Cao Kun and his related activities

Zhang Hongxiang et al.’s President Cao Kun Rising from the Commoners (Jilin Literary and History Publishing House, 1995), Yue Qianhou’s The Cao Kun Family (Jincheng Press, 2000), Zhang Xiangbin’s A Biography of Cao Kun (Jilin University Press, 2010) and Zhou Yuhe’s A Complete Biography of Cao Kun (Heilongjiang People’s Publishing House, 2001) systematically introduced the historical events of Cao Kun and his family. The monographic research mainly focused on Cao Kun’s bribery in the election and his attitude to the “February 7th Strike of 1923”. Some scholars proposed that we should evaluate Cao Kun’s ruling objectively and positively.54 But after studying the “Constitution” issued by means of Cao Kun’s coercion and bribery, Hou Qiang pointed out that the “Constitution of the Republic of China” issued by the government of Cao Kun had double historical effects: on the one hand, the Zhili Warlords’ issue of this so-called “Constitution” betrayed the Provisional Constitution again, so from the very beginning of its promulgation, this “Constitution” had been shadowed by bribery and criticized bitterly; on the other hand, the “Constitution” itself comprehensively reflected the Western constitutional theories and principles, and the Republican China’s political practices and legislative experiences in its past ten years. In this sense, the Zhili Warlords’ government in the period of rapid social transformation had in fact acted as an “historical tool” unconsciously in the process of modern China’s legal system modernization. However, Hou Qiang hoped that we should not over-estimate its so-called “positive effects”.55 About Cao Kun’s attitude to the “February 7th Strike of 1923”, Su Quanyou thought that Cao Kun, Wu Peifu, Xiao Yaonan and other warlords should be responsible for the repression of the strike, and Cao Kun was the commander in front of and behind the scenes.56

Wu Peifu and his Luoyang Warlord Group

There were more than 40 biographies of Wu Peifu, such as Jiang Ziqiang et al.’s Wu Peifu (Shandong People’s Publishing House, 1985), Zhang Jungu’s Biography of Wu Peifu (Xinhua Press, 1987) and Guo Jianlin’s Biography of Wu Peifu (Beijing Library Press, 2006). Among these biographies, Zhang Jungu’s book described Wu Peifu’s life, career, and thoughts comprehensively, in the meantime, it also introduced Wu Peifu’s military, political, and social activities and the related historical background and figures, which made it an important work for the studies of Wu Peifu and his times.

The monographic papers on Wu Peifu mainly dealt with the following topics: (1) Wu Peifu’s performance in the May 4th Movement of 1919. Guo Jianlin believed that Wu Peifu’s words and deeds during this period helped to achieve the two goals of “defending China’s sovereignty against the big powers’ aggression and purifying the nation of traitors” and boosted the emergence and development of the May 4th Movement.57 Tan Rong held that Wu Peifu was still a warlord with national integrity.58 As for Wu Peifu’s action of putting forward the secret military agreement on the “conditions of the National Salvation Alliance” before the May 4th Movement and becoming the Southwest warlords’ “ally”, Xie Benshu thought that his purpose was to jointly deal with the Anhui Warlords in the North and fight off Sun Yat-sen and suppress the revolution in the South.55 (2) Wu Peifu’s activities during his occupation of Luoyang. Lin Quanmin investigated the formation and development of Wu Peifu’s Luoyang Warlord Group from the four aspects of army constitution, territory, finance, and bureaucracy.60 Guo Jianlin and Su Quanyou analyzed Wu Peifu’s mu-fu, training of armies, and diplomatic activities during his occupation of Luoyang and argued that Wu’s practices of recruiting talent and devotion to training soldiers were meritorious. Because of his reaction against the imperialist aggression in terms of foreign relations, Wu could yet be regarded as a patriotic soldier. But his opposition to the labor and peasant movements and the national revolution, the suppression of the “February 7th Strike” was a historical stain and reactionary guilt that could not be forgiven.61 Zheng Zhiting and Li Fengwei further pointed out that the February 7th tragedy made by Wu Peifu had relations with the changes in the Communist International and Soviet Russia’s policies, but the fundamental reason was that the Hankou-Beijing Railway Strike directly harmed the main economic source of his provisions.62 Wang Jiacheng et al. thought that the Cao and Wu group plundered recklessly, abused military force and fought with other warlords for years on end, which not only trapped them in financial bankruptcy and unsuccessful militarism, but also made our nation suffer disaster and people live on the edge of starvation.63 Lai Xinxia held that the purpose of Wu Peifu’s establishment of his mu-fu in Luoyang was to achieve his dream of “unifying China by force”. However, because his military strength was not strong enough and the Fengtian forces resisted, Wu Peifu’s plan was doomed to fail.64 (3) Wu Peifu’s activities after his escaping to Sichuan in 1927. Wang Anping et al. thought that Wu Peifu was the direct cause and accelerator of the third chaos caused by war in Sichuan.65 (4) Wu Peifu’s performance during the War of Resistance against Japan. Guo Jianlin and Wang Hongmei held that it was praiseworthy for Wu Peifu to keep thinking highly of the national interest and refuse to be a traitor and puppet in the times of national crisis and dangerous environment.66 Some other scholars analyzed the reasons for Wu Peifu’s refusing to be a traitor and proposed that there were three reasons: the first reason was that Wu Peifu had the complex of nationalism; the second reason was that the rising anti-Japanese national movements all over China, and the sincere advice and exhortation from the Counter-Japanese National United Front of KMT and the Communist Party of China made him dare not to be a traitor and go against the whole country; the third reason was that there were contradictions and gaps between Japan

History of the Northern Warlords 123 and Wu Peifu’s conditions for his return to office.67 (5) The cause of Wu Peifu’s death. Most scholars believed that Wu Peifu was murdered by the Japanese.68 Liang Rongchun pointed out that the reasons why Wu Peifu was finally murdered was that the Japanese were unsatisfied with his bargaining and decided to murder him as a warning to others.69 But there were also different views, for example, Su Quanyou thought that Wu Peifu died of illness, and argued that whether he was murdered by the Japanese or not would not affect his integrity of refusing to be a traitor in his later years.70

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