World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Constitutional Protection War

Article Id: WHEBN0006806640
Reproduction Date:

Title: Constitutional Protection War  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Warlord Era, Tan Yankai, Zhili clique, Anhui clique, Zhili–Anhui War, National Protection War, Lin Baoyi (admiral)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Constitutional Protection War

The Constitutional Protection Movement (Chinese: 護法運動/护法运动)) was a series of movements led by Sun Yat-sen to resist the Beiyang Government between 1917 to 1922, in which Sun re-established another government in Guangzhou as a result. It was known as the Third Revolution by the Kuomintang. The constitution that it intended to protect refers to the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China.


After the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, the newly established Republic of China followed to their Provisional Constitution and held the first parliamentary election in February 1913, which then convened the National Assembly of the Republic of China for the first time on April 8. The Kuomintang won majority of the seats, and Song Jiaoren was designated to form the cabinet. He was assassinated by President Yuan Shikai shortly after however, and the Kuomintang called for the Second Revolution as a result. Yuan Shikai repressed the resistance with force in the end, forcing Sun Yat-sen and other leaders of Kuomintang to flee abroad to Japan.

Yuan Shikai dissolved the parliament as well as abolishing the Provisional Constitution, eventually trying to become emperor. On December 1915, Cai E and others launched the National Protection War against Yuan Shikai and achieved success. Yuan Shikai was forced to abdicate and died on June 6, 1916.

After the death of Yuan Shikai, Li Yuanhong succeeded him as the president. Duan Qirui was re-appointed as the new prime minister, and the old parliament was restored. However, Li and Duan had a major disagreement shortly after on whether or not to enter World War I and declare war on Germany. Duan insisted on joining the war while Li and the parliament were conservative on the matter. Li Yuanhong removed Duan from office and called for national military support. Monarchist general Zhang Xun took the opportunity and entered Beijing with force. He then dissolved the parliament and attempted to restore Puyi and the Qing Dynasty on July 1, which is known as the Manchu Restoration. The restoration was repressed by Duan Qirui five days later, and Li resigned from presidency and was succeeded by Feng Guozhang. Duan re-established the new government and organized the new senate along with Liang Qichao.

The First Constitutional Protection Movement

On July 1917, Sun Yat-sen arrived in Guangzhou from Shanghai, and telegramed the original members of parliament in Peking to come to Guangzhou and re-established a new government. The Naval Minister Cheng Biguang conducted nine ships to support Sun Yat-sen and arrived Guangzhou on July 22.

On August 25, around 100 original members of parliament convened a conference in Guangzhou and passed the resolution on establishing a military government in Guangzhou to protect the Provisional Constitution. The military government consisted of a generalissimo and three field marshals to exercise the administrative rights of the Republic of China.

On September 1, 91 members in the Guangzhou parliament voted, and 84 of them voted Sun Yat-sen as the generalissimo. Then they selected the leaders of the National Protection War Tang Jiyao of the Yunnan clique and Lu Rongting of the Old Guangxi clique as marshals, Wu Tingfang as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tang Shaoyi as the Minister of Finance (abstained), Cheng Biguang as the Naval Minister, and Hu Hanmin as the Minister of Communications. Sun Yat-sen inaugurated on September 10, and appointed Li Liejun as the Chief of Staff, Li Fulin as the Commander of the Guards, Xu Chongzhi as staff officer and Chen Jiongming as the Commander of the First Army.

Constitutional Protection War

After the establishment of the Guangzhou Military Government, the north and the south of China were in confrontation. Among the supporters of Guangzhou Government, the militants in Guangxi and Yunnan were superior in strength. Hunan's Tan Yanxi, Zhao Tihuan and Cheng Chieng also supporting the Constitutional Protection Movement. With the support of Lu Rongting and the Guangxi Army, the Constitutional Protection Army defeated Duan Qirui's assault in November. Duan resigned as the North's prime minister as a result, leaving the post to Feng Guozhang. The north and the south were in a temporary armistice.

Pressed by the Zhili and the Anhui clique, Feng Guozhang ordered Cao Kun to make war again on Hunan province in January and defeated the Constitutional Protection Army in April. However, after capturing Hunan, the Zhili commander Wu Peifu halted the attack on Guangdong and Guangxi province and had a peaceful settlement with the south in July. Xu Shichang also advocated peace negotiation when he was inaugurated as the president in October, which led to the end of the war.

Reorganization of the Military Government

Besides the Navy, Generalissimo Guards and twenty battalions of the Guangdong Army, Sun Yat-sen lacked strong support of military strength in the Guangzhou Military Government, and sometimes his order was only effective in the Generalissmo Government. Sun had thoughts of mutiny at once, hoping to overthrow the Guangxi influence, and had personally ordered the Navy to fire at the Guangxi headquarter at one time. Near the end of 1917, Lu Rongting, Tang Jiyao, Mo Rongxin and others along with Tang Shaoyi convened a conference, and they advocated to recognize Feng Guozhang's presidency and form a united government.

During 1918, Cheng Biguang turned his position toward Guangxi clique, and he was assassinated. The Extraordinary Session of Parliament was controlled by the Guangxi clique, and was restructured on May 1918 in which the generalissimo was replaced by a committee of seven executives consisting of Sun, Tang Shaoyi, Wu Tingfang, and Tang Jiyao on one side and Lu Rongting, Cen Chunxuan, and Lin Baoyi on the other. Feeling marginalized, Sun Yat-sen resigned as the generalissimo, and left Guangzhou to Shanghai. The Guangzhou Military Government is now headed by the Cen Chunxuan, the chief executive. Wu Tingfang's election as Guangdong's governor was nullified by Lu Rongting.

From February to August 1919, the North and South held negotiations in Shanghai but they were stalled by Duan's sabotage. All MPs who did not attend the southern "extraordinary" session were disqualified and replaced. Parliament was adjourned by Speaker Lin Sen on January 24, 1920 when a faction of MPs boycotted the assembly, depriving it of a quorum. Cen also suspended the salaries of the MPs. With the southern government effectively under the influence of the Old Guangxi Clique, the first constitutional protection movement was over.

The Second Constitutional Protection Movement

In Shanghai, Sun re-organized the Kuomintang to oust the Guangxi junta from the Southern government. The military governor of Guangdong, Chen Jiongming raised 20 battalions from Fujian. In 1920, Duan and the northern parliament was ousted after the Zhili-Anhui War. Lu and Cen used this as a pretext to explore unification with the Zhili Clique. The KMT denounced these secret negotiations and the southern parliament moved to Yunnan in August and in Sichuan from September to October. Tensions between the Yunnan clique and the Guangxi clique allowed Chen to invade on August 11 in the Guangdong-Guangxi War. Chen Jiongming expelled the Guangxi clique from Guangzhou allowing Sun to return by the end of November.

Parliament reconvened in Guangzhou on January 1921. Of the remaining four executives, Tang Jiyao had to remain in Yunnan to protect his province, Wu Tingfang was ailing, and Tang Shaoyi was becoming uninterested. In April 1921, the National Assembly dissolved the military government and elected Sun Yat-sen "extraordinary president". But the new Guangzhou government, without any foreign recognition, was beset with questions of legitimacy as its form existed outside of the constitution it was mandated to protect. For Chen Jiongming, Sun's extraconstitutional election was a power grab. Relations further deteriorated when Chen invited anarchists, communists, and federalists to the movement. Chen thought it would swell their numbers but Sun believed they would dilute his message.

Chen Jiongming's Anti Sun Yat-sen

Immediately after his inauguration in May, Sun ordered the Northern Expedition to force the unification of China. In the summer of 1922, Sun Yat-sen personally established the division headquarters in Shaoguan to launch the expedition by coordinating the Guangdong, Yunnan, Jiangxi, and Hunan armies. Sun Yat-sen's Northern Expedition ultimately led to the conflict with Chen Jiongming. Chen Jiongming advocated suspension of military conflict, first building up Guangdong as a province of autonomy. Meanwhile, the Zhili clique started a national movement to reunite the Northern and Southern governments by having the two rival presidents resign in favor of a restored Li Yuanhong. In June, the Northern government's president, Xu Shichang stepped down, and the original National Assembly reconvened in Beijing. To Chen Jiongming, Constitutional Protection's purpose was achieved, but for Sun the new government was a smokescreen to mask Cao Kun's rule. On June 16, the presidential palace was shelled by Chen's forces. Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, Chen Ce, and the loyalists were safely escorted by ship to Shanghai.


Sun realized the failure of both movements was based his over reliance on the military forces of others. After the debacle, Sun found that the revolution needed its own military strength. With the help of the Soviet Union and the alliance with the Communist Party of China, Sun retook the Guangzhou government for the third time in 1923. However, protecting the provisional government was not its purpose. Instead, building a strong military base centered around the Whampoa Military Academy and creating a one-party state to defeat the warlords was its goal. This was behind the success of the Northern Expedition that led to the reunification of China.

Historical scholars fault the movements' reliance on legal campaign tactics. The National Assembly's extraordinary session lacked a quorum. Practically from the beginning the military government was not set up by the procedures of legitimate constitutional law. It completely lacked foreign recognition. It could barely maintain unity within itself, let alone claim to be the legitimate government of all China. Simply by creating a rival government, the integrity of the Republic was damaged and set precedents for rival governments in China down to the current day.

According to recent published studies, the first government in 1917 was funded by the German Empire which provided two million dollars because Sun had opposed China's entry into the First World War. The money allowed Sun to bribe the northern navy to defect and pay for the salaries of the National Assembly. He also used the money to buy the loyalty of the southwest due to the nearly mercenary nature of the warlords. Relations with the Germans became strained when it was revealed that they had supported the Manchu Restoration and that Sun refused to cooperate in the Hindu-German Conspiracy. With KMT activists being arrested abroad and Germany losing the war, Sun declared war against the Central Powers in the vain hope of garnering recognition and a seat at the Paris Peace Conference but the seat went to the Beiyang government instead. After the assassination of Tang Hualong by a Nationalist in Canada, several KMT overseas branches were banned. Sun Yat-sen also relied on gambling and selling opium to pay for his government which lacked practical revolutionary spirit.


  • Degang, Tang. The final 70 years of Latter Qing Dynasty: Yuan Shikai, Sun Yat-sen and the Xinhai Revolution. ISBN 957-32-3515-3

See also

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.