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List of warlords and military cliques in the Warlord Era


List of warlords and military cliques in the Warlord Era

Major Chinese warlord coalitions as of 1925

The Warlord Era is the common term that refers to 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, the division continued to exist into the 1930s, and remained until the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

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


  • Northern Faction 1
    • Anhui clique 1.1
    • Zhili clique 1.2
    • Fengtian clique 1.3
    • Shanxi clique 1.4
    • Guominjun 1.5
    • Shandong 1.6
    • Ma clique 1.7
    • Xinjiang clique 1.8
  • Southern Faction 2
    • Yunnan clique 2.1
    • Old Guangxi clique 2.2
    • New Guangxi clique 2.3
    • Guangdong 2.4
    • Kuomintang 2.5
    • Sichuan clique 2.6
  • References 3

Northern Faction

The cliques in the Northern Faction are evolved from the Beiyang system. 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

  • Anhui is the name of a province in southern China.
  • The Anhui Clique was so named because many of its most influential members were from Anhui, including founder Duan Qirui.
  • It could be considered a legacy of Anhui native Li Hongzhang's influence on the Beiyang army.
  • The clique was removed from power after the Zhili-Anhui War and slowly faded from prominence
Name Years of dominance Notes
Duan Qirui 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 1916–1920 - Duan Qirui's right-hand man - Led expedition that reconquered Mongolia and temporarily brought it back under control
Duan Zhigui - Minister of War: 1917-1919
Jin Yunpeng - Premier: 1919-1921
Wang Yitang - Chairman of the House of Representatives 1918-1920
Lu Yongxiang - Ruler of Zhejiang and Shanghai, his refusal to hand over Shanghai caused the Second Zhili–Fengtian War
Zhang Jingyao 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

Zhili clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Feng Guozhang 1916–1919 - Served as President 1917-1918 - Died in 1919 and was succeeded by Cao Kun
Cao Kun 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 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 1919–1927 - Controlled most of the Lower Yangtze - Defeated in the Northern Expedition

Fengtian clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Zhang Zuolin 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 1928–1937 - Son and successor to Zhang Zuolin - Eventually reconciled the Fengtian clique with the Kuomintang
Guo Songling 1920–1925 - General in the Fengtian Army - Rebelled during the Anti-Fengtian War but was defeated and killed in action
Zhang Haipeng
Zhang Jinghui Afterwards Prime Minister of Manchukuo
Zhang Zongchang
Tang Yulin
Wan Fulin
Wu Junsheng - Commander of Fengtian Cavalry
Yang Yuting - Executed by Zhang Xueliang for his part in the assassination of Zhang Zuolin

Shanxi clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Yan Xishan 1911–1949 - Military ruler of Shanxi
- Joined the Kuomintang but later rebelled against Chiang Kai-shek in the Central Plains War
- Defeated by the Communists in 1949, withdrew to Taiwan


Name Years of dominance Notes
Feng Yuxiang 1924–1934 Leader of the Northwest
Sun Yue 1924–1928
Hu Jingyi 1924–1925 Military governor of Henan
Song Zheyuan 1927–1930


Name Years of dominance Notes
Zhang Zongchang 1925–1928 Ruler of the Shandong province
Han Fuqu 1930–1938 Chairman of the Shandong Province; Was arrested and shot after abandoning his province when the Second Sino-Japanese War started.

Ma clique

All Ma Clique Generals were Kuomintang members

Name Years of dominance Notes
Ma Anliang 1912–1920 Ruler of the Gansu province, Outranked all the other Ma Clique generals.
Ma Qi 1915–1931 Ruler of the Qinghai province, influential in Gansu province
Ma Lin 1931–1938 Ruler of the Qinghai province
Ma Fuxiang 1912–1928 Ruler of Ningxia
Ma Bufang 1938–1945 Ruler of the Qinghai province
Ma Hongbin 1921–1928 Ruler of Gansu Province
Ma Hongkui 1923–1949 Army commander then ruler of Ningxia Province from 1932
Ma Zhongying 1929–1934 Chief of the 36th Division
Ma Hushan 1934–1950 Chief of the 36th Division

Xinjiang clique

Name Years of dominance Notes
Yang Zengxin 1912–1928 Ruler of the Xinjiang province.
Ma Fuxing 1912–1924 Titai of Kashgar, Military Commander of Southern Xinjiang
Ma Shaowu 1924–1937 Tao-yin of Kashgar, Military Commander of Southern Xinjiang
Jin Shuren 1928–1934 Ruler of the Xinjiang province.

Southern Faction

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

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 1911–1916 Leader of the Yunnan Army
Hu Ruoyu 1927 Governor of Yunnan
Long Yun 1927-1945 Governor of Yunnan
Tang Jiyao 1913-1927 Military governor of Yunnan

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.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Lu Rongting 1912–1922
Chen Binghun
Shen Chunxuan
Shen Hongying 1923-1925 Military governor of Guangdong (1923-1924)

New Guangxi clique

By 1924, the Old Guangxi clique was no longer effective, and was replaced by the New Guangxi clique.

Name Years of dominance Notes
Bai Chongxi 1923–1949
Huang Shaoxiong 1923–1949
Li Zongren 1923–1949


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
Chen Jiongming 1911–1924
Chen Jitang 1929–1936


Name Years of dominance Notes
Sun Yat-sen 1912–1925 Founder of the Republic of China and leader of the Kuomintang
Chiang Kai-shek 1926–1975 Military leader of the Kuomintang and later President
He Yingqin 1926–1950 Senior General in the Kuomintang
Hu Hanmin 1925–1936 Leader of the right wing faction of the Kuomintang
Liao Zhongkai 1923–1925 Architect of the First United Front with the Chinese Communist Party
Wang Jingwei 1925–1944 Leader of the left wing faction of the Kuomintang, later Japanese puppet

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 Xiang 1921–1938
Yang Sen
Tian Songyao
Deng Xihou


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