War and the Rise of Nationalism in Twentieth-Century China Author(s): Arthur Waldron Source: The Journal of Military

History, Vol. 57, No. 5, Special Issue: Proceedings of the Symposium on "The History of War as Part of General History" at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, New Jersey (Oct., 1993), pp. 87-104 Published by: Society for Military History Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2951804 . Accessed: 03/05/2011 13:05
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China remains a unified state. ISSUE 57 (October 1993): 87-104 The Journal of Military History SIPECIAL 0 Society for Military llistory 87 . instead they focus on one or another aspect of the rest of history. it is worth pointing out at the very beginning that the place of organized violence in what might be called the architecture of the Chinese society and state has. been rather different from what is found in the West. with war treated at best as a largely unexamined context. strikingly. 168. The Identity of France. Volume 2. but it has never been true for Chinese history. out of habit or laziness. war has scarcely been studied at all. long after Rome has faded from living historical memory. 1992). gets short shrift: even books that tell the lives of generals or narrate periods in which major wars occur usually devote relatively little attention to detailed examination of strategies. People and Production. let alone accorded primacy. that war is the driving force behind world history? -Fernand Braudell RAUDEL'S stricture may well be justified for his fields of European )and Mediterranean history. Fernand Braudel. and that this difference probably goes far toward explaining why. in particular. in which. since ancient times. Fighting. Sian Reynolds (New York:Harper Perennial.War and the Rise of Nationalism in Twentieth-Century China Arthur Waldron Do not too many people assume. One reason for this is quite legitimate: the powerfully civilian character of Chinese civilization. combat. B 1. social as often as not. Since this essay will be primarily devoted to arguing for the importance of war. or the course of battle. trans.

and Westerners began taking their country seriously. 88 SPECIAL ISSUE TIlE JOURNAL OF . severalhundredmillion peasants will rise like a mighty storm. like a hurricane. it cannot be resisted. when the Chinese abandoned traditional historiography. indeed. a power. southern. 1:23-24. "Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan" (March 1927). however great. and beginning to look for groups and commonalities. But perhaps the most important reason has been political. for warfare itself is interpreted ultimately as an aspect of a revolutionary process whose driving force is economic. It is a vision that identifies a power greater than military coercion or warfare. Certain stages were for that reason skipped: meticulous studies of institutional development. The words that follow will be extremely familiar to any educated Mainland Chinese: In a very short time. and evil gentry into their graves. and most foreign historians have agreed. local tyrants. based on a visit to five counties in the central province of Hunan.2 These words describe Mao Zedong's vision of China's future. 1967). both of whom agree about the revolutionary nature of twentieth-century history. That power is social. a force so swift and violent that no power. corrupt officials. though they disagree about which of them is the true revolutionary. factors intrinsic to war are accorded secondary importance. such as war. important figures in Western historiography were moving away from the study of individuals and contingent sequences. even its own. 2. They will smash all the trammels that bind them and rush forwardalong the roadto liberation. The historian's task is to look beyond superficial phenomena. in China'scentral. to deeper causes. warlords. According to Mao. What is the relationship of war to this general revolutionary history of China? In official history (which is to say nearly everything written in Chinese) the easiest way to sum up is to say that in every case. Mao Tse-tung. And this has not simply been a matter of choice for the historian. And in the theory of revolution. for example. China has proclaimed her history to be about revolution. in the early twentieth century.ARTHUR WALDRON A more important reason had to do with historiography. or drum and trumpet military history (or indeed any other kind). in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung (Peking: Foreign Languages Press. As will be seen at the conclusion. that will sweep both foreign military might ("imperialists") and its Chinese equivalent ("warlords") before it. For most of this century. Modern historical writing about China began several generations later than it did in Europe. violence or war is at best a midwife.Theywillsweep all the imperialists. and its grievance is economic. and northern provinces. It has been the imposed policy of both the Nationalist and Communist governments. will be able to hold it back.

" These may not represent a fully articulated theory of society. Analysis of China's twentieth-century nationalist revolution. And given the difficulty of the Chinese language and the limitations of time. and variations on them. aspects of China's revolution. 1900-1913. however. depending upon imperialismfor their survivaland growth. 1:13. of formidable complexity. A long list of Western scholars have. corrupt officials. until recently. For it has been through these labels. As for historical studies. "The Rising Tide of Change. because the political and military history is. MILITARY HISTORY SPECIAL ISSUE 89 . Theirexistence is utterly incompatible with the aims of the Chinese revolution. China itself has changed almost beyond recognition. Conn. in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. It also provided criteria for deciding what was important and what was not: things related to revolution and nationalism were clearly worth studying. tended to understand their twentieth-century history. some drawn ultimately from the Western Marxist tradition.Warand the Rise of Nationalism in 20th Century China The passage quoted also provides some classifiers-"imperialists. in one way or another. but they should not be dismissed simply as polemic. 3. These classes represent the most backward and most reactionary relations of production in China and hinder the development of her productive forces. Some Westerners embraced this approach as well. rather than the social.: Yale University Press.3 And although Mao would never have put nationalism first intellectually. others from China itself. in the last several years it has become 3. But most tempered it by stressing the nationalistic. who asserted in 1968 that nationalism was the "moving force" of the whole Chinese revolution of the twentieth century. Mao Tse-tung. in fact. that Chinese have. as will be seen below." Thus: In economically backwardand semicolonial China the landlord class and the comprador class are wholly appendages of the international bourgeoisie. has not really been the same since Mao died in 1976. and few escaped its influence altogether. Mary Clabaugh Wright (New Haven. as compatibility with the aims of the Chinese revolution. warlords. creates an orderly and intellectually manageable past: this was probably part of its appeal. ed. 4. 1968). agreed with Mary Wright. local tyrants. why bother to study anything else? This intellectually tidy world. "Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society" (March 1926)." in China in Revolution: The First Phase. his writings do provide at least implicitly a way of making nationalism the touchstone for including and excluding individuals from "the people. whether in Mao's terms or those of Western scholars. and evil gentry.4 Nationalism here is explained in economic terms. Mary Clabaugh Wright.

it seems. The best example is Feng Yuxiang- 5. 11-33. at least initially. the closest one got to a balanced appraisal was an account in which a warlord was conceded to have had some progressive characteristics. For the "warlord" period does not last forever. Militarism. warlords.ARTHUR WALDRON clear that Chinese scholars are breaking out of this revolutionary approach. namely. of the deposed Qing ruler Puyi. and one abortive imperial restoration. Qian Shifu. Until recently. This is a period of formidable political and military complexity: in the fourteen years from 1912 to 1928 China had nine presidents. 7. very much as advertised. but rather imposed by imported theory. however. nationalism and war. 1916-1928 (Stanford: Stanford University Press. to fit the facts. there are signs of change. with even the word junfa ("warlord") in its current usage being derived from Japanese. by fitting it into the framework of revolution. Beiyang zhengfu zhiguan nianbiao (Shanghai: Huadong daxue chubanshe. depending upon what you count. by revolutionary popular movements. tradition.and Imperialism. This means that instead of looking at people and events-making their explanations what political scientists would call sequence and path dependent-they have looked for categories: nationalists.7 Not only does such an approach simplify. Although this approach still dominates the historiography. "The Warlord: Twentieth Century Chinese Understandings of Violence. These two questions are most closely linked in the period on which my current research focuses: the so-called "warlord era" from 1916 to 1928. modernity. This process has caused them to begin to examine very seriously once again the issue to which this seminar is devoted: the history of war as part of general history.5 There were also at least six civil wars. The key turning point in the revolutionary wave is the May Thirtieth Incident of 1925."American Historical Review 96 (October 1991): 1073-1100. Warlord Politics in China. 6. 1976). I have shown elsewhere that this approach was not derived empirically. in terms of whose general operations the specifics of this complex period can be simplified and grasped..6 So historians can perhaps be forgiven for avoiding the headache of actually studying all this. In this essay I will concentrate on one aspect of this question. 1991). revolutionaries. forty prime ministers. Ch'i Hsi-sheng. ed. Arthur Waldron. It does seem. 90 SPECIAL ISSUE THE JOURNAL OF . by sociologizing it. and looking for alternatives. and it is swept away. to which we will return below.

MILITARY HISTORY SPECIAL ISSUE 91 ."InMemoriam of the Dog-Meat General. with the hitherto leading role of the Communist party and of revolution largely written out. And just as the Chinese Communist Party is now trying to relegitimate itself by appropriating nationalism. and." in With Love and Irony (New York: John Day Co. Jianlin Guo. 9. "hero of an age. 1940).'0 From the perspective of contemporary Chinese politics. 2v. because of the importance of some of his relatives in the PRCgovernment-was regularly portrayed somewhat positively. 1983). what becomes of the revolution? What was it? Did it even ever really happen? Chinese historians have not yet really begun to ask these questions explicitly.8 Wu Peifu. appears in 1991 in Professor Guo Jianlin's definitive biography as yidai xiaoxiong. They are still at the initial pingfan [rehabilitation] stage of historiography. The Chinese are engaged in an imaginative recapturing and reconstruction of the past. Lin Yiu-tang. are part of the intellectual aftermath of the collapse of communism.. Even Zhang Zongehang. But perhaps we can consider how they might be answered. appreciative essays and biographies have begun to be written of many people previously vilified as reactionaries. of Marxism as well. deposited at Columbia University. there have been some dramatic changes. have been translated into Chinese and published in five volumes in China. however. 10. the "dogmeat general" of Lin Yii-t'ang's caustic memoir. what becomes of revolutionary nationalism? Indeed. Zhang Zongchang (Jinan: Shandong renmin chubanshe. now has a comprehensive biography in Chinese. In the last five years or so. then with increasing boldness. 8. being walked by Uncle Sam.Warand the Rise of Nationalism in 20th Century China arguably in fact the most venal of them all-who. Lu Weijun. which were written in English. using the evidence of the 1920s. but never published in the West. so the emotional basis of much of the new historical writing is nationalism as well. First cautiously." 9 Many other examples could be adduced. hitherto known as a puppet of American and British financial interests and portrayed in a left-wing cartoon as a small dog on a leash. 1989). 1991). Yidai xiaoxiong: Wu Peifu tazhuan (Tianjin: Tianjin Daxue Chubanshe. in China at least. Appreciative biographies of "warlords" and the rethinking of the China in which they lived. it is not hard to see what is going on here. Gu Weijun huiyilu (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju. But what does all this do to our interpretative schemes? If all the erstwhile traitors turn out to have been patriots in their fashion. and discards Mao Zedong's dicta about the groups whose activities were "incompatible" with China's future. 195-98. but an intuitively satisfying nationalism that is broadly inclusive. Gu Weijun's [Wellington Koo's] memoirs.

M. Seventy protesters broke in and demanded the release of the students. thought nothing of leaving his office early that day. and as the day progressed. something was always happening. by a Japanese textile factory guard whom he had threatened. were only one hundred police. Then the crowd began to shout. 285. a Chinese worker. 177. Jindai laihua waiguo renming cidian (Beijing: Shehui kexue chubanshe. it became more and more angry. Forty-four shots rang out. Second (revised) edition (Tokyo: Japanese Government Railways. 1924). already East Asia's greatest metropolis. its commander. 301. By 3:00 P. no one expected the day to have any particular importance. The China Who's Who. but was not concerned. See Japan. Inspector Everson. 1926).ARTHUR WALDRON 2 A good example of the problem is the historiography of the May Thirtieth Incident and the May Thirtieth Movement that followed.M. it promised to be so uneventful that Kenneth John McEuen. ten seconds later he ordered his men. Carroll Lunt. 288. Department of Railways.M. which was taking place that afternoon. McEuen was an enthusiastic horsemanas a young man he had played polo in the interport league-and he did not want to miss the annual spring meet at the race course. A large crowd turned out in the Nanjing road. seven more would die of 11. 1981). and they became more and more alarmed as the crowd grew in size. Zhongguo shehui kexue yuan jindaishi yanjiusuo fanyishi. he left the Municipal Building. Sikh and Chinese policemen. Shortly before 2:00 P. "Kill the foreigners!" Everson was afraid that the station would be stormed. 92 SPECIAL ISSUE THE JOURNAL OF .11 So at 12:15 P. In the station. 30 May 1925.he shouted warnings in both English and Chinese. furthermore. about two thousand protestors filled the street in front.12 The demonstration was to protest the killing two weeks earlier of Gu Zhenghong. At the time. Some protests were planned. At 3:37 P. The incident took place in Shanghai on Saturday.. but in Shanghai. ed. however. 12.. comp. McEuen knew. but were driven back.. off the Nanjing Road. This area was patrolled from the Louza police station. 1926 (Foreign) (Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh. Other students gathered outside the station. to fire. then out Bubbling Well Road to the racetrack. commissioner of police for the Shanghai Municipal Council.M. Guide to China. Until now the incident has been judged perhaps the most important breakthrough in the revolutionary struggle of the 1920s. going first to the Bund and lunch at the Shanghai Club. At about this time McEuen passed by on his way to the spring meet. had arrested and brought in for questioning five students who had been demonstrating. Four people were killed immediately.

15. No. no consequences. large-scale disorder began immediately after the shooting. 8-9. 16. Anatol M. 1979). May 30. was very different. Yet these earlier violent incidents had. Shanghai: Its Municipality and the Chinese (Shanghai: North-China Daily News & Herald. from Nicholas R Clifford. 13 Riots and violence were not uncommon in Shanghai. 302. A little more than a year later. which had been Sun Yat-sen's 13. on 1 July 1926 the Nationalist military commander Chiang Kai-shek ordered the beginning of the Northern Expedition. had also been violent in Shanghai. 15 A national general strike was called in Beijing on 25 June. Colin Mackerras.Shanghai. Rigby. but across China. Donald A. Within days of the incident in Shanghai. 132. 1925: Urban Nationalism and the Defense of Foreign Privilege (Ann Arbor: Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies. the great port up the Yangzi river from Shanghai. Sixty thousand demonstrators. 1982). Only a landing party from the British warships in port had ended the ensuing riot. In Hankou. Afterward it was never agreed who had started to shoot. In Shanghai. This time a conflagration erupted. On 23 July an incident occurred there that was even bloodier than that of 30 May in Shanghai. and spread quickly to Guangzhou. The May 30th Movement: Events and Themes (Canberra: Australian National University Press. Description quoted. The Louza police station itself had been attacked and burned by a mob in 1905. Jordan.Warand the Rise of Nationalism in 20th Century China their wounds. with minor changes. In Beijing on 3 June perhaps thirty thousand students demonstrated. 16. tried to force the bridge leading from Guangzhou proper across the Shaji I"Shakee"I creek into the foreign settlement on Shamian Island. A general strike against the British started in Hong Kong on 19 June. 1976). and one hundred thousand demonstrators demanded that the Chinese army be used to expel the British from China.14 May 4. 14. Modern China: A Chronologyfrom 1842 to the present (San Francisco: W. eight demonstrators were killed by British machine-guns on 11 June and violent protest began. The Northern Expedition: China's Revolution of 1 9261928 (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii. 1919. which was quickly named the May Thirtieth Movement. Freeman and Company. 1980). The crowd fled.'6 And the consequences continued. 1927). but some fiftytwo Chinese were killed as British troops and Chinese demonstrators exchanged fire. an audacious attempt to carry revolution from Guangzhou. stunned by what had happened. not just in Shanghai. 1925. among them armed cadets from the Kuomintang's Huangpu IWhampoal Military Academy. See also Richard W. 34-36. more Chinese were killed in exchanges with them. 36. foreign troops began patrolling the streets. and about twenty were wounded. H. MILITARY HISTORY SPECIAL ISSUE 93 . effectively. That city in turn became tense. Kotenev. all of China was being swept up in a tide of protests.

and demonstrations across China. and its relationship to the rest of the world. Those who play with words might call it a "national 17. His troops. Chiang's armies had reached and taken the key cities of Shanghai and Nanjing. placed great emphasis on revolutionary mobilization and the slogans of nationalism. Instead it looks very much like a sudden but commonly shared shift in the way masses of Chinese people thought about themselves. In a little more than three years from the May Thirtieth Incident.ARTHUR WALDRON base. and on 5 April a new National Government had been proclaimed. with Soviet advisers. and the retreat of the paramount "warlord" leader. was confirmation of Mao Zedong's prophecy. riots. 94 SPECIAL ISSUE THE JOURNAL OF . 1: 117-28. "A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire" (January 1930) Collected Works of Mao Tse-tung. this was the real "revolution"-and that terminology would stick until 1949. through all of China.17 Second. and all was swept before them. For Chiang's progress North had involved fighting only to an extent. China had a new government. there is success. So the May Thirtieth Incident comes close to approximating the cliche of revolutions everywhere that is summed up in the Chinese phrase xing xing zhi huo ke liao yuan. from Beijing. in a matter of days and weeks. by 1928. at least. propaganda teams preceded the army. surely. there is the seemingly decisive role in this story of an abrupt and thoroughgoing change in consciousness. their country. By March of the following year. The study of the history of war raises some questions about it. For the first time in Chinese warfare. Zhang Zuolin. The passage of another year brought the collapse of resistance in the North. 3 Let us note the interpretative issues posed by the May Thirtieth Incident and Movement. or indeed of any of the things materially minded historians like to look at. or of shifts in social structures or hierarchies. which were never controlled. Mao Tse-tung. Chinese and foreign alike. by strikes. First. Such. the violence that day in Shanghai ignited a conflagration: it was followed. of the Chinese government that had ruled since 1912. Here. explaining the revolutionary nature of the new war. The nationwide response to what happened in Shanghai that Saturday seems at root to have been not a matter of economic change. has been the general historical verdict. and its substitution by the radical nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang. In a way previous events (even including the culturally more significant May Fourth Incident of 1919) had not. To observers. The demoralized Chinese people listened and were galvanized. and which culminated in the overthrow.

They thought that uniforms and weapons could not have destroyed their human nature. an atrocity which. Here is how Ba Jin [Li Feigan. changed everyone's mind.Warand the Rise of Nationalism in 20th Century China moment. One is the Ainritsar.19 Both incidents are almost universally recognized as defining moments in the emergence of respective nationalisms. Alistair Horne. but they moved people less by changing anything physical than by transforming the way people thought. But reality proved that they 18. A Savage War Of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (New York: Viking Penguin Books." by MarkJuergensmeyer." when inchoate feelings of hundreds of thousands of people crystallized around an event and into a program. MILITARY HISTORY SPECIAL ISSUE 95 . regardless of their previous beliefs. s. 1987).v. The events that started it were real enough. that human blood flowed in their veins. 19. a radical novelist of the time. They thought the police were human beings endowed with reason and human sympathy. described one student's reaction: At the entrance to Yunnan Road [he] saw the child who had been killed a short while before. ostensibly to celebrate victory in Europe. "Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. The sight of blood on Nanjing Road in Shanghai. when shooting broke out during a parade. Encyclopedia ofAsian History. but a total emotional choice for one side or the other. made not just or even an intellectual choice. in which British colonial troops killed nearly four hundred demonstrators in Punjab. He thought: about half an hour ago the crowd was marching peacefully towardthe police station to ask the police to set free the students who had been unjustly arrested. when person after person. It is important above all because of its psychological consequences. as on Changanjie in Beijing. 1904J. ed. 25-26. b. Ainslie Thomas Embree. but used by Muslims to call for independence. when habits of thought and socializing developed over decades and generations became history. which led to shootings throughout the colony. moments when identities that had hitherto coexisted suddenly and abruptly disentangled themselves. May Thirtieth fits the category exactly. in the service of goals which had become all-encompassing and opposed in a way that puzzled all of them. massacre of 13 April 1919. changed fundamentally the whole tenor of the nationalist movement. and perhaps five times that number of Muslims killed in revenge. or Jallianwala Bagh. 18 Or consider the incident at Setif in Algeria on 8 May 1945. becoming willing to engage in the most appalling brutality against others previously neighbors at best and strangers at worst. by some accounts at least. an eventual death toll of 103 Europeans murdered. There are similar incidents in the histories of other countries: they occur regularly in the history of radical nationalism.

He struggled inwardly." Dongbei shida xuebao 3(1981): 96. 22. Cohen. and Jiao Jingyi.20 Ba Jin's words reflect what a modern Chinese scholar calls the "change in political atmosphere" marked by the May Thirtieth Incident. He felt the time for patience was over. 2d ed."22 The spark of May Thirtieth is thought of as having set China "aflame with the fever of nationalism. 26. Siqu de taiyang [The Setting Sun] (Shanghai: Kaiming. furthermore. 1925. Pa Chin and His Writings: Chinese Youth Between the Two Revolutions (Cambridge. K. China in Revolution: An Analysis of 96 SPECIAL ISSUE THE JOURNAL OF . Zeng Fanxiu and Liu Xiaohui. 24. 1980). 1967). 1961). Zhonggong Tianjin shiwei dangshi ziliao zhengji weiyuanhui. his whole body began to burn as though on fire.. Shanghai. American Policy and the Chinese Revolution (New York: American Institute of Pacific Relations. Wusayundong zai Tianjin (Beijing: Zhonggong dangshi ziliao chubanshe. 25. Harold Isaacs saw "a weapon of immense power. 16. The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution. Warren I. Mass. Beiyang junfa shigao (Hubei renmin chubanshe. to which reference is made in Clifford. 1983)." 24 The Powers. 1991). arising so it seemed suddenly and explosively. 2d ed. this radical nationalism. Dorothy Borg. with new introduction by the author. his heart beat violently. most recently in the work of Edmund S. 8-9. were confronted with new and unanticipated demands.26 20. The imperialist oppression that had endured for so many years ached like a deep wound in [his] heart. New York:Octagon Books.21 Chinese scholars call this largely psychological force "world shaking". it had "the power to topple mountains and turn over seas. 1. translated in Olga Lang.. (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 21. (New York:Knopf. eds. Ba Jin. Guo Jianlin. The Diplomacy of Imperial Retreat: Britain's South China Policy. and continuing in the present. Fung. among earlier examples should be numbered Harley Farnsworth MacNair. On the most crowded street of the city they deliberately slaughtered unarmed people." 23 In the mass movement that it sent surging over China. America's Response to China: An Interpretative History of Sino-American Relations. to sacrifice his young life that he might show that not all among this people were lambs that allowed themselves to be led without resistance to slaughter. 1987). Isaacs. He looked again at the corpse of the murdered child. 89-90. 19241931 (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press."25 Since that time. His eyes shone with fire. 310. Lai Xinxia. reprint ed. 1949). He felt he wanted to spill his blood.ARTHUR WALDRON were bloodthirsty beasts. 73. Harold R. is taken as the background for diplomatic developments as well.: Harvard University Press. et al. 1968). "The question was no longer what the Western nations and Japan would demand of China. 111. but what an intensely vocal and nationalistic China would demand of them. note 35. For this there was no precedent in Chinese history. 1. "Wusayundong zai Dongbei. 23. 1947.

Warand the Rise of Nationalism in 20th Century China 4 The stress on the psychological dimension in this case is at least superficially congenial to the currently dominant approach to nationalism. 3-4. is associated with nationalism.: Yale University Press. Dorothy Borg. 249. Conn. cadets were sent abroad. vol. pt. This is where war comes in. with consequent changes in strategy and tactics and. 1980). qualified foreign observers believed that China's modern battle fleet would easily defeat Japan's. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. There was a rapid improvement of weapons. Interpreters of nationalism tend to concentrate on consciousness. 1986)..28 During the roughly half-century from the Treaty of Nanjing to the Sino-Japanese War of 1895. Anthony D. Students of institution building and its consequences will note in China." in John K. Smith. from the mid-nineteenth century continuing unabated through the present century.29 There was a Politics and Militarism under the Republic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. what can best be called a military revolution. this military revolution had a number of manifestations. 1965). whether deep rooted or recent. and military reform received a high priority. Mass. 1800-1911. 28. 1947). numerous military texts were translated. although there is deep disagreement among them over whether the consciousness in question is one that has accreted over the very long term. Smith. see Anthony D. Smith has called these two groups "primordialists" and "modernists. As in Europe. 29. Fairbank. The Chinese always recognized that modernization had been forced on them in the first instance by gunfire. 1974). For this distinction. Kwang-Ching Liu and RichardJ. 27. a great increase in the power of the military in comparison with the rest of society. Taipei: China Academy.: Harvard University Press. American Policy and the Chinese Revolution (New York. Tidesfrom the West (New Haven. "The Military Challenge: The Northwest and the Coast. and state-of-the-art weapons were purchased-all with such apparent effect that on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War. Late Ch'ing. 1 912-1 931 (Cambridge. After Imperialism: The Searchfor a New Order in the Far East. 7-13. and Akira Iriye. The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell. This fact is of critical importance to understanding May Thirtieth. MILITARY HISTORY SPECIAL ISSUE 97 . Monlin Chiang [Jiang Menglin]." and it is not my intent in this essay to do more than suggest how this Chinese evidence may affect their arguments. ed. The Cambridge History of China. 11. above all. explaining that mental changewhich is what the primordialists and the modernists disagree aboutdoes not explain either the initiation or success of nationalist violence.27 But it is important to note that even if we concede that some sort of fundamental change in collective thinking. or is instead the product of modern capitalism and its associated intellectual consequences. 1947. 1931).

with a struggle between Jiangsu and Zhejiang for control of Shanghai. overlord of Manchuria. 1976). the autumn before it occurred had witnessed the largest modern war to that point in Chinese history. It began in the summer of 1924. 30. numbered about 100. and social structure emerged severely weakened.. contenders for power in China began to use armies against one another. The results were never conclusive. the force that Chiang K'ai-shek led north from Canton at the beginning of the Northern Expedition on 9 July 1926. armored trains and military aircraft were employed. Hsi-sheng Ch'i. owing to industrialization. In the wake of this war. The combatants mobilized more than 420. the Second ZhiliFengtian War. As a result. economic. 1916-1928 (Stanford.30 (By comparison. Both sides used machine gun corps to kill their own troops if they retreated without orders. among both officers and men. were heavy. and hospitals for miles around the fronts were quickly filled to overflowing. and the Zhili group that controlled North and Central China. 99. eds. Zhonghuaminguoshi shijianrenwulu (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe. China's existing institutional.32 Casualties. notably at Hankou) and on themselves. Beginning in earnest in 1920. through civil wars. while at the bottom the mass army increasingly took the place of the trained mercenary force. The technology and the style of fighting used had been learned from World War I. The result was a great increase in China's ability to inflict harm: both on foreigners (how the army would have done against the British after 1925 was never tested.: Stanford University Press. At the top. All of these changes occurred in China as well as Europe although about a decade later. 98 SPECIAL ISSUE THE JOURNAL OF . As for the May Thirtieth Incident. Calif. however. Huang Meizhen and Hao Shengehao. Warlord Politics in China.000 troops at the outset. Huang and Hao. which by autumn expanded into a showdown in Beijing and the north as well. however. political. Mines and barbed-wire protected entrenched positions. military conflict escalated. artillery fire could be intense. 1922 saw a major war between Zhang Zuolin. gradually displaced the privileged military amateurs who formerly held command. 125. along with every kind of political competition. 1987). Shijianrenwulu.31 All the rolling stock in north China was pressed into service to carry men and weapons to the front. specialized professional officers with formal education.ARTHUR WALDRON shift in military status as well. And there was the transformation of ways of fighting and of battlefields. 139-40. 32. because the British unilaterally handed over some of their most important concessions. though often of humble origin. These developed and grew more bloody through the 1920s.000 men). But no clear victor emerged. 31.

Setif cannot be understood outside the context of World War II. the simmering resentment of foreign privilege came to a boil. Wu's forces had been destroyed in the war of the previous autumn. From this perspective. It also intensified them: civil war and economic destruction turned people who had hitherto supported the government against it. Military order in China was severely shaken by the chaotic conclusion of the Second Zhili-Fengtian War on 3 November 1924. understanding what has traditionally been called "the rise of nationalism" in China requires looking at the interaction of warfare with politics. and marched on Beijing. and hasten to the MILITARY HISTORY SPECIAL ISSUE 99 . Here we can only suggest a few key events and turning points. But one of his allies. and S6tif. In all three cases the existing relationships of power had been shifted. nationalism is not so much a cause as an effect. Until a few days before its end. two events must be brought into the explanatory framework. and police forces of the Peking government-been destroyed in civil wars. Wu was therefore forced to abandon his troops at the front in the North. the able Zhili leader. which had been far more than a defeat-an abject humiliation-for France. Feng Yuxiang. From this perspective. most observers had believed that the war would be won by Wu Peifu. nationalism is not so much a cause as a consequence. the May Thirtieth Movement would never have succeeded had not the indigenous forces of order in China-the governments. In addition. became dissatisfied with the way the war was going. then. Likewise. To understand China in the 1920s we must look closely at war and the forces it fed or unleashed. there was no one to stop it. All of these effects are to some extent the results of violence whose origins were quite different. 5 To move one step further. That destruction made possible the expression of sentiments that had previously been only imperfectly visible. as Wu Peifu's elite forces had stopped the strike of workers on the Beijing-Hankou railroad in the summer of 1923. When disorder broke out in Shanghai. it had furthermore greatly reduced the psychological advantages Europeans once held over their colonial subjects. something historians have done only incompletely. not so much as a result of nationalist sentiment. In particular. as through the agency of war. left the front. creating a vacuum at every level from legitimacy of rule to simple city policing.Warand the Rise of Nationalism in 20th Century China War destroyed existing authority. Amritsar is scarcely surprising: World War I had bled England white. armies. where he carried out a coup d'6tat to create what he proclaimed as a new national government. Much the same process was involved in the cases of Amritsar.

137-38. and the response from the North. Wu Peifu. eventually to the USSR. But it was only a matter of time before Zhang would move. 100 SPECIAL ISSUE THE JOURNAL OF . It has several stages. There is no definitive account. when he did. he moved initially only as far as nearby Tianjin. Warlord Politics.34 The first is a war. Zhang Zuolin.ARTHUR WALDRON provinces of the Middle Yangzi. Feng managed to take Tianjin. Zhang. In this. through the Shanhaiguan and Nankou passes in the Great Wall. who had been the major obstacle in the way of restoring unity to China. leaving his armies under the commands of subordinates. although not more than military operations involving alliances usually are. and with the other participants distracted by the action near the capital. which begins late in 1925. Feng would be forced to withdraw. had been overcome. casualties. and Wu for control of a new civilian administration in Beijing under Duan Qirui. and it looked as if Feng Yuxiang. But his plan to bring Zhang Zuolin down through the rebellion of a subordinate failed.000 troops were mobilized on all sides. The decisive battles of this war came when Zhang Zuolin drove down on the capital. Chiang ordered the beginning of the Northern Expedition just as the battle for Nankou was reaching its climax.33 It is complicated. An exception is Zhang Tongxin. 33. did not seize the capital immediately. As we have seen.. both strong defensive positions that were costly to take. This struggle is often called in Chinese hunzhan or "chaotic warfare. which had been fighting with someone now since summer 1924. Ch'i. The true victor. taken by surprise. pushed rapidly into Central China. much of the equipment was World War I surplus. Beiyangjunfa shigao. A struggle would then develop among Feng. suffering heavy casualties. In April 1926 Feng's forces abandoned Beijing. with their opportunity. where he hoped. 35. 34. which are difficult to estimate. their best general." and skipped over by historians. Zhang Zuolin. vainly as it turned out. however. were in the tens of thousands. and the original adversary. As a result. however. presented Chiang Kaishek and his Nationalist army in Canton far to the south. eight provinces were engulfed in the war zone. Feng's position became difficult: he departed from China to travel. Changsha and Yuezhou in Hunan fell within two months. One of the better is Lai et al. 1982). an area which had been without functional authority since 1924. What had been the scale of this war? About 600. to rally reinforcements against both Feng. between Feng Yuxiang and the cooperating forces of Zhang Zuolin and Wu Peifu. Guomindang xinjunfa hunzhan shilue (Ha-er-bin: Heilongjiang renmin chubanshe. 307-72.35 The weakness of the Northern armies. was weak and ineffective. Instead.

did the leadership in Beijing actually form a military organization.000 men were involved. The climax came a year later when the forces of Yan Xishan. they are above all military tests. the capital of Jiangxi. and 36. Zhang Zuolin was inaugurated as Commander in Chief of the National Pacification Army [Anguojun]. taking Nanchang. With the tide of battle shifting. This was largely owing to personal distrust among the anti-Nationalist leaders. however. The reasons for the success of the whole Nationalist Northern Expedition. but was unable to prevent the conquest of the key Wuhan cities. however. with Wu Peifu defeated in the South. twelve provinces were war zones. look rather similar to those that explain why the May Thirtieth Incident was not crushed immediately. They are not best understood as manifestations of nationalism or social revolution. suspicion. estimated casualties were at least 50. were by no means doomed.100. in November. with Shanghai falling in March 1927. His opponents. joined the hostilities. are what bring to power the new Nationalist government. they proved unable as well to form an effective force against the Nationalist army. Ibid.Warand the Rise of Nationalism in 20th Century China arrived at Hankou with a large force on 25 August. Chiang Kai-shek was an able general. Meanwhile. although numerically superior from the beginning almost to the end. What it caused was military effort that first misidentified the threat. and the new National Government being proclaimed in Nanjing on 24 March 1927. now profiting by defections from units who appreciated their momentum. Only at this point. and disorganization of his opponents. MILITARY HISTORY SPECIAL ISSUE 101 . Progress continued to be rapid in South and Central China. and Chiang moving North with unexpected speed. Not only had the military forces of the Beijing government been too weak to suppress the May Thirtieth Movement when it began. the Nationalist armies continued their rapid progress north. who had controlled Shanxi. resuming control of his armies near the Mongolian border.000 (only a partial figure). Feng Yuxiang returned from the USSR. then. choosing his moment to strike boldly with numerically inferior forces. On 1 December 1926 in Tianjin. which made possible the capture of Beijing on 8 June 1928. The years 1927-28 saw the showdown between this army and the insurgent Nationalists. and thus opened a second front on the right flank of the Northern forces.36 These events. able to take advantage of the complacency. which fell to the Nationalists in September. it should be stressed. How big had this war been? Perhaps 1. Rather.

it sounds very much like another question. "battle history" may have a certain appeal in China. for the Chinese case. it must be welcomed. of the relationships between the technical and intrinsic elements of war and the broader social. Certainly the bookstores are full. force alone is usually no explanation either. 6 At a time when the last political succession was determined by military intervention (after Mao Zedong's death in 1976) and a popular movement for democracy crushed by armed force (in June 1989). Traditional Chinese historiography has always been more concerned with moral themes than with chronology. although indigenous critical academic traditions existed in China. economic. both are-to some extent-the same problem. Gradually weakening is the idea that the 1920s were a period of war between nationalists and anti-nationalists. with which we deal frequently: how to understand the history of China as a part of general history. and without revolution: "battle history" if you will-we will meet that term of dismissal shortly. For historians of Europe and the United States. and interestingly. and that they should embrace it probably tells us more about the disillusionment of the Chinese people than it does about the actual course of their history. it makes complicated what was once a remarkably simple business of historical interpretation. with ideology determining the victory. Chinese historians are increasingly seeing the 1920s as a period of civil war (among nationalists of various styles). But on the other hand. This brings me to my final questions. with military histories. Such is the story of the May Thirtieth Movement and the Northern Expedition.ARTHUR WALDRON then. when the threat was recognized. was unable to carry out an effective strategy against it. with war determining the outcome. and even military historical novels. that question is enough. as never before. I suspect Westerners will soon follow. monographs on campaigns. Undeniably. To the extent that this development signals a more balanced and realistic historiography. memoirs of commanders. who wrote his "Method for the study of Chinese history" after accepting a position in the History Department at Nankai University 102 SPECIAL ISSUE THE JOURNAL OF . without nationalism. Both are problems. This symposium deals with the history of war as a part of general history. and political context. But to a historian of my specialization. the Western-style scientific study of history was adopted from abroad by such scholars as Liang Qichao (1873-1929). It requires a rethinking.

" Charles-Victor Langlois and Charles Seignobos. [with history assigned] the merely auxiliary role of gathering the data. Introduction to the Study of History. 33ff. Hans H. MILITARY HISTORY SPECIAL ISSUE 103 . in the terms of revolution. Max Weber. and ideas.38 Finally. the majority of whom have framed their work in terms of presuppositions about the basic nature of what was going on in China-most often. Berry (London: Duckworth. 50. Zhongguo lishi yanjiufa 119221 (Taipei: Zhonghua shuju. 33. 1951). 41. G. 237. and political history. establishing chronology..: Free Press. Ill. 40. general political history was regularly dismissed as "battle history"which can leave little doubt that the actual and literal study of battles would have been considered unspeakably primitive. furthermore. Liang Qichao.Warand the Rise of Nationalism in 20th Century China in 1920. in France we have had the struggle between the history of institutions.41 (Two of them do note. and it is clear that 37. manners. Gerth (Glencoe. 1898). that "In a scheme of classification which should only recognize the general facts of political life there would be no place for the victory of Pharsalia or the taking of the Bastille-accidental and transient facts. at just the time that Asian subject matter began entering a field which hitherto had been narrowly focused on the West. 39. between the partisans of the history of civilization (Kulturgeschichte) and the historians who remain faithful to ancient tradition. but without which the history of Roman and French institutions would be unintelligible.")42 Add to all this the imposed internal orthodoxy of Chinese historical writing with regard to military questions since 1949. tr. "[Tlhere has been a contest. tr. G. contemptuously nicknamed 'battle-history' by its opponents. it was as often as not in the service of general social theory. Where did this leave the history of war? Even the opponents of the sociologists in the debate just mentioned seem to have had relatively little time for it. And when it left those confines. In late-nineteenth-century French academic circles. but in culturally and philologically orientated institutes specifically devoted to things Oriental. the former of which was widely expected "to become the primary discipline of scholarly synthesis. history was defining and redefining itself in reaction to the rise of the new fields of sociology and collective psychology. Ibid. Marc Bloch: A Life in History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. as in the case of Max Weber's The Religion of China (1920). The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism. 38. and ed. Carole Fink. however. developed first not in departments of history.37 The study of China in the West. 1988)."39 I think it is fair to say that the sociological injunction against "aimless fact gathering without a sound theory of human development"40 was particularly taken to heart by Western scholars of Asia. 42. Ibid. 1967). 238.. and focusing on individuals. especially in Germany.

see Jack A. Indeed. both of war. where the contingencies of battle may momentarily play a decisive role. and help to yield. Rather. and of nationalism. in twentiethcentury China. in current social science language. 44. "constitutive. Bruce Kapferer. To the extent that China's history is understood in other terms.ARTHUR WALDRON many factors converge to determine the inadequate attention to war in Chinese history. and Political Culture in Sri Lanka and Australia (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press."43 This argument is at best only partially compatible with the more orthodox revolutionary interpretation of modern Chinese history mentioned above. new understandings. For a review. perhaps. it should be clear that the role of war here is more than simply switching the train at certain junction points. the problem is broader. 104 SPECIAL ISSUE . war-with all the processes that are intrinsic to it. Intolerance. Goldstone. its utility as an example of revolution is reduced. For the reasons outlined above. and other periods as well-is "unintelligible" without the study of battles and war. But the two processes could converge. Myths of State: Violence. It remains to be seen whether negative evidence from the nonWestern world can have much effect on general theories developed in the intellectually self-sufficient West. will furthermore take time.44 And China's has generally been considered to be one of the great revolutions. I hope the evidence presented in the body of this paper has suggested just how strong the case is that the history of China-in the 1920s. passim. and all the imperatives that flow from it-shares the role of historical creation. from the nineteenth century until quite recently. Violence is. not only military. Revolution was one of the great categories of social interpretative thought. Legends of People. Now let us reverse the direction of argument. and not merely facilitation. 43. 1988). The process of rethinking China's twentieth-century history out of the revolutionary framework described above." World Politics 32 (1980): 425-53. "Theories of Revolution: The Third Generation. and the generality of the problem significantly reduced. Furthermore. but the basic political and diplomatic history of twentieth-century China is only partially written.

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