Warlord Politics: Conflict and Coalition in the Modernization of Republican China

By Lucian W. Pye | Go to book overview

7. PUBLIC RELATIONS AND
PROPAGANDA

Up to this point, our analysis has concentrated primarily upon power considerations: the organizations of the tuchüns, their alliances and relations with each other, and the complex balance of power in which they were involved. We have noted that their perceptions of their circumstances and their appreciation of reality tended to make them pragmatic political calculators who could not afford to take a long-range view.

It is appropriate now to direct our analysis to the ways in which the power realities that governed the warlords affected their relations with important segments of the civilian Chinese society. We shall begin by dealing in this chapter with the more general questions of how the warlords justified themselves to the Chinese public, what values they tried to suggest that they were most sensitive to, and what arguments they felt would impress public opinion. In the next chapter, we will examine the relations of the warlords with the Chinese civilian political class and particularly the kinds of people who served in the various cabinets. Then we shall turn to a brief review of the relations of the warlords with intellectuals and finally the business community.

It would be a gross misuse of terms to say that any tuchün ever had an ideological basis for his policy actions. However, with the development of the tuchüns' political organizations it became necessary for the military leaders to pay greater attention to the public's reaction to their rule. This process can best be described as a form of public relations work, which, in time, developed into conscious efforts at influencing the mind of the public through propaganda. Although the tuchüns were aware of the power of the press, there were, except for a few notable cases, few attempts at direct control over the larger native newspapers and periodicals. Foreign correspondents, of course, were completely free to report what they observed. However, the tuchüns usually were careful to entertain and supervise the visiting foreign correspondents in

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