|Flag of the Fengtian Government of the Republic of China|
The Fengtian Government, officially the Fengtian Government of the Republic of China, is a state in Northeast China. The only state contesting Qing legitimacy that holds actual territory in mainland China, the Fengtian Government is essentially a mirror of the former "Beiyang" Government established following the Xinhai Revolution, from which it claims direct descent. Zhang Zuolin stands as the acting Grand Marshal and does not answer to the Qing due to his rivalry with Wu Peifu and the Zhili Clique, claiming that his own government is the only legitimate government of China.
Starting the century as a poor frontier region beset by lawlessness, Manchuria gradually came under the jurisdiction of the Warlord Zhang Zuolin thanks to skillful political manoeuvering, competent governance, and some luck. By 1919 Zhang's Fengtian Clique had become one of the most powerful Warlord groups in China, and through a series of conflicts, made efforts to seize Beijing and control the weak Beiyang Government. Despite making serious headway during the Second Zhili-Fengtian War, defeats during the Third and Fourth Wars saw Zhang's plans foiled, and only a combination of favorable geography and Japanese involvement saved Zhang and his Clique from incorporation into the restored Qing Empire. Zhang then raised the banner of his new government in opposition.
Due to their conflicting claims to legitimacy, the Fengtian and Qing governments have waged an intermittent propaganda war, often inflamed by public (or merely perceived) instances of Japanese or German exploitation. The resulting allegations, often centered around cooperation with foreign powers at the expense of the Chinese people, periodically threaten to bring the two countries and potentially their backers into a state of war. However, due to the persistent and often exaggerated nature of these threats from both sides, and their consistent failure to develop far beyond words, the wider international community has ceased to take them very seriously.
Today, Fengtian faces the difficult task of balancing crucial Japanese aid, needed to defeat the Zhili dominated Qing Empire, with the creeping economic and political influence it bears. If Zhang can somehow manage to take Beijing and defeat the restored Qing, he then faces the difficult task of reuniting China beneath his leadership and shaking off the chains of Japanese imperialism.
The Fengtian Government is structurally almost identical to the former "Beiyang" Government, from which it inherits most of its symbolism and claims to legitimacy. While making democratic pretenses in the form of a legislative assembly, power in the Government is primarily brokered by Communications Clique oligarchs, former warlord generals, and of course the Grand Marshal himself. Most of these are remnants of the Beiyang Assembly that were either loyal to Zhang personally, and fled to Manchuria, or those unwilling to compromise with the Qing and able to make the journey north. The Empire of Japan, often through its powerful Dalian based South Manchuria Railway Company (colloquially "Mantetsu"), exerts increasing political influence, privately dividing many in the army between loose "Pro-Japan" and "Pro-Zhang" factions. These are sometimes informally referred to as the "Shikkan-Clique" and the "Zhang-Clique respectively, with the former deriving its name from the Japanese Shikkan Gakko military academy at which many officers were educated.
Outside the Assembly and the military leadership, Northeastern politics are marked by a significant regionalist streak, long cultivated by Zhang Zuolin in an effort to further strengthen and legitimate his rule. The immense expense and sacrifice required by the Zhili-Fengtian Wars of late last decade, which virtually bankrupted the Northeastern economy, was seen by many in Manchuria as a betrayal of these values, and the Fengtian Government's national reclamation project consistently struggles against this trend.
In response, Zhang has made efforts to build a minor personality cult, painting himself as a benevolent guide and protector to the Chinese people, though this has arguably made him all the more vulnerable to criticism of his foreign entanglements.
Most parties are united more by shared interest than any particular ideology, and few functions as organized political parties as they might be understood elsewhere. Most would be more accurately be described as “interests” or “lobbies”, or as “clubs” or “cliques”. Backhanded deals and bribery are common and considered relatively unremarkable, though the government generally attempts to hide both from the public. While Zhang and his generals could dissolve the assembly at any time by force of arms, the appearance of democracy is viewed as crucial to Fengtian's legitimacy claims, which are important to the maintenance of order in the Northeast, and critical to the ideological struggle with Qing to the South.
- Recovery League (Guangfuxi) - A loose grouping of fallen generals, governors, bureaucrats, and politicians without any strong ideological affiliation, most of whom find themselves in Fengtian because there are few other places where they might maintain any semblance of power. Many are relatively poor, having abandoned most of their riches to flee north, and their often worn clothing has led Japanese to refer to them disparagingly as “Rat Ministers”. Those in government retain power thanks to two factors: their usefulness to the regime were it ever to expand south once more, and more importantly, their infinite pliability. Easily bribed and tempted, they often serve to promote the interests of whoever is willing to pay, which often also cements their reelection. As a result, the “league” is highly splintered despite controlling a large portion of the Assembly, and lacks the political will to ever go against the Grand Marshal and his allies, essentially representing the status-quo as a result.
- Zhang Clique - A collection of minor warlords and soldiers bound to their leader for various personal reasons, the Zhang Clique holds no specific ideology beyond a fierce desire to retake the rest of China and maintain the Grand Marshal's sweeping political powers. While making pretences to democracy and the Xinhai Revolution’s legacy, Zhang and his supporters hold no real commitment to republican ideals, and would almost certainly discard them as soon as they ceased to be necessary or convenient. Zhang himself is said to be a monarchist by personal politics, a leaning shared by others in the Clique, though this feeling is not specifically tied to Puyi or the Qing monarchy, instead amounting to a general philosophical commitment to the system. Japanese aid is viewed as necessary, if at times politically inconvenient, and its members usually make vehement but hollow public objections to Japanese overreach. The instant Japanese aid ceases to be necessary, the Clique seems likely to make good on its promises and attempt to cast out the “foreign intruder”.
- Communications Clique (Jiaotongxi) - The sole politically coherent faction to emerge from the ashes of the Beiyang Government, the Jiaotongxi is named after its former dominance over the old Ministry of Posts and Communications, as well as the Bank of Communications. Its survival was mostly a factor of its pre-existing close relations with the Fengtian Clique, due in large part to relatively widespread railroads in Manchuria, and this same fact has allowed the Clique to thrive even after losing control of its investments across the rest of China. Thanks to Mantetsu’s domination of Japanese railways, the Clique has made more extensive attempts to woo railway workers and their unions than before, but this should not be understood as a move toward socialism. The Communications Clique is ultimately highly plutocratic and self-interested, its work with unions little more than a coldly calculated political move.
- Concordia Association (Xiehehui) - A collection of politicians and lobbyists with all the trappings of a political party, the Xiehehui represent the interests of Mantetsu, and sometimes other Japanese Zaibatsu, in the Assembly. Their actual ideological positions vary, some believing that cooperation with the Japanese is ultimately in China’s best interest, while others are more resigned to a fate of subservience, and a significant portion subscribes to the Pan-Asian principles promoted by some Japanese. The Xiehehui, while viewed by a substantial portion of the population as morally corrupt, nonetheless receive a reasonable amount of support from Mantetsu employees and enough from the corporation itself to ensure their place in government. Because Mantetsu leverage in the Fengtian Government is largely maintained through the Association, at least without the use of politically inconvenient methods, its relative power in government is a good indicator of Japanese influence in Manchuria.
|Prime Minister||Huang Fu
|Minister of Foreign Affairs||(WIP)|
|Minister of Economy||Pan Fu
|Minister of Interior||Yuan Jinkai
|Minister of Special Intelligence||(WIP)|
|Minister of War||(WIP)|
|Commander-in-Chief of the Army||(WIP)|
|Commander-in-Chief of the Navy||(WIP)|
|Commander-in-Chief of the Flying Corps||(WIP)|
|Martial Arts Coach of the Armed Forces||Gong Baotian
By the mid-1920s, Zhang's Fengtian Army boasted one of the best equipped and organized forces in China, fielding an impressive panoply of Weltkrieg era surplus, weapons from its own Mudken Arsenal, various forms of Japanese material aid. Unlike many armies which foraged for or confiscated food from civilians, the Fengtian Army boasted a robust logistical system, complete with its own canning factory. Points of particular pride were two entire divisions of FT-1 tanks, rare among the warlords, and China's only organized air-force including both fighters and bombers.
However, by the conclusion of the Fourth Zhili-Fengtian War in 1928, the Fengtian Army had suffered serious attrition through protracted warfare and defections by important generals, while its logistical system had faltered along with the Northeastern economy. The past eight years have seen slow but steady rearmament and reorganization in line with the gradual economic recovery. Japanese aid continues to flow, but now at a more evident cost. Most military requisitions come with clear strings attached, and "advisors" to higher levels of command are not an uncommon sight in the capital.
Thanks to a series of treaties signed both before and after 1928, Japanese garrisons are spread across the country, particularly near major ports and cities.
The Fengtian Army, officially the Army of the Republic, is an impressive sight by most Chinese standards, though it pales in comparison to modern Western armies, or those of Japan. The majority of its weapons and vehicles are outdated, and organisation below the divisional level is a patchy affair due to limited communications equipment. Most doctrinal advances made since the Weltkrieg, especially those incorporating tanks and airplanes, have yet to be fully absorbed by the army leadership, though the majority have seen extensive combat in last decade's wars. Shenyang boasts its own officer's school, the Academy of the Three Northeastern Provinces, and many of its more promising students go on to attend Japan's prestigious Rikugun Shikan Gakkō.
Like most Chinese armies, the Fengtian Army is marked by strong ties of personal loyalty between soldiers and their superiors, and factions divisions of varying cohesion exist within the officer corps. The most clearly defined of these is the group of officers who followed Zhang on his rise to prominence, often referred to as the "Zhang Clique". They and their immediate subordinates, as well as the close associates of Zhang Xueliang, are staunchly loyal to the "Old Marshal" and strongly suspicious of Japanese influence. On the other hand, the influential "Shikan Clique", which consists mainly of Rikugun Shikan Gakkō alumni, sees Japanese influence as a crucial stepping stone to national reconquest. Most of its members are younger, though not necessarily disloyal to Zhang Zuolin. Yang Yuting, the group's de-facto head, has long served as his Chief of Staff, and within the Fengtian Clique as a whole their disagreements are currently seen as professional.
The Grand Marshal himself is known to be a capable strategist, and the "Mukden Tiger" maintains a personal guard of two divisions equipped and trained to foreign standards.
The Fengtian Navy, officially The Navy of the Republic, consists of an ageing collection of cruisers and destroyers accompanied by four submarines and several smaller riverine craft. No serious effort has gone into updating or even sufficiently organising the navy, which exists mostly as a coastal and river patrol force, and it will rely entirely upon Japanese assistance in the event of war with the Qing.
The Fengtian Flying Corps, officially The China Flying Corps, was once the pride and joy of the Grand Marshal's son, Zhang Xueliang, who used his passion for aviation to train its first pilots. The Flying Corps performed well during the Zhifeng Wars, and lost air superiority only upon the arrival of modern German-piloted planes. Since then, the Flying Corps has grown, though its planes remain over a decade behind the European standard.
The Fengtian Government of the Republic of China
- has friendly relations with Japan and Transamur.
- was once allied with the Shandong Clique, the Shanxi Clique, and the Yunnan Clique.
- maintains an intense rivalry with the Qing Empire, dislikes the League of Eight Provinces, Mongolia, the Ma Clique and the Sichuan Clique.
At the start of the 20th century, Manchuria was a poorly managed frontier province, fraught with lawlessness and banditry. With the rule of Zhang, however, came rapid reforms directed by his finance minister Wang Yongjiang. Wang backed his paper currency, originally no different from those printed by other warlords, with silver, generating confidence and eventually gaining value against the Japanese Yen. Extensive tax reform solved outstanding debts, and by the early 1920s, the economy was bolstered by immigrants fleeing instability throughout the rest of China. The presence of Mantetsu, the South Manchurian Railway Company, permitted Japan to invest heavily and confidently throughout Manchuria, building railways, mines, and even schools and hospitals across their extensive land granted via treaty.
This period of prosperity came to an end when Zhang took his forces headlong into the civil wars raging to the south, and defeats at the hands of his enemies came at a cost to the Manchurian economy. The fighting eventually brought the Fengtian economy to the brink of collapse, and the untimely death of Minister Wang made prospects of rapid recovery unrealistic.
Today, the Northeast features an outstanding regional economy. Its southern reaches near Shenyang and Dairen contain more industry than anywhere else in China, with the exception of the Lower Yangtze Valley surrounding Shanghai. The government's fiscal and financial situation is on par with or even better than that of the German-backed Qing Empire. The cornerstones of Fengtian's economy are steel, coal, and soybeans, the last of which serves as a source of both food for export and oil for industrial purposes. Given the relative resource scarcity in the Japanese Home Islands, Manchurian resources are crucial to Japanese industry, and thanks to Mantetsu's efficiently run railroads, these rapidly make their way south to Dairen, and from there to the rest of the Empire.
However, such a positive assessment belays serious structural problems. Most Northeastern industry uses low labor costs to compensate for outdated methods and machinery, and the investment necessary for change has been limited, and has been since the collapse of the Fengtian Dollar in the late 1920s. The years since have seen Chinese-owned businesses remain relatively stagnant, outside crucial infrastructure like the railways and telegraph offices.
There is also the increasingly pervasive presence of Mantetsu, which is no longer limited to the old railway zones, and competes with government oligarchs for control of utilities and transportation while maintaining a near monopoly on modern manufacturing and large-scale farming. A pressing question for the next several years will be whether Zhang and his state can eventually operate without the presence of this beneficial but controlling corporation and other Japanese investors.
Culture in Fengtian is extremely diverse as a consequence of its many recognized ethnic groups which include Han Chinese, Manchu, Koreans, Japanese, and Russians. While at times standing true to the spirit of the "Five Races Under One Union" motto, socio-economic stratification by race is clearly visible if intensely complex, with Manchus clearly at the bottom, but Han Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Russian situations varying by circumstance.
Han Chinese make up the vast majority of the population in Manchuria as well as its government, and while forced to respect Japanese extraterritoriality, this rarely translates into deference or even amity. As the majority, Han can be found at virtually every level of society, from the poorest beggar to the Grand Marshal himself. They regularly compete with Japanese in finance and trade, but less commonly in technical areas like engineering, with most working in industry, mining, or the fields. Han Chinese tend to regard all other groups as intruders, excluding Manchu who are truly native to the area. All the same, thanks to centuries of Qing rule and cultural assumptions, they have little respect for these few Manchu who didn't assimilate or flee to Puyi's regime, and many see them as little better than spies or saboteurs.
Thanks extraterritoriality treaties and strong influence over the government, the Japanese are in some respects the most powerful group in Manchuria. Although generally barred from political office, Japanese of any considerable social standing are able to live almost without constraint, often pressing legal and cultural boundaries to the limit. As the primary conduit through which modern technology reached Manchuria, Japanese tend to occupy roles as architects, engineers, and businessmen, with the majority working for the South Manchuria Railway Company, also known as "Mantetsu". Other Japanese serve in the military as officers or as advisers to the government, as school teachers, or as high-class servants to their more affluent countrymen. A smaller minority of Japanese are landowners and farmers who arrived searching for opportunity, or simply a new life, outside the Home Islands.
For all their exploitation, Mantetsu and the Japanese Government are careful not to push boundaries too in their drive for control and profits ,and sometimes limit Japanese who risk pushing public attitudes from resentment into open hostility. Ultimately, Japan sees Manchuria as the key to control of the rest of China, a vital market for exports, and a valuable source of raw materials. Efforts have been made to slowly push Japanese culture and norms onto the people of the Northeast, in the hopes that this will eventually result in a less adversarial relationship, and the easier realization of long-term goals. So far these efforts have borne little fruit.
Koreans maintain a position above some of society thanks to their Imperial citizenship which grants them legal extraterritoriality, but Korean immigrants are generally viewed as second-class citizens Japanese, Han Chinese, and Russians. The largest foreign minority in the country, most Koreans have moved into the farming sector due to their limited means, drawing them into competition for land and profits with many native Chinese. Despite this, many Koreans still resent the Japanese. Mantetsu has recently begun an effort to educate Koreans in Soy farming, the response to which has been mixed.
Russians make up a smaller proportion of the Northeastern population than only a decade ago. Many arrived during the middle stages of the Russian Civil War and left with the stabilization of Transamur, leaving the core community which has roots centuries old. Thanks to the superiority the Western Powers enjoyed in the past century, and in many respects still do in 1936, Russians are usually greeted with a mix of deference and resentment. Many Japanese, particularly in recent years, tend to regard them poorly, though many Han Chinese recognize the long presence of Russians in Harbin and some other northern towns. Russians tend to be small land and business owners, often with financial and social ties to Transamur.
Manchu are the original native population in Fengtian, the Manchurian region being named after them, and tend to regard all other groups as invaders. Some, however, have made concerted efforts to assimilate, and effectively act as part of the Han population. Most Manchu, however, are those who refused to flee to the Qing Empire because of ties to land, family, or fear of direct capture and persecution by the government. Manchu are often assumed to be nomadic, but this isn't strictly speaking the case, and most are simply hunters and farmers concentrated in communities outside major cities. This misconception seems to arise from their long tradition of, and excellence in, the arts of riding and archery. The Fengtian Army has been known to conscript Manchu at a young age to form cavalry regiments, sometimes inflaming pre-existing animosity.