Institutionalisation of Modern Military Science in Republican Chinese Armies: A Study Focusing on the Fengtian and the National Revolutionary Armies 1911-1937

Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed study examines the modernisation of the Chinese military between 1911 and 1937 using the Fengtian Army (fengjun) of Manchuria and the Chinese National Revolutionary Army (guomin gemingjun, NRA) of the Nationalist Party (KMT) as examples. The period between the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 witnessed a series of important changes in tactics, weaponry, and the understanding of warfare among the militaries of the world. Fighting techniques on land, sea, and air changed drastically during World War One (WWI) and the years afterwards.

Specifically, this study focuses on the attempts of officers from the two armies, many of whom had received modern military education in China and abroad, to respond to outside military changes and to institutionalise modern military science by establishing education infrastructures such as military academies, professional journals and training manuals; constructing a paradigm of warfare and creating an intellectual community; and creating training units such as training regiments (jiaodaotuan). In addition, by critically examining the writings of the officers from these two armies and related archival sources, this study looks at the Chinese attempts to study modern military science and its reception of post-WWI military theories from abroad, such as those on airpower, armoured warfare, combined arms operations, and total war. It elucidates not only the influence from Japan, Germany, and the Soviet Union on the theoretical development of the Chinese military during the period concerned and but also the Chinese officers’ attempt to construct a new paradigm of warfare to suit the situation in China. Such understanding was reflected in how the two armies were trained, organised, and equipped.

By looking at the theoretical development and institutionalisation of modern military science in China between 1911 and 1937, this study tries to bridge the gap in our understanding of Chinese military history between the late-Qing period and the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War and to enhance our knowledge of the history of global military change during the interwar period (1919-1939). In a sense, this study also provides an interesting example of how the Chinese organised and institutionalised modern and foreign knowledge and gives fresh insights into the modernisation of China during the early 20th century.
Effective start/end date1/10/1330/09/16


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