wang recruited fifteen hundred new northern soldiers to reinforce the 2d Division. He also received Yuan's approval to allow Lü Jinshan to expand the Hubei 3d Brigade into a mixed brigade by adding cavalry, artillery, engineering, and transport units. In spring 1916, Wang recruited five thousand more troops from Shandong (his home province), most of whom were organized into a new two-regiment Provincial Defense Corps (Shengfangtuan). Wang originally viewed the organization of this force as a first step toward creating a second Hubei army division. Being recruited outside Hubei, this division would be more dependent on Wang and so more closely under his own control than Shi Xingchuan's 1st Division. The end of the war temporarily brought these plans to a halt. Continued recruiting would have defied both popular postwar demands for troop reductions and direct central orders against further military expansion. At the same time, Wang had no intention of obeying central orders to disband special or irregular forces raised during the war. Indeed, he maintained the full strength of all the forces under his command, including such special forces as the Provincial Defense Corps.
Wang's selective compliance with orders from the central government with respect to his military forces was fairly representative of his relations with it at this period. On the one hand, Wang continued to profess obedience to central authority, as he had done while Yuan lived. On the other hand, Wang's actions were tempered by an appreciation of the postwar central government's greatly reduced ability to enforce its will on the provinces. This provided Wang with an opportunity to extend his control over provincial administration with greater autonomy from central control.
Wang's growing political autonomy was most apparent in the extension of his influence over Hubei's civil administration. Initially, after his appointment as military governor, Wang limited himself almost entirely to military administration. As the weakness of the postwar central government became apparent, Wang moved to increase his power over civil administration. Wang's opportunity came with the death of the centrally appointed civil governor in July 1916. In a supposedly interim act, the central government recognized Wang as Hubei's acting civil governor. Yuan had previously had doubts about Wang's ability to serve as military governor, but Wang's qualifications to be civil governor were even more questionable. Wang's most blatant defect was that he was only semiliterate. Indeed, documents
written in more literary Chinese were reportedly translated into the vernacular and read aloud to him.
With apparent modesty, Wang at first acknowledged his own inadequacies and stated his willingness to yield the civil governorship to a more deserving man. As a result, the issue of the Hubei civil governorship became a hotly debated point among various central and provincial political factions, each promoting their own candidate. As time went on, though, Wang let it be known that he had no intention of giving up the post unless it was to someone he could control. Unwilling to risk alienating Wang by trying to force an unacceptable candidate on him, the central government settled the issue by allowing Wang to retain the post. This marked the effective end to the separation of military and civil powers in Hubei, and a recognition of the extension of Wang's authority over civil administration.
The increased weakness of the central government in the postwar period was perhaps most apparent in its loss of appointment powers. For the most part, the governors of provinces that had declared independence during the war retained their control over provincial and local posts after the war's end. Central appointment powers were reduced to the confirmation of provincial "nominees." In Hubei, Wang Zhanyuan was somewhat constrained by his attempt to portray himself as a consistent supporter of the central government in contrast to the more recalcitrant southern provinces. As related by one member of his staff, Wang resolved this difficulty by accepting central appointments to relatively powerless posts for the sake of appearances, while insisting on his own nominees for more important positions. To ensure his control, Wang often drew his candidates from his own military staff. Through such key appointments, Wang assured his dominance over Hubei's civil bureaucracy.
In his efforts to establish control over civil government, Wang also had to contend with resurgent provincial political interests, particularly in the form of the revived Provincial Assembly. As previously noted, Wang's negative attitude toward Hubei's anti-monarchical movement had been grounded in a general antipathy for partisan politics, as well as in a desire to prevent the rise of political forces inimical to his position. His insistence on the disbandment of anti-monarchical political organizations after Yuan's death was clearly linked to these concerns. Nonetheless, in Hubei, as elsewhere, there was a strong expectation among politically conscious members of the provincial elite that the end of Yuan's dictatorship would mean the restoration of the Provincial Assembly. Wang originally opposed the revival of the assembly,
but he could not persist in this opposition without reinforcing his own association with Yuan's discredited policies. Perhaps seeking to defuse potential opposition to his rule by an accommodation to provincialist sentiment, Wang ultimately acquiesced in the recall of the Provincial Assembly. Wang's only victory was in resisting calls for the early reopening of the assembly, delaying the event to October 1, 1916.
As it turned out, the Hubei Provincial Assembly was still too factionalized to be an effective threat to Wang's power. The assembly spent its first months almost entirely in bitter factional disputes over the elections of its president, two vice presidents, and new national assemblymen. During this period, Wang made a diligent effort to perform his duties as civil governor by presiding over the assembly's sessions. His observation of this formality reflected a certain effort to present himself as sympathetic to provincial political interests. Nonetheless Wang's discomfort with the assembly's long and tedious debates was obvious to all. Besides confirming his original dislike of factional politics, the bitter internal divisions within the assembly helped dispel Wang's apprehension that it might challenge his authority. While continuing to accept the assembly's existence for appearance's sake, Wang began ignoring it in all matters of real importance. Although the assembly was supposed to have authority over local and provincial budgets, Wang was soon allocating provincial funds without the assembly's approval. In one case, Wang used educational and local self-government funds to support the Provincial Defense Corps over the opposition of the Provincial Assembly. For Wang, the maintenance of his own military strength clearly took precedence over whatever powers the assembly might seek to claim. Once Wang refused to accept its authority, the Provincial Assembly had little means to enforce its political will.
Wang's control over Hubei's military and civil administration was largely achieved at the expense of central-government prerogatives imposed during Yuan's dictatorship. In this regard there was very little difference between Hunan and Hubei. There was a difference though in Wang's ability to take advantage of this situation when compared to Tang Xiangming. Unlike Tang, Wang emerged from the Anti-Monarchical War in a strong military and political position, which enabled him to forestall any revival of a provincialist elite regime. In this case, the only possible countervailing force may have been a renewed centralizing effort from Beijing to restrain the growing autonomy of supposedly loyal military commanders, such as Wang claimed to be. However, the central government was in no better position than Yuan
to risk alienating Wang, especially when it needed all the support it could get to confront the even greater provincial autonomy of the southern provinces. With little restraint from either internal Hubei political forces or the central government, Wang's government in Hubei increasingly took on the character of a warlord dictatorship.
The Anti-Monarchical War was a crucial turning point in the development of Chinese warlordism. Once again military force had become the means of resolving a fundamental political conflict. This militarization of politics served in turn to enhance the political influence of those who controlled military power. Thus, the war not only drew military commanders into political activity but enabled them to become increasingly autonomous. A case in point was Wang Zhanyuan's effective use of his military power, not only to make his debut on the stage of national politics, but to consolidate his control over Hubei's provincial administration. The increased political autonomy of military governors like Wang signaled a major defeat in the centralizing initiative begun under Yuan's dictatorship, and a frustration of its promise to subordinate military power to central civilian authority. The resurgence of provincial autonomy did not, however, merely benefit emerging warlords like Wang. It also aided in the restoration of a provincialist regime in Hunan, with its promise to subordinate the military to a broader elite political consensus. Nonetheless, as long as the militarized condition of politics persisted, the survival of such islands of civilian authority would be threatened. Indeed, Hunan's autonomy soon became the focus of renewed military conflict that facilitated the spread of warlordism into Hunan itself.