Event Detail


China of Warlords

Adam Williams
Monday, 20 Feb 2006
Olympic House

The China of the Warlords and the First Communist Revolution
Adam Williams
Monday, 20 February 2006
2/F Olympic House, So Kong Po, Causeway Bay
Drinks 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm

We are delighted to welcome again to Hong Kong Adam Williams to speak on The China of the Warlords, following his highly successful lecture on the Boxer Rebellion, some of the most extraordinary events of the history of the Orient.

The decade following the Nationalist Revolution of 1911 was a period of anarchy in China and civil war between the 'tuchuns' or 'warlords' who had divided most of the country between them into personal fiefdoms. Each local garrison commander became a power in his own right, switching allegiance as it suited him between the heads of the various factions vying for control of the puppet government in Peking. For the populace in the countryside it was an era of misery, ever at the mercy of armies and press gangs.

Among the colourful warlords who headed the military cliques were the ex bandit, Zhang Zuolin, Head of the Fengtian Clique that ruled Manchuria for fifteen years. Opposing him was the refined 'Confucian general' Wu Peifu, who headed the Chihli Clique that held sway between Peking and the Yangtse. It was their wars in the early part of the 1920s that broke down any fiction of a constitutional Government, leaving the victorious Chang a dictator in the Forbidden City in Peking. Assisting (or betraying) them as opportunity presented itself were characters like Zhang Zongchang, the overlord of Shandong who once boasted of his 'three don't knows' (how many men he had in his army, how much money he had in his bank, and how many women in his harem).

The 1920s were also, however, a time of new ideas. The May 4th Movement and the New Cultural Movement, led by writers like Lu Xun, Ba Jin and Ding Ling, galvanized the youth of China with western ideas, political, scientific and intellectual. Idealists began to flock down to Guangzhou where the leader of China's first revolution, Dr Sun Yatsen, maintained a precarious nationalist Government in alliance with the small Chinese Communist Party, which Stalin had urged to infiltrate the bourgeois Kuomintang, with the eventual aim of taking over power. It was in apparent amity that on 6 June 1926, the communist and nationalist elements of the Kuomintang, led by the right wing General Chiang Kaishek, launched the Northern Expedition, which aimed to rid the country of both warlords and foreign concessions in the treaty ports.

After two years, Chiang Kaishek expelled the last warlord from Peking and established a united Chinese Government, driving Borodin out of China and what remained of the CCP into the mountains, however, under a rising new leader, Mao Zedong. Also, ominously, Japanese militarists in their colony in Manchuria, saw in China's chaos their opportunity for conquest.

Mr. Williams lives in Beijing and is head of Jardine Matheson in China. Mr. Williams, author of two historical novels set in China, is giving another exciting lecture illustrated by more than 100 contemporary photographs and even film clips of what he has described as "the crucible years of modern Chinese history". He has lived in China for the past 21 years, but his family connections go back much further. His forbears were living in Beijing during the time of the Boxer Rebellion and much of the material for this lecture comes from stories he was told as a child, as well as his own detailed research.

Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$50 for Members, HK$100 for Members' guests and HK$150 for others.

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