Warlord Period Ends

Chiang Kai-shek consolidates his power by defeating opposition from Kwangsi generals and the 'Christian' Warlord Feng Yu-hsiang. First encirclement campaign by the Nationalists against Kiangsi soviet fails. Second encirclement campaign. Third encirclement campaign. Japanese invade Manchuria.

ABOVE LEFT Cavalry in the city of Tiensin in 1912 wear an unusual uniform only seen in this part of China. It consists of a double-breasted dark blue jacket with the white shoulder boards of the cavalry and a peaked cap with a cap badge based on the flag of the Wuchang revolutionaries of 1911. The swords they carry are of Japanese make, as were many in use in China at this time. (C. Noda Collection)

ABOVE RIGHT Chang Tso-lin, Warlord of Manchuria and one of the most powerful men in China during the 1920s. His dress uniform would be light blue with gold epaulettes and collar. For many other Warlords the collar would have been even gaudier; some would have designed their own gold decoration, and it is rare to find two identical uniforms. (Author's Collection)

1932 January Japanese proclaim the new state of Manchukuo in Manchuria, with last emperor of China, Pu-Yi, as head of state.

January-May Shanghai incident: Japanese attack the city and are held off by 19th Route Army.

1933 January-March Japanese invade Jehol province in north east China.

April Fourth encirclement campaign.

December Fifth encirclement campaign is successful; Communists in danger.

1934 October Encircled Communists move out of their base and begin 'Long March' - 100,000 people begin the march.

1935 October Communists reach new base in Yenan, Shensi province. Only 10,000 people are left - the rest have been lost through death or desertion.

1936 December 'Shansi' incident: Chiang Kai-shek kidnapped while in Shansi and forced to agree to a 'united front' with the Communists to fight the Japanese invaders instead of each other.

1937 July 'Marco Polo Bridge' incident: Japanese use a clash on the border as an excuse to invade the rest of China and almost immediately capture Peking.

November Japanese take Shanghai after hard fighting. December 'Puppet' Provisional Government formed in Peking; Nanking, capital of Nationalist China, falls and Japanese kill thousands of Chinese in the 'Rape of Nanking'.

1938 March Puppet Reformed Government established in

Nanking; Japanese army defeated in Battle of Taierhchuang.

Army Japanese Kill China

Three Warlord soldiers of the early 1920s stand on a road near the battlefield wearing a good cross section of uniform of the period. The man in the centre wears a fur hat with ear flaps down and the other two wear peaked caps made of cotton. All wear padded cotton jackets and trousers of various shades of grey-green, with the one in the centre wearing a lighter shade. Two of the soldiers have unit numbers on their collar patches. The man on the right carries a fighting sword with a scarf tied to the handle possibly as a field sign. (Hulton Getty)

Soldiers of the Warlord Wu Pei-fu slow march in review in 1923. They are well turned out for the period, and are evidence that their commander was one of the better generals in China. Their uniforms are grey-green cotton with red facings with the five-coloured star on the peaked cap. All their rifles are the Hanyang 88 copy of the Mauser 88 made in various arsenals in China. (Vitetti archive)

Wang Chingwei


1939 March

1940 March

August, September 1941 January


1944 June-October

1945 September

Japanese take Canton, Nationalist government moves to Chungking. Japanese take Nanchang.

Wang Ching-wei forms puppet Reorganised government in Nanking; this becomes the puppet government for all occupied China. Communist 'Hundred Regiments' campaign defeated.

'New 4th Army' incident: Nationalists turn on their Communist allies and try to destroy Communist units under their command. This leads to the unofficial end of the united front against Japan.

Stalemate in China as Japan withdraws troops for use in conquests in south-east Asia and Nationalists and Communists prepare for expected Civil War.

Japanese ICHIGO offensive, large areas of Nationalist-held China conquered. Japanese surrender; Nationalists with US help move into Japanese-held territory. Communists with Soviet help move into Manchuria and make it their stronghold.

Soldiers practise loading their Mauser carbines in 1923, as part of the expansion that all Warlord armies were undertaking ready for the decisive fighting in 1924/25. These soldiers of Wu Pei-Fu's army were well drilled and prepared for the coming campaign, but their commander was eventually beaten by sheer weight of numbers. They carry cavalry carbines but have the red facings of the infantry, so the carbines were perhaps being used as training rifles. (Vitetti archive)

Image Nanking Island Rape



Nationalists move into Manchuria.


Heavy fighting begins in Civil War.



Communist victories at Taian and Mengliangku.


Communist victory at Battle of Shihchiachuang.



Communists take Jilin. Battle of Luoyang.


Battle of Kaifeng ends in stalemate.


Battle of Jinan; final Communist assault in



Battle of Huai-Hai; Nationalists lose 500,000


Peking surrenders.


Nanking falls.


Shanghai falls.


Chiang Kai-shek flees to the island of Taiwan

with his government.


People's Republic of China established.

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