For many reasons, including the importance of local geographic variation, twentieth century Chinese phenomena such as “warlordism” must be examined in individual sub-national cases. Szechwanese provincial militarists maintained a high degree of independence from outside control and stood aloof from central government politics from the end of the Northern Expedition until 1935. However, a combination of communist military pressure and provincial economic collapse finally induced Szechwan's leading militarist to seek Nanking's help. From early 1935, the National Government attempted to bring Szechwan within its sphere of military, economic, and political influence. In its struggle with entrenched provincial militarists, Nanking employed a complex set of reforms, at the heart of which were measures for the restricting of local administration and the extension of formal administrative control into local society. When the Sino-Japanese War Erupted in July 1937, however, Nanking had achieved only very partial success. The Nationalists' final peacetime opportunity to solve the modern dilemma of central vs. sub-national power in China had passed.

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