That the warlord alliances served as only crude centers about which the tuchüns oriented their behavior indicates the complex nature of the existing balance of power. The individual leaders, concerned with the stability of their own organizations, had to make continuous calculations of the consequences of the acts of not only acknowledged opponents but also those supposedly within their coalitions. The instability and complexity of these relationships among the tuchüns made it extremely difficult for individual leaders to arrive at accurate evaluations of the power at the command of each of the parties in the balance. Any major move by a tuchün could be expected to create a situation in which some leaders would find it advantageous to support his actions, while others would react in a negative manner, but, generally, there was uncertainty as to the reactions of particular leaders.
The question arises as to whether, from this maze of relationships, one can determine any pattern of behavior that, for purposes of analysis, could be organized into a theoretical system of relations. In a sense, this would require the construction of a conceptual model based on empirical evidence, which would permit predictions of the behavior of the tuchüns. However, such a complete model of power relationships is beyond the scope of this study. Rather, what will be done is to explicate certain factors in the power relationships that appear critical in determining the behavior of the tuchüns. Using these conceptual terms, one can clarify somewhat the operation of the balance of power among the tuchüns.
That the warlords were so little influenced by explicit ideologies meant they represented an archetype of what might be called "Chinese political pragmatism." Quite openly they admitted that their first concern always had to be the security of their organizations, and this generally led to their second basic concern, which was to increase their power or influence. In short, their politics revolved endlessly around the issue of