AHC: Six Schools, Six Warlords; or: A Far Stranger Warlord Era?

As something of a sign that I spend too much time on this site, this AHC idea popped into my head two days ago and has been bugging me ever sense. Basically, there are six classical schools of Chinese philosophy (Confucianism, Legalism, Taoism, Mohism, the School of Yin-Yang, and the School of Logicians), and I've been thinking it's somewhat chauvinist that the major political ideologies of the twentieth century are all Western products of the Enlightenment. How about we rectify that?

Inspired by Yan Xishan and his attempts to create a new syncretic political ideology in Shanxi, your challenge is this: How could a version of the Warlord Era come about where six major cliques (either through the rise of new factions or the consolidation of smaller OTL cliques) attempt to enforce and legitimize their rule through the creation of a new political ideology based on one of the six schools? Obviously they would be "Chinese characteristics" all the way down, so selling such an ideology could potentially be easier than importing a foreign model (as occurred OTL with Marxism), but I don't know enough about the finer points of the Warlord Era or Chinese philosophy to make a sustained go at it. It's more likely than not whatever state triumphs will just blend all these divergent political theories together in the end but I think the scenario holds promise either way.
 
If you want something done right, you need to to it yourself :rolleyes:. In all seriousness, I've given this idea a bit more thought since I was off work today and figured I'd give it a go. To set things up, the Xinhai revolution occurs on schedule and Sun Yat-Sen still ends up giving the first presidency of the ROC to Yuan Shikai, but the Second Revolution ultimately never occurs. This has the ultimate effect of weakening the centralization of Yuan's power (which was helped along by the removal of rivals during the Second Revolution), and ultimately butterflies away the whole Hongxian Emperor fiasco. The following new political parties resonate a bit with the "Five Nations Under One Union" idea just because it seemed a bit less messy. Changes to Yuan's life and fortunes would ultimately undo the groundwork he laid which would lead to the Warlord Era in the first place, so I figure cleaning it up a bit isn't the worst thing in the world.
 
The National-Constitutional Front and Confucian Republicanism
Without the Second Revolution and the consolidation of the powers of the Presidency in the ROC, Yuan Shikai is forced to accept the fact that the Nationalist supporters outnumber his own in the National Assembly, which ultimately results in the consolidation of Yuan's Republican Party with the Democratic and Unity Parties. The resulting Constitutional Party existed primarily to serve as a counterbalance to the KMT within the assembly.

Yuan's weakened position would ultimately be exacerbated by the public release of the Twenty-One Demands in 1915. A maneuver by Japan to gain increased influence in Manchuria and over the Chinese economy more generally, the release of the Demands would greatly damage both the Constitutional Party within China and the Empire of Japan on the international stage. This would ultimately lead to later developments in Manchuria, but in the near term the swift erosion of faith in the government would see Yuan's resignation, Sun's ascension to the Presidency, and the formation of a coalition between the Constitutionals and the KMT. It was allegedly a voluntary alliance of equals, but by this point the Nationalists had enough gravity that the Constitutional Party was essentially reduced to a fig leaf.

In order to tamp down on rising wariness among the public of "foreign tampering" in the wake of the Japanese stunt with the Demands, the Front under Sun's leadership would begin a massive push to demonstrate "a new way of organizing the State, based in Chinese principles and made for the modern world." The resulting ideology, Confucian Republicanism, sought to centralize the power of the ROC to better resist foreign interference, and sought to balance contradictory Confucian ideas with Sun's own Three Principles of the People.

  • To that end, the Principle of Nationalism was equated with the Confucian ideal of Zhi, "the ability to see what is right and fair". In this understanding, it was considered "fair" that a people be guaranteed freedom from undue foreign influences, and that it was "right" right that they defend themselves from the same. This didn't sit well with Britain and the US, but was seen as preferable to Japanese meddling by both.
  • The Principle of Democracy was equated with the ideal of Yi, "the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good". Confucianism in its traditional form was largely anti-democratic, but Confucian Republicanism took as a core tenet that the best way to "uphold righteousness" was through active political participation and robust civic life.
  • The Principle of Livelihood of the People was equated with the ideal of Ren, benevolence, which was meant in the Conrep context as a form of social safety net supported by a land taxation system inspired by Georgism.
  • The Confucian ideal of Li, "ritual norms and propriety", would be reformulated into a fourth Principle of the People, something often inaccurately translated into English as "Discipline". This fourth principle, arising due to dysfunction in the early Republican period, would come to encompass what would today be called "traditional family values" and "law and order", intended to strengthen community life and stability at the local level as a means of strengthening China at the national level.
The Confucian Republican ideology also called for large scale investment in education and modernization programs, which would largely bear fruit with the purge of the Communists and the Second Warring States period.
 
Last edited:
As something of a sign that I spend too much time on this site, this AHC idea popped into my head two days ago and has been bugging me ever sense. Basically, there are six classical schools of Chinese philosophy (Confucianism, Legalism, Taoism, Mohism, the School of Yin-Yang, and the School of Logicians), and I've been thinking it's somewhat chauvinist that the major political ideologies of the twentieth century are all Western products of the Enlightenment. How about we rectify that?

Inspired by Yan Xishan and his attempts to create a new syncretic political ideology in Shanxi, your challenge is this: How could a version of the Warlord Era come about where six major cliques (either through the rise of new factions or the consolidation of smaller OTL cliques) attempt to enforce and legitimize their rule through the creation of a new political ideology based on one of the six schools? Obviously they would be "Chinese characteristics" all the way down, so selling such an ideology could potentially be easier than importing a foreign model (as occurred OTL with Marxism), but I don't know enough about the finer points of the Warlord Era or Chinese philosophy to make a sustained go at it. It's more likely than not whatever state triumphs will just blend all these divergent political theories together in the end but I think the scenario holds promise either way.
The problem with trying to revive past ideologies of China is twofold. First, there was a lot of anti-traditionalist sentiment, that was seen as something that held China back, there's a reason why lots of revolutionaries adopted Republicanism, Anarchism, and Communism to some degree or another. Second, the Warlords tended to be men from a mix of backgrounds such as bandits, fraternal military cliques, Republican, and ethnic minorities in the case of the Ma Clique.
 
The problem with trying to revive past ideologies of China is twofold. First, there was a lot of anti-traditionalist sentiment, that was seen as something that held China back, there's a reason why lots of revolutionaries adopted Republicanism, Anarchism, and Communism to some degree or another. Second, the Warlords tended to be men from a mix of backgrounds such as bandits, fraternal military cliques, Republican, and ethnic minorities in the case of the Ma Clique.
I know it's unlikely from a straight historical perspective, so I made a couple of changes to make the scenario more likely.
  1. I'm not sure which post I'll eventually mention it in but Europe isn't doing so hot in this AHC scenario, so wholly importing Western ideologies is a bit less appealing. An upswing in public anger at Japanese shenanigans (and Soviet ones when I get to Mozism) also makes domestic political groups wary of seeming like foreign puppets. Sampling from Western thought is okay (Sun with Georgism, my whole idea for TTL's Maoism), but grounding it in Chinese characteristics is seen as the safe bet for winning over a wary public. Basically, no one in China is in favor of backsliding but tempering foreign imports seems to be the winning strategy TTL.
  2. While the warlords did have mixed backgrounds OTL, with Yuan out of the picture in the wake of the Demands he isn't able to appoint military governors, which butterflies away the Warlord Period as it is commonly understood. The AHC equivalent (the Second Warring States Period) is going to be closer to an ACW scenario, with several seceding nations duking it out, some with foreign support.
 
Legalist Revivalism in the Empire of Manchuria
It would be safe to say that the Twenty-One Demands had blown up in Japan's face. Not only had the public outcry severely curtailed efforts by Chinese politicians to work productively with their neighbor nation (most prominently in the unfortunate case of President Yuan), but Western scrutiny was firmly on Japan's actions in the region, particularly from the British and the Americans. Although the rise of Futurism and the lingering threat of the Soviet Union in Europe had drawn the focus of the British in the wake of the Great War, the Japanese were having no such luck that America would similarly turn a blind eye, so more discrete steps to expand into the mainland were necessary. The initial crack to be exploited was the failure of the ROC to faithfully enforce the policy of Five Races Under One Union.

The Xinhai Revolution that ousted the Qing had led to the adoption of the Five Races policy as a means of ensuring all the largest ethnic groups in the nation that they had a stake in the new government. Fortunately for the Japanese, although Confucian Republican policies had seen inroads made (especially among the Hui), the group that faced the greatest hostility just happened to be centered in the area the empire was most interested in. The fall of the Qing had unleashed a wave of anti-Manchu sentiment that coursed through the nation in steady waves, and Japan was prepared to take full advantage.

To avoid American meddling or interference from the National-Constitutional Front, the Japanese government settled on a policy of subterfuge beginning in 1916, discretely backing secessionist groups in Manchuria and producing agitprop to turn the citizenry of the region against the central government. While a concerted effort by Nanjing early on could have likely prevented or at least tamped down on these activities, Japan had a second stroke of luck when the Front began actively purging communists in the early 1920s. The third and greatest advancement of this policy of discretion would come in 1925, however, with the death of Sun Yat-Sen.

It was the perfect time for action. Although the Nanjing forces had successfully driven the surviving Communist forces North, it had taken a severe toll, and with the caretaker government in disarray with Sun's death the networks built up in Manchuria by the Japanese wasted no time in declaring the secession of the Empire of Manchuria, a constitutional monarchy ruled by Emperor Puyi but led in fact by rebel leader Zhang Zuolin. Japan recognized the new nation within half an hour of the public release of the Manchurian Declaration of Secession, feigning surprise at the new developments in the region and fooling absolutely no one. The Second Warring States Period had begun.

It might suggest to suspicion that Manchuria was an outgrowth of the Empire of Japan, and this was the view that was quickly trumpeted by the Chinese and American governments, but "Director" Zhang and the Emperor himself were quick to disabuse the public both within and without their new nation of this notion. Manchuria, they stressed, was a legal successor to the Qing ending a lawless interregnum, and Japanese influence in the area was merely the honoring of Qing treaties with their brother Empire. Although Japan had pledged full support to Manchuria, drastic steps would need to be taken to strengthen the new nation before the Republic could get its feet back under it. The resulting centralization of authority in the Directorate would be blended with Qing restorationist rhetoric to form the basis of Legalist Revivalism.

Under Legalist Revivalism, the power of the new government was to be unquestioned by the people, so as to prevent domestic subversion of the nation and also the creation of inroads for exploitation by the Nanjing government. An intensely militarized society would develop, as the original secret societies and underground political organizations would form the core of a new "ideologically correct" military, armed and trained by Japanese officers. The domestic sphere of the new nation was also under intense scrutiny by a government vested with extensive and robust police powers. Although the stated goal of the military was to act defensively (and had actually successfully kept the Second Warring States Period confined to back and forth border struggles), once the status of the new government was deemed secure (and the newly formed Mongolian People's Republic began their own counteroffensive against the Front) the Manchurian Liberation Army would switch to the offensive, beginning what would ultimately be a long and costly invasion of the Republic with a single symbolic goal in mind: the sacking of Nanjing.
 
Last edited:
Sometimes I wish I wasn't so addicted to this site. Either way, great start to a fascinating PoD.
Thanks! Yeah, the site went down for maintenance and I thought to myself "well crap there goes the lion's share of my internet activity". As an aside I noticed all the TvTropes links to the site are defunct now.
 
Thanks! Yeah, the site went down for maintenance and I thought to myself "well crap there goes the lion's share of my internet activity". As an aside I noticed all the TvTropes links to the site are defunct now.
I know, right? Not sure if I like the site's new look and format because it's messed with my TL's pics and whatnot while also making sure others aren't visible.
 
I know, right? Not sure if I like the site's new look and format because it's messed with my TL's pics and whatnot while also making sure others aren't visible.
I actually don't mind the format change, it has some features I actually really like, it's just a matter of getting used to it (and fixing newly outdated links). Probably not tonight, but tomorrow I'll do an update about the fall of the Chinese Communist Party and the birth of Populism ("Mozism with Marxist characteristics") and the Mongolian People's Republic.
 
Last edited:
I'm interested and will be following. I'm curious to see what Taoist-influenced thought arises-I assume it will be liberal/anarchist in nature given it tends towards favoring inaction by the state.
 
I love this TL! :happyblush
Sounds like an interested topic. I enjoyed reading about Confucian Republicanism, and I'm looking forward to seeing more.
I'm glad to hear it! What started out as an Alternate History Challenge seems to have morphed into a Timeline in a Week situation. I'll admit it's not terribly plausible but I hope it's entertaining. Side note, I really did intend to do Mozism today, but the set up would take up too much of the post, so today will be an interlude about European politics instead.

I'm interested and will be following. I'm curious to see what Taoist-influenced thought arises-I assume it will be liberal/anarchist in nature given it tends towards favoring inaction by the state.
So, partially to meld my original idea with the "Five Races/One Union" track and partially because they're really closely related already, I'll be folding Taoism in with the Yin-Yang/Naturalist reboot concept. It'll probably be one of the last installments but I've got five words for you: "Brother Mao, HERO OF TIBET!"
 
Last edited:
Interlude: Fighting the Future: Europe Between the Great Wars
Although this timeline had begun to diverge from our own by the second decade of the twentieth century, initial changes were relatively minor (and significantly far removed) that there wasn't much of an impact on the course of the Great War in Europe, though changes began to quickly accumulate in the aftermath. Sure, a rabble-rouser in exile in Kureika was beaten to death by a young girl's outraged father, and on the eastern front a man who would otherwise have been a nameless corpse in a trench survived, but individuals are a small thing in the game of nations, and a version of the USSR was still successfully forged on schedule. This had the effect of scaring the living daylights out of everyone else, and would directly contribute to the rise of Futurism.

Codified in Filippo Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto in 1909, Futurism would achieve it's political expression in 1919 with the establishment of the Italian Regency of Carnaro. Declaring itself an "anarcho-syndicalist corporatist state", Carnaro made big business by disparaging internationalism of every kind, supporting ethnic separatism, anticolonial uprisings and blatant theft of war materials from nations it rightly argued weren't using it anyway, all awash in exotic drugs, mysticism, and jazz music.

Though rampant arms sales would put the Regency at odds with most of the great powers, all the splinter nations they were supporting saw much to admire in the Futurist system, with the ideology's rabid anticommunist attitude winning over many on the right concerned with labor agitation and Soviet subversion. The rise of Carnaro would reach its apex with the 1922 March on Rome, which would install Gabriele D'Annunzio as the Duce of the new Italian Futurist Republic. Under his leadership, the Republic would go on to lay the foundation of the Carnaran League, a network of co-belligerents that would begin preparing for what they saw as an inevitable Second Great War aimed at the USSR and its puppet regimes.

As the Carnaran League began its preparations, the Soviets were having something of a harder time expanding their influence. With the resolute lobbying of Leon Trotsky, the Union under Vladimir Lenin had embarked on a policy of Permanent Revolution, with little to show for it. Futurist militias throughout Europe were openly attacking Marxist organizations with the blessing of conservative leaders, if not from the government at large, and the efforts to fund the Chinese Communist Party had been deemed an abject failure in the wake of the Sun's purges of the group throughout the early 1920s. Had Sun died earlier, a resurgence on that front might have been possible, but it was not to be. It was 1924 and Vladimir Lenin was dead.

In contrast to the alternate history cliche, a USSR without Stalin did not ultimately devolve to Trotsky. The plain fact of the matter was that he wasn't very popular (even ignoring the failures of his Permanent Revolution policy), and with Lenin gone there was no one left to vouch for him. A new leader, destined in OTL to die in a freezing trench, had seized his moment, consolidated power, and would steer his nation (and the world) on a different course.

Advocating a new pragmatic policy he termed National Socialism, the USSR would change tactics. A former soldier, the newly-declared Vozhd would first reach out to the survivors of the White Army in an attempt to bring them into the fold with a shared nationalist goal. With the loss of blood and treasure in the wake of orthodox internationalism met with crippling foreign sanctions beggars couldn't be choosers, of course. The most radical of these remnants remained aligned with the White Khanate, but enough signed on for clemency to create a notable reactionary current in the halls of power in Moscow.

Second, in order to stabilize a nation under siege and in the grips of a transition of power, certain internal policies were changed to bring the public more fully on board. Repression of religion would be relaxed, as long as the government and its policies were actively cheered on from every pulpit. Early reforms to family life and morality legislation would be undone, with the recriminalization of homosexuality and the full might of the state thrown behind a family values campaign designed to create loyal comrade-patriots from womb to tomb.

With the home front secure, the Vozhd would next turn the nation's attention beyond its own borders once more, inspired by an unlikely source: the Empire of Manchuria. It was clear to everyone at the time that Japan had been pulling the strings in Manchuria. They had taken their militarist ideology, put a local spin on it, and let it loose. And it had worked. Sure, Republican forces under General Yan Xishan kept the border bloody, but the Manchurians were holding their own and Japan was reaping the benefits. There was much to learn from this.

The Vozhd would ultimately make the decision that pragmatism would be more prudent than rigidity. New allies fostered by Moscow would be national creatures, with their own particular versions of Marxism. They would win over the public, and the USSR would stick to discrete support until the time for decisive action came. This policy would see the rise of Strasserism in Germany and Populism in Mongolia, among other groups, and when the Second Great War finally began in 1930 with the German invasion of Austria-Hungary, Moscow had built a network of allies it was certain could crush the Carnaran League. If only things had been so simple.
 
Ooo boy, looks like we will be seeing a war between the Communists and the Futurists (with what capitalist states remain being potentially aligned with either). The fact both are revolutionary ideologies mean things will get messy quick.
 
Basically, my take on Futurism was inspired by Bruce Sterling's excellent Pirate Utopia novella about a successful Regency of Carnaro. It's short but well worth a read. Although both Futurism (as practiced by the League) and National Socialism are totalitarian, Futurism was actually fairly progressive (or at least permissive) for a right-wing anti-communist ideology. With its success the reaction never creeps in as it did with Fascism OTL, so I thought a left-wing reactionary ideology would be an amusing counter to it. Also, the focus will firmly be back on China for the rest of this, although developments in the US will factor in later. Basically just assume a hellish war is tearing apart Europe and her colonial empires in the background of the TL
 
Last edited:
Basically, my take on Futurism was inspired by Bruce Sterling's excellent Pirate Utopia novella about a successful Regency of Carnaro. It's short but well worth a read. Although both Futurism (as practiced by the League) and National Socialism are totalitarian, Futurism was actually fairly progressive (or at least permissive) for a right-wing anti-communist ideology. With it's success the reaction never creeps in as it did with Fascism OTL, so I thought a left-wing reactionary ideology would be an amusing counter to it.
Also I'm curious who's running the show in Germany. I assume the Strassers are both involved but are they the guys heading the country or are they the theorists/lower-ranked supporters backing whoever is actually in charge (possibly Goebbels given OTL he was for a time aligned with the Strasserist wing of the Nazi Party)?
 
Also I'm curious who's running the show in Germany. I assume the Strassers are both involved but are they the guys heading the country or are they the theorists/lower-ranked supporters backing whoever is actually in charge (possibly Goebbels given OTL he was for a time aligned with the Strasserist wing of the Nazi Party)?
Works for me! Fuhrer Goebbels is now canon. Forget all that OTL Soviet troika nonsense, under the many branches of National Socialism every country in the Soviet sphere needs a Vozhd analogue. The fact that such a figure in a Socialist Italy would be the Duce is patently ignored.
 
So I'm roughly half way done, and I'll shoot for a plot post everyday so I can try to wrap up on Sunday. My rough idea (subject to change) is Populism, followed by an interlude about US politics and involvement in the Second Warring States Period, the entrenchment of the Xinjiang Technate, then a look a Maoism and finally a conclusion wrapping it all up with a bow.
 
Top