Toward a Social History of Modern Chinese Warlordism

In: Journal of Chinese Military History
Edward A. McCord Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University 807 Philadelphia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910 USA

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The social impact of modern Chinese warlordism on China’s modern development has attracted little attention in past scholarship, which generally has been more interested in warlordism as a military-political system. This article argues, however, that warlordism developed within a social context and had a major impact on Chinese society, and this in turn suggests the usefulness of applying a social history approach to the study of the warlord period. This article makes a preliminary effort to advance this goal by identifying three main areas that could provide a framework for research on the social history of Chinese warlordism. First, the article examines debates over the social (or class) foundations of warlord power. Second, the article explores the ways in which warlordism changed the social status of military men and created opportunities for social mobility. Finally, the article emphasizes the need to look beyond the political impact of Chinese warlordism to show the social and economic effects that arose from the military conflicts of the warlord era.

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