Why did effective central Government breakdown in China 1912-26?

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  • Created by: emily.m
  • Created on: 09-01-14 19:29

Yuan Shikai

Reasons why Yuan Shikai was to blame for the breakdown of central Government:

  • 1913- Yuan secured a foreign loan of $100 million without consulting banks because China was so broke
  • Loses land: loses Tibet to Britain and Outer Mongolia to the Soviet Union- angers population
  • His main interest was in consolidating his own power (such as making himself Emperor in 1916) which he did by:
      • Banning political parties
      • Abolishing regional assemblies
      • Centralising tax revenue
  • These actions provoked further opposition from China's own provinces
  • Accepted Japan's 21 demands in 1915 leading to anti-Japanese demonstrations all over China (he signed it due to the threat of invasion from Japan if he did not sign)
  • Overall throughout his reign and after his death in June 1916 he left China in a very weak state.  
  • HOWEVER his reign had some positives: Cracked down on Opium trade very successfully, centralised national currency and tried to improve agriculture and also he reformed the legal system to try and make it independent from the Government
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Reasons why Warlords were to blame for the breakdown of central Government:

  • Many put taxes on practically everything
  • Locals under the warlords were often required to fight in their Warlord's army resulting in many deaths and also as mnay became soldiers there were very few people to do the normal hobs around the village or area they lived
  • People under them often lived in fear as many were treated badly and punished (e.g. Zhang Zongzhang)
  • Majority of Warlords put their own interests first not China's or the people they were in charge of
  • They corrupted the Government, preventing the strong central Governmnet that China needed to move forwards


  • Some such as Zhang Zuolin and Yan Xishan brought in economic reforms. Some banned foot binding, had modern ideas on agriculture and industry where industrial training schemes were introduced. Arguably there were only Warlords as the republic was weak in the first place.
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Foreign Intervention

Reasons why Foreign Intervention was to blame for the breakdown of central Government:

  • Japans 21 demands of 1915 (e.g. stationing of Japanese police in North China) created strong anti-Japanese feelings causing people to look for a change in power
  • Britain declared their support for Zhang provinces
  • Western powers did not really help China before WW1 because they were preparing for war and felt like their current business did not involve them
  • German territories seized by Japan during WW1 were not returned like the Chinese had hoped at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919
  • Foreign Intervention meant that the time it took for China to regain a central Government was increased because, especially in the case of Japan other countries were interferring too much for their own benefit or not helping at all


  • It allowed people to realise that China was desperately in need of a Government to take control and stop Japan inparticular from using China
  • Increased patriotism among the population
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New Ideas

Reasons why new ideas were to blame for the breakdown of central Government:

  • Increased nationalist feelings among population
  • Made people look to other alternatives for an authority - GMD and CCP
  • After WW1 at the Versailles conference in 1919 China came away without their territories that Japan had reclaimed from Germany during the war. This spiked national anger and led to the 4 May Protest in 1919 where Japanese people and properties were attacked in China which led to a movement which went on till 1925 (overall anti-imperal/west/japanese feelings)
  • The 4 May Movement led to people realsing that China needed to modernise because it was behind the rest of the world 
  • Movement also protested about womens rights- no arranged marriages or foot binding
  • There was an Intellectual and cultural movement- new ideas were being spread around China, partically through newspapers


  • These ideas had already been supported by some around China, e.g the GMD had been around sharing ideas ince 1912 & foot binding had already been banned by some Warlords
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