Warlord Era China

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Warlord Era China



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Many of the common soldiers in warlord armies were also bandits who took up service for a campaign and then reverted to banditry when the campaign was over. One politician remarked that when the warlords went to war with each other, the bandits become soldiers and when the war ended, the soldiers became bandits. Warlord armies commonly raped or took many women into sexual slavery. The system of looting was institutionalized, as many warlords lacked the money to pay their troops.

Some took to kidnapping, and might send a hostage's severed fingers along with the ransom demand as a way of encouraging prompt payment. Warlord soldiers train with dao swords sometime in the s. Some warlord armies, especially those in southern China, were badly armed, paid and supplied, and often lacked even basic necessities, such as guns, ammunition, and food. Besides bandits, the rank-and-file of the warlord armies tended to be village conscripts. They might take service in one army, get captured, then join the army of their captors before being captured yet again. Warlords usually incorporated their prisoners into their armies; at least , men who were serving in the army of Gen.

Wu were prisoners he had incorporated into his own army. In U. Stilwell wrote that this "scarecrow company" was worthless as a military unit. A British army visitor commented that, provided they had proper leadership, the men of northern China were "the finest Oriental raw material with a physique second to none, and an iron constitution". However, such units were the exception rather than the rule. Zhang Zuolin with two of his sons, both wearing expensive miniature uniforms. In there were about a half-million soldiers in China. By the numbers had tripled, then tripled again by ; more than the warlords could support. Warlords in other provinces were even more hard-pressed. One way of raising funds were taxes called lijin that were often confiscatory and inflicted much economic harm.

Taxes owed to the central government in Beijing on stamp and salt were usually taken by regional authorities. The warlords demanded loans from the banks. The other major revenue source besides taxes, loans and looting was the selling of opium , with the warlords selling the rights to grow and sell opium within their provinces to consortia of gangsters. Despite his ostensible anti-opium stance, Gen. Inflation was another means of paying for their soldiers. Some warlords simply ran the money printing presses, and some resorted to duplicating machines to issue new Chinese dollars.

The warlord who ruled Hunan province printed 22 million Chinese dollars on a silver reserve worth only one million Chinese dollars in the course of a single year, while Zhang in Shandong province printed 55 million Chinese dollars on a silver reserve of 1. The illiterate Marshal Zhang Zuolin , who engaged in reckless printing of Chinese dollars, did not understand it was him who was causing the inflation in Manchuria, and his remedy was simply to summon the leading merchants of Mukden, accuse them of greed because they were always raising their prices, had five of them selected at random publicly shot and told the rest to behave better.

Despite their constant need for money, the warlords lived in luxury. Marshal Zhang owned the world's biggest pearl, while Gen. Wu owned the world's biggest diamond. Marshal Zhang, the "Old Marshal", lived in a lavish palace in Mukden with his five wives, old Confucian texts and a cellar full of fine French wines , and needed 70 cooks in his kitchen to make enough food for him, his wives and his guests. Zhang, the "Dogmeat General", ate his meals off a piece Belgian dinner service, and an American journalist described dinner with him: "He gave a dinner for me where sinful quantities of costly foods were served in a starving country.

There was French champagne and sound brandy". The warlords bought machine guns and artillery from abroad, but their uneducated and illiterate soldiers could not operate or service them. A British mercenary complained in that Wu Peifu had about 45 European artillery pieces that were inoperable because they had not been properly maintained. At the Battle of Urga , the army of Gen. Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. The Chinese might have stopped Ungern had they been capable of firing their machine guns properly, to adjust for the inevitable upward jerk caused by the firing; they did not, and this caused the bullets to overshoot their targets.

The inability to use their machine guns properly proved costly: after taking Urga in February , Ungern had his Cossacks and Mongol cavalry hunt down the remnants of Xu's troops as they attempted to flee south on the road back to China. Because their soldiers were not able to use or take proper care of modern weapons, the warlords often hired foreign mercenaries , who were effective but always open to other offers. The Russian mercenaries, according to one reporter, went through the Chinese troops like a knife through butter.

The most highly paid of the Russian units was led by Gen. Nechaev and his men were much feared. In they drove three armored trains through the countryside, gunning down everyone they met and taking everything moveable. The rampage was stopped only when the peasants pulled up the train tracks, which led Nechaev to sack the nearest town. To defend themselves from the attacks of the warlord factions and armies, peasants organized themselves into militant secret societies and village associations which served as self-defense militias as well as vigilante groups. As the peasants usually had neither money for guns nor military training, these secret societies relied on martial arts, self-made weapons such as swords and spears, as well as the staunch belief in protective magic.

The latter was especially important, as the conviction of invulnerability was "a powerful weapon for bolstering the resolve of people who possessed few alternative resources with which to defend their meager holdings". Magical rituals practiced by the peasants ranged from rather simple ones, such as swallowing charms, to much more elaborate practices. For example, elements of the Red Spear Society performed secret ceremonies to confer invulnerability from bullets to channel the power of Qi and went into battle naked with supposedly bulletproof red clay smeared over their bodies. The Mourning Clothes Society would perform three kowtows and weep loudly before each battle. The former would dress entirely in white the color of death in China and waved fans that they believed would deflect gunfire, while the latter fought with a sword and a magical basket to catch their opponents bullets.

Disappointed with the Republic of China and despairing due to the warlords deprivations, many peasant secret societies adopted millenarian beliefs, and advocated the restoration of the monarchy, led by the old Ming dynasty. The past was widely romanticized, and many believed that a Ming emperor would bring a "reign of happiness and justice for all". The death of Yuan Shikai split the Beiyang Army into two main factions. The Zhili and Fengtian clique were in alliance with one another, while the Anhui clique formed their own faction.

International recognition was based on the presence in Beijing, and every Beiyang clique tried to assert their dominance over the capital to claim legitimacy. The government worked closely with the Zhili clique, led by Vice President Feng Guozhang, to maintain stability in the capital. Continuing military influence over the Beiyang government led to provinces around the country refusing to declare their allegiance. The debate between the President and the Premier on whether or not China should participate in the First World War was followed by political unrest in Beijing.

As Zhang marched into Beijing on 1 July, he quickly dissolved the parliament and proclaimed a Manchu Restoration. The new government quickly fell to Duan after he returned to Beijing with reinforcements from Tianjin. As another government formed in Beijing, Duan's fundamental disagreements over national issues with the new President Feng Guozhang led to Duan's resignation in The alliance with the Fengtian was only one of convenience and war broke out in the First Zhili—Fengtian War , with Zhili driving Fengtian forces back to Manchuria.

Next, they wanted to bolster their legitimacy and reunify the country by returning Li Yuanhong to the presidency and restoring the National Assembly. They proposed that Xu Shichang and Sun Yat-sen resign their rival presidencies simultaneously in favor of Li. Chen Jiongming by recognizing him as governor of Guangdong. With Sun driven out of Guangzhou , the Zhili clique superficially restored the constitutional government that existed prior to Zhang Xun's coup. Cao bought the presidency in despite opposition by the KMT, Fengtian, Anhui remnants, some of his lieutenants and the public. In the autumn of the Zhili appeared to be on the verge of complete victory in the Second Zhili—Fengtian War until Feng Yuxiang betrayed the clique, seized Beijing and imprisoned Cao.

Zhili forces were routed from the north but kept the center. Feng soon broke off from the Zhili clique again and formed Guominjun and allied himself with Duan Qirui. Zhang Zuolin took advantage of the situation, and entered Shanhai Pass from the Northeast and captured Beijing. The party emblem of the Kuomintang. The southern provinces of China were notably against the Beiyang government in the north, having resisted the restoration of monarchy by Yuan Shikai and the subsequent government in Peking after his death.

Sun Yat-sen along with other southern leaders had formed a government in Guangzhou to resist the rule of the Beiyang warlords, and the Guangzhou government came to be known as part of the Constitutional Protection War. In September Sun was named generalissimo of the military government with the purpose of protecting the provisional constitution of The southern warlords assisted his regime solely to legitimize their fiefdoms and challenge Beijing. In a bid for international recognition, they also declared war against the Central Powers but failed to garner any recognition.

In July southern militarists thought Sun was given too much power and forced him to join a governing committee. Continual interference forced Sun into self-imposed exile. While away, he recreated the Chinese Nationalist Party , or Kuomintang. With the help of KMT Gen. Chen Jiongming , committee members Gen. Cen Chunxuan , Adm. Lin Baoyi and Gen. Lu Rongting were expelled in the Guangdong—Guangxi War. In May Sun was elected "extraordinary president" by a rump parliament despite protests by Chen and Tang Shaoyi , who complained of its unconstitutionality. Tang left while Chen plotted with the Zhili clique to overthrow Sun in June in return for recognition of his governorship over Guangdong.

After Chen was driven out of Guangzhou, Sun returned again to assume leadership in March The party was reorganized along Leninist democratic centralism , and the alliance with the Communist Party of China came to be known as First United Front. The Guangzhou government focused on training new officers through the newly created Whampoa Military Academy. In , the Zhilii clique fell out of power, and Sun travelled to Beiping to negotiate terms of reunification with leaders from Guominjun , Fengtian and Anhui clique.

He was unable to secure the terms as he died in March from illness. Power struggles within the KMT ensued after the death of Sun. In the north, there were struggles led by Guominjun against Fengtian-Zhili alliance from November to April The defeat of Guominjun ended their reign in Beiping. Wu Peifu and Sun Chuanfang of the Zhili clique were subsequently defeated in central and eastern China. In response to the situation, the Guominjun and Yan Xishan of Shanxi formed an alliance with Chiang to attack the Fengtian clique together. In , Chiang initiated a violent purge of Communists in the Kuomintang, which marked the end of the First United Front. Though Chiang had consolidated the power of the KMT in Nanking, it was still necessary to capture Beiping Beijing to claim the legitimacy needed for international recognition.

Yan Xishan moved in and captured Beiping on behalf of his new allegiance after the death of Zhang Zuolin in In course of the Central Plains War , several warlords attempted to overthrow Chiang Kai-shek 's newly formed Nationalist government. Despite the defeat of the anti- Kuomintang forces, warlords continued to remain in power in much of China until the s.

The politics of the Nanjing Decade of Kuomintang leadership over China were deeply shaped by the compromises with warlords that had allowed the victory of the Northern expedition. Most provincial leaders were military commanders who joined the party only during the expedition itself, when the warlords and their administrators were absorbed wholesale by Chiang. Although dictatorial, Chiang did not have absolute power as party rivals and local warlords posed a constant challenge. Despite the reunification, there were still ongoing conflicts across the country.

Remaining regional warlords across China chose to cooperate with the Nationalist government, but disagreements with the Nationalist government and regional warlords soon broke out into the Central Plains War in Railroads were the fastest and cheapest way of moving large number of troops, and most battles during this era were fought within a short distance of railways. Armored trains, full of machine guns and artillery, offered fire support for troops going into battle.

The constant fighting around the railroads caused much economic harm. To hinder pursuit, defeated troops tore up the railroads as they retreated, causing in alone damage worth million silver Mexican dollars the Mexican silver dollar was the main currency used in China at the time. Few of the warlords had any sort of ideology. Yan Xishan , the "Model Governor" of Shanxi , professed a syncretic creed that merged elements of democracy , militarism, individualism , capitalism , socialism , communism , imperialism , universalism , anarchism , and Confucian paternalism into one.

A friend described Yan as "a dark-skinned, mustached man of medium height who rarely laughed and maintained an attitude of great reserve; Yan never showed his inner feelings. Feng Yuxiang , the "Christian General", promoted Methodism together with a vague sort of left-leaning Chinese nationalism , which led the Soviets to support him for a time. He banned alcohol, lived simply and wore the common uniform of an infantryman to show his concern for his men. Wu Peifu , the "Philosopher General", was a mandarin who passed the Imperial Civil Service exam , billing himself as the protector of Confucian values , usually appearing in photographs with the scholar's brush in his hand the scholar's brush is a symbol of Confucian culture.

Doubters noted, however, that the quality of Wu's calligraphy markedly declined when his secretary died. Wu liked to appear in photos taken in his office with a portrait of his hero George Washington in the background to reflect the supposed democratic militarism he was attempting to bring to China. Wu was famous for his capacity to absorb vast quantities of alcohol and still keep drinking. An intense Chinese nationalist, Wu Peifu refused to enter the foreign concessions in China, a stance that was to cost him his life when he refused to go to the International Settlement or the French Concession in Shanghai for medical treatment.

He worked openly for the Japanese in ruling Manchuria. The wealth of Manchuria, the support of the Japanese and Zhang's hard-hitting, swift-moving cavalry made him the most powerful of the warlords. Zhang Zongchang , known as the "Dogmeat General" because of his love for the gambling game of that name, was described as having "the physique of an elephant, the brain of a pig and the temperament of a tiger". Writer Lin Yutang called Zhang "the most colorful, legendary, medieval, and unashamed ruler of modern China".

Former Emperor Puyi remembered Zhang as "a universally detested monster" whose ugly, bloated face was "tinged with the livid hue induced by heavy opium smoking". A brutal man, Zhang was notorious for his hobby of smashing in the heads of prisoners with his sword, which he called "smashing melons". He loved to boast about the size of his penis , which became part of his legend. He was widely believed to be the most well endowed man in China, nicknamed "General Eighty-Six" as his penis when erect was said to measure up to a pile of 86 Mexican silver dollars. He gave them numbers, as he could not remember their names, and then usually forgot the numbers. The great ideological flexibility of warlords and politicians during this era can be well exemplified in the activities of Bai Lang , an important bandit leader.

Even though he initially fought in support of the Qing dynasty with ultraconservative monarchists as well as warlords, Bai Lang later formed an alliance with republicans, [22] declared himself loyal to Dr. Many of the common soldiers in warlord armies were also bandits who took up service for a campaign and then reverted to banditry when the campaign was over. One politician remarked that when the warlords went to war with each other, the bandits become soldiers and when the war ended, the soldiers became bandits.

Some took to kidnapping, and might send a hostage's severed fingers along with the ransom demand as a way of encouraging prompt payment. Besides bandits, the rank-and-file of the warlord armies tended to be village conscripts. They might take service in one army, get captured, then join the army of their captors before being captured yet again. Warlords usually incorporated their prisoners into their armies; at least , men who were serving in the army of Gen.

Wu were prisoners he had incorporated into his own army. In U. Stilwell wrote that this "scarecrow company" was worthless as a military unit. A British army visitor commented that, provided they had proper leadership, the men of northern China were "the finest Oriental raw material with a physique second to none, and an iron constitution". However, such units were the exception rather than the rule. In there were about a half-million soldiers in China. By the numbers had tripled, then tripled again by ; more than the warlords could support. Warlords in other provinces were even more hard-pressed. One way of raising funds were taxes called lijin that were often confiscatory and inflicted much economic harm.

Taxes owed to the central government in Beijing on stamp and salt were usually taken by regional authorities. The warlords demanded loans from the banks. The other major revenue source besides taxes, loans and looting was the selling of opium , with the warlords selling the rights to grow and sell opium within their provinces to consortia of gangsters. Despite his ostensible anti-opium stance, Gen. Inflation was another means of paying for their soldiers. Some warlords simply ran the money printing presses, and some resorted to duplicating machines to issue new Chinese dollars. The warlord who ruled Hunan province printed 22 million Chinese dollars on a silver reserve worth only one million Chinese dollars in the course of a single year, while Zhang in Shandong province printed 55 million Chinese dollars on a silver reserve of 1.

The illiterate Marshal Zhang Zuolin , who engaged in reckless printing of Chinese dollars, did not understand it was him who was causing the inflation in Manchuria, and his remedy was simply to summon the leading merchants of Mukden, accuse them of greed because they were always raising their prices, had five of them selected at random publicly shot and told the rest to behave better. Despite their constant need for money, the warlords lived in luxury. Marshal Zhang owned the world's biggest pearl, while Gen. Wu owned the world's biggest diamond. Marshal Zhang, the "Old Marshal", lived in a lavish palace in Mukden with his five wives, old Confucian texts and a cellar full of fine French wines , and needed 70 cooks in his kitchen to make enough food for him, his wives and his guests.

Zhang, the "Dogmeat General", ate his meals off a piece Belgian dinner service, and an American journalist described dinner with him: "He gave a dinner for me where sinful quantities of costly foods were served in a starving country. There was French champagne and sound brandy". The warlords bought machine guns and artillery from abroad, but their uneducated and illiterate soldiers could not operate or service them.

A British mercenary complained in that Wu Peifu had about 45 European artillery pieces that were inoperable because they had not been properly maintained. Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. The Chinese might have stopped Ungern had they been capable of firing their machine guns properly, to adjust for the inevitable upward jerk caused by the firing; they did not, and this caused the bullets to overshoot their targets. The inability to use their machine guns properly proved costly: after taking Urga in February , Ungern had his Cossacks and Mongol cavalry hunt down the remnants of Xu's troops as they attempted to flee south on the road back to China.

Because their soldiers were not able to use or take proper care of modern weapons, the warlords often hired foreign mercenaries , who were effective but always open to other offers. The Russian mercenaries, according to one reporter, went through the Chinese troops like a knife through butter. The most highly paid of the Russian units was led by Gen. Nechaev and his men were much feared. In they drove three armored trains through the countryside, gunning down everyone they met and taking everything moveable. The rampage was stopped only when the peasants pulled up the train tracks, which led Nechaev to sack the nearest town.

To defend themselves from the attacks of the warlord factions and armies, peasants organized themselves into militant secret societies and village associations which served as self-defense militias as well as vigilante groups. As the peasants usually had neither money for guns nor military training, these secret societies relied on martial arts, self-made weapons such as swords and spears, as well as the staunch belief in protective magic.

For example, elements of the Red Spear Society performed secret ceremonies to confer invulnerability from bullets to channel the power of Qi and went into battle naked with supposedly bulletproof red clay smeared over their bodies. The past was widely romanticized, and many believed that a Ming emperor would bring a "reign of happiness and justice for all". The death of Yuan Shikai split the Beiyang Army into two main factions. The Zhili and Fengtian clique were in alliance with one another, while the Anhui clique formed their own faction.

International recognition was based on the presence in Beijing, and every Beiyang clique tried to assert their dominance over the capital to claim legitimacy. The government worked closely with the Zhili clique, led by Vice President Feng Guozhang, to maintain stability in the capital. Continuing military influence over the Beiyang government led to provinces around the country refusing to declare their allegiance. The debate between the President and the Premier on whether or not China should participate in the First World War was followed by political unrest in Beijing. As Zhang marched into Beijing on 1 July, he quickly dissolved the parliament and proclaimed a Manchu Restoration. The new government quickly fell to Duan after he returned to Beijing with reinforcements from Tianjin.

As another government formed in Beijing, Duan's fundamental disagreements over national issues with the new President Feng Guozhang led to Duan's resignation in The alliance with the Fengtian was only one of convenience and war broke out in the First Zhili—Fengtian War , with Zhili driving Fengtian forces back to Manchuria. Next, they wanted to bolster their legitimacy and reunify the country by returning Li Yuanhong to the presidency and restoring the National Assembly.

They proposed that Xu Shichang and Sun Yat-sen resign their rival presidencies simultaneously in favor of Li. Chen Jiongming by recognizing him as governor of Guangdong. With Sun driven out of Guangzhou , the Zhili clique superficially restored the constitutional government that existed prior to Zhang Xun's coup. Cao bought the presidency in despite opposition by the KMT, Fengtian, Anhui remnants, some of his lieutenants and the public. In the autumn of the Zhili appeared to be on the verge of complete victory in the Second Zhili—Fengtian War until Feng Yuxiang betrayed the clique, seized Beijing and imprisoned Cao. Zhili forces were routed from the north but kept the center. Feng Yuxiang's defection resulted in the defeat of Wu Peifu and the Zhili clique and forced them to withdraw to the south.

Duan's new government was grudgingly accepted by the Zhili clique because, without an army of his own, Duan was now considered a neutral choice. In addition, instead of "President" Duan was now called the "Chief Executive," implying that the position was temporary and therefore politically weak. Duan called on Sun Yat-sen and the Kuomintang in the south to restart negotiations towards reunification.

Sun demanded that the "unequal treaties" with foreign powers be repudiated and that a new national assembly be assembled. Bowing to public pressure, Duan promised a new national assembly in three months; however he could not unilaterally discard the "unequal treaties," since the foreign powers had made official recognition of Duan's regime contingent upon respecting these very treaties. Sun died on 12 March and the negotiations fell apart. With his clique's military power in a shambles, Duan's government was hopelessly dependent on Feng Yuxiang and Zhang Zuolin.

Knowing that those two did not get along, he secretly tried to play one side against the other. On 18 March , a protest march was held against continued foreign infringement on Chinese sovereignty and a recent incident in Tianjin involving a Japanese warship. Duan dispatched military police to disperse the protesters, and in the resulting melee 47 protesters were killed and over injured, including Li Dazhao, co-founder of the Communist Party. The event came to be known as the 18 March Massacre. The next month Feng Yuxiang again revolted, this time against the Fengtian clique, and deposed Duan, who was forced to flee to Zhang for protection. Zhang, tired of his double-dealings, refused to restore him after re-capturing Beijing.

Most of the Anhui clique had already sided with Zhang. Duan Qirui exiled himself to Tianjin and later moved to Shanghai where he died on 2 November Feng soon broke off from the Zhili clique again and formed Guominjun and allied himself with Duan Qirui. Zhang Zuolin took advantage of the situation, and entered Shanhai Pass from the Northeast and captured Beijing. The southern provinces of China were notably against the Beiyang government in the north, having resisted the restoration of monarchy by Yuan Shikai and the subsequent government in Peking after his death. Sun Yat-sen along with other southern leaders had formed a government in Guangzhou to resist the rule of the Beiyang warlords, and the Guangzhou government came to be known as part of the Constitutional Protection War.

In September Sun was named generalissimo of the military government with the purpose of protecting the provisional constitution of The southern warlords assisted his regime solely to legitimize their fiefdoms and challenge Beijing. In a bid for international recognition, they also declared war against the Central Powers but failed to garner any recognition. In July southern militarists thought Sun was given too much power and forced him to join a governing committee.

Continual interference forced Sun into self-imposed exile. While away, he recreated the Chinese Nationalist Party , or Kuomintang. With the help of KMT Gen. Chen Jiongming , committee members Gen. Cen Chunxuan , Adm. Lin Baoyi and Gen. Lu Rongting were expelled in the Guangdong—Guangxi War. In May Sun was elected "extraordinary president" by a rump parliament despite protests by Chen and Tang Shaoyi , who complained of its unconstitutionality. Tang left while Chen plotted with the Zhili clique to overthrow Sun in June in return for recognition of his governorship over Guangdong. After Chen was driven out of Guangzhou, Sun returned again to assume leadership in March The party was reorganized along Leninist democratic centralism , and the alliance with the Communist Party of China came to be known as First United Front.

The Guangzhou government focused on training new officers through the newly created Whampoa Military Academy. In , the Zhilii clique fell out of power, and Sun travelled to Beiping to negotiate terms of reunification with leaders from Guominjun , Fengtian and Anhui clique. He was unable to secure the terms as he died in March from illness. Power struggles within the KMT ensued after the death of Sun. In the north, there were struggles led by Guominjun against Fengtian-Zhili alliance from November to April The defeat of Guominjun ended their reign in Beiping.

Wu Peifu and Sun Chuanfang of the Zhili clique were subsequently defeated in central and eastern China. In response to the situation, the Guominjun and Yan Xishan of Shanxi formed an alliance with Chiang to attack the Fengtian clique together. In , Chiang initiated a violent purge of Communists in the Kuomintang, which marked the end of the First United Front.

The conflicts were collectively known as the Jinan incident of Though Chiang had consolidated the power of the KMT in Nanking, it was still necessary to capture Beiping Beijing to claim the legitimacy needed for international recognition. Yan Xishan moved in and captured Beiping on behalf of his new allegiance after the death of Zhang Zuolin in The politics of the Nanjing Decade of Kuomintang leadership over China were deeply shaped by the compromises with warlords that had allowed the victory of the Northern expedition.

Most provincial leaders were military commanders who joined the party only during the expedition itself, when the warlords and their administrators were absorbed wholesale by Chiang. Although dictatorial, Chiang did not have absolute power as party rivals and local warlords posed a constant challenge. Despite the reunification, there were still ongoing conflicts across the country. Remaining regional warlords across China chose to cooperate with the Nationalist government, but disagreements with the Nationalist government and regional warlords soon broke out into the Central Plains War in Northwest China erupted into a series of wars in Xinjiang from to Following the Xi'an Incident in , efforts began to shift toward preparation of war against the Japanese Empire.

The warlords continued posing problems for the National Government up until the communist victory in , when many turned on the KMT and defected to the CCP, such as Yunnanese warlord Lu Han , whose troops had earlier been responsible for receiving the surrender of the Japanese in Hanoi and had engaged in widespread looting. Although Chiang was generally not considered personally corrupt, his power was dependent on balancing between the various warlords.

Although he understood and expressed hatred at the fact that KMT corruption was driving the public to the communists, he continued dealing with warlords, tolerating incompetence and corruption while undermining subordinates who became too strong so as to preserve unity.

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