Reflected Glory in a Bottle

Chapter Six CHINESE GENERALS AND WARLORDS The Imperial armies sent to fight the revolutionaries in 191 1 were in fact composed of Peiyang divisions trained under Yuan Shih-k'ai's command and headed by his officers. For the most part they delayed fighting and complained to Peking that what they really needed was a good leader, such as Yüan, to put down the revolt. With the backing of these men Yuan was in a strong position to bargain with the court. On the 27th of January 1912, some forty Peiyang military commanders sent a telegram requesting the Manchu Emperor's abdication in favor of a republican form of government. It is important to understand that these officers came out of the Peiyang Military Academy, founded by Li Hung - chang in 1885 and further expanded by Yuan. A pattern was established whereby Yuan would increase the number of divisions, then turn the command over to one of his generals, who in turn supervised and organized additional training schools — all of which contributed to the build - up of the military machine known as the Peiyang Army. These officers formed the nucleus of the so - called Peiyang Military Clique, the most influen- tial group in Chinese politics from 1916 to 1928. Yuan Shih-k'ai's power stemmed from this clique, and his political life was finished when they refused to support his bid to become Emperor. Under the republic one can trace directly back to this group at least twelve military governors of provinces and five presidents or premiers of the Peking government, in addition to Yuan himself. It should be further noted that Yuan was also known as the "father of warlords" as others went on to establish themselves in the provinces as independent rulers. Two generals, Wang Huai - ch'ing, and Chiang Yen - hsing, stayed within the military system, rising in rank and influence by following orders from the Peking government. Wang Huai-ch'ing (1875?-19 ) Wang Huai-ch'ing first saw action in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. Later Yuan Shih-k'ai appointed him the commander of the second cavalry brigade of the Peiyang Army. In 1907 another Peiyang associate, Hsü Shih - ch'ang, then the Viceroy of Manchuria, trans- ferred Wang there to be codirector of the Department of Military Affairs. A considerable portion of their respective careers was hence- 71