Military Force and Elite Power in the Formation of Modern China: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Military Force and Elite Power in the Formation of Modern China

1st Edition

By Edward A. McCord


186 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

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The China we know today emerged at the end of a long period of internal rebellions, civil wars, foreign invasions, and revolutionary insurrections that stretched across the nineteenth century to the mid-point of the twentieth. This book explores one important consequence of this situation—the increased role of military force in the determination of elite social, political, and economic power, and presents fascinating case studies of the warlords, militia leaders, and military officers who benefited from this.

Examining the intersection of military force and elite power in the formative years of modern Chinese history, this book highlights just how important military force was to elite power in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century China in a context of frequent warfare and political turmoil. It shows that the way in which military empowerment unfolded and who exactly was empowered, depended heavily on shifting military and political conditions, and each case confirms the extent to which military force emerged as a consistently significant determinant of elite power across this period. Indeed, the transformative effect of military force on social and political structures of power revealed by these studies sheds distinctive light on the prevalence, and wide-ranging impact, of military conflicts in this period. In turn, these studies also provide a particular perspective on the fluid boundaries of, as well as the constraints on, elite power in Chinese society in a time of intense social and political change.

This book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the rise of modern China, and provides a keen insight into impact of war on the country, as such, it will be welcomed by students and scholars interested in Chinese history, Asian history, and military history more broadly.


"Through an examination of the intersection of military force and elite power in the formative years of modern Chinese history, McCord (George Washington Univ.) seeks to demonstrate the importance of military force within elite power during that period. The volume contains five chapters. Chapter 1 shows how local military power played an important role in establishing and expanding regional elite power. Chapter 2 looks into how military command became the foundation of political power and a source for personal wealth. Chapter 3 discusses the source of power for local militia leaders. Chapter 4 illustrates how power was derived from military command. Chapter 5 probes how military professionals influenced the structure of elite power and politics in their home communities. In the conclusion, the author suggests that the end results of recurring military conflict were “transformations in society and government that ultimately reshaped and limited the capacity for military force.” --S. K. Ma, California State University, Los Angeles

Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduate, graduate, and research collections - CHOICE

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Local Military Power and Elite Formation: The Liu Family of Xingyi County, Guizhou 2. Predatory Warlordism: Wang Zhanyuan in Hubei 3. Local Bullies and Armed Force Entrepreneurs: Militia Leadership in Republican Hunan 4. Residual Warlordism under the Nationalist Party-State: He Jian in Hunan 5. Military Office and Local Elite Power: The "Three Lords" of Qiyang County, Hunan 6. Conclusion

About the Author

Edward A. McCord is an Associate Professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University, USA.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Asia has undergone immense and far reaching changes: war, revolution, occupation, industrialization. This series includes in-depth research on aspects of economic, political and social history of individual countries as well as more broad-reaching analyses of regional issues.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / General
HISTORY / Asia / China
HISTORY / Military / General
HISTORY / Modern / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies