Surviving Troubled Times on the Borders of China: Sheng Shicai as a Successful Warlord in Xinjiang, 1931–34

In: Journal of Chinese Military History
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  • 1 MA in Asian International AffairsSchool of Pacific and Asian Studies, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa2500 Campus Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822USA
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Ethnicity, religion, and geopolitics affect historians’ interpretations of the history of Xinjiang, a very chaotic frontier region of China that did not come fully under the control of the People’s Republic of China until recent decades. The case of Sheng Shicai, an early Republican Era Chinese military officer, shows how professional training and, most importantly, the ability to capitalize on emerging opportunities contributed to his military success in Xinjiang from 1931 to 1934. This paper analyzes the Republic of China’s government documents, Sheng and his acquaintances’ memoirs, newspaper articles, and other sources to examine how Sheng applied his military training and employed regional and foreign military forces to win battles in northern Xinjiang. Professional military training helped officers to utilize their resources efficiently and take advantage of their geopolitical situations. Amid numerous talented Chinese military officers, Sheng rose in rank and successfully secured Xinjiang as a part of the Republic of China even when Xinjiang’s geopolitics seemed extremely challenging. This study highlights the value of Sheng’s military prowess, something that the literature has not previously appreciated.

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