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.