List of warlords and military cliques in the Warlord Era

The Warlord Era is the time period of China beginning from 1916 to the mid-1930s, when the country was divided by various military cliques. Followed by the death of Yuan Shikai in 1916, and nominally ended in 1928 at the conclusion of the Northern Expedition with the Northeast Flag Replacement, beginning the "Nanjing decade". However, "residual warlords" continued to exist into the 1930s under nominal Kuomintang rule, and remained until the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.[1]

The warlords and military cliques of the Warlord Era are generally divided into the Northern Factions and the Southern Factions. The following is a list of cliques within each faction, and the dominant warlords within that clique.

Chinese warlords 1925
Major Chinese warlord coalitions as of 1925

Northern Factions

The cliques in the North emerged from the fragmentation of the Beiyang Government/Army. Most of them were generals under Yuan Shikai. After the death of Yuan, they separated and formed cliques in their own sphere of influence.

Anhui clique

  • The Anhui Clique was so named because many of its most influential members were from Anhui, including founder Duan Qirui.
  • The clique was removed from power after the Zhili-Anhui War and slowly faded from prominence.
Name Years of dominance Notes
Duan Qirui

段祺瑞

Duanqirui.jpg 1916–1926 - Premier: 1913, 1916–18; President: 1924-26

- Negotiated the Nishihara Loans with Japan in exchange for Shandong Concession, triggering the May Fourth Movement

Xu Shuzheng

徐樹錚

Xu Shuzheng.jpg 1916–1920 - Duan Qirui's right-hand man

- Led expedition that reconquered Mongolia and temporarily brought it back under control

Duan Zhigui

段芝貴

Duanzhigui.jpg - Minister of War: 1917-1919
Jin Yunpeng

靳雲鵬

Jin Yunpeng.jpg - Premier: 1919-1921
Wang Yitang

王揖唐

Wang Yitang2.jpg - Chairman of the House of Representatives 1918-1920
Lu Yongxiang

盧永祥

Lu Yongxiang.jpg - Ruler of Zhejiang and Shanghai, his refusal to hand over Shanghai caused the Second Zhili–Fengtian War
Zhang Jingyao

張敬堯

Zhang Jingyao.jpg 1917–1920 - Governor of Hunan noted for his exceptional brutality

- Assassinated in 1933 after he became involved with the Japanese plot to enthrone Puyi as emperor of Manchukuo

Wu Guangxin

吳光新

Wu Guangxin.jpg 1917–1920 - Governor of Hunan[2]
Ni Sichong

倪嗣衝

Ni Sichong.jpg - former supporter of Yuan Shikai's Empire; eliminated in the Zhili-Anhui War
Qu Tongfeng[3]

曲同豊

Chen Shufan

陳樹藩

Chen Shufan.jpg 1916-1921
Zheng Shiqi

鄭士琦

Zhengshiqi.jpg 1923-1925 Military governor of Shandong (1923–25) and Anhui (1925).[4]

Zhili clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Feng Guozhang

馮國璋

Fengguozhang.jpg 1916–1919 - Served as President 1917-1918

- Died in 1919 and was succeeded by Cao Kun

Cao Kun

曹錕

Cao kun.jpg 1919–1924 - Bribed his way to the presidency and served from 1923 to 1924

- Arrested and imprisoned during the Beijing coup by Feng Yuxiang

Wu Peifu

吳佩孚

Wu pei fu 430.jpg 1919–1927 - Military commander and strategist of the Zhili Clique

- Credited with the victories that pushed Zhili to power but ultimately failed hold onto power in the Second Zhili-Fengtian War

Sun Chuanfang

孫傳芳

Sunchuanfang.jpg 1919–1927 - Controlled most of the Lower Yangtze

- Defeated in the Northern Expedition

Lu Jianzhang

陸建章

supporter of Yuan Shikai's Empire, killed by Fengtian clique in 1918[7][8]
Li Chun[9]

李純

Li Chun.jpg
Wang Zhanyuan[9]

王占元

Wang Zhanyuan3.jpg Hubei warlord
Chen Guangyuan[9]

陳光遠

Chen Guangyuan.jpg
Wang Chengbin

王承斌

Wang Chengbin.jpg Ethnic Manchu

Fengtian clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Zhang Zuolin

張作霖

Zhang Zuo-lin.png 1916–1928 - Leader of the Fengtian Army, ruler of Manchuria

- Assassinated by a Japanese military officer for his failure to halt the expansion of the Kuomintang

Zhang Xueliang

張學良

Zhang Xueliang.jpg 1928–1937 - Son and successor to Zhang Zuolin

- Eventually reconciled the Fengtian clique with the Kuomintang

Guo Songling

郭松齡

GuoSongling.jpg 1920–1925 - General in the Fengtian Army

- Rebelled during the Anti-Fengtian War but was defeated and killed in action

Zhang Zongchang

張宗昌

Zhang Chongchan.jpg 1925–1928 Ruler of the Shandong province
Zhang Haipeng

張海鵬

Zhang Haipeng.jpg
Zhang Jinghui

張景惠

Zhang Jinghui2.JPG Afterwards Prime Minister of Manchukuo
Li Jinglin[10]

李景林

Li Jinglin.jpg
Tang Yulin

湯玉麟

Tang Yulin.jpg
Wan Fulin

萬福麟

Wan Fulin.jpg
Wu Junsheng

吳俊陞

Wu Junsheng.jpg - Commander of Fengtian Cavalry
Yang Yuting

楊宇霆

Yang Yuting.jpg - Executed by Zhang Xueliang for his part in the assassination of Zhang Zuolin
Liu Zhennian

劉珍年

"King of East Shandong"; defected to KMT during the Northern Expedition[11], defeated by Han Fuqu
Xu Lanzhou

許蘭洲

Xu Lanzhou1.jpg 1895-1928 originally a Qing general, later served under Zhang Zuolin[12]

Shanxi clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Yan Xishan

閻錫山

Yan Xishan.png 1911–1949 - Military ruler of Shanxi
- Joined the Kuomintang but later rebelled against Chiang Kai-shek in the Central Plains War[13]
- Defeated by the Communists in 1949, withdrew to Taiwan
Fu Zuoyi

傅作義

Fu Zuoyi.jpg 1927–1949 - ruler of Suiyuan; defected to the Communists in 1949

Guominjun

  • Also known as the Northwestern Army; originally sympathetic to the Kuomintang but rebelled in the 1930 Central Plains War and was defeated.[13]
Name Years of dominance Notes
Feng Yuxiang

馮玉祥

02fengyuxiang-1-.jpg 1924–1934 Leader of the Northwest, initially Zhili warlord
Sun Yue

孫岳

Sun Yue.jpg 1924–1928
Hu Jingyi

胡景翼

Hu Jingyi2.jpg 1924–1925 Military governor of Henan
Bie Tingfang

別廷芳

Bie Tingfang.jpg Henan warlord; switched to KMT
Sun Dianying

孫殿英

Sun Dianying.jpg Henan bandit; allied with Feng Yuxiang, Zhang Zongchang[14]
Song Zheyuan

宋哲元

Song Zheyuan.jpg 1927–1930 Defected to KMT in 1930, warlord of Chahar Province and Rehe Province
Han Fuqu

韓復榘

Han Fuju.JPG 1930–1938 Chairman of the Shandong Province; Defected to KMT in 1930.[11] arrested and shot after abandoning his province when the Second Sino-Japanese War started.
Shi Yousan

石友三

Shi Yousan.jpg 1912–1940 Chairman of Anhui province, 1929. Known as the "Defector General" for his repeated defections between various warlords, KMT factions, communists and Japan.[15]
Fan Zhongxiu

樊鍾秀

1911-1931 served many different factions successively, killed in the Central Plains War

Ma clique

All Ma Clique Generals were Hui Chinese Muslim Kuomintang members. Fought against the Guominjun during the Central Plains War. Attempted to destroy the Xinjiang Clique during the Kumul Rebellion but were defeated by Soviet Red Army intervention.[16]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Ma Anliang

馬安良

1912–1918 Ruler of the Gansu province, Outranked all the other Ma Clique generals.
Ma Fuxiang

馬福祥

Ma Fuxiang.jpg 1912–1928 De facto leader after Ma Anliang[17]; Ruler of Ningxia[18] and Suiyuan[19][20][21][22]
Ma Hongbin

馬鴻賓

Ma Hongbin.jpg 1921–1928 brief acting Chairman of Gansu Province and Ningxia Province[23]
Ma Hongkui

馬鴻逵

Ma Hongkui.jpg 1923–1949 Army commander then ruler of Ningxia Province from 1932[24]
Ma Zhongying

馬仲英

Ma Zhongying.jpg 1929–1934 Chief of the 36th Division and ruler of Southern Xinjiang (Tunganistan)
Ma Hushan

馬虎山

Ma Hushan 1937.jpg 1934–1950 Chief of the 36th Division and ruler of Southern Xinjiang (Tunganistan)
Ma Zhancang

馬占倉

served under Ma Zhongying

Allied to the Ma Clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Zhang Peiyuan

張培元

1929–1934 Commander of Ili, allied with the Ma Clique against the Xinjiang Clique

Qinghai Province Ninghai Army

Name Years of dominance Notes
Ma Qi

马麒

Ma Qi.jpg 1915–1931 Ruler of the Qinghai province, influential in Gansu province
Ma Lin

馬麟

Ma Lin.jpg 1931–1938 Ruler of the Qinghai province
Ma Bufang

馬步芳

Ma Bufang.jpg 1938–1945 Ruler of the Qinghai province
Ma Buqing

馬步青

Ma Buqing.jpg

Xinjiang clique

Under Yang Zengxin, the clique organized the defence against the Soviet encroachment,[25][26] later closely affliated with the Soviet Union.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Yang Zengxin

楊增新

General Yang Zengxin.jpg 1912–1928 Ruler of the Xinjiang province from the the Qing era. Always recognized whichever government was dominant.[25]
Ma Fuxing

馬福興

Ma Fuxing Titai of Kashgar.jpg 1912–1924 Titai of Kashgar, Military Commander of Southern Xinjiang
Ma Shaowu

馬紹武

Ma Shaowu.jpg 1924–1937 Executed Ma Fuxing on Yang Zengxin's orders, then replaced him as Tao-yin of Kashgar, Military Commander of Southern Xinjiang
Jin Shuren

金樹仁

Jin Shuren.jpg 1928–1934 Ruler of the Xinjiang province.
Sheng Shicai

盛世才

Governor Sheng Shicai.jpg 1933-1944 Ruler of the Xinjiang province and Soviet puppet

Southern Factions

The military cliques in the South are generally regional revolutionary leaders that took over after the fall of Qing Dynasty in Xinhai Revolution.

Kuomintang

Derived from the Tongmenghui revolutionary organization and established a rival government of the Republic of China in Guangdong Province from 1913 to 1928. Nominally reunified China in 1928 after the Northern Expedition.[27]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Sun Yat-sen

孫中山

Sunyatsen1.jpg 1912–1925 Founder of the Republic of China and leader of the Kuomintang
Chiang Kai-shek

蔣介石

Chiang Kai-shek.jpg 1926–1975 Military leader of the Kuomintang and later President
He Yingqin

何應欽

Hyy.png 1926–1950 Senior General in the Kuomintang
Hu Hanmin

胡漢民

Hhm.png 1925–1936 Leader of the right wing faction of the Kuomintang
Liao Zhongkai

廖仲愷

Liao Zhongkai.jpg 1923–1925 Architect of the First United Front with the Chinese Communist Party
Wang Jingwei

汪精衛

Wang Jingwei.png 1925–1944 Leader of the left wing faction of the Kuomintang, later Japanese puppet
Yu Youren

于右任

Yu Youren.jpg 1918–1922 Shaanxi revolutionary commander, later headed the Control Yuan.[28]
Yang Hucheng

楊虎城

YangHucheng.jpg 1918-1936 Shaanxi ruler from 1926, helped kidnap Chiang in the Xi'an incident.[29]
Jing Yuexiu

井岳秀

Jing Yuexiu.jpg 1913-1936 mostly independent Northern Shaanxi warlord, cooperated with various other cliques.[30]

Yunnan clique

The Yunnan Military Government was established on October 30, 1911, with Cai E elected as the military governor. This marked the beginning of the "Yunnan clique".

Name Years of dominance Notes
Cai E

蔡鍔

Cai E.jpg 1911–1916 Leader of the Yunnan Army
Zhu De

朱德

1916 Zhu De.jpg 1911–1920 protege of Cai, later Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese Red Army[31][32]
Tang Jiyao

唐繼堯

Tangjiyao.jpg 1913-1927 Military governor of Yunnan
Hu Ruoyu

胡若愚

1927 Governor of Yunnan
Long Yun

龍雲

Long Yun2.jpg 1927-1945 Governor of Yunnan

Guizhou Warlords

Guizhou Province was dominated by a series of successive autonomous warlords.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Liu Xianshi

劉顯世

Liu Xianshi.jpg -1920 originally a Qing dynasty commander, neutral between the Beiyang and KMT, overthrown by his nephew Wang Wenhua.[33]
Wang Wenhua

王文華

Wang Wenhua.jpg 1920-1921 KMT-supporting warlord, assassinated by Yuan Zuming.[34]
Yuan Zuming

袁祖銘

Yuan Zuming.jpg 1921-1927 Initial aligned to the Beiyang government, nominally ackowledged the KMT government in 1926, but assassinated a year later.[35]
Wang Jialie

王家烈

Wang Jialie.jpg 1929-1935 Nominally acknowledged KMT rule, deposed by KMT during the pursuit of the Long March.[36]

Old Guangxi clique

Guangxi province announced its independence on November 6, 1911. Originally, the revolutionaries supported the Qing Governor to remain in position. However, he later left the province, and Lu Rongting succeeded his position.[37]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Cen Chunxuan

岑春煊

Cen Chunxuan (1).jpg 1916–1920 Qing Dynasty Governor and Military Governor of Guangdong
Lu Rongting

陸榮廷

Lu Rongting.jpg 1912–1922
Chen Binghun

陳炳焜

Chen Bingkun.jpg 1916-1921
Shen Hongying

沈鴻英

Shen Hongying.jpg 1923-1925 Military governor of Guangdong (1923-1924)

New Guangxi Clique

After the Guangdong-Guangxi War, the Old Guangxi clique was no longer effective, and was replaced by the New Guangxi clique. Supported the Kuomintang's Northern Expedition but rebelled during the Central Plains War.[38][13]

Name Years of dominance Notes
Li Zongren

李宗仁

Lizhongren.jpg 1923–1949
Bai Chongxi

白崇禧

Minister1.jpg 1923–1949 Muslim, Head of the the Chinese Islamic National Salvation Federation,[39][40] widely considered successor-designate of Chiang.
Huang Shaoxiong

黃紹竑

Huang Shaohong.jpg 1923–1949

Guangdong Warlords

Guangdong was independent on November 8. The Guangdong Army was in the early 1920s mostly dominated by Chen Jiongming. In the 1930s, Chen Jitang was chairman of the government.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Long Jiguang

龍濟光

Long Jiguang.jpg 1911-1918 Qing commander, supporter of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China, later affliated with the Anhui Clique
Chen Jiongming

陳炯明

Chen Jion-ming.png 1911–1924 Initially allied to KMT, defected to Zhili clique in 1922 but defeated by Chiang Kai-Shek
Ye Ju

叶擧

Ye Ju.jpg 1929–1936 Initially Long Jiguang's deputy, then Chen Jiongming's deputy
Chen Jitang

陳濟棠

Chen Jitang.jpg 1929–1936

Sichuan clique

During the period from 1927–1938, Sichuan was in the hands of five warlords. No warlord had enough power to take on all the others at once, so many small battles occurred, pitting one warlord against another.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Liu Wenhui

劉文輝

Liu Wenhui.jpg later warlord of Xikang Province, defected to the Communist Party[41]
Liu Xiang

劉湘

Liu Xiang.jpg 1921–1938
Yang Sen

楊森

Yang Sen.jpg
Tian Songyao

田頌堯

Tian Songyao.jpg
Deng Xihou

鄧錫侯

Deng Xihou.jpg

Hunan Warlords

Hunan Province was ruled by successive autonomous warlords.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Tan Yankai

譚延闓

Tan Yankai.jpg 1912-1920 Kuomintang politician
Zhao Hengti

趙恆惕

Zhao Hengti.jpg 1920-1926 friendly to the Zhili Clique
Tang Shengzhi

唐生智

Tang Shengzhi.jpg 1926-1927 Defected to Chiang during the Northern Expedition, rebelled against Chiang during the Central Plains War
Peng Dehuai

彭德懷

Peng 3.jpg subordinate of Tang; later Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese Red Army[42]
He Jian

何鍵

He Jian2.jpg 1927-

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