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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Chen Shufan


Chen Shufan.jpg 1916-1921
Zheng Shiqi


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

Zhili clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Feng Guozhang


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

- Died in 1919 and was succeeded by Cao Kun

Cao Kun


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


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


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

- Defeated in the Northern Expedition

Lu Jianzhang


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


Li Chun.jpg
Wang Zhanyuan[9]


Wang Zhanyuan3.jpg Hubei warlord
Chen Guangyuan[9]


Chen Guangyuan.jpg
Wang Chengbin


Wang Chengbin.jpg Ethnic Manchu

Fengtian clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Zhang Zuolin


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


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

- Eventually reconciled the Fengtian clique with the Kuomintang

Guo Songling


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

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

Zhang Zongchang


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


Zhang Haipeng.jpg
Zhang Jinghui


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


Li Jinglin.jpg
Tang Yulin


Tang Yulin.jpg
Wan Fulin


Wan Fulin.jpg
Wu Junsheng


Wu Junsheng.jpg - Commander of Fengtian Cavalry
Yang Yuting


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


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


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

Shanxi clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Yan Xishan


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


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


  • 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


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


Sun Yue.jpg 1924–1928
Hu Jingyi


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


served under Ma Zhongying

Allied to the Ma Clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Zhang Peiyuan


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


1927 Governor of Yunnan
Long Yun


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


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


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


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


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


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


Lu Rongting.jpg 1912–1922
Chen Binghun


Chen Bingkun.jpg 1916-1921
Shen Hongying


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


Lizhongren.jpg 1923–1949
Bai Chongxi


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Liu Xiang.jpg 1921–1938
Yang Sen


Yang Sen.jpg
Tian Songyao


Tian Songyao.jpg
Deng Xihou


Deng Xihou.jpg

Hunan Warlords

Hunan Province was ruled by successive autonomous warlords.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Tan Yankai


Tan Yankai.jpg 1912-1920 Kuomintang politician
Zhao Hengti


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


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


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


He Jian2.jpg 1927-


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