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Working paper

The Cradle of Chaos: Metamorphosis of Chinese Elite, 1850s–1900s

When the Qing Empire collapsed in 1911, military groups moved to the forefront. The power of regional warlords bloomed during 1916–28, splitting China into disparate fiefdoms. The fragmentation of China largely defined the course of events in this country through all 20 century, so explaining the origins of the warlord era is important. This paper documents the prerequisites of Republican warlordism during 1850s–1900s. Through their analysis the paper argues for the direct linkage between Qing-era literati governors and Republican-era military warlords. Since the imperial government failed to crush the Taiping Rebellion, local elites gained military experience and influence, thus becoming a cradle for China’s future break-up.