Warlord Rule and the Failure of Civil Provincialism
The growing political autonomy of military commanders that marked the emergence of warlordism led as a natural consequence to the establishment of military rule. The militarization of politics had made military force the most potent source of political power. A commander seeking to make use of the military forces under his command for political ends, though, not only had to consolidate his personal control over them but to obtain the financial resources to maintain them. Thus military men increasingly sought to extend their control over the extractive apparatus of the state. The effects were seen on many different levels. Major military factions fought to establish their dominance over central governments. Military governors increased their claims on provincial resources. Individual commanders seized local tax revenues. National, provincial, and local administrations were thus increasingly subordinated to the political and financial interests of military commanders.
The structure of military rule under warlordism was complicated by the political fragmentation of the military itself. The cases of Hubei and Hunan provide excellent examples of this political fragmentation. The North-South War left both provinces under the official rule of northern military governors, Wang Zhanyuan in Hubei and Zhang Jingyao in Hunan. The dominant positions of these two men at the top of their respective provincial administrations did not, however, mean that they were in complete control of these provinces, let alone the numerous military forces in them. Besides their own relatively loyal military commands, both Wang and Zhang had to contend with a variety of national and provincial armies in their territories whose subordination to their authority was often more nominal than real.
Furthermore, large sections of both provinces were under the control of provincial armies that rejected the validity of their rule altogether.
The complex relationship between military commanders in Hubei and Hunan shows that their political autonomy was generally more relative than absolute. Contrary to some overly facile descriptions, the military rule of the warlords did not exactly result in the division of the country into independent satrapies. Military commanders sought out, and were often in turn constrained by, what they perceived as beneficial allegiances and alliances. For example, while guarding and expanding their own interests, the northern military governors of Hubei and Hunan looked to the Beijing government to legitimate their positions, and it was not in their interests to see its authority totally denied. The provincial forces opposing the rule of these northern governors likewise looked to the southern Canton government to provide them with a degree of legitimacy. Individual military commanders could be enticed into obedience by promises of financial support by central or provincial authorities or constrained from opposition by the threat of military retaliation by other military forces. At the same time, military governors and commanders also operated within the context of factional alliances, which by uniting certain military groups within northern and southern forces often divided putative allies in the broader division between the north and the south. Thus, although continuing political conflict and civil war provided military commanders with opportunities to increase their political autonomy, they were also engaged in complicated relationships that defined their actual autonomy along a continuum from subordination to total independence.
The relative autonomy of most warlords may partially explain the particular form of military rule that appeared under warlordism. For the most part, military control was superimposed on existing Republican administrative and political structures, not achieved by direct military administration. Thus, leading warlords simply assumed top executive positions in national and provincial governments and worked through the civil administrations they inherited. Claiming to derive their authority from the Republic, such men may have been constrained from any direct denial of its established institutions. Likewise, although many local commanders intervened in local government, especially to obtain financial resources, most worked through (or rather coerced) local magistrates. Few would risk the break with their supposed superiors, and possible military retaliation, that might ensue from a more direct takeover of local administration. At the same time, most warlords probably also found it more efficient to work through
existing civil administrative structures than to create their own. In any case, the actuality of military rule was no less because of the formal survival of civil administration.
The establishment of warlord rule did not go unchallenged and the story of the emergence of warlordism in Hunan and Hubei would not be complete without some mention of the anti-warlord movements that rose up against it. One such movement contributed to the overthrow of Zhang Jingyao in Hunan in the summer of 1920. A year later, Wang Zhanyuan was also ousted from power in Hubei in the midst of a similar anti-warlord movement. The anti-warlord movements in Hunan and Hubei, as well as in many other provinces in this period, for the most part shared a strong provincialist orientation. The underlying goals of this provincialism were the same that had originally inspired demands for provincial self-government in the late Qing era and supported the early Republican provincial regimes in Hunan and Hubei. The only difference was that the obstacle to the realization of these goals had changed. In the earlier period, the idea of provincial self-government sought to harness political participation at the provincial level to advance reforms that the central state seemed unable or unwilling to pursue. Now it was the subordination of provincial and local government to military interests that threatened civilian programs most still saw as essential for building national strength.
The idea of provincial autonomy or self-government was a particularly useful weapon against the provincial regimes of non-native warlords and a defense against non-native military intrusions. Hence the anti-Zhang movement revived the perennial Hunan slogan demanding that "Hunanese rule Hunan" (Xiangren zhi Xiang ). The anti-warlord goals of provincial self-government movements were not, however, limited to the elimination of non-native warlords. They also called for the establishment of new provincial governments based on the "will of the people" and headed by elected officials, to be guaranteed by provincial constitutions. Civilian supporters of provincial self-government clearly hoped that provincial armies, composed of provincial natives, would subordinate themselves to these popularly elected, constitutional governments. A specific "civilian provincialism" thus provided a link between provincial self-government and anti-warlord movements.
As in its past formulations, this particular form of provincialism did not lose sight of the nation in its demand for provincial autonomy. Indeed, federalist principles, which had always existed implicitly in provincialism, were more explicitly enunciated as a remedy for the disunity of the incessant civil war. The inability of either the Beijing or
the Canton government to exert real authority over the provinces provided an argument for the reconstruction of the nation as a federation of self-governing provinces (liansheng zizhi ). Such federalist ideas were widely discussed in the context of provincial self-government movements in this period and no doubt helped to legitimate them in nationalist terms. Nonetheless, the tendency of some Western studies to subsume all these movements under the label federalist is somewhat misleading. In a case study of Zheijiang province, R. Keith Schoppa has shown that provincial autonomy, not federalist reconstruction, provided the most dynamic impetus for these movements. Even so, federalism in practice was essential for the success of civilian provincialism. The downfall of the early Republican provincialist regimes in the face of centralizing efforts showed that provincial autonomy could not be sustained in the absence of a supporting national consensus. Theoretically, a national federation based on respect for provincial autonomy would eliminate military conflict between provinces and between the center and the provinces. Ending civil war would in turn bring about the eradication of warlordism by removing the justification for the military's continued political domination. For a time in the 1920s, then, the principles of provincial self-government and federalism inspired a number of provincial anti-warlord movements and seemed to offer at least some hope for an end to warlordism.
The actual circumstances of the anti-warlord movements in Hunan and Hubei showed that civilian provincialism failed as a remedy for warlordism, not because of its theory, but in its implementation. Ultimately, the application of military force was the only way to remove warlords whose power was derived from their control of military force. Schoppa suggests that the aversion of Zheijiang's civilian elite to using military means doomed the movement for autonomy in that province. In Hunan and Hubei, the proponents of civilian provincialism were less reticent about seeking military support for their cause. They were misguided, though, in their belief that their military allies would necessarily submit themselves to civilian authority. Military commanders seeking to establish or maintain their own political power in their native provinces found provincial autonomy slogans equally useful. Civilian provincialism and provincial warlordism were two alternate outcomes of the demand for provincial autonomy. In Hunan and Hubei, civilian provincialism lost out to provincial warlordism in the military struggles to oust Zhang Jingyao and Wang Zhanyuan. Instead of eradicating warlordism, the military victors in these conflicts simply installed their own warlord regimes. The ideals of civilian pro-
vincialism ultimately proved no match for the practical political considerations that had come to govern the actions of China's military men.
The Northern Warlord Regimes of Hunan and Hubei
Wu Peifu's reaction to being passed over for Hunan's military governorship reflects the importance this post had begun to assume in the structure of Chinese political power. In theory, military governors still held their positions by central appointment. Whether such appointments came from Beijing or Canton, they gave the governors a degree of legitimacy and justified their jurisdictional authority over provincial administrations. As such, the power of appointment still gave these rival governments some political leverage. Nonetheless, a military governor's power in fact rested on the forces actually under his control. Fearing to alienate men who held such power, central governments conceded a considerable degree of administrative autonomy to the military governors. By this means, military governors gained control over financial resources and political patronage that they could use to solidify their provincial political and military bases further. Thus, after an appointment was made, the central government's leverage as the dispenser of legitimacy decreased, while the military governor's autonomy increased. The account of Wang Zhanyuan's Hubei military governorship in Chapter 6 shows how such autonomy had already manifested itself during the Anti-Monarchical War. The outbreak of the North-South War strengthened the positions of military governors even further. Indeed, an irony of the 1917–18 north-south conflict was that while northern forces were supposedly fighting to extend central control over the south, northern military governors claiming allegiance to the Beijing government were nearly as autonomous as their southern counterparts. The effects were apparent, not only in the continued consolidation of Wang Zhanyuan's military governorship, but in the provincial regime constructed under Hunan's new military governor, Zhang Jingyao.
One obvious reflection of the increasing administrative power of the military governors was the continuing decline of civil governorships. As previously noted, Wang Zhanyuan had assumed Hubei's civil governorship in mid 1916 and resisted efforts, both by the central government and by Hubei political interests, to dislodge him from this post. Similarly, Zhang Jingyao received a concurrent appointment as Hunan's acting civil governor. Both men therefore claimed complete authority over both military and civil provincial administrations.
Wang eventually yielded up the civil governorship in late 1919, but he made sure that the post went to his own candidate, his former chief-of-staff He Peirong. All important provincial business meanwhile continued to be conducted at the military governor's office. Indeed, the staff of the civil governor's office was said to "only know there was a military governor, and not that there was a civil governor." Thus, civil governors, where they existed, were not the military governors' equals but served as their civil administrators. The centralizing stratagem that used civil governors to counterbalance the power of military governors had become a lost cause.
The loss of central power in Hubei and Hunan was evident in Beijing's weakening influence over local and provincial government appointments. In most cases, the central government was reduced to confirming candidates selected by the military governors. At the local level, Beijing effectively conceded total authority to select county magistrates and other local officials to the military governors. Thus, after his arrival in Hunan, Zhang Jingyao carried out a wholesale replacement of county magistrates with his own appointees. As a result of Wang Zhanyuan's preferential treatment of relatives and friends from his native province, over two-thirds of Hubei's county magistrates were Shandong natives. Beijing still made periodic, albeit increasingly ineffectual, attempts to place its own appointees in provincial-level offices. To maintain appearances, Wang continued to allow Beijing to fill some provincial posts. Nonetheless, he made sure that posts with real power, particularly financial positions, went to men he trusted. To this end, Wang usually drew these men from his own military staff. Thus, Wang's chief-of-staff, He Peirong, headed Hubei's Department of Government Affairs and Department of Finance before becoming civil governor. In September 1917, Wang asserted his control over the lucrative Wine and Tobacco Bureau by removing its centrally appointed head on charges of corruption. Wang then appointed his own chief secretary to the post and refused a Beijing-appointed replacement. Beijing was forced to yield to Wang's will. Zhang Jingyao was also known for placing Hunan's most important financial posts in the hands of his cronies. This not only ensured Zhang's control but resulted in a considerable amount of corruption. While the structure of civil administration remained intact, and continued to be staffed primarily by civil bureaucrats, it was effectively subordinated to the military governors.
The most important loss of central power to the military governors was in finances. In theory, most major taxes, including the land tax,
were classified national revenues. Except in specially authorized circumstances, these taxes were supposed to be forwarded directly to the central government. Since the 1911 Revolution, though, many provincial governments had retained the national revenues collected in their provinces for their own expenses. Yuan Shikai had some success in reviving provincial remittances, but they dropped off drastically again with his death. Although Beijing maintained its claim on these revenues, most military governors, including Wang and Zhang, retained increasing amounts of these funds in their provincial treasuries. One contemporary account noted that Wang's unauthorized appropriation of land, stamp, and commercial taxes, as well as wine, tobacco, and salt monopoly revenues, would have been a capital offense under the Qing dynasty. By this time, though, Beijing had no alternative but to accept Wang's actions as faits accomplis.
Most military governors justified their seizures of national revenues by claiming to use them for "national" expenses incurred at the provincial level. The most important of these expenses was the upkeep of armies carrying national designations, which the central government was theoretically supposed to support. The provincial expropriation of national revenues was, of course, one reason why Beijing had trouble meeting these obligations. By retaining national revenues, military governors created the conditions that justified their actions. Zhang Jingyao finally abandoned the fiction of maintaining separate "national" and "local" budgets altogether. In his eyes, the need "in this military era" to apply tax revenues directly to immediate military expenses made this distinction meaningless. Indeed, he claimed that Hunan's military expenses alone far exceeded the province's total income, in both national and local categories. Thus Zhang not only justified his retention of national taxes but demanded additional central funds to complete military payrolls. Hoping to create some degree of financial dependence, Beijing made efforts to provide such payrolls whenever funds were available. While such funding helped maintain formal ties of allegiance, it was never enough to ensure total control.
Other financial resources were also available to military governors aside from the retention of national taxes. The governors had jurisdictional authority over existing provincial or local taxes, and they asserted the right to institute new ones. Military governors also used their offices to raise funds in a variety of other ways. For example, both Wang and Zhang bolstered their treasuries by issuing bonds, printing paper currency, manipulating official exchange rates, and obtaining domestic and even foreign loans. Needless to say, their con-
trol over such resources also gave them considerable opportunities to line their own pockets. A number of excellent studies have outlined the details of warlord financing, and there is no need to duplicate this work. Nonetheless it is important to emphasize that the control of considerable financial resources by military governors was one basis for their particular political strength. At the same time, their mastery of these resources reveals not only the degree of their independence from central control but also their relative autonomy from social and political forces within their own provinces.
Given the political importance of military force, the fundamental concern of every military commander was the maintenance and expansion of his army. As military commanders like Wang and Zhang gained control over provincial administrations, they reordered governmental priorities to meet this basic need. Even if exaggerated, Zhang's claim that Hunan's military expenses exceeded the province's total income reflects the scope of the military claim on the provincial budget. This situation had two obvious effects. First, there was a constant demand not just to collect old taxes but to create new sources of revenue. Second, funds normally budgeted for civilian programs were increasingly shifted to pay military expenses. Both of these outcomes created conflicts with civilian interests.
Among the main casualties of growing military financial demands were the reform programs dearest to the civilian elite. Education was particularly hard hit. In both Hunan and Hubei, substantial portions of the funds budgeted for the operating expenses of schools or teachers' salaries were simply not paid or were expropriated to meet military expenses. A Hankou newspaper bemoaned that in contrast to Zhang Zhidong's late Qing governorship, when Hubei's educational system had outshone those of most provinces, "since the rise of the military, educational funds have been shifted to military expenses, and Hubei education has suffered a drastic decline." In Hunan the principals of Changsha's leading schools resigned in protest against Zhang Jingyao's failure to meet teachers' salaries for months on end. Even this failed to force Zhang to provide the funds owed. Other civilian programs also suffered from the priority given military needs. When one of Wang Zhanyuan's advisers sought his support to develop new factories and schools, Wang responded:
Look at the presidents and premiers of the central government and at the heads of each province. Which has given any thought to national construction? These past years I have had to work without rest, day and
night, attending to the large armies pressing Hubei's borders. When do I have time to pay attention to things like industry or education?
The contrast with earlier provincialist regimes, with their commitment to (if not always the ability to carry out) civilian reform programs, is nowhere clearer than in this statement.
Provincial assemblies in Hunan and Hubei remained one potential voice of opposition to the financial policies of the military governors. In the wake of Yuan Shikai's attempt to make himself emperor and Zhang Xun's failed Manchu restoration, the maintenance of assemblies allowed military governors to show their commitment to republican values. Like central-government appointments, the existence of assemblies gave provincial regimes a symbolic legitimacy, and both Wang and Zhang therefore allowed their provincial assemblies to continue to function. By the same token, the actual authority wielded by the provincial assemblies depended on what the military governors would allow them. In theory, the assemblies still claimed the right to pass provincial budgets. On this basis, they would at times speak out against financial irregularities, particularly the use of budgeted civilian funds for military expenses. The assemblies could do little, though, if the governors decided to ignore these protests. By creating negative publicity, opposition in the assemblies could be a nuisance. Wang dealt with this problem by putting forward his own approved, and well-funded, slate of candidates for provincial assembly elections. Nonetheless, the longer Wang remained in office the less he worried about the assembly's opposition. When he reached an impasse with the assembly over some issue, he generally ignored its protests and acted as he saw fit.
Chambers of commerce were another civilian organization that had some input into provincial government. Both Wang and Zhang regularly involved provincial chambers of commerce in the planning and implementation of financial measures. However, this was usually because the chambers themselves were the object of some new exaction. The chambers were, for example, asked to collect new taxes, organize merchant subscriptions for bond issues, or negotiate loans for the provincial government. Because their assistance was useful, or even needed, the chambers had some leeway to negotiate reductions in the amounts demanded or to propose less burdensome methods of collection. Ultimately, though, the threat of coercion was always present to ensure cooperation. For example, when the Hunan Chamber of
Commerce balked at loaning Zhang 400,000 yuan for troop pay, he warned that an "accident" might occur if his soldiers remained unpaid. In 1920, Wang used similar threats to extort several million yuan for troop pay from Hubei's Chamber of Commerce. He warned that if the full amount he sought was not forthcoming, "he could no longer take responsibility for local order." The threat here was not that his unpaid soldiers would stop keeping order, but that the soldiers themselves would riot.
Other civilian organizations, such as provincial education associations, had similar records of protests and negotiations with Zhang and Wang over a variety of political issues. Seeking to avoid adverse publicity, the military governors did not alienate such civilian groups unnecessarily. Nonetheless, military power, not the acquiescence of these groups, was the ultimate basis of the military governors' authority. When military needs conflicted with civilian interests, the military governors did not hesitate to ignore civilian opposition or force civilian compliance.
Under these circumstances, Jerome Ch'en's characterization of warlord regimes as "military-gentry coalitions" does not seem appropriate. During the Republic's first years, provincial regimes were certainly dominated by coalitions of civilian and military elites. The militarization of politics ended this partnership, however, by separating the interests of military commanders from those of their previous civilian allies. In provincial warlord governments, the maintenance of the warlord's military power became the primary goal of the regime. Thus, rather than representing civilian interests, civilian bureaucrats serving in warlord administrations were subordinated to fulfilling this military goal. There was still some convergence of warlord and elite interests in the preservation of order. Indeed, as in the case of Wang Zhanyuan, elite concern for order provided initial social support for military rule. The ability, or willingness, of warlord regimes to deliver on this promise, however, lessened as a result of the conflicts that warlordism itself generated. For example, civil wars exacerbated banditry by contributing to the general diffusion of weapons and the dispersal of defeated or disbanded soldiers. Meanwhile warlords concerned with preserving their own troops for political battles were reluctant to expend them to suppress banditry or local disorder. "The authorities are busy waging war and never consider this problem," one 1918 account of the spread of banditry lamented. The crowning irony was when warlords' troops themselves became one of the
greatest sources of disorder. Nothing reveals the divergence between the interests of the warlords and those of the civilian elite more than Wang and Zhang's use of threats of troop disorder to extract funds to support their military power.
Military Organization and Autonomy in the Northern Warlord Regimes
Although the broad political autonomy of military governors was reflected in their control over administrative structures and financial resources, its cornerstone remained the personal command of military power. Indeed, gaining personal control of military force was the means whereby military commanders in general freed themselves from outside restraints on their authority. In theory, northern and southern central governments still claimed ultimate power over the organization and deployment of military forces. In practice, they conceded most of this authority to commanders, hoping at least to maintain their nominal allegiance. While central governments continued to play some legitimating role by assigning military designations and formalizing military appointments, actual organizational and personnel decisions were generally made by the commanders themselves. Because of their access to financial resources, military governors had greater opportunities to increase their military power by the expansion of their armies. The central government was reduced to providing formal legitimation of faits accomplis. The only real limit on the military bases of the military governors was the size of their provincial treasuries.
The autonomy of the military governors from central control did not, however, mean that they had complete authority over all the military forces in their provinces. Attempts to map out the factional divisions within the Chinese military of this period have frequently assigned whole provinces to one faction or another based on the affiliations of their military governors. In Hunan and Hubei, such treatment obscures the diversity of military forces that continued to exist within each province. Temporarily leaving aside the independent armies on the provinces' peripheries, the territories under the control of Wang's and Zhang's provincial governments still contained a wide variety of "central" and "provincial" military organizations. Furthermore, both major Beiyang military factions were well represented by significant forces in each province. Not unexpectedly, the degree of control Wang and Zhang exerted over these forces differed considerably from one unit to the next. Although lacking the jurisdictional
authority and resources that contributed to the particular political strength of the military governors, many commanders of these units exhibited considerable political autonomy in their relations with both central and provincial authorities. The militarization of politics empowered military commanders in general, not just commanders who had achieved administrative office. The outline of the military forces in Hunan and Hubei in 1918 in Tables 14 and 15 shows the complexity of the resulting structure of military power under Wang's and Zhang's warlord regimes.
The core of Wang Zhanyuan's military power in Hubei remained the National 2d Division. After assuming the Hubei military governorship in 1916, Wang yielded nominal command of the division to his trusted subordinate and friend Wang Jinjing, but in early 1918 he reassumed direct command. Wang Zhanyuan expanded his core military base by recruiting new units, which he placed under loyal officers from the 2d Division. Thus in 1914 he had, as previously noted, created the 6th Mixed Brigade out of a supplemental brigade organized within the 2d Division, and placed it first under Wang Jinjing and then under another loyal subordinate, Wang Maoshang. The outbreak of the North-South War in September 1917 gave Wang Zhanyuan an excuse to engage in further military expansion. As in the past, Wang enhanced the autonomy of his forces from local Hubei interests by recruiting new soldiers from outside Hubei, particularly from his home province of Shandong. Soon after the war began, Wang expanded the 6th Mixed Brigade into a division, redesignated the National 18th Division, still under Wang Maoshang's command. Around the same time, Wang combined Shandong recruits with Provincial Defense Corps regiments he had formed in 1916 to create a new unit, the National 21st Mixed Brigade. This brigade was placed under the command of Sun Chuanfang, a Shandong graduate of Japan's Army Officers' Academy who had served under Wang in the 2d Division since before the 1911 Revolution.
Wang's efforts at military expansion were also evident in his treatment of "provincial" forces that came under his control as Hubei's military governor. When Wang became military governor, the "Hubei army" consisted of Shi Xingchuan's 1st Division and the Hubei 3d Brigade created by Duan Zhigui in 1915. During the Anti-Monarchical War, Wang expanded the 3d Brigade into a mixed brigade with the addition of artillery, cavalry, and engineering components. After Shi Xingchuan's December 1917 declaration of independence, only half of the 1st Division, Liu Zuolong's Hubei 2d Brigade, remained loyal to
Wang. Wang rewarded Liu's loyalty by upgrading his command to a mixed brigade. The redesignation of Liu's unit as the Hubei 4th Mixed Brigade revealed Wang's intention to expand the "Hubei" army into four mixed brigades. This plan was completed in late 1918 with the creation of two new units. First, new Provincial Defense Corps troops Wang had recruited to replace those used in the formation of the 21st Mixed Brigade were reorganized into the Hubei 1st Mixed Brigade. Second, one of the 18th Division's brigades was split off to form the Hubei 2d Mixed Brigade and placed under a 2d Division cavalry officer. Because of their connections to Wang's core forces, these two Hubei brigades were more closely tied to Wang than pre-
vious Hubei units. Finally, Du Xijun's Hankou garrison command remained largely undisturbed by these changes, retaining three battalions used for police duties.
There were also a number of miscellaneous non-Hubei forces stationed inside Hubei over which Wang had varying degrees of control. First, there was the 9th Division brigade under Zhang Liansheng that had refused to support Li Tiancai's declaration of independence. Since the loyalty of this brigade had been proven, Wang expanded its two regiments into two separate mixed brigades, the National 17th and 18th Mixed Brigades. A more important national force stationed in Hubei was the 8th Division under Wang Ruxian. (Wang Ruxian's own political influence had fallen drastically after his withdrawal from Hunan in 1917, and he had placed himself more or less under the protection of Wang Zhanyuan, on whose recommendation he received the post of Jingzhou garrison commander.) In addition, there was one smaller "orphan" unit that cooperated closely with Wang Zhanyuan. This was the Henan 2d Mixed Regiment, led by Kou Yingjie, which had been reassigned to Hubei after retreating from Hunan after the Anti-Monarchical War.
Finally, there was another whole cluster of units in Hubei over which Wang Zhanyuan had almost no control. These were the forces under Duan Qirui's brother-in-law, Wu Guangxin. After Wu's retreat from Sichuan in 1917, Duan ordered him to remain in western Hubei as Upper Yangzi commander-in-chief, headquartered at Yichang. During his Sichuan campaign, Wu suffered from his dependence on the cooperation of various commanders whose units were assigned to aid him. After returning to Hubei, only two of these units, the 13th Brigade and the 2d Mixed Brigade, remained under Wu's authority. In 1918, seeking to expand his own personal military base, Wu recruited some ten thousand soldiers from his home province of Anhui to form four new infantry brigades. Duan encouraged this expansion as a means of preserving the military presence of the Anhui faction in Hubei to counterbalance Wang Zhanyuan. Wang responded by assigning different forces under his control to "aid" Wu in the defense of western Hubei. This created a stalemate that thwarted Wu's ambitions, but still left his forces largely independent of Wang Zhanyuan's control.
In Hunan, Zhang Jingyao had to contend with an even more complex alignment of military forces. Zhang's own core army was the National 7th Division. Given the sheer number of forces that participated in the northern conquest of Hunan, though, Zhang's military
position at the beginning of his tenure as military governor was not particularly strong. Thus, Zhang also sought to expand his military base by creating new units. Zhang placed some of these forces under loyal followers who had accompanied him from Shandong, including several pacified bandit leaders. He also gave important commands to several of his brothers, as well as other relatives. The most notorious case was an ill-disciplined brigade, later upgraded to a division, assigned to Zhang's younger brother, the profligate playboy Zhang Jingtang. Because all these forces underwent frequent changes in their designations, and these designations had little bearing on their actual troop strength, it is nearly impossible to provide an exact accounting of Zhang's troops. This multiplication of military units, however, only superficially increased Zhang's military power. Most of these new units were rather indiscriminately recruited, often by the absorption of pacified bandits, and turned out to be of very low quality. As a result Zhang had great difficulty enforcing his orders beyond the immediate stretch of territory from Changsha to Baoqing in central Hunan where his troops were concentrated.
As military governor, Zhang Jingyao did have jurisdiction over a number of Hunan provincial forces that remained loyal to Beijing. For example, the defeated Hunan commanders Chen Fuchu and Zhu Zehuang returned to Hunan with the northern counterattack and tried to regather some of their former troops into a new division. In the end, only a brigade could be raised, and it was placed under Zhu's control. In compensation for his lost command, Chen was allowed to recruit a small local defense corps as "East Hunan pacification commander." Both Wang Zhengya, Chang-Li garrison commander, and Qing Heng, Chang-Li vice commander, reconfirmed their loyalty to Beijing after their garrison areas were overrun by advancing northern troops. Finally, the former South Hunan garrison commander, Zhao Chunting, was allowed to reestablish his old command, recruiting former subordinates and pacified bandits as his troops. While these forces contributed to the complexity of Hunan's military forces, they were too weak to have an impact on the provincial military structure of power.
Zhang Jingyao's authority was weakest over the other northern military units that had accompanied him into Hunan. A list of the commanders of these units reads like a warlord's Who's Who. Zhang's closest allies were a medley of units that had entered Hunan as part of the expeditionary force led by Shandong's military governor, Zhang Huaizhi. These forces suffered rather extensive losses from southern
attacks during the war and remained garrisoned in eastern Hunan, where their advance had halted. Most of the commanders of these forces were associated with Duan Qirui's Anhui faction, and they therefore generally allied themselves with Zhang Jingyao on broad political questions. At the same time, they did not necessarily see themselves as inferior to Zhang and were seldom willing to subordinate themselves entirely to his will.
The strongest northern military forces in Hunan, and the ones that gave Zhang Jingyao the most trouble, were those that allied themselves with the Zhili faction. By far the largest (with approximately 35,000 troops) and most important of these forces was the army led by Wu Peifu. Wu's core military base was the Beiyang 3d Division, formerly commanded by Cao Kun. Cao had given Wu command of the 3d Division to lead the assault first on Hubei's independent forces, then on Hunan. For the Hunan campaign, though, Cao also gave Wu control over four mixed brigades that had been formed from Huai Army remnants in Zhili in 1916. Wu's forces were mainly garrisoned in southern Hunan, his headquarters being at Hengyang. Besides Wu's army there were three other major Zhili-allied northern units in Hunan. First, Fan Guozhang's 20th Division remained garrisoned around Yuezhou in northern Hunan. Second, the 11th Division under Li Kuiyuan was stationed at Pingjiang, Liuyang, and Changsha—overlapping some territory garrisoned by Zhang Jingyao's forces. Finally, Feng Yuxiang, the "Christian general" who later became one of China's leading military figures, held Changde with his 16th Mixed Brigade.
The political autonomy of military commanders in this period is most visible in the actions of these "Zhili" commanders. Their factional association was mainly based on their dissension from Duan's war policy in Hunan. While Zhang Jingyao and his "Anhui" allies favored renewing the war, the "Zhili" commanders supported the cease-fire. The refusal of these commanders, led by Wu Peifu, to obey orders to continue their advance, as well as their unauthorized opening of cease-fire negotiations, revealed the weakness of Beijing's control over their armies. They were no more willing to subordinate themselves to Zhang Jingyao. Indeed, the strategic spread of Zhili faction forces throughout Hunan acted as a severe restraint on Zhang's powers as military governor.
There were many ways in which, irrespective of their factional alignments, various military commanders in both Hunan and Hubei
manifested their independence from both central and provincial control. Most obvious were the unauthorized actions taken to secure funds for military expenses. All military commanders in this period faced the problem of meeting troop payrolls. Because of Beijing's recurring financial difficulties, troop pay for "national" northern units in Hunan and Hubei was almost always in arrears. Theoretically, these units could have laid claim to the national revenues withheld by the military governors at the provincial level. In practice, Wang and Zhang paid their own forces first and left other units, particularly those of their factional enemies, to wait for direct central reimbursement. Not surprisingly, many commanders felt justified in seeking their own financial solutions.
The most common means used by military commanders to secure funds for their troops was simply to seize local tax revenues. In 1918 Zhang Jingyao complained that because of unauthorized seizures of their funds by various military commanders, local lijin bureaus had forwarded none of their revenues to the provincial treasury. When commanders lacked ready access to local tax revenues, they might also seek loans or contributions from local gentry or merchant organizations. For example, in August 1919, the 11th Division commander, Li Kuiyuan, sought a substantial loan from the Hunan Chamber of Commerce. Mirroring the coercive threats Zhang Jingyao used against the same body, Li warned that an "accident" might occur if his disgruntled troops remained unpaid. Various commanders stationed in southern Hunan, from Wu Peifu to Zhao Chunting, similarly called upon the local Hengyang Chamber of Commerce to provide them with loans. On one occasion, Wu offered local land taxes as collateral for a loan. This, and Wu's intervention to hasten the collection of these taxes, reveals that he had no qualms about waylaying these local revenues for his own purposes. Such cases seem to have been more common in Hunan, perhaps because of Zhang Jingyao's comparative weakness in dealing with the military commanders in his province. Nonetheless, there were also periodic reports in Hubei of local funds being retained by military commanders or advanced to meet local military expenses. Few military commanders had access to funds anywhere comparable to the sizable financial resources at the disposal of the military governors. However, to the extent that individual commanders could secure their own funds to meet their immediate expenses, they increased their freedom from both central and provincial control.
Besides the seizure of local tax revenues, some military commanders also interfered in local administration in ways not strictly in accord with their military duties. The most obvious example of this was the removal or replacement of county magistrates or other local officials. This often occurred when "enemy" officials were removed from newly conquered territories during military campaigns. Some commanders, however, also took it upon themselves to replace local officials accused of corruption. Military commanders might also "recommend" candidates for vacant posts in their garrison areas, mirroring the recommendations of military governors to the central government with respect to provincial posts. The prevalence of such interference in local appointments in Hunan can be seen in a special central order obtained by Zhang Jingyao confirming that he alone had the authority to appoint local officials. The specific mention of cases in the territory garrisoned by Wu Peifu's forces reveals where Zhang had the most difficulty exerting this authority. Nonetheless, perhaps unwilling to give Wu any offense, the order also acknowledged the division commander's prerogative of offering recommendations for Zhang's consideration. Some military commanders also intervened in specific areas of civil administration. For example, Feng Yuxiang involved himself in a wide variety of activities in Changde, from the restoration of public works to the regulation of public morals.
Despite such interventions, military commanders in the northerncontrolled areas of Hunan and Hubei normally did not take direct or complete control over the administration of the territories they garrisoned. Unlike the military governors, they had no general jurisdictional authority, short of declaring complete independence, that would support such action. Furthermore, several different units were often stationed in the same area, largely precluding attempts by commanders to divvy up administrative control among themselves on a territorial basis. Administrative interventions usually occurred on an ad hoc basis for some immediate need, such as payroll shortfalls. In most cases, commanders could obtain compliance from local governments and communities to meet these needs without taking direct charge of local administrations. Commanders could usually rely on county magistrates, for example, to advance troop pay from local funds, and to provide their armies with food, lodging, and equipment bearers. The evaluation of magistrates for promotions based on their performance of such services helped to ensure the subordination of local civil government to resident, or even passing, military forces. The threat
of force, or troop disorder, was enough to obtain whatever additional contributions might be needed from local communities. Instances where military commanders seized local tax revenues or replaced local officials are important in revealing the potential they possessed for political autonomy. The actual authority they chose to exercise, however, was more expediently determined and could vary considerably depending on specific conditions and the personal predilections of individual commanders.
The Independent Provincial Forces
The survival of "independent" provincial forces that rejected Beijing's authority complicated the structure of military and political power in Hunan and Hubei after the stalemate of the North-South War. Hubei's independent forces controlled the border region between Sichuan and Hubei west of the commercial port of Yichang and most of Shinan prefecture, a lobe of territory sandwiched between Sichuan and Hunan in Hubei's southwestern corner. In Hunan, independent forces controlled a large swath of counties, some twenty in all, west of Changde and Baoqing, as well as most of the counties south of Wu Peifu's base at Hengyang. Although they were united in the goal of driving out the northern armies occupying their provinces, the internal political fragmentation of the independent forces of Hubei and Hunan was again a reflection of warlordism at work.
One factor contributing to the political fragmentation of Hubei and Hunan's independent forces was their diverse origins. From the beginning, the Hubei independent army was divided between Shi Xing-chuan's Hubei troops and Li Tiancai's non-native "guest army." The independent Hunan army included not only the remnants of the regular army's 1st and 2d Divisions but also the garrison forces of western Hunan, still based primarily on surviving Green Standard troops, and the local Guard Corps of garrison commands from southern and southwestern Hunan. As a result of the rapid military expansion that took place during the North-South War, many components of these forces broke off to become independent units in their own right. Furthermore, many new forces were raised in both Hubei and Hunan over the course of the war. Although equally committed to the cause of independence from northern control, most had only weak connections to the original independent forces. The shattering defeats suffered by these forces during the northern counterattack that began the second stage of the war, and their disorderly retreats, further hampered efforts
to maintain a unified command structure. By the time the military situation stabilized, the independent "armies" of Hubei and Hunan were poorly articulated combinations of military forces.
Complicating the internal divisions in the Hubei and Hunan independent armies were their political relationships with their southern allies. All the independent forces swore nominal allegiance to the alternate "national" government established at Canton at the beginning of the North-South War. This helped legitimate their continued opposition to Beijing. Practically speaking, though, the Canton government was too hampered by its own internal political conflicts to effect any real influence, let alone control, over the independent armies in Hubei and Hunan. At the same time, these forces were never strong enough to stand alone against their northern opponents without some outside assistance. Thus Guangxi military aid was crucial to Hunan's success in the first stage of the war, while the defeat of Hubei's forces was largely because of their inability to obtain such support. After the independent armies were forced to retreat to the resource-poor periphery of their respective provinces, their need for military support, weapons, and financial assistance only increased. Seeking such aid, the independent armies were perforce drawn into the political conflicts that divided the southern military forces into three main factions. These factions were usually identified by the nomenclature they employed to label their armies. The faction centered on Lu Rongting and the Guangxi army retained the designation National Protection Army (huguojun ) from the Anti-Monarchical War period. The largely Guangdong-based local military commanders associated with Sun Yatsen adopted the title of Constitutional Protection Army (hufajun ). Finally, the Yunnan army led by Tang Jiyao, with its Sichuan and Guizhou allies, styled itself the National Pacification Army (jingguojun ). Hubei and Hunan independent forces adopted these same labels as they sought out the most beneficial factional alliance. At the same time, appeals to different factional authorities helped individual commanders justify autonomous stances in relation to other forces.
Of the two independent provincial armies, Hubei's was by far the most fragmented, largely owing to the proliferation of new forces initially raised in response to Shi Xingchuan's and Li Tiancai's declarations of independence. Among the organizers of these new forces were a significant number of prominent Hubei revolutionaries, including a Guomindang national assemblyman, Liu Ying, and the 1912 Hubei minister of military affairs, Cai Jimin, as well as past Hubei military commanders, including the former Hubei 1st Division commander
Tang Keming, the 3d Division commander Wang Anlan, the 7th Division commander Tang Xizhi, and the 8th Division commander Ji Yulin. The participation of these men revealed the hopes raised by the Hubei independence movement. First, Hubei revolutionaries optimistically saw a military base that might finally eliminate Beiyang power from their province and make a contribution to Sun Yat-sen's Constitutional Protection Movement. Second, Hubei officers who had had their hopes of military advancement shattered by Hubei army disbandments saw new career opportunities in the development of a new, independent, and expanding Hubei army. This second goal prompted large numbers of retired Hubei officers and recent military school graduates to offer their services to Shi, Li, or other commanders. While these two different motivations did not necessarily conflict, there was a potential for a division along revolutionary and nonrevolutionary lines. Cooperation was difficult, inasmuch as men like Ji Yulin, Liu Ying, and Cai Jimin had participated in post-1911 revolutionary activities in Hubei, while Shi Xingchuan, Li Tiancai, Tang Keming, and Wang Anlan had been active in their suppression.
The proliferation of forces in the Hubei independence movement created immediate conflicts over the location of ultimate authority within the movement. In early January 1918, Li Tiancai, with Shi Xingchuan's approval, ordered the arrest and execution of Ji Yulin and his close associate Que Long, the former Hubei 8th Division brigade commander, who had been regathering their old comrades into an independent force. Confident of their own revolutionary and military credentials, they refused to join forces with Li or Shi on any terms but their own. Although Li and Shi had not yet agreed which of them would take precedence, neither welcomed the formation of forces that questioned their leading role. The execution of Ji and Que was the first of many conflicts over authority yet to come.
After their retreat to western and southwestern Hubei, the various revolutionary and military leaders who joined the Hubei independence movement created a confusing array of military units. Since military force was the main determinant of power, military expansion became a primary concern of every commander. Isolated as these commanders were from ready sources of weapons, recruitment drives often brought in more new soldiers than could be effectively armed. Lacking adequate pay, many commanders rewarded their followers with superfluous titles. To enhance their own prestige, commanders also claimed inflated designations for their forces, and titles for themselves, not justified by actual troop strength. The result was reflected in a popular
description of the "three mores" said to characterize southwestern Hubei at this time: "more officers than soldiers, more soldiers than guns, and more bandits than people."
The main factor exacerbating the internal conflicts among various independent forces was fierce competition over the limited resources of the region where they settled. Li Tiancai's resources were the best because his troops held territory along the Yangzi River on the Hubei-Sichuan border where they could tax commercial traffic. This taxation benefited in particular from the lucrative trade in Sichuan salt. Most of the other Hubei forces, though, were restricted to the Shinan prefecture, one of Hubei's poorest regions. ("The sky is never clear for three days, the land is never level for three miles, and no one has as much as three cents," one stock description of it noted.) Out of necessity, the commanders who settled in this area quickly established control over local administrations, usually by ensuring the appointment of compliant magistrates, in order to tap into local tax revenues. The contest for these resources fostered a drive for military expansion, while this military expansion in turn increased demands on the region's already limited resources. The prevalence of banditry mentioned in the previous paragraph was partially owing to the increasing poverty and social tensions that grew out of this situation.
There were several attempts to establish a unified command over these competing forces. Initially, Shi's departure eased the selection of an overall commander. After long negotiations, Li Tiancai received recognition as commander-in-chief of the Hubei independent army in April 1918. He did not, however, get along well with many of his supposed subordinates, especially those with revolutionary backgrounds, so he was unable to establish any meaningful control over most of them. Later efforts were made to overcome the internal rivalries within the Hubei independent forces by bringing in prominent military figures from the outside to establish a neutral general command. This simply increased internal conflicts, inasmuch as individual commanders resisted the control of new commanders-in-chief and the various commanders-in-chief fought to assert authority over each other.
While individual commanders remained largely autonomous, jealously preserving their own territories and military forces, certain internal factional alliances did appear. First, there was a continuing division between Li Tiancai's non-Hubei army and the native Hubei independent forces. The native Hubei forces in turn generally divided along revolutionary and non-revolutionary lines. The first group cen-
tered on Cai Jimin; the second was led by Tang Keming. Each man claimed the title of commander-in-chief, and their composite "armies" consisted of many different units. These factional divisions not only influenced struggles over leadership and territory but were evident in the stances taken on broader political issues. For example, the more pragmatic military professionals around Tang Keming were more willing to accept compromises in peace negotiations with the north as long as they could guarantee the survival of their own commands. In contrast, the revolutionary faction was more likely to oppose such compromises as a betrayal of the goals of the independence movement.
Factional divisions within the independent forces also reflected differing alignments to the southern powers. Cai Jimin and his more revolutionary followers generally followed the principles of the Constitutional Protection Movement and looked to Sun Yat-sen for leadership. Nonetheless, since the Yunnan army controlled most of Sichuan and Guizhou, it was the most natural ally for the Hubei forces. As a Yunnan native, Li Tiancai cooperated easily with Tang Jiyao and assumed a National Pacification title. Tang Keming likewise argued that geographical circumstances demanded a Yunnan alliance. However, while Tang Jiyao was eager to have Yunnan's hegemony recognized, his actual assistance in financial or military terms was so niggardly as to limit severely his influence. Both Tang Jiyao and the Canton government participated in efforts to create a unified Hubei command, but neither had sufficient influence to ensure the subordination of all forces.
In the end, the politics of the Hubei independent army during its sojourn in southwestern Hubei continued to be defined, not by factional alignments, but by the struggle of individual commanders for the survival of their own forces. The competition for territory and resources resulted in persistent military conflicts, in which one day's ally became the next day's enemy. In 1919, Cai Jimin was killed in a fight between his troops and a Sichuan army unit. Although Cai's followers suspected Tang Keming's complicity, the evidence suggests that it was simply a local struggle over territory. When Tang Keming attempted to establish his authority over all Hubei forces after Cai's death, he was quickly driven from power. In this case, Tang found he had enemies not only among Cai's followers but among his own subordinates, who chafed under his heavy-handed command. By ousting Tang, his officers saw an opportunity to strengthen their own positions. With the disintegration of the Hubei independent army into
increasingly autonomous military units, the original hopes of the independence movement deteriorated into an extreme, fragmented form of petty warlordism.
The demise of the Hubei independent army finally came in late 1920 when Sichuan military commanders ended Yunnan's hegemony over their province and drove out its occupying forces. Fearing their Yunnan connections, Sichuan forces also pushed Li Tiancai's army and other independent Hubei forces out of eastern Sichuan. This crowded even more soldiers into the few counties of Shinan prefecture. Widespread popular uprisings occurred when these troops attempted to impose their own financial exactions on an already overburdened population. Militarily threatened on several fronts, and under attack from within, many forces simply disintegrated. Taking advantage of this situation, Hubei's northern armies finally advanced to reclaim control over the province's southwestern counties. Although remnant bands survived for several years, the Hubei independent army ceased to exist as a political force.
The situation of the Hunan independent army differed from that of its Hubei counterpart on a number of points. First, it began with a much larger military base, incorporating most of the regular Hunan army as well as most provincial garrison command forces. Second, its reputation and morale received a considerable boost from its victory in the first stage of the war. Third, even after its retreat, the Hunan independent army remained in control of a more substantial territorial, and thus resource, base. Nonetheless, the component forces in the Hunan independent army showed many of the same tendencies toward autonomous political behavior and political fragmentation that were characteristic of the Hubei independent army.
The stage was set for the political factionalization of the Hunan military when, very shortly after Liu Jianfan and Lin Xiumei's declarations of independence, Cheng Qian returned to Hunan on Sun Yatsen's orders to take charge as commander-in-chief of the Hunan "Constitutional Protection Army." Cheng's arrival resurrected the division between Hunan officers who had originally followed Cheng in the Anti-Monarchical War, including Lin Xiumei, and those who had gained their positions through Tan Yankai's influence, such as Zhao Hengti and Liu Jianfan. In Tan's absence, Zhao Hengti became the recognized leader of this later group of officers. For the first stage of the war, however, this internal factional division remained muted in the face of the greater political tension that developed between the Hunan army and its Guangxi allies.
The assistance of Guangxi troops under the command of Lu Rongting's subordinate, Tan Haoming, largely made Hunan's initial success in driving northern armies from the province possible. It soon became clear, though, that Guangxi's military aid was not without its price. After the capture of Changsha, Cheng Qian added the civil governorship to his title of commander-in-chief, thus laying claim to both Hunan's military and civil administrations. However, Lu Rongting hoped to expand his own political influence into Hunan and did not want one of Sun Yat-sen's allies assuming such power. Therefore, he forced Cheng to resign the governor's post and to yield control of provincial administration to Tan Haoming. Meanwhile, Lu and Tan alienated much of the Hunan military by their initial insistence on leaving Yuezhou in northern hands while they pursued peace negotiations. This made it appear that the Guangxi leaders were willing to trade away the security of Hunan's borders in order to achieve their own political goals. Finally, Hunan appreciation for Guangxi's military assistance was seriously weakened when Tan Haoming preserved his own military power by retreating southward ahead of the 1918 northern counterattack. This left Hunan forces to bear the brunt of the northern onslaught. The antagonisms created by these Guangxi actions generally increased the influence of pro-Sun Yat-sen and pro-Yunnan factions within the Hunan army.
One important effect of the northern counterattack in the second stage of the war was to divide Hunan's forces territorially into two different groups. Under the leadership of Cheng Qian and Zhao Hengti, most of the regular Hunan army and the original Guard Corps and garrison command forces from south and central Hunan withdrew to the province's southernmost counties. Meanwhile, the forces that originated in western Hunan retreated westward to their old bases. The two most important of these forces were led by the West Hunan garrison commander, Tian Yingzhao, and vice garrison commander, Zhou Zefan. However, there were also a number of new units recruited over the course of the war, the most important of which was led by the Chen-Yuan circuit intendant (daotai ), Zhang Xueji. Thus when hostilities ended in mid 1918, the Hunan independent army had split into separate southern and western groups.
The autonomous position of the West Hunan forces was manifested in a number of ways. Early in the war, individual West Hunan commanders had issued political statements and proposals separate from those of other leaders of independent forces. As the northern counter-attack ground to a halt, the West Hunan commanders jointly negotiated
their own cease-fire with northern commanders on the West Hunan front. Finally, in late 1918 the West Hunan commanders joined to establish their own government at Chenzhou, with Tian Yingzhao as the head of military administration and Zhang Xueji as head of civil administration. Under the authority of this government, these military commanders appointed local magistrates, collected local taxes, and even issued their own currency and "military" bonds. Thus they established their own separate warlord regime.
West Hunan's commanders also emphasized their autonomy through their alliances. As with much of the rest of the Hunan military, the West Hunan forces resented the Guangxi army's self-interested actions during the first stage of the war. After their retreat to western Hunan, it became possible for them to seek a new patron in Tang Jiyao whose assistance could reach them through Yunnan-dominated Guizhou. By mid 1918 most West Hunan commanders acknowledged Yunnan's hegemony and had accepted National Pacification Army designations. Besides the small amount of military and financial aid they received from this alliance, by nominally placing themselves and their armies under Yunnan's authority, the West Hunan commanders were better able to resist attempts by the leaders of the South Hunan independent army to claim authority over them. However, not all the West Hunan commanders chose to take this path. After returning to his base in southwestern Hunan, Zhou Zefan refused to accept a National Pacification designation for his army, instead using National Protection or Constitutional Protection titles, showing that he intended to maintain an independent balancing position between his supposed West Hunan allies and the South Hunan forces.
Despite the existence of the Chenzhou government, individual commanders in West Hunan remained largely autonomous in the control of their own garrison areas. For example, Zhou Wei, originally 2d District Guard Corps commander, took complete control of the administration of Wugang County, appointing a member of his own staff as county magistrate and establishing his own financial bureaus to raise funds for his military expenses. As in western Hubei, various commanders frequently fought over territorial bases and financial resources. There were likewise instances where subordinate officers rose to challenge their superiors. In the most notorious case, Zhou Zefan was assassinated by one of his regiment commanders, Liao Xiangyun. Liao had originally organized an independent Constitutional Protection force in Hunan in late 1917, with a commission from Sun Yat-
sen, but then accepted incorporation into Zhou's military organization. In late 1919 Zhou was drawing closer to Guangxi-allied forces in southern Hunan, antagonizing both his Yunnan-allied West Hunan associates and South Hunan forces allied with Sun Yat-sen. Liao therefore obtained the approval of both groups to initiate a coup against Zhou, killing him in the process. While this incident can be explained in terms of broader factional conflicts, it also exemplifies the manner in which the fragmentation of political authority represented in factional divisions fostered the process of warlordism. Liao had no trouble finding authorities willing to legitimate his coup against Zhou and thus establish his own independent position. Unfortunately for Liao, he was quickly overthrown in turn by Zhou's other officers, who refused to accept his claim to Zhou's mantle.
The independent army in southern Hunan was no less free of internal factional conflicts, with the major division occurring along pro-and anti-Cheng Qian lines. From the moment of Cheng's return, many Hunan officers resented his rather presumptuous claim to the title of commander-in-chief of the Hunan army. Even before the retreat to the south, some officers openly defied Cheng's authority. For example, in January 1918, Chen Jiayou (who owed his brigade command to Tan Yankai) refused to acknowledge Cheng's right to replace one of his subordinate officers. As a result of this conflict, forces loyal to Cheng ousted Chen from his post. After the retreat to southern Hunan, increased competition among military commanders for reduced resources intensified internal conflicts in the southern independent army.
The anti-Cheng Qian forces received a boost when Lu Rongting reached an agreement with Tan Yankai supporting Tan's return to Hunan as military governor. At this time, Lu was struggling with Sun Yat-sen for the control of the Canton government. By allying himself with Tan, Lu sought to regain his influence over the Hunan military and at the same time undercut Cheng Qian's ability to support Sun. Cheng meanwhile realized that Tan's return as military governor would undermine his authority as commander-in-chief and opposed it on the grounds that no purpose was served by the establishment of a military governorship in southern Hunan. With Guangxi support Tan overrode Cheng's objections, however, and returned to Hunan to reclaim the office he had lost to Fu Liangzuo at the beginning of the war.
For a time, southern Hunan supported two competing military governments, with Cheng Qian as Hunan commander-in-chief at Chen-
xian and Tan Yankai as military governor at Lingling. With no personal military power of his own and very small funds, Tan began from a very weak position, but he slowly gained support by assiduously courting Zhao Hengti and other Hunan officers who had benefited from his patronage in the past. Neither Tan nor Cheng was willing to acknowledge the authority of the other, and both men eventually told mediators that there was no solution but for one or the other of them to go. Finally, in the summer of 1919 an incident occurred that forced Cheng's departure: a Guangxi army commander arrested an alleged agent of Duan Qirui's on his way to meet Cheng, and although Cheng claimed no knowledge of the agent's connection to Duan, his opponents in the Hunan military denounced him for dealing with the enemy. Unable to halt these attacks, Cheng resigned his post.
The return of Hunan's most eminent civilian politician to the military governorship did not reestablish civilian authority over military power. Because of the legitimacy Tan's name could add to their efforts, many Hunan commanders nominally recognized his position. Tan also proved his usefulness to the anti-Cheng Qian military faction. Nonetheless, he wielded very little actual power over the disparate forces of Hunan's independent army. Indeed, Tan reportedly spent most of his days as military governor at Lingling writing poetry, practicing calligraphy, and sight-seeing. Tan now held his position at the sufferance of military men and would only keep it as long as he did not threaten their interests.
The most important difference between the independent armies of Hubei and Hunan was the Hunan army's survival. Beyond this, though, the independent forces of both provinces shared many characteristics. Conventional Chinese histories tend to treat these forces favorably as opponents of Beiyang warlordism. Judgment of these forces based on their adherence to the "correct" southern cause allows them to evade much of the opprobrium of warlordism. Simply in terms of political behavior, though, most independent force commanders in Hubei and Hunan exhibited the same characteristics of warlordism as their counterparts in the occupying northern armies in their provinces.
The Fall of Zhang Jingyao
Hunan's experience during the North-South War helped to recast the province's strong provincialist sentiments into an anti-warlord movement. Duan Qirui's policy of military unification ended the brief revival of provincial self-government that had followed Tang Xiangming's
overthrow. The intrusion of northern military power subjected Hunan to a devastating civil war. The behavior of invading northern troops particularly antagonized the Hunan people. With the exception of some better disciplined forces under the control of commanders like Wu Peifu and Feng Yuxiang, many northern forces engaged in systematic campaigns of looting, rape, and destruction. One of the areas hardest hit was Liling county, east of Changsha, where rampaging northern troops slaughtered over twenty thousand civilians and destroyed property valued at over 19 million yuan. Such events focused Hunan's hostility to outside political intervention on the invading northern armies. The appointment of Zhang Jingyao as military governor gave this hostility a specific target. The corruption of Zhang's regime and his ever-increasing financial exactions perfectly represented the ills attributed to a lack of popular self-government. Meanwhile, Zhang's expropriation of civilian funds for military expenses and the particular ill-discipline of his own bandit-infested armies exemplified the evils of military rule. Thus, the character of Zhang's warlord regime not only stimulated renewed Hunan demands for provincial autonomy, but made Zhang's overthrow the sine qua non of this objective.
Zhang's control of military and police powers naturally made it difficult to organize open opposition to his regime inside Hunan. Many members of Hunan's political elite accordingly left the province to carry on their struggle against Zhang out of his reach. Some appealed directly to the Beijing authorities to cancel Zhang's appointment. Others gathered in Shanghai, where they tried to bring Hunan's case for provincial self-government before northern and southern representatives engaged in peace negotiations. Some activists established an organization in Shanghai, the Hunan Rehabilitation Association, that publicized the atrocities committed by northern troops in Hunan and the abuses of Zhang's administration. They used this evidence to appeal to both the Beijing and the Canton governments to support their demands for Zhang's removal. However, none of these efforts achieved their objective.
The anti-Zhang movement received a new impetus in mid 1919 as a result of the May Fourth Movement, which began as a protest by Beijing students against a secret treaty signed by the Beijing government, under Duan Qirui's influence, accepting Japan's seizure of German concessions in China during World War I. From the outset, this protest was both anti-imperialist and anti-warlord, directed equally at Japan and at the Beiyang military men who had acceded to Japanese
demands. The protest quickly spread outward from Beijing to most major Chinese cities. The movement also increased the politicization of Chinese society, involving not only students but educators, merchants, and even substantial portions of the urban working class in political activities ranging from demonstrations and strikes to economic boycotts. The suppression of these political activities by provincial warlord regimes helped to bring a new nationalist fervor to local anti-warlord struggles.
Changsha students responded immediately to the news of the Beijing student protest with their own demonstrations. In Zhang Jingyao's eyes, though, the student protests were not a patriotic movement but a source of political disorder. He was also unwilling to allow attacks on his patron Duan Qirui or actions that might invite Japanese reprisals. Accordingly, he moved quickly to ban political activities by students and to close newspapers that editorialized in support of the student movement. This suppression provoked an even broader student reaction. A citywide student organization formed to support further political action, including a general student strike. In the weeks to come, the students forged links with members of the Provincial Assembly, the Hunan Educational Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and other civic organizations to support patriotic activities such as a boycott of Japanese goods. Zhang responded with more acts of suppression. He closed schools, dissolved student organizations, arrested student demonstrators, banned the anti-Japanese boycott, and tightened censorship.
One result of Zhang's suppression of the May Fourth Movement in Hunan was to make his removal from power an increasingly important objective for its participants. In September 1919, the main student organization, still active despite Zhang's ban, committed itself to seeking his overthrow. Working secretly, students began to spread anti-Zhang propaganda and search for other anti-Zhang allies. Following the suppression of the anti-Japanese boycott in November, the student organization became even more open in its opposition to Zhang's rule. "Until that Zhang leaves Hunan, students will not return to their classes," the leaders of a general student strike in December publicly announced. In this same period, student representatives journeyed to Beijing to petition the central government for Zhang's removal. Other delegations sought support from major communities of Hunan natives outside Hunan. Although anti-Zhang protests grew, protests alone could not force Zhang from office, and the student organization therefore sent representatives to plead its case before Tan Yankai and the
Hunan army at Chenxian, Wu Peifu at Hengyang, and Feng Yuxiang at Changde. In so doing, the students acknowledged the need to seek military support for their cause.
Ultimately, the civilian anti-Zhang movement in Hunan found no way to effect Zhang's removal without the application of military force. As long as Zhang remained in control of his army, he could continue to suppress protests against his rule in Hunan. Meanwhile, fearing to lose Zhang's military support, the central government turned a deaf ear to Hunan complaints. A founder of the Hunan Rehabilitation Association, Zuo Linfen, noted that since attempts at Zhang's removal by peaceful means had failed, only a "military solution" was left. Zuo then joined the increasing number of anti-Zhang activists, like the student delegates, who journeyed to South Hunan to seek military support for the anti-Zhang struggle.
There was good reason to hope that a military overthrow of Zhang might be possible. First, Zhang's military power was much weaker than the number of his troops might imply. Zhang's army was an ill-disciplined force, which had seen little battle action during its advance into Hunan, and recruitment of great numbers of poorly trained men, pacified bandits among them, had added little to its fighting ability. Although Zhang's forces had no difficulty dominating Hunan's civilian population, their military effectiveness was open to question. Second, there was a military force willing to take up the struggle against Zhang Jingyao in the Hunan army. The only obstacles to its advance against Zhang were Wu Peifu's strong, experienced, and well-disciplined army in South Hunan and, to a lesser extent, Feng Yuxiang's forces at Changde. These forces, in effect, defended Zhang against a southern attack. Here the antagonism between these Zhili-allied forces and Zhang provided some room for political maneuver. Wu's disregard for Zhang and dissatisfaction with Zhang's appointment as military governor were made clear by Wu's unauthorized cease-fire in mid 1918. In early 1920, increasing tensions between the Zhili and the Anhui factions over the control of the Beijing government also encouraged Wu to consider withdrawing his army from the Hunan front. In the event of open military conflict between the two factions, the presence of Wu's troops in North China was essential to guarantee a Zhili victory. Wu thus became the main target of anti-Zhang delegations who hoped he might turn his army against Zhang, or at least not oppose such action by others. These delegations were encouraged when they received a sympathetic reception at Wu's headquarters.
The most serious negotiations with Wu, those that finally gained his acquiescence to Zhang's removal, were carried out by Tan Yankai and a group of his civilian supporters. Immediately upon his arrival in South Hunan, Tan sent representatives to meet with Wu. Wu in turn allowed Tan to station a permanent delegation at Hengyang to keep lines of communication open. Tan thus assumed the role of a conduit for Wu's negotiations not only with the independent Hunan forces but with other southern provinces. Through Tan's good offices, Wu eventually even signed a secret alliance with the south against the Anhui clique. Ironically, at the very time when Tan was helping drive Cheng Qian out of the Hunan army for allegedly dealing with the enemy, Tan was negotiating with Wu. These negotiations finally reached a conclusion in early 1920, when Wu agreed to withdraw his forces from Hunan. Although Wu's withdrawal was largely motivated by the upcoming confrontation with the Anhui faction, his departure from Hunan was helped along by a gift of half a million yuan that Tan obtained for Wu from Lu Rongting.
On May 27, 1920, Wu began moving his army out of Hunan. As arranged, Wu allowed Hunan forces to advance into the territory he left behind. Most of the other Zhili-allied northern forces in Hunan made their own arrangements to follow Wu out of the province. Zhang Jingyao vehemently opposed this withdrawal but dared not use military force to stop it, and when his own troops finally confronted the advancing Hunan army, they were quickly defeated. On June 11, Zhang fled Changsha. A conjunction of favorable military circumstances had therefore enabled the anti-Zhang movement to achieve its most important objective.
Following Zhang's flight, Tan Yankai returned to Changsha in triumph to begin his third term as Hunan's military governor. From this position he proclaimed his intention of commissioning a provincial constitution that would eliminate the post of military governor and substitute a popularly elected civil governor. He proposed that Hunan take the lead in implementing federalist ideals by the restoration of provincial self-government. At this point the broader civilian objectives of the Hunan provincial autonomy movement became apparent. Tan quickly received support from civilian groups and politicians who sought not only the elimination of the military governorship but the disbandment of armies and a constitutional limitation on military expenses. These ambitions were, however, grounded in the unwarranted assumption that Hunan's military men would subordinate themselves willingly to a new civilian regime.
Since the beginning of the North-South War, Hunan's military commanders had grown accustomed to a degree of independence. Despite their limited territorial base, Hunan's military forces had also grown in size and number. Simply to accommodate the most prominent commanders, a complicated military system was established, consisting of one division (with three rather than the normal two brigades) and twelve independent military district commands. This system did not even include the West Hunan forces, which remained practically independent of provincial control. All of these forces were sharply divided among a number of factions, but Zhao Hengti unquestionably emerged as the single most important commander, with the largest military following. Ultimately, Tan's ability to maintain his position at the head of the Hunan government and carry out his political goals depended upon Zhao's continued support, and Tan soon found that Zhao's loyalty had its limits.
Political conflict between Tan and Zhao was apparent immediately after the recovery of Changsha. On his own authority, Zhao put a number of his followers in important financial posts. Rejecting Zhao's right to make such appointments, Tan replaced them with his own men. Tan based his authority not only on his position as military governor but on his claim to the titles of civil governor and commander-in-chief of the Hunan army. However, Tan had originally led Zhao to believe that he would yield the military governorship to him in return for his military support. Tan reneged on this understanding by retaining the military governorship and by announcing his plans to eliminate this office altogether. Although Tan awarded Zhao the vaguely defined title of "general commander" (zongzhihui ), this was hardly adequate compensation.
Tan's treatment of Zhao was apparently an attempt to ensure in advance the political subordination of the military that he hoped ultimately to enshrine in the new provincial constitution. In the past, Hunan's military officers had deferred to Tan's authority as leading civilian politician, and he counted on this deference to achieve his objective of civilian primacy. Because of the patronage Tan had shown him in the past, Zhao was indeed reluctant to come out in open opposition against Tan. There were other officers, though, who lacked this inhibition. In November 1920, a group of commanders formerly associated with Cheng Qian denounced Tan and began to march on Changsha. This gave Zhao a chance to reveal his own dissatisfaction without taking action against Tan himself. Instead of moving to block this military threat, Zhao stood aside. Without Zhao's support, Tan
could not maintain his position. On November 23, 1920, therefore, just six months after his return to Changsha, Tan yielded control of Hunan's government to Zhao and left the province. Only then did Zhao move to suppress the military revolt, in the process establishing his own authority.
The overthrow of Zhang Jingyao thus ultimately ended in the replacement of one warlord regime headed by a northern military commander with another led by a Hunan commander. In taking power, Zhao did not renounce the goals of provincial self-government. Instead, he announced his intention to support and implement them. Under his government, Hunan was, after all, ruled by a Hunan native. Zhao went through the motions of promulgating a provincial constitution and even had himself elected civil governor. Perhaps because of his Hunan background, Zhao's government was generally less corrupt than Zhang's and more responsive to Hunan concerns. However, there was never any question but that Zhao held his position because he commanded the strongest military force in the province, and he would remain in that position until ousted by a rebellious military commander in 1926. The anti-warlord goals of civilian provincialism were therefore distorted to support the rule of a provincial warlord.
The Fall of Wang Zhanyuan
An anti-warlord movement linked to demands for the revival of provincial self-government also arose in Hubei in opposition to Wang Zhanyuan. Ultimately, like Zhang Jingyao, Wang was driven from power, but as in Hunan military circumstances played the most important role in this outcome. The result in terms of civilian provincialism was even less satisfying. Wang was simply replaced as military governor by another Beiyang general. The only nod to the ideal of provincial autonomy in this case was that this general was a Hubei native.
One major difference between Wang Zhanyuan and Zhang Jingyao was Wang's comparative strength in Hubei. First, Wang ruled Hubei for a longer period. He thus had a greater opportunity to consolidate his control over Hubei's provincial administration. Second, Wang was in a much stronger military position, both in terms of the greater size of his own army and of its superiority to miscellaneous other forces in Hubei. Finally, Wang had at least some conservative support within the Hubei population owing to a perception that he had prevented the disorder that had arisen in so many other provinces. Early in his rule, Wang's troops were generally well-disciplined and maintained
order without causing the type of disturbances Zhang Jingyao's soldiers had been notorious for in Hunan. Rightly or wrongly, Wang was also given credit for keeping Hubei out of the civil wars that had devastated some of Hubei's neighbors. One exception to this was the rebellion by Li Tiancai and Shi Xingchuan, but Li and Shi, not Wang, were generally blamed for provoking this incident. Wang's tendency to take a mediating position in most military conflicts was generally seen as having a positive effect in keeping these conflicts outside Hubei's borders.
Wang's relatively strong military and political position slowed the development of an anti-warlord movement in Hubei. For example, Wang like Zhang took strong measures to suppress the spread of the May Fourth Movement in his province, and Hubei's student activists became his implacable enemies, but Wang's suppression of the student movement did not immediately generate the same broadly based opposition to his regime that Zhang faced in Hunan. Underneath the general acquiescence to Wang's rule, though, there was a considerable reservoir of Hubei provincialist sentiment that if given the option would have preferred a greater degree of self-government. This was especially true of Hubei's political elite, who found their chances of official employment stymied by Wang's deliberate reliance on non-Hubei bureaucrats. Even so, Hubei's self-government movement was only slowly transformed into an anti-Wang movement.
The initial issue that turned Hubei's provincialist sentiments into a broader self-government movement was a political struggle over Hubei's civil governorship. Ironically, Wang created the context for this struggle in August 1920 when he decided to appoint one of his relatives, Sun Chenjia, as civil governor. The Beijing government, as was its custom, simply approved Wang's recommendation. Sun did not have the official experience normally expected of a civil governor, however, and the appointment therefore sparked widespread opposition, including protests from the Hubei Provincial Assembly. As in Hunan, the most effective and vehement opposition came from Hubei natives living outside the province, who were less afraid than those living in Hubei of risking Wang's ire. The Hubei Residents' Association (Hubei tongxianghui) in Beijing emerged as the leading force in this opposition. With the backing of a large number of prominent Hubei public figures and former officials, including Li Yuanhong, the association used this example of blatant nepotism to show the need for greater Hubei self-rule and demanded Sun's replacement with a Hubei native.
These protests finally paid off. The Beijing government rescinded Sun's appointment and replaced him with Xia Shoukang, formerly civil governor under Li Yuanhong.
Wang was infuriated by Beijing's disregard of his will. Besides making his own protests to Beijing, he pressured Hubei's civic organizations and various military commanders to publicize their opposition to Xia's appointment. Wang even threatened to resign, claiming that he would be unable to guarantee the preservation of order in Hubei if the appointment were not withdrawn. Wang's opposition intimidated Xia so much that he declined to leave Beijing for Hubei for over two months. In the end, though, Wang decided that the issue was not important enough for it to be worth alienating Hubei public opinion completely or to risk an open break with Beijing. Fear that the issue might provide an excuse for challenges from his military competitors also made Wang soften his position, and he finally announced his acceptance of Xia's appointment. In late November 1920, Xia arrived in Hubei to assume his office.
Although he had nominally welcomed Xia to Hubei, Wang initiated a subtle campaign to block his effectiveness. On Xia's first day as governor, a large body of Wang's troops surrounded Xia's office saying they had come to "protect" him from angry soldiers. Fearing for his safety, Xia moved his office into the Hankou foreign concessions the next day. Xia also found himself hampered by a reemergence of Hubei's acrimonious political factions. With liberal funding from Wang, a faction calling for Xia's removal quickly emerged in the Provincial Assembly. After struggling with this situation for several months, Xia was ready to give up. Meanwhile, Wang patched up his relations with Beijing by bargaining his support for a cabinet change in exchange for Xia's transfer. In early March 1921, a new civil governor was appointed on Wang's recommendation. Although the new governor, Liu Cheng'en, was a prominent Hubei public figure, he had strong ties to Wang. Wang thus had no trouble reasserting his control over the civil governor's office.
Brief as it was, Xia Shoukang's tenure as civil governor inspired hopes for a return to greater self-government in Hubei. Numerous organizations sprang up to promote this objective. Many looked to a revival of the Provincial Assembly's power, sparking interest in the upcoming assembly elections. The treatment Xia received proved that Wang remained the main obstacle to greater self-government, however, and the provincial self-government movement began to take on a decidedly anti-Wang cast. By the time of Xia's removal, the Beijing
Hubei Residents' Association had taken a stand calling for Wang's ouster. However, the transformation of the self-government movement into an anti-Wang movement was not completed until a series of troop mutinies in Hubei undermined public confidence in Wang's ability to maintain order.
Wang's undoing ultimately arose from his inattention to his own military base. Superficially, Wang's military power continued to grow with the expansion of his armies, but the loyalty of these troops depended on Wang's ability to pay them. As Wang grew comfortable in his office, and somewhat arrogant about his indispensability, he began to give more attention to lining his own pockets than to ensuring that his men were properly paid. With troop wages frequently in arrears, dissatisfaction simmered through Wang's armies. Wang also antagonized his most loyal troops when he instituted a scheme to replace older soldiers. The dismissed soldiers were slated to receive a severance bonus equivalent to a single month's pay, which men who had been with Wang since before his arrival in Hubei considered shabby treatment for their years of service. This dissatisfaction soon manifested itself in a series of troop mutinies, culminating in major riots by the 21st Mixed Brigade in Yichang on June 4, 1921, and by the 2d Division in Wuchang on June 7. Both cities suffered enormous damage and considerable loss of life as mutinous soldiers plundered and then burned large sections of their commercial districts. These mutinies destroyed Wang's reputation as the defender of order by proving that he could no longer even control his own troops.
These mutinies provoked a massive public outcry against Wang. A number of civic organizations in Hubei openly risked Wang's displeasure by issuing protests critical of Wang's handling of the riots. However, the loudest opposition to Wang again arose among the more protected communities of Hubei natives resident outside Hubei. In a meeting of nearly a thousand people held on June 9, the Beijing Hubei Residents' Association passed a motion to be presented to the central government insisting on Wang's removal. In the following weeks, other, equally large meetings published detailed accounts of Wang's offenses, announced their support for greater provincial self-determination and federalism, and dispatched more anti-Wang delegations to meet the president and premier. Representatives were even sent to seek support from the foreign diplomatic corps. Arguing that Wang could no longer protect foreign property in Hubei, they hoped to have foreign pressure exerted on Beijing for Wang's removal. All of these efforts were without effect. Indeed, neither the president nor the
premier would even admit that they had the authority to remove Wang from his position, thus revealing the hollowness of Beijing's power.
As in the case of Hunan's anti-Zhang movement, many supporters of the Hubei anti-Wang movement soon concluded that military force would be required to drive Wang from power. In Hubei's case, though, there was less chance of finding military support for this inside the province. Wang's greatest potential military opponent inside Hubei had been Wu Guangxin. However, in mid 1920 Wang took advantage of the outbreak of the Zhili-Anhui War to arrest Wu and disband his forces. In late 1920, Wang also finally defeated and dispersed the fragmented independent Hubei army in southwestern Hubei. Some anti-Wang activists appealed to various commanders under Wang's command in Hubei to turn their guns against him, but these efforts bore no fruit. Thus the only alternative was to seek military support from outside Hubei. Many saw Wu Peifu, by now the strongest Zhili war leader, as a likely source of support. Wu, however, bore Wang no animosity, and anti-Wang delegations that approached him at his headquarters in Henan did not get a sympathetic hearing. The main attention of the anti-Wang movement therefore turned south and west, where it finally received a favorable response from military commanders in Hunan and Sichuan.
Support for the anti-Wang movement was justified in Hunan and Sichuan as a logical extension of their own provincial self-government movements. Because of its proximity to Wuhan, Changsha became a gathering point for Hubei anti-Wang activists after Zhang Jingyao's ouster. These activists particularly hoped to gain Zhao Hengti's support, in view of his professed commitment to the principles of provincial autonomy, and they therefore besieged him with requests to use the Hunan army to install provincial self-government in Hubei. After finally gaining Zhao's acquiescence, Hubei activists met in Changsha on July 22, 1921, to establish an alternate Hubei military government. They then announced their determination to oust Wang and implement provincial self-government in Hubei based on federalist principles. Earlier in late 1920, a coalition of Sichuan military commanders operating under provincial self-government slogans had also expelled occupying Yunnan troops from their province. Thus Zhao was able to negotiate an agreement for Sichuan to join Hunan in a military campaign to "aid Hubei" in establishing its own provincial autonomy. In coming to this agreement, both Hunan and Sichuan leaders violated a basic principle of provincial autonomy that they had sworn to
uphold—the inviolability of provincial borders. Given the military vacuum that would be created if northern armies were driven from the province, there is reason to suspect that Zhao and the Sichuan commanders ultimately hoped to relocate some of their own bloated provincial armies in Hubei. The Hubei anti-Wang activists were in no position, though, to question the sincerity of these necessary allies.
On July 28, 1921, fighting broke out between advancing Hunan forces and Wang Zhanyuan's army on Hubei's southern border. This was the beginning of a civil war commonly known as the Aid-Hubei War. The weakness of Wang's military power quickly became evident when his troops fell back before the Hunan attack. Many of Wang's troops had been dispersed in the aftermath of the previous month's mutinies. The rest of his army remained demoralized by the same conditions that had caused the mutinies in the first place. Facing possible military defeat, Wang turned to the head of the Zhili faction, Cao Kun, for military assistance, but Cao saw Wang's weakness as an opportunity to extend his own influence into Hubei. Under the guise of aiding Wang, he ordered a division of troops under one of Wu Peifu's subordinates, Xiao Yaonan, to advance into Hubei. Once Xiao reached Wuhan, however, he refused Wang's request that he move his troops to the front. With his own army crumbling and his capital under the control of another army, Wang had no alternative but to resign. Under Cao's influence, Xiao then received an official appointment from Beijing to replace Wang as Hubei's military governor. At this point, other Zhili troops advanced into the province to help Xiao repel the Hunan and Sichuan assaults. The tide of battle turned immediately, and the invading forces retreated behind their own borders.
Because Xiao Yaonan was a Hubei native, his selection by Cao to replace Wang was at least superficially a nod to demands for provincial self-government in Hubei. In reality, one Beiyang warlord regime had simply replaced another. Hubei's self-government activists promptly protested Xiao's appointment on this basis. However, there was never any question but that Zhili military power outweighed Hubei public opinion. With this backing, Xiao maintained his control over Hubei's government until his death in 1926. As a Hubei native, Xiao arguably ruled more benevolently than his predecessor. Nonetheless, in terms of the goals of civilian provincialism, provincial self-government under Xiao was even more of a sham than Zhao Hengti's rule in Hunan.
In military interventions in many other countries, the establishment of military rule has often been clearly marked by coups in which military commanders or juntas take direct control over national governments. The process by which warlordism emerged in modern China provides no similar defining point for the beginning of military rule. Instead, the steady militarization of politics allowed military men to exert their political influence over national, provincial, and local government in a variety of direct and indirect ways. Military governors with control over both provincial civil and military administrations provide the best examples of warlord rule. At the same time, lesser commanders who held no government posts but their military commands also exhibited a different facet of warlord "rule" when they thwarted government policies by refusing to obey orders or expropriated local taxes. Insofar as the power of military men at the top of provincial or national governments was limited by the political autonomy of their putative subordinates, they were also less able to consider any more radical reconstitution of their governments along the lines of direct military administration. Thus the formal structure of republican government remained intact even as it was put into the service of actual, if often informal, military rule.
The civilian provincialism that helped inspire anti-warlord movements against Zhang Jingyao and Wang Zhanyuan was largely an attempt to restore the reality of civilian rule to the formality of republican institutions. The failure of provincial self-government movements in Hunan and Hubei reflected in a microcosm the dilemma of civilian politics confronted with the reality of warlordism. The civilian political forces that could be marshaled by these movements through demonstrations, protests, and petitions were ultimately no match for the determined application of military power by the warlords they sought to overthrow. The civilian supporters of these movements therefore sought the aid of other military men to help them achieve their objectives. In doing so, they acknowledged and contributed to the continued subversion of civilian politics by military force that had caused the rise of warlordism in the first place. The military supporters of provincial self-government movements were largely commanders who found provincialist principles useful in legitimating their own political autonomy. Insofar as self-government movements led to military struggles, these commanders, not promoters of civilian provincialism, ultimately determined how self-government would be interpreted. The result was the continuation, not the defeat, of warlordism.