Twenty years ago, when this study was essentially completed, the Chinese Communists had just come to power and it appeared as though ideology and party were about to take complete command of one hundred years of Chinese revolutionary change. When I first decided on the topic of warlord politics for my thesis at Yale, the fate of China was being decided by military means, and therefore a study of an earlier phase of military-political history seemed reasonably relevant to the contemporary concerns of that day. In the ensuing years, the possibility of the military's playing a dominant role or the evolution of a more pragmatic and competitive form of politics seemed increasingly unlikely. Also my own intellectual interests shifted. So there was little pressure to transform the manuscript into a book until Donald Klein proposed this spring that the book be published in the Praeger Library of Chinese Affairs.
Because I had been very impressed by James E. Sheridan's study of Feng Yü-hsiang and Donald Gillin's work on Yen Hsi-shan, I was hesitant to respond to Klein's invitation, but, in the end, my feeling about the importance and fascination of the Republican period won out, and I decided that it might be useful to add to the literature on that period, particularly since my study had dealt with the warlords as a distinctive political system and thus complemented their more recent studies of individual warlords. It is true that I used Feng Yü-hsiang as an important case, but, on reviewing Sheridan's outstanding study, I felt that we still complemented each other, for he had relied mainly on Feng's autobiography and I had used more his published diary. Donald Gillin's work dealt with the man who governed the province I grew up in, who inspired some of my first political sentiments, and who must have in some subtle way directed me to my sympathy for the problems the warlords faced, but who, I now find, quite oddly, hardly appeared in my study of the wardlord system.
Whether one is inclined to see the current importance of the People's