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Feng YŁ-hsiang

Feng YŁ-hsiang (馮玉祥 pinyin: Feng Yuxiang; 1882-1948) was a warlord during the early years of the Republic of China.

As the son of an officer in the Qing Imperial Army, Feng spent his youth immersed in the military life. He joined the army at age 16 and proved himself to be hard working and motivated.

Feng, like many young officers, was seduced by revolutionary romanticism and was nearly executed for treason. He later joined Yuan Shikai's Republican Army and converted to Christianity in 1914. Feng's career as a warlord began soon after the collapse of the Yuan Shikai government in 1916. Feng, however, distinguished himself from other regional militarists by governing his domains with an admixture of paternalistic Christian socialism and military discipline. In the early 1920s, Feng rose to prominence in the Zhili clique of warlords that defeated the Fengtian Clique, headed by Chang Tso-lin, father of Chang Hsueh-liang. It was at this time that Feng also began to move closer to the Soviet Union.

In the second Chih-Feng War of 1924, Feng betrayed his fellow warlords; an act that contributed to the weakening of the Chihli Clique (this opened the door for the Northern Expedition) and gave Chang Tso-lin control of Beijing. During the Northern Expedition, Feng shifted loyalties again, this time supporting Chiang Kai-shek to the detriment of Chang Tso-lin, who was forced to evacuate North China. By 1929 Feng's Nationalist Army controlled most of north-central China, but because he was under increasing pressure from the expanding power of the Nanjing government, he and Yen Hsi-shan launched a bloody civil war against Chiang Kai-shek, but were defeated by forces loyal to Nanjing.

Stripped of his military power, Feng spent the early 1930s criticizing Chiang's failure to resist Japanese aggression, between 1937 and 1945, however, he supported the KMT and held positions in the Nationalist government. After WWII, he traveled to the United States where he was an outspoken critic of the Truman administrationís support for the Chiang regime. He died in a shipboard fire en route to the USSR in 1948 and his remains were buried with honors in China in 1953.

See also: History of the Republic of China