WI Manchukuo established in the 1920s not 1930s

raharris1973

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This could also be called: WI Manchukuo established in the 1920s?

In OTL, after his father's assassination, Zhang Xueliang rather swiftly assumed control of his father's armies.

What if the Army fragmented, perhaps because Zhang junior is unexpectedly with his father and is killed too?

The Kwangtung Army (KA) in 1928 was attempting to create fragmentation and disorder among the Fengtien faction, and assumed it would be the natural result of the elder Zhang's assassination. The KA's motive was to create just this situation to provide an excuse for direct Japanese occupation of Manchuria.

If the Chinese actors had played their part according to the Japanese script in the summer of 1928 and brought disorder to Manchuria, what would have happened next?

Would the KA have occupied Manchuria? If so, would the Japanese government of the time compelled the KA to pull out, or would it have been forced to accept the fait accompli?

If the Japanese government pulled the KA out, would Jiang Jieshi's national army have occupied Manchuria?

If the Japanese government were forced to accept the KA's occupation of Manchuria (from July through September 1928 roughly), how would the other players react? Would Jiang Jieshi do anything? Would the Soviets do anything? Would the Coolidge Administration do anything? Assuming the League investigated, how would the world react to its report, if issued in spring 1929 (decidedly pre-Great Depression, btw)?
 
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raharris1973

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...bump...

...the title probably was obscure enough to drive people away...

I should have titled it: WI Manchukuo established in 1920s?
 
yes this is obsucre enough...
who is zhang xueliang?

The "Young Marshal". The heir to Zhang Zuolin. The guy who, a decade later, kidnapped Chiang Kai Shek and facilitated the anti-Japanese alliance between the KMT and CCP.

The Japanese didn't expect the Young Marshal to be so ambitious and keep the Fengtien clique together due to his lack of hands on political and military experience, but he was a quick learner.
 
Japanese domination over Manchuria after 1928 is possible, just have Zhang Xueliang fail in his attempt to take power. This can be achieved through the guys beneath him deciding not to lend him their support for whatever reason. If Zhang doesn't kill the obviously pro-Japanese people (there were quite a few of them), that will allow the Kantogun to make their move sooner.

However, the establishment of Manshuukoku per se is not as easy, because IOTL the plot to take over Manchuria was in fact a plot against Zhang Xueliang's rule, which threatened to unite Manchuria's institutions and society with central Chinese rule. ITTL, the Japanese have fragmented the high-level politics in the region and thus maintained the status that existed in the early 20s, before Zhang Zuolin veered off into his own ambitions. Since the Japanese ITTL are able to maintain their special status in the region, at least for a few more years, there is no need to use military force to invade it.

So your scenario would probably delay the 918 Incident and the creation of Manshuukoku, due to the Japanese being less threatened by the post-Zhang Zuolin Fengtian leadership, rather than bring it forward.

-------------

If you want to accelerate overt Japanese invasion of China's northeast, you can have Zhang Zuolin make a clear break with the Japanese in, say 1927 or very early 1928, the way Zhang Xueliang did in 1929. That way, the Kantogun would be sufficiently frightened by these events and decide that instead of killing Zhang Zuolin, an actual regime change is needed.

The question is: why would Zhang break with the Japanese? In OTL's 1926-28 he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. His economy was in the toilet due to his military excursions, and his military excursions had met with failure. In 1928 he fought against the North Expedition and lost. Back then, the warlords of China were very much in a "if you can't beat them, join them" mindset. Some say that because Zhang lost, the Japanese were scared he would submit to Jiang Jieshi and ruin Japanese domination of Manchuria.

So what could happen ITTL is that the worst fears of the Japanese come true and Zhang Zuolin does pledge allegiance to the KMT.
 
Japanese domination over Manchuria after 1928 is possible, just have Zhang Xueliang fail in his attempt to take power. This can be achieved through the guys beneath him deciding not to lend him their support for whatever reason. If Zhang doesn't kill the obviously pro-Japanese people (there were quite a few of them), that will allow the Kantogun to make their move sooner.
[...]
So your scenario would probably delay the 918 Incident and the creation of Manshuukoku, due to the Japanese being less threatened by the post-Zhang Zuolin Fengtian leadership, rather than bring it forward.

I've been thinking a bit about this as well. So if Japanese action prevented Zhang Xueliang from consolidating power in Manchuria, presumably one of his pro-Japanese lieutenants would take over the three northeastern provinces - someone like Yang Yuting or Chang Yinhuai - and maintain some sort of ostensibly republican regime in opposition to the Nationalists. One possibility is that the Japanese-backed Manchurian regime presents itself as the legitimate government of the ROC, using the Beiyang flag and bringing on northern politicians to serve as the civilian facade for the Guandong army and those forces loyal to Yang / Chang / whoever... basically an early collaborationist "legitimate government". I haven't seen any sources that indicated that the Japanese ever considered doing this ~1928, but considering their actions a decade later it isn't outside the realm of possibility IMO.

In terms of the fallout, the entire plot would still be done independent of Japanese civilian authority, so I can see even a more successful plot bringing down the Tanaka government in Japan AIOTL. The next few years would probably see similar pacifist / more liberal ministries AIOTL, but considering the position of the Guandong Army in Manchuria, I think any civilian attempt to curtail the army's authority would accelerate the various ultranationalist coup "attempts" and border skirmishes with Nationalist soldiers in Rehe, Hebei, etc. The increasingly active army would prompt the Japanese Navy to try and compensate by attacking Shanghai, and things would fall apart on an earlier schedule than OTL. The net result being an earlier Sino-Japanese War, with a significantly less-prepared ROC Army which IMO would fare significantly worse than OTL ... :(
 
I've been thinking a bit about this as well. So if Japanese action prevented Zhang Xueliang from consolidating power in Manchuria, presumably one of his pro-Japanese lieutenants would take over the three northeastern provinces - someone like Yang Yuting or Chang Yinhuai - and maintain some sort of ostensibly republican regime in opposition to the Nationalists. One possibility is that the Japanese-backed Manchurian regime presents itself as the legitimate government of the ROC, using the Beiyang flag and bringing on northern politicians to serve as the civilian facade for the Guandong army and those forces loyal to Yang / Chang / whoever... basically an early collaborationist "legitimate government". I haven't seen any sources that indicated that the Japanese ever considered doing this ~1928, but considering their actions a decade later it isn't outside the realm of possibility IMO.

If this happens, we might not even see the creation of Manshuukoku ITTL, but as you suggested, a nominally Chinese but in fact Japanese-controlled puppet government in NE China versus the ROC.

But that doesn't erase Chinese nationalism, in fact it inflames it even earlier since we are talking about 1928 rather than 1931. The Japanese are still going to try to gain influence over Hebei and North China generally, and Jiang Jieshi is still going to fight the Communists. However, I think that Jiang will be forced to pivot to face Japan sooner than IOTL because the earlier deterioration of relations with Japan and the resultant rise of Chinese nationalist sentiment is going to force his hand (as well as those of the Japanese) by about 1935 at the latest...

...leading to, as you note, an earlier full-on Japanese invasion of China, which isn't good for the KMT at all.

But it's not just a matter of worse organization, training, and equipment. There is a very real political threat from the Northeast in the form of Japan's puppet government, which the IJA is certainly going to use as a cover to entice ROC officers to abandon the sinking ship. IOTL the collaboration movement never had a substantial role, as it was fairly clear that collaboration equated betrayal of China. Here, however, things could be murkier, depending on how much autonomy the Japanese allow the post-Zhang Manchurian leadership to exercise.

On the other hand, Japan has its own challenges with an earlier war against China. Assuming that WW2 in Europe still happens at the end of the 1930s or 1940, that's about five years of Japan facing off against China while the rest of the world watches. The Americans and Soviets have an interest in keeping China from becoming a Japanese puppet a la Manchuria, and may provide more material and diplomatic support to the KMT than they did IOTL, given the earlier timeline and the comparatively poor state of ROC defensive capabilities.
 

raharris1973

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Japanese domination over Manchuria after 1928 is possible, just have Zhang Xueliang fail in his attempt to take power. This can be achieved through the guys beneath him deciding not to lend him their support for whatever reason. If Zhang doesn't kill the obviously pro-Japanese people (there were quite a few of them), that will allow the Kantogun to make their move sooner.

So in this case, their "move" consists of putting more troops in the region, exercising greater de facto authority over all matters political and economic, but *not* creating a formal breakaway state.

It would be very interesting to see if the pro-Japanese proxy regime is as bold as Zhang Xueliang was in moving to assert control of the Soviet-owned Chinese Eastern Railway. This assertion caused a brief Sino-Soviet war. Would the Japanese restrain their Manchurian clients from making such a move, or encourage them, and back them up if the Soviets tried to resist by force. Of course the Soviets might just decide to take their lumps in this case if they see risk of confrontation with Japan. But I'd be very interested in thoughts on this.

However, the establishment of Manshuukoku per se is not as easy, because IOTL the plot to take over Manchuria was in fact a plot against Zhang Xueliang's rule, which threatened to unite Manchuria's institutions and society with central Chinese rule. ITTL, the Japanese have fragmented the high-level politics in the region and thus maintained the status that existed in the early 20s, before Zhang Zuolin veered off into his own ambitions. Since the Japanese ITTL are able to maintain their special status in the region, at least for a few more years, there is no need to use military force to invade it.

I guess the question is how much the Kwangtung Army, Imperial Army actions and eventual civilian acceptance of faits accompli was driven by semi-objective circumstances in China or by purely subjective Japanese perceptions that rationalized military mutiny against party politicians, the Nine-Power Treaty, Shidehara diplomacy, military budget limitations and the Washington Treaty order that Army and Navy men increasingly resented as the 1920s and 1930s went on.

So your scenario would probably delay the 918 Incident and the creation of Manshuukoku, due to the Japanese being less threatened by the post-Zhang Zuolin Fengtian leadership, rather than bring it forward.

Yes it very well could, especially if the military feels less inclined to act or if the civilian governments have more popular support in opposing military action because in the ATL such actions seem gratuitous and unnecessary. IE, if objective conditions in China are more of a driver than subjective instincts.

-------------

If you want to accelerate overt Japanese invasion of China's northeast, you can have Zhang Zuolin make a clear break with the Japanese in, say 1927 or very early 1928, the way Zhang Xueliang did in 1929. That way, the Kantogun would be sufficiently frightened by these events and decide that instead of killing Zhang Zuolin, an actual regime change is needed.

That would be fascinating.

The question is: why would Zhang break with the Japanese? In OTL's 1926-28 he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. His economy was in the toilet due to his military excursions, and his military excursions had met with failure.

Good point. Maybe a point of departure could be him becoming more successful.....too successful in Japanese eyes. He upgraded his military a great deal in time for the second Fengtien war of 1926. He had the best equipped forces in the country. If he swept his Zhili Clique opponents from the board and appeared to be solidly dominating the country, or even just everything down to the Yangtze, that might make the Japanese nervous enough to regret their earlier support and turn against him. While success on this scale could increase his self-confidence and give him broader constituencies to answer to.

I suppose we could apply this to any warlord or warlord clique that gets too much momentum. For instance in the middle 1920s Wu Peifu of the Zhili Clique appeared to many to be a likely unifier. If he did utterly crush Japan's clients in the Fengtien clique while holding his home ground in the Yangzi Valley, Japan could get very nervous, perhaps even intervening in the middle to late 1920s.

In 1928 he fought against the North Expedition and lost. Back then, the warlords of China were very much in a "if you can't beat them, join them" mindset. Some say that because Zhang lost, the Japanese were scared he would submit to Jiang Jieshi and ruin Japanese domination of Manchuria.

So what could happen ITTL is that the worst fears of the Japanese come true and Zhang Zuolin does pledge allegiance to the KMT.

That would be fascinating. Hmm- instead of simply fleeing north of the Great Wall to get assassinated, he meets with the KMT & pledges allegiance to its new regime. the Kwangtung Army panics and frets. Maybe its even difficult to get the Japanese to agree to evacuate from Jinan, Shandong in 1929. Bam, earlier escalation in China and militarization of Japan.

Or, Zhang could pledge allegiance to Guomindang even earlier. He did ally with them a couple times against the Zhili clique. Maybe he would just join them and say he's a "convert" to their popular ideology when the Northern Expedition starts. So the Northern Expedition in 1926 becomes the "pincers expedition" coming from south and north, and Zhang opens lines of collaboration with the GMD and Soviet Union.

Or, he could convert to GMD in summer 1927, justifying it with Jiang's anticommunist purge, and starting the "pincers expedition" then. With a Zhang Zuolin-GMD coalition Japanese military and even civilian politicians may come to see Shandong as a vital position they cannot afford to abandon, no matter what the cost.

I've been thinking a bit about this as well. So if Japanese action prevented Zhang Xueliang from consolidating power in Manchuria, presumably one of his pro-Japanese lieutenants would take over the three northeastern provinces - someone like Yang Yuting or Chang Yinhuai - and maintain some sort of ostensibly republican regime in opposition to the Nationalists. One possibility is that the Japanese-backed Manchurian regime presents itself as the legitimate government of the ROC, using the Beiyang flag and bringing on northern politicians to serve as the civilian facade for the Guandong army and those forces loyal to Yang / Chang / whoever... basically an early collaborationist "legitimate government".

This is a fascinating idea, and not unlikely at all, in my view. Even with their subservience to Japanese interests, I would imagine Yang or Chang would find it much more palatable to claim the mantle of the Beiyang government rather than to say they are partitioning off their territory from China.

I haven't seen any sources that indicated that the Japanese ever considered doing this ~1928, but considering their actions a decade later it isn't outside the realm of possibility IMO.

Well I have seen claims saying that the Kwangtung Army at least was hoping to occupy Manchuria in the aftermath of Zhang Zuolin's death. The question then becomes if Yang & Chang persist in claiming themselves the legitimate remnant of the Beiyang government, committed in principle to retaking Beijing and the rest of the country from the Nanjing-based Guomindang rebels, how do Tanaka or Shidehara deal with the resulting dilemma. Do they go along with that claim, hoping for the best? Or do they find it unacceptable to be seen as holding onto Beiyang and prolonging the Civil War when the Americans and other powers are all recognizing Nanjung? If it's unacceptable, their only alternatives are to take the at least equally provocative step of having Yang & Chang declare independence, or ordering Yang & Chang to accept nominal suzerainty of Nanjing/Guomindang while maintaining de facto autonomy and Japanese influence.

In terms of the fallout, the entire plot would still be done independent of Japanese civilian authority, so I can see even a more successful plot bringing down the Tanaka government in Japan AIOTL. The next few years would probably see similar pacifist / more liberal ministries AIOTL, but considering the position of the Guandong Army in Manchuria, I think any civilian attempt to curtail the army's authority would accelerate the various ultranationalist coup "attempts" and border skirmishes with Nationalist soldiers in Rehe, Hebei, etc. The increasingly active army would prompt the Japanese Navy to try and compensate by attacking Shanghai, and things would fall apart on an earlier schedule than OTL.

So you're thinking that given conditions at the time, rather than just having the whole country roll along with an Army fait accompli, pacifists & liberals would win one more round of control before Army radicals terrorized the political class into accepting their agenda ?

The net result being an earlier Sino-Japanese War, with a significantly less-prepared ROC Army which IMO would fare significantly worse than OTL ...

The key question is how much faster would things fall apart. Were you envisioning OTL's Manchurian and Shanghai preliminaries, which were ultimately five years before the main event, just blending right in to an immediate Sino-Japanese war. So Manchuria 1930, Shanghai '31, and then we're off to the races with a full-scale, on-going Sino-Japanese war. Or, we end up with truce years after Shanghai and the full blow up starting in '34, '35 or '36.

I suppose in the former case, yes, the Chinese have less benefit of governing experience and will not be the beneficiaries of German aid like OTL. Also, the Communists can end up in a more advantageous position because they have not been forced to abandon bases all over south China. On the other hand, earlier Sino-Japanese war probably means an earlier second United Front and earlier Soviet support for the Nationalist war effort. A lot depends on the value that one places on the Nanjing decade as a period of national strengthening or not. There was physical and military strengthening, but the Guomindang became more corrupt and lost some its political lustre that peaked with the Northern Expedition over the course of the Nanjing decade. They also were able to waste some of the time during the Nanjing decade with internecine conflicts like the Central Plains war, and attempted secessions by Guangdong and Fujian, and bloody anti-communist bandit suppression campaigns.

The Soviets are less mechanized and formidable in the early 30s than they would be by the OTL 1935-1936 timeframe, so the Japanese would not need to hold as much force on the northern flank, which is bad for the Chinese. On the other hand, the Japanese are mobilizing more rapidly and starting from a lower base force.

If the Sino-Japanese war goes full-scale only in '34, '35 or '36, then the Guomindang can get a little German aid, might finish bandit extermination campaigns in the south, and the Sino-Japanese fight peaks while the Soviets are at their pre-purge peak of strength while the Nazis are much weaker. This could be a recipe for a decisive Soviet intervention. This is a blessing for China vis-a-vis Japan, but not for Jiang personally, at least if the Soviets turn over captured weapons to the ChiComs. The interval of time in the early 1930s before all-out war starts gives some time for Nationalist China and the USSR to materially strengthen themselves, but also allows for more internal disillusionment, internecine conflict and corruption to set in.

If this happens, we might not even see the creation of Manshuukoku ITTL, but as you suggested, a nominally Chinese but in fact Japanese-controlled puppet government in NE China versus the ROC.

But that doesn't erase Chinese nationalism, in fact it inflames it even earlier since we are talking about 1928 rather than 1931. The Japanese are still going to try to gain influence over Hebei and North China generally, and Jiang Jieshi is still going to fight the Communists. However, I think that Jiang will be forced to pivot to face Japan sooner than IOTL because the earlier deterioration of relations with Japan and the resultant rise of Chinese nationalist sentiment is going to force his hand (as well as those of the Japanese) by about 1935 at the latest...

I enthusiastically agree with this, Chinese nationalism will be equally inflamed by a "Beiyang Republic" obviously in Japan's pocket.

But it's not just a matter of worse organization, training, and equipment. There is a very real political threat from the Northeast in the form of Japan's puppet government, which the IJA is certainly going to use as a cover to entice ROC officers to abandon the sinking ship. IOTL the collaboration movement never had a substantial role, as it was fairly clear that collaboration equated betrayal of China. Here, however, things could be murkier, depending on how much autonomy the Japanese allow the post-Zhang Manchurian leadership to exercise.

Well, the northeastern government will only be a political threat in inverse proportion to how much its very existence enflames Chinese nationalism. IE, it would enflame Chinese nationalism presumably because its regarded as a Japanese puppet. However, being perceived as a puppet makes it less enticing to defectors. If it's more of a political threat capable of enticing more ROC officials (presumably because its perceived as being more than a mere puppet), then maybe the heat on Jiang to go into full-scale war is low enough he can resist it, because Chinese nationalism is correspondingly less enflamed. Hmm, maybe that prolonged period where Jiang is able to resist going to war could lead to a situation where the Comintern tries to press the CCP to migrate north and east to areas under Beiyang control where it can trouble Japanese clients and therefore at least be of some use to Soviet foreign policy. If Mao does not play ball, you could end up with a divided Chinese Communist party with a northern group unresponsive to Mao but more responsive to the USSR & Comintern.

On the other hand, Japan has its own challenges with an earlier war against China.

Yes, for instance its starting from a lower base force size. Also, the generation of Japanese fighting the war have had fewer years of uncontested indoctrination in militarism. It's an unlikely longshot, but maybe an early war that's hard and lengthy makes being anti-militaristic more politically acceptable (Japanese antimilitarism and public weariness was influential in ending the Siberian expedition for instance.

Assuming that WW2 in Europe still happens at the end of the 1930s or 1940, that's about five years of Japan facing off against China while the rest of the world watches. The Americans and Soviets have an interest in keeping China from becoming a Japanese puppet a la Manchuria, and may provide more material and diplomatic support to the KMT than they did IOTL, given the earlier timeline and the comparatively poor state of ROC defensive capabilities.

Yes-American and Soviet aid is likely to offset the probable material weakness and loss of German aid to the KMT. Say the war is going on all this time and not quite concluding while the Soviet 1930s build-up proceeds. The Soviets possibly attack at their pre-purge peak of 1936, or they strike during the period of their non-aggression pact with the Nazis from roughly 1939 to 1941.
 
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raharris1973

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The American Depression variable..a big one.

...leading to, as you note, an earlier full-on Japanese invasion of China, which isn't good for the KMT at all.

In this circumstance, the exact timing of Japanese partial & full-on aggression can be a huge factor, because it might have a huge knock-on effect on the American and League of Nations response to Japan's actions.

I mean isn't it at least arguable that America's response could be far different depending how much the Japanese try to do before the impact of the Great Depression is felt in America (escalating from autumn 1929 through 1933) versus how much the Japanese try only afterword.

For example, if the Japanese are openly supporting a rival government to Nanjing (like the northeast Beiyang regime) or declaring a separatist Manchukuo, and going further and attacking Shanghai all in 1928 or 1929 instead of 1932, America will be economically and politically very self-confident, far different than Americans felt in OTL's 1931-1939. Given its booming economy and massive global financial dominance, America under the Coolidge or very early Hoover Administrations might decide its within their capability to halt the Japanese cold by sanctions and financial pressures to make their economy scream, while offering massive sums to aid the Chinese resistance, while beefing up forces in the western Pacific to prevent the Japanese from getting any ideas. The other 9 Power Treaty partners, above all the British Empire, may be prepared to get on board with this program of economic pressure and military deterrence. The pain this inflicts could end up forcing the Japanese to stop the war and discrediting Japanese militarists for half a decade or more, with the populace blaming them for Depression in Japan. That in turn would buy China a lot of time.

A lot depends on your view on the constraints on American foreign policy in the interwar era. How much was it simply long-ingrained military and diplomatic caution and the hangover from the first world war versus how much was that sentiment reinforced by the acute crisis of the Great Depression? In any case, while Japanese aggression in Manchuria alone *might* not be enough to stir America to strong measures in the roaring 20s, a big fight in Shanghai, and certainly a full-on invasion, would be darn hard for Washington, Wall Street & London to ignore, dontcha think?
 
Questions to ask:

What happens to the Northern Expedition if Zhang Xueliang is not there to order Manchuria to become part of the new government? Does Chiang and his allies continue to march north into Manchuria? At what point would Japan intervene? Would Japan risk intervening considering this is 1928 - before the Great Depression - and the US and European powers much more likely to intervene in some way to preserve China's borders? Is there a division of Manchuria between the area controlled by central government, and that which isn't? Division might be formalized like in Manchukuo, or perhaps informal with Japanese dominated Manchurian provinces that pay lip service to Nanjing.

Assuming the Northern Expedition is handled somewhat successfully, what happens during the Central Plains War? IOTL, Zhang's march of his troops in central China greatly assisted the Central Army. However, even before this the Central Army had been defeating the warlords. Without an intervention by Zhang Xueliang, does the end result help Chiang, hurt him, or is indifferent in the long term?
 
Or, he could convert to GMD in summer 1927, justifying it with Jiang's anticommunist purge, and starting the "pincers expedition" then. With a Zhang Zuolin-GMD coalition Japanese military and even civilian politicians may come to see Shandong as a vital position they cannot afford to abandon, no matter what the cost.

I don't have access to the source itself as I am at work, but I recall reading some western news articles from the period that mentioned that, since the ideological difference between Jiang and Zhang was minimal following Jiang's anticommunist turn, there was no reason why the two could not come to an understanding - Zhang paying lip service to the new regime in Nanjing, and Jiang not sending GMD political workers north of the Great Wall, in effect acknowledging Zhang's control of the three northeastern provinces - and POSSIBLY Rehe / Jehol and Chahar. This would have immediate downstream effects and I could see it leading to a much weaker GMD government - when the equivalent of the Central Plains war breaks out, I can't see the Elder Zhang being as eager to side with Jiang as his son was - more likely IMO is a coalition government similar to that formed by Yan Xishan during the Central Plains War in OTL, allying Yan, Feng Yuxiang, and the Guangxi warlords but nominally headed by Wang Jingwei. In TTL it is possible that Zhang Zuolin, seeking to redeem his failure during the Northern Expedition, declares his support for Yan's government and fights against Jiang. I don't know enough about the relative strengths to predict the outcome (obviously Jiang won in OTL, but I'm not sure if whatever forces Zhang could muster would be the deciding factor)... but clearly it would be an interesting possibility to speculate on the fate of China if it is then divided between Yan, Feng, Zhang, and the Guangxi clique warlords in the south.

This is a fascinating idea, and not unlikely at all, in my view. Even with their subservience to Japanese interests, I would imagine Yang or Chang would find it much more palatable to claim the mantle of the Beiyang government rather than to say they are partitioning off their territory from China.
Exactly - and that might give them some legitimacy that Manchukuo obviously lacked, but not much if most governments recognize Jiang's regime in Nanjing anyway.





So you're thinking that given conditions at the time, rather than just having the whole country roll along with an Army fait accompli, pacifists & liberals would win one more round of control before Army radicals terrorized the political class into accepting their agenda ?
It could definitely go either way, and I don't know enough about interwar domestic politics in Japan, I am just basing this off the fact that Tanaka's ministry was replaced by a pacifist government even in OTL.



The key question is how much faster would things fall apart. Were you envisioning OTL's Manchurian and Shanghai preliminaries, which were ultimately five years before the main event, just blending right in to an immediate Sino-Japanese war. So Manchuria 1930, Shanghai '31, and then we're off to the races with a full-scale, on-going Sino-Japanese war. Or, we end up with truce years after Shanghai and the full blow up starting in '34, '35 or '36.
Again, up to debate - I could see a smooth segue into general war, brought about by local units taking the initiative and forcing both the Chinese and Japanese governments to take up more aggressive stances - or possible delays as the GMD tries to play for time while building up their military for the inevitable showdown with Japan.
 

raharris1973

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The below is on a completely different PoD than the OP, but I thought that the group engaged in this thread would find it interesting:

Gathered from an old SHWI thread that ended up not generating discussion.
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China Unified in 1924
2 posts by 2 authors



d1b...@anonymous.to
4/5/05

In 1924, foreign and domestic observes believed that the decisive
moment of the warlord period was at hand. The competition in North
China had consolidated into two factions: the Fengtian clique of Zhang
Zuolin, in Manchuria; and the Chili[1] clique of Cao Kan, which held
the national capital at Beijing. Wu Peifu was generally the more
popular choice, and thanks to his access to seaports, enjoyed a bit
more European support and had more modern arsenals and weaponry. Zhang
Zuolin (the Old Marshal) enjoyed enormous support from Japan and had
the vast but underdeveloped industrial resources of Manchuria on which
to draw. Zao's loyal general, Wu Peifu was on the attack--his scheme
was for his principal subordinate, the "Christian General" Feng
Yuxiang, to threaten Zhang's flank while he, Wu, drove into the
Manchurian heartland and destroyed Zhang there. However, Zhang's
people provided Feng with an enormous bribe, ultimately from Japanese
coffers, and he turned on Wu, marching into Beijing when Wu was up
north at the front, cutting the rail lines feeding Wu's army, and then
falling on the isolated army from the rear. Wu's army was nearly
destroyed, but he managed to escape to the south with a small force,
and suddenly the situation was even more chaotic than it had been at
the beginning of the year. The economic damage, social upheaval, and
lack of resolution that this war caused (it looked like WW1 in
miniature, although not all that miniature except in duration) set the
state for the triumphant 1927 Northern Expedition of the Guomindang,
which had been biding its time in Guangzhou during the whole period of
fighting on the North China Plain.
The Nationalists, of course, never really unified China, but they did
effectively bring most of intramural eastern and central China under
its control. However, if Wu Peifu had not been betrayed, Chili would
have had the opportunity to unify North China and Manchuria. So, what
if. The problem is that Japan was behind the scenes, manipulating
things in order to keep China divided and keep their semi-puppet in the
game in Manchuria. However, not all men have a price; it's hard to
imagine the Japanese frex buying off Mao Zedong with a million yuan.
So WI Feng Yuxiang, steadfast to the Christian duty of loyalty, won't
play ball, and Wu's attack into Manchuria is therefore successful?

How the Japanese respond is key. This was in the late 1920s, when
Japanese ministries fell over stationing single divisions in Korea, so
I can't imagine them resorting to armed force. They're not going to be
able to play ball with the Nationalists, so they're going to have to
try and co-opt Wu Peifu. The big fear of the Japanese military was
that China and/or Manchuria would support the USSR in a Soviet-Japan
throwdown. So as long as they can keep their industrial holdings in
Manchuria and keep the North China government out of the Soviet orbit,
they'll be at least satisfied. The domestic implications of this are
left to those more knowledgeable.

A victorious Wu Peifu will mean he continues to enjoy support from the
European powers (both political and financial), who now have quite a
bit of capital invested in him (OTL both Zhang and Wu floated bonds for
their armies on the Shanghai stock market, and due to the inconclusive
battle neither paid out, further tanking the North China economy).
Chili, as it controlled Beijing, would also be recognized
internationally as the official govenrment of China. With Chili
suported by the white man, and controlling Manchuria and all of North
China, the Nationalists--who were feared as anti-property radicals by
the European powers in the mid-1920s--are going ot have to depend more
on the Soviets. The Northern Expedition took place over the objections
of the Nationalists' Soviet advisers (because Jiang was planning to
purge them) but neither the expedition nor Jiang's turn away from the
Soviets will happen OTL. Which means closer Nationalist-Communist
cooperation, and the center of Chinese Communist power will continue to
be in Shanghai rather than relocating to the rural provinces with Mao.
Note, too, that there was a truly *enormous* amount of industrial
cooperation between Weimar and early Third Reich Germany, and
Nationalist China--the German General Staff wanted to use China as a
gigantic industrial resource base and arsenal,since Versailles kept
them from doing so in Germany. OTL all this support is going to go to
Chili, since a China that controls Manchuria will be even more
appealing to Germany.

Eventually there's going to be a confrontation between the Nationalists
and Chili[2]; with Chili established in the international community as
the government of China, and enjoying at least to some extent military
support from Britain, France, Japan, and especially Germany, I don't
think the Nationalists can win. I estimate that Guangzhou falls to
Chili around 1931; *maybe* at this point the Communists take to the
countryside; possibly the Nationalists retreat to a redoubt in the far
west, but without international support they're finished. By this
point history Asia-wide has already been changed out of recognition, so
I'll solicit some feedback on all this before I speculate further.

[1] Not pronounced like the pepper
[2] ObWI: Armed conflict between Nationalist China and the South
American country of Chili
 
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