Wu Peifu

From Kaiserreich


Wu Peifu (Chinese: 吳佩孚, born on April 22, 1874 in Penglai, China, now in German Shangdong) is a Chinese general. Better known as the Jade Marshall or the Philosopher General, he is the current Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Chinese Army.



Early career

Born in Shandong Province in Eastern China, Wu initially received a traditional Chinese education, later joined the Baoding Military Academy in Beijing and embarked on a career as a professional soldier. His talents as an officer were recognized by his superiors, and he rose quickly in the ranks. Wu joined the New Army (the future Beiyang Army) created by the modernizing Qing Dynasty General, Yuan Shikai. After Yuan's death in 1916, his Beiyang Army split into several mutually hostile factions of cliques, which battled for supremacy over the following years. Duan Qirui's Anhui Clique sought to reunite China using the army, but Wu Peifu and the other generals refused Duan's orders. Feng Guozhang's Zhili clique was taken over in 1919 by Cao Kun, Wu Peifu, and Sun Chuanfang. In 1920 the Anhui clique, which was accused of collaborating with Japan, was defeated by Cao Kun in the Zhili-Anhui War. The two other groups, the Zhili and Fengtien cliques, had two clashes in the 1922 First Zhili-Fengtian War and the 1924 Second Zhili-Fengtian War. After the first, Zhang Zuolin declared his independence, followed by many military governors of the south who reigned independently from the center in Beijing, now dominated by Cao Kun's Zhili clique.


After Cao Kun forced the puppet parliament to elect him president in 1923, the governor of Zhejiang, Lu Yongxiang, formed an alliance with Zhang Zuolin and Sun Yat-sen and threatened to take control of the key city of Shanghai. Wu Peifu dispatched Sun Chuanfang, governor of Jiangsu, to subdue Lu Yongxiang, but at the same time Zhang Zuolin attacked Wu's Zhili forces from the north. Now called the "Jade Marshal" and generally acknowledged to be China's ablest strategist at the time, Wu Peifu was widely expected to win, and by doing so to finally put an end to various quasi-independent regional authorities. His warlord troops were some of the best trained and drilled in China, and as leader of the Zhili Clique he almost continuously fought the northern Chinese warlords like Zhang Zuolin. Known as the Philosopher General he was said at the time to own the world's largest diamond. Hundreds of thousands of men fought in this major battle between Zhang's Fengtien army and Wu's Zhili forces. At a key moment, one of Wu's chief allies, Feng Yuxiang, deserted the front, marched on Beijing, and in the so-called Beijing coup overthrew the existing regime and proclaimed a new and mildly progressive government. Wu Peifu's military strategy was thrown into confusion by this catastrophe in his rear, and he was defeated by Zhang's forces near Tianjin. After the victory of the Fengtian clique, Duan Qirui was made head of state and he proclaimed a provisional government.

Rallying to the Qing Empire

Wu maintained a power base in Hubei and Henan in central China. In 1923, Wu ruthlessly broke a strike at the important Hankou-Beijing railway by sending in troops to violently suppress the workers and their leaders. The soldiers killed thirty-five workers and injured many more. Wu's reputation with the Chinese people suffered significantly because of this event, though he gained the favor of German commercial interests operating in China, as he showed his anti-syndicalist feelings. He thus began to trade with the Germans and as such, quickly supported Xu Shichang's rise within the Kuomintang. During the 1926 German intervention, Wu took sides with the Kuomintang and fought alongside Hans von Seeckt in central China. As a retribution, and also in order to enhance national reconciliation and counter the opposition figure that Chiang Kai-Shek was, Wu Peifu was made Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Chinese Army with the rank of Field Marshal, the only living Chinese general to bear such a rank. Helped by his own prestige, Wu proved to be very effective in surpressing various Republican revolts and retaining the Millenarian revolt, but was the best in gaining influence on the Emperor and smear his rival Xu Shichang. As many rumours affirmed that Wu was considering for himself the Mandate of Heaven, he had to make more efforts to deny all these allegations.

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