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The Military in the Republic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 February 2009


In England in the late 1920s, authors like Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Edmund Blunden began to write about their experiences at the front of the Great War. They did not settle simply for a pacifist condemnation, but said goodbye to an old world of faith in progress and optimism about the future. A general questioning of the nature of the individual, the possibility of the good and the value of civilization followed in literature and elsewhere. A new sensibility especially of the individual but also of modernity and the nation was then formulated.1 Part of the new understanding was that an army could only serve to overcome the forces of militaristic and perverted societies. Military conflict was at best a temporarily inevitable aberration.

Reappraising Republican China
Copyright © The China Quarterly 1997

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1 Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975).

2 Hung Chang-tai, War and Popular Culture(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994) and “The politics of songs, ” in Modern Asian Studies,Vol. 30, No. 4 (1996), pp. 901–930. There were of course significant dissenting voices, such as those of Zhou Zuoren in literature.

3 On Lao She, see David Der Wei Wang, Fictional Realism in Twentieth-Century China: Mao Dun, Lau She, Shen Congwen(New York: Columbia University Press, 1992). I am indebted to Susan Daruvala for pointing out this work and for help with this paragraph.

4 The term militarism is difficult to define. In European history and in political science, where of course Prussian and Nazi militarism have been the focus of attention, it is often used to refer to the domination of the political by the military. A good discussion of the term and of German militarism can be found in Volker Berghahn, Militarism(New York: St Martin's Press, 1982). Militarism has also been interpreted as the political domination of the military. Here I use militarism more broadly, to refer to the appreciation of qualities normally associated with the military. By militarization I mean the imitation of organizational and attitudinal principles outside the military. For classic study of the influence of managerial habits of the modem military in other spheres of life, see William McNeil, The Pursuit of Power(Oxford: Blackwell, 1982).

5 On the war, see Allen Fung, ‘Testing the self-strengthening: the Chinese Army in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, ” in Modern Asian Studies,Vol. 30, No. 4 (1996), pp. 1007–32.

6 Ralph Powell, The Rise of Chinese Military Power, 1895–1912(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955); Stephen McKinnon, Power and Politics in Late Imperial China: Yuan Shih-k'ai in Beijing and Tienjin(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980); Edmund Fung, The Military Dimension of the Chinese Revolution(Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1980); Republican History Section, Modern History Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Zhonghua minguo shi ziliao conggao, zhuanti ziliao xuanji, qingmo xinjun bianlian yange (A Draft Collection of Sources for the History of the Chinese Republic: Collections of Sources on Specialized Topics: History of the Establishment and Training of the New Army during the Late Qing and Early Republic)(Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1978). See also the works mentioned in n. 7.

7 Wen Gongzhi, “Zuijin sanshinian Zhongguo junshi shi” (”The history of the Chinese military in the previous 30 years”), republished in Zhong Bofeng and Li Zongyi (eds.), Beiyang junfa(Wuhan: Wuhan Press, 1989), Vol. 1, pp. 1–18; Jerome Chen, The Military-Gentry Coalition(Toronto: University of Toronto and York University, 1979); Jiang Kefu, Minguo junshishi luegao(Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1987); Lai Xinxia, Beiyang junfa shigao (Draft History of the Northern Warlords)(Beijing, 1983); Li Xin, “Beiyang junfa de xingwang” (”The rise and fall of the northern warlords)”, in Li Xin and Li Zongyi (eds.), Zhonghua minguoshi dierbian: beiyang zhengfu tongzhi shiqi (The History of the Republic of China, Part 2: The Period of the Regime of the Northern Government)(Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1987), Vol. 1, pp. 1–18.

8 Arthur Waldron, “The warlord: twentieth century Chinese understandings of violence, militarism, and imperialism, ” The American Historical Review,Vol. 96 (October 1991), pp. 1073–1100; and Edward McCord, “Warlords against warlords, ” in van de Ven, Modem Asian Studies,special issue on war in modern China.

9 Daniel Headrick, Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism(New York: Oxford University Press, 1981).

10 Ibid.;McNeil, Pursuit of Power,pp. 223–261.

11 Fung, ‘Testing the self-strengthening”; Qi Qizhang, Jiawu zhanzheng shi(Beijing, 1990).

12 Military manuals of the late Qing are reproduced in Zhongguo bingshu jicheng {Collection of Chinese Military Writings)(Beijing: PLA Press, 1991 and after), Vol. 50. 13. Udo Ratenhof, Die Chinapolitik des Deutschen Reiches, 1887–1945(Boppard am Rhein: Boldt, 1987)

14 Douglas Reynoulds, China, 1898–1912; The Xinzheng Revolution and Japan(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993); Philip Kuhn, “Local self-government under the Republic, ” in Frederic Wakeman and Carolyn Grant (eds.), Conflict and Control in Late Imperial China(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), pp. 257–298; Chang P'eng-yuan, Lixianpai yu xinhai geming (The Constitutionalists and the 1911 Revolution)(Taipei: Foundation for the Promotion of Chinese Scholarship, 1969).

15 Hans van de Ven, “Public finance and the rise of warlordism, ” Minguo yanjiu,Vol. 1 (1994), pp. 89–137 and Vol. 4 (forthcoming).

16 Fang Guo'an, “Qingmo minchu Zhongguo junguomin jiaoyu zhi yanjiu” (”An investigation of the Chinese militarist education in the Late Qing and Early Republic”), M.Phil, dissertation, Chinese Culture College, 1976.

17 Liang Qichao, “Shangwulun” (”On appreciating martial qualities”) in Yingbingshi congshu (Collected Works from the Ice-Cream Parlour)(Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1916), Vol. 1.

18 Tien Chen-ya, Chinese Military Theory: Ancient and Modern(Stevenage: SPA Books, 1992), p. 132.

19 Benjamin Schwartz, “Themes in intellectual history: May Fourth and after, ” in John Fairbank (ed.), The Cambridge History of China(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 408–418.

20 For the rise of China's revolutionary tradition, see Michael Gasster, “The Republican revolutionary movement, ” in John Fairbank (ed.), The Cambridge History of China,Vol. 11 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), pp. 463–534.)

21 For a review of the debate on the significance of the 1911 Revolution in the rise of warlordism, see Lai Xinxia, Beiyang junfa shigao,pp. 3–14.

22 See n. 7 for the most influential writings on warlordism in Chinese. See also the biographies of individual warlords, for instance in the series edited by Zhang Xianwen and Huang Meizhen, Thonghua minguoshi congshu (Collection of Writings on the History of the Republic of China),such as Jiang Shunxing et al, Shanxi wang Yon Xishan (Yan Xishan: the King of Shanxi)(Zhengzhou: Henan People's Press, 1990); Lu Weijun and Wang Degang, Feng Guozhang he Zhixi junfa (Feng Gouzhang and Zhixi Warlords)(Zhengzhou: Henan People's Press, 1993). The best works in English are Donald Gillin, Warlord: Yen Hsi-shan in Shansi Province, 1991–1949(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976); Gavan McCormack, Chang Tso-lin in Northeast China, 1911–1928(Folkestone: Dawson and Sons, 1977); James Sheridan, Chinese Warlord: The Career of Feng Yu-hsiang(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966); Donald Sutton, Provincial Militarism and the Chinese Republic: The Yunnan Army(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1980); Odoric Y. K. Wou, Militarism in Modem China: The Career of WuP'ei-fu(Folkestone: Dawson and Sons, 1978); Diana Lary, Region and Nation: the Kwangsi Clique in Chinese Politics, 1925–1937(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974); Ch'i Hsi-sheng, Warlord Politics in China, 1916–28(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976).

23 Cai Shaoqing, Minguo shiqi de tufei (Local Bandits during the Republican Period)(Beijing: The People's University of China Press, 1993); Phil Billingsley, Bandits in Republican China(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), esp. pp. 15–40 and 193–226

24 Hans van de Ven, “Public finance, ” Minguo yanjiu,Vol. 1 (1994), pp. 116–128. 25. But see John Fincher, Chinese Democracy: The Self-Government Movement in Local, Provincial, and National Politics(London: Croom Helm, 1981) and Roger Thompson, China′s Local Councils in the Age of Constitutional Reform(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).

26 David Brading, The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). 27. Arthur Waldron, China′s Turning Point(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), ch. 3.

28 For the British case, see McNeil, The Pursuit of Power.29. Waldron, China′s Turning Point,pp. 241–280. On the use by the Chinese Communists of the movement, see Hans van de Ven, From Friend to Comrade(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), ch. 4.

30 “Mao Zedong guanyu gongchan guoji daibiao baogao de fayan” (”Mao Zedong's remarks concerning the report of the representative of the Communist International”), in Committee for the Compilation of Sources for Party History, CCP Central Committee (eds.), Baqi huiyi {The August Seven Conference)(Beijing: Sources for Party History Press, 1986), p. 58.

31 “Gongchan guoji zhixing weiyuanhui dongfangbu guanyu Zhongguo gongchandang junshi gongzuo de zhishi caoan” (”Draft instruction of the eastern department of the Executive Committee of the Comintern regarding the military work of the Chinese Communist Party”). I am grateful to Li Yuzhen, the Chinese translator of this instruction, which will shortly be published together with other Comintern sources, for making this text available.

32 Important new sources for the study of the Central Soviet include Central Committee Archives (eds.), Zhonggong zhongyang wenjian xuanji (Selected CCP Central Committee Documents)(Beijing: Central Party School Press, 18 vols, 1989–92), Vols.4–10 (ZZWX).A good introduction to the history of the PLA is Mo Yang et al.(eds.), Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun zhanshi (The Battle History of the PLA)(Beijing: Military Sciences Press, 3 vols, foreword 1987); Jiangxi Provincial Archives (eds.), Zhongyang geming genjudi shiliao xuanbian(Nanchang: Jiangxi People's Press, 1986, 3 vols.); History Department of Xiamen University and Fujian Provincial Archives (eds.), Zhongguo suweiaigongheguofahui wenjian xuanbian(Nanhang: Jiangxi People's Press, 1984); and Women's Association of Jiangxi (eds.), Jiangxi suqu funii yundong shiliao xuanbian (Selected Historical Sources for the Women′s Movement in Jiangxi Soviets)(Nanchang: Jiangxi People's Press, 1982).

33 For Yan'an, see Mark Selden, The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971); David Apter and Tony Saich, Revolutionary Discourse in Mao′s Republic(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994); Ch'en Yung-fa, Yan'an de yinxiang (Yan'an′s Shadows)(Taipei: Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, 1990): Joseph Esherick, “Deconstructing the construction of the party state, ” The China Quarterly,No. 140 (December 1994), pp. 1025–52. For a general overview of the period, see Ly man Van Slyke, “The Chinese Communist Movement during the Sino-Japanese War, 1937–45, ” in John Fairbank, et al.(eds.), The Cambridge History of China,Vol. 13 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 609–722. An important new collection of primary sources is Shaanxi Provincial Archives and Shaanxi Academy of Social Sciences (eds.), Shaan-Gan-Ning Bianqu zhengfu wenjian xuanbian (Selected Documents of the Government of the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region)(Beijing: Archives Press, 13 vols, 1986–1990).

34 “Mao Zedong gei Lin Biao de xin, ” (”Letter from Mao Zedong to Lin Biao”), ZZWX,Vol. 6, pp. 553–563. Dated 5 January 1930.

35 Relevant documents can be found in Party History Institute of the Party School, Fujian Provincial CCP Committee (eds.) Hongsijun rumin he gutian huiyi wenxian ziliao (Documents of and Sources for the Entrance of the Fourth Red Army into Fujian Province and the Gutian Conference)(Fujian: People's Press, 1979). The first two quotations are from “Zhongguo hongjun disijun (Zhu Mao jun) gao Guomindang jundui shibing shu” (”Letter from the Fourth Red Army (The Zhu [De] and Mao [Zedong] Army) to the officers and soldiers of me KMT armies”), pp. 213–14, dated January 1930. The third quotation is from esolutions of the Ninth Party Congress of the Fourth Red Army, ” ZZWX,Vol. 5, pp. 800–835.

36 A detailed discussion of the early Red Army that is frank about problems of discipline is Chen Yi's 1929 “Guanyu Zhu Mao hongjun de dangwu gaikuang baogao, ” (”Report on Party affairs in the Red Army of Zhu [De] and Mao [Zedong]”), ZZWX,Vol. 5, pp. 749–790. The report was in two parts and dated 1 September 1929. The documents of the Gutian Conference are also useful. For the abolition of corporal punishment, see “Resolutions of the Ninth Party Congress of the Fourth Red Army, ” ZZWX,Vol. 5, pp. 828–831.

37 “Central Committee Announcement Number 29, ” ZZWX, Vol. 5, p. 40. Dated 7 February 1929.

38 “The current political situation and the organizational tasks of the Party, ” ZZWX,Vol. 6, p. 206. Dated 22 July 1930

39 “Political order by the General Political Department regarding preparations for the Long March and struggles, ” ZZWX,Vol. 10, pp. 399; “Instruction regarding political work by the General Political Department for the current attack, ” ZZWX,Vol. 10, pp. 402–08. Dated 11 October 1934. Signed by Li Fuchun.

40 “The Central Politburo's plan for current work in soviet areas, ” ZZWX,Vol. 6, p. 457. Dated 24 October 1930. On the legal obligation, see “General principles of the Constitution of the Chinese Soviet Republic, ” ZZWX,Vol. 7, p. 774. Dated 7 November 1931. The obligation was expressed as a right.

41 See for instance “Letter of instruction by the CCP Central Bureau to all party branches in the soviet areas about the consolidation and development of new areas and border areas, ” ZZWX,Vol. 9, pp. 373–75. Dated 13 November 1933. “Resolution of the Central Bureau of the soviet areas regarding the campaign to investigate land-holding, ” ZZWX,Vol. 9, pp. 206–210. Dated 2 June 1933.

42 Luo Fu (Zhang Wentian), “Lun suweiai jingji fazhan de qiantu” (”On the future development of the soviet economy”), ZZWX,Vol. 9, pp. 483–87. Dated 22 April 1933. On a looming economic disaster, problems in feeding the Red Army, and the decision to use:: campaigns to extract more resources, see “Resolution by the Presidium of the Second Soviet pCongress and the CCP Central Committee regarding the assault campaign to secure the provision of the Red Army by completing the sale of public bonds, collecting the land tax, and collection of cereals, ” ZZWX,Vol. 10, pp. 82–86. Dated 23 January 1934.

43 See e.g. “Central Politburo's plan for current work in soviet areas, ” ZZWX,Vol. 6, pp. 440–43. Dated 24 October 1930; “Resolution by the Central Bureau in the soviet area regarding emergency work prior to the decisive battle to smash the fourth encirclement campaign, ” ZZWX,Vol. 9, pp. 64–69. Dated 8 February 1933.

44 Liu Bingrong, Zuoqing tongshi (The Painful History of Leftist Deviation)(Shijiazhuang: Huashan Literature and Art Press, 1993, 2 vols.) uses the “narrative literature” genre to portray the various campaigns to eliminate counter-revolutionaries in the Central Soviet.

45 Arthur Waldron, “Zhang Zizhong, ” in Van deVen, Modem Asian Studies,special issue? on war in modern China.

46 The study of the war of resistance has been a major focus of recent Chinese scholarship. ‘Only a few examples can be mentioned here: the Number Two Archives of China (ed.), .KangRi kangzhan zhengmian zhanchang (Frontal Battlefields of the War of Resistance) (Jiangsu guji Press, 1987). This is an important collection of primary sources. The Modern History Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has compiled collections of source materials on most of the major campaigns that include numerous Japanese documents. For an example see Editorial Group for “Selected Sources for the Taierzhuang Campaign” and the Number Two Archives of China (eds.), Taierzhuang zhanyi ziliao(Beijing: Zhuanghua shuju, 1989). The series is part of the Institute's Zhonghua minguo shi ziliao congshu (A Collection of Sources for the History of the Chinese Republic);an example of a narrative account is Zhang Xianwen et al., KangRi zhanzheng de zhengmian zhanchang (The Frontal Battlefields of the War of Resistance Against Japan)(Zhengzhou: Henan People's Press, 1987); Department for Military History Research, Academy of Military Science, Zhongguo KangRi zhanzheng shi (The History of China′s War of Resistance Against Japan)(Beijing: PLA Press, 1991); The Society of the Historical Study of the War of Resistance Against Japan and the Museum for the Chinese People's Resistance of the War of Resistance Against Japan (ed.), Kangzhan shiqi de wenhua jiaoyu (Cultural Education during the War of Resistance)(Beijing: Peking Press, 1995). Geng Chengkuan, KangRi zhanzheng shiqi de qin Hua rijun (The Japanese Army of Invasion during the War of Resistance Against Japan)(Beijing: Chunqiu Press, 1987). For an example from Taiwan, see Jiang Yongjin, Kangzhanshi lun (On the War of Resistance)(Taipei: Datong Dushu Co., 1995). Attention has also been paid to the “puppet” governments. See for instance Huang Meizhen, Wang Jingwei hanjian zhengquan de xingwang (The Rise and Fall of the Regime of the Traitor Wang Jingwei)(Shanghai: Fudan University Press, 1987). For recent mainland biographies of Chiang Kai-shek, see Number Two Historical Archives of China and Archives Press, Jiang Jieshi nianpu chugao (First Draft of a Chronological Biography of Chiang Kai-shek)(Beijing: Archives Press, 1992); Song Ping, Jiang Jieshi zhuan (A Biography of Chiang Kai-shek)(Changchun: Jilin People's Press, 1987); Yang Shubiao, Jiang Jieshi zhuan (A Biography of Chiang Kai-shek)(Beijing: Unity Press, 1989), and Zhang Xianwen and Fang Qingqiu, Jiang Jieshi quanzhuan (A Complete Biography of Chiang Kai-shek)(Zhengzhou: Henan People's Press, 1996). KangRi zhanzheng yanjiu (Research on the War of Resistance against Japan)is an important journal edited at the Modern History Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

47 Lloyd Eastman, The Abortive Revolution(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974) and Seeds of Destruction(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984).

48 Eastman, “Nationalist China during the Nanjing decade, ” in Fairbank, et al, Cambridge History,Vol. 13, p. 125 and Eastman, “Nationalist China during the Sino- Japanese War, ” in ibid.p. 552. See also F. F. Liu, A Military History of Modern China(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956).

49 Prasenjit Duara, Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900–1942(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988).

50 Both Eastman, “Nationalist China during the Nanjing Decade” and Ch'i Hsi-sheng, Nationalist China at War,pp. 5–39 stress Chiang's militarizing instincts.

51 See Waldron, China′s Turning Point,pp. 119–140. Real fiscal shortages probably forced Chiang to demand donations and extort money from the Shanghai bourgeoisie. For Chiang's treatment of the Shanghai bourgeoisie, see Parks Coble, The Shanghai Capitalists and the Nationalist Government(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980).

52 William Kirby, Germany and Republican China(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984), pp. 85–90, 148–166, 176–185.

53 Ibid.pp. 122–25

54 Eastman, “Nationalist China during the Nanjing Decade, ” p. 146.

55 Philip Kuhn, “The development of local government, ” in Fairbankef al, Cambridge History,Vol. 13, pp. 348–350.

56 E-tu Zen Sun, “The growth of the academic community, 1912–49, ” in ibid.pp. 388–396.

57 Kirby, Germany and Republican China,pp. 206–223.

58 Kirby, “The Chinese war economy, ” in James Hsiung and Steven Levine, China′s Bitter Victory(Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 1992), pp. 192–98

59 Frederic Wakeman, Policing Shanghai, 1927–37(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); Kirby, Germany and Republican China,pp. 158–162.

60 An important beginning is made in Stephen Levine, Anvil of Victory(New York: Columbia University Press).

61 The issue is whether the KMT could have defeated the Japanese even if the USA had not dropped a nuclear bomb. In mainland China, the discussion has taken the form of a debate about whether the KMT had begun a serious and effective counter-offensive after the Japanese Ichigo offensive. Some argue for its existence, while others believe that the armies of the Nationalists were doing no more than advancing where the Japanese withdrew. That withdrawal was not the result of Nationalist pressure, according to them, but of the Japanese decision to narrow its defensive perimeter. See for instance Ma Zhendu, Cansheng (Bitter Victory)(Guilin: Guanxi Normal University Press, 1993) pp. 2–8.

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