Central Collapse

  • Richard T. Phillips


The failure of Western-inspired republican institutions to produce the desired strengthening and revitalising of China in the years after 1911 condemned China to a period of regional governments and continuing weakness, which could only begin to be overcome through the input of further Western ideas, particularly from the Soviet Union. Although the period of disunity under the regional military had historical precedents in periods between major imperial dynasties, notably in the tenth century, the situation in the twentieth century was different. It was not at all clear how the eventual military victor would or should construct his regime, given that the imperial model was now regarded as unacceptable. Moreover the insistence by the foreign powers that Beijing be treated as the capital, however weak its real power, created an artificial distortion both of military strategy, with Beijing as the essential goal of almost every large militarist, and of historiography. Events concerning Beijing seemed more important than developments elsewhere, especially when viewed through the archives of the foreign powers. Although the period of disunity is usually dated 1916 to 1928, it is possible to trace back intimations of local independence into the nineteenth century and overt practice to the 1911 Revolution, while many of the military figures involved continued their careers after 1928 with more formal deference to the centre but almost equal lack of obedience.


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© Richard T. Phillips 1996

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  • Richard T. Phillips

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