Second Zhili–Fengtian War

Second Zhili–Fengtian War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict= Second Zhili-Fengtian War
partof=The Warlord era of Republican China

date= September to November 1924
place=North China
result=Fengtian Clique Victory
commander1=Wu Peifu
commander2=Zhang Zuolin

The Second Zhili-Fengtian War (zh-cp|c=第二次直奉戰爭|p=Dì'èrcì Zhífèng Zhànzhēng) was a 1924 conflict in the Republic of China's Warlord era between the Zhili and Fengtian cliques for control of Beijing.


By the summer of 1924, the Zhili clique, led by President Cao Kun, controlled China proper and its internationally recognized Beiyang government. Most military analysts believed it was a matter of time before they reunited China militarily.

The cause of the conflict was over the control of Shanghai, China's biggest city and port. It was legally a part of Jiangsu province, under the control of Zhili general Qi Xieyuan. However the city was being managed as part of Zhejiang, the last province under the control of the dying Anhui clique (Anhui held Shandong was obliged to be neutral, see Shandong Problem). In September, fighting broke out as Zhejiang refused to cede administration of the city. Zhang Zuolin and Sun Yatsen pledged to defend Zhejiang, expanding the conflict to the far north and south.


Within days, Zhang led his army to Manchuria's borders to engage the army of Wu Peifu, the Zhili clique's greatest strategist. Sun Yatsen personally led his army north but a rebellion broke out in Guangzhou by the Canton Merchant Corps and Chen Jiongming's loyalists. Sun was forced to turn back to put down the rebels. This was also the first major conflict by the cadets and new officers of the Whampoa Military Academy. Meanwhile, Zhejiang and Shanghai rapidly fell to the armies of Sun Chuanfang.

Unexpected End

On October 23, Feng Yuxiang betrayed the Zhili clique by mounting the Beijing coup against President Cao. Wu became enraged and pulled his army away from the front to rescue Beijing. Zhang saw an opening and pursued Wu, landing a decisive victory near Tianjin. Wu escaped to central China where Sun Chuanfang protected him from further Fengtian incursions. Cao was deposed as president and would be under house arrest for the next two year. By November, the war effectively ended with the Zhili clique losing all of its northern provinces to Zhang Zuolin and Feng Yuxiang's Guominjun, though fighting still continued well into 1925 when a joint Anhui-Fengtian expedition briefly retook Jiangsu and Shanghai in January. Without backup, Qi Xieyuan resigned and fled to Japan but transferred his armies to Sun Chuanfang. Sun then launched a counterattack and drove Zhang Zongchang out. Duan gave Shandong, the last Anhui held province, to Zhang as a token to their alliance. More damaging was that the myth of Zhili invincibility was shattered.


A new provisional government led by the Anhui clique's Duan Qirui was created to balance the interests of Feng and Zhang. Sun Yatsen was invited north to discuss reunification but the talks failed due to his death from cancer. The strong differences between Feng and Zhang would cause both to solicit their recent enemies as allies. In November 1925, the Zhili clique threw their support behind Zhang in revenge for Feng's betrayal. Feng then managed the defection by Guo Songling from the Fengtian clique, sparking the Anti-Fengtian War that would last until April 1926, leading to the collapse of the provisional government.

ee also

*Warlord Era
*First Zhili-Fengtian War
*Zhang Zuolin

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