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The Xian Dynasty (Mandarin: 憲朝, xiàn zhāo), also referred to as the Great Xian (大憲, dà xiàn), refers to the period in Chinese history between 1915 to 1945. The self-proclaimed Empire of China (中華帝國, zhōnghuá dìguó) was founded by president Yuan Shikai, ending the short-lived Republic of China.
From the 1920s until the start of World War II, the Xian Dynasty would transition from a war-torn empire into a modern industrial and military power. Under the reign of Emperor Keding and Prime Minister Wang Jingwei, China would align themselves with Nazi Germany and embrace European-style fascism to regain their lost dominance.
Throughout World War II, the Xian took advantage of Europe's absence in Asia to assert their own imperial ambitions. The Chinese army would be stretched from Afghanistan in the west, Lake Baikal in the north, Sakhalin in the east, and Sumatra in the south. Chinese expansion into Soviet Manchuria and Korea would provoke the ire of neutral Japan, which entered the war on the side of the Allies. China would also provoke the United States into the war by attacking their naval facilities in Subic Bay in the Philippines. By 1943, China's armed juggernaut was stretched thin.
With the fall of Germany in 1945, the full might of the Allies now focused on China. The Soviet Union began to retake their lost territories, while the Japanese would invade China through Korea and Manchuria. Hoping to end the war quickly, the United States drops an atomic bomb over Hangzhou and Ningbo. China surrenders days later, ending the war.
The Xian Dynasty was formally dissolved in 1945, with the Qing Dynasty being reestablished with a pacifist-based constitutions. The Soviet Union would annex Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang. The United Kingdom would establish a protectorate over Tibet. Kwangchow Wan, Macau, and Hong Kong were awarded more territory in perpetuity. What remained of China Proper would fall under Japanese protection until 1980s.
Coronation of the Dynasty
After Yuan Shikai overthrew and abolished China's fledgling nationalist party in 1915 he proclaimed himself as the Hongxian Emperor. The proclamation incited resistance from all parts of China's society as the Republic was still supported by most of the bureaucrats and students that had participated in the 1911 revolution. Shikai assured the loyalty of his army by granting titles to his senior officers promising his army they would have supreme influence over the remnants of the Qing bureaucracy. Shikai joined World War I on the side of the allied powers to dissuade them from aiding any potential rebellion
Sikai's reign while short was instrumental in the creating the basis of modern China, capitalizing on previous Qing era reforms and western advisers Sikai dreamed of overcoming China's backwardness. Seizure of power was justified through modernization and Sikai's belief that the Chinese People were not suited for democracy after living under the direction of emperors for millennia. Like all previous dynasties, Shikai proclaimed that the Xian Dynasty had secured the mandate of heaven. In contrast to earlier dynasties the nationality of China was emphasized within the name, whereas the Qing China had termed itself as the 'Country of Qing' the new government was the 'Empire of China' or in some cases the "Xian Empire of China'.
During WWI the entente aligned Japanese seized most of Germany's colonies in China , leaving Yantai as the sole remaining colony. Japanese planned to seize Yantai as well but by 1917 the Imperial Japanese Army feared that the new Yuan Dynasty might be more apt to retaliate. Chinese modernization efforts likely prevented further Japanese expansion into China.
Prior to his death Shikai arranged for his son Keding to inherit the throne with the full support of the new Imperial Army. By the time Keding assumed the throne most of the governance of China had been assumed by officers who in turn forced civilian officials to their bidding. The sole exception to the military dominated government was Wang Jingwei a charismatic friend of the Yuan family.
One Hundred Steps Forward Campaign
Ruling over a tentatively unified country Yuan Keding focused his efforts first on placating the army before redeveloping a China that was recovering from the ashes of domestic chaos. British and French engineers contributed to a new military-industrial complex which would bring an army which had used Crossbows as late as 1895 into the 20th century in a few short years. This was done at the expense of the Navy and civilian sectors of Chinese Society. Many peasants were conscripted away from their homes to forcibly build factories in coastal cities. This system of near forced-labor was reformed in a few short years to introduce wage labor into China.
The New Army was tested by intervening in the Russian Civil War. In 1919 Chinese Soldiers moved into Mongolia and Outer Manchuria going as far as the borders of the historical extent of the Qing under the pretext of supporting anti Communist forces. While the new Chinese Army was effective in seizing control of the region the soldiers alienated the Russian and Ukrainian peoples living in these territories. Keding and his generals agreed that a withdrawal was necessary to avoid full scale war with the newly proclaimed Soviet Union in 1924. The intervention however played a critical role in preparing the army for WWII twenty years later.
In the mid 20's the One Hundred Step Campaign (Chinese: 百步運動, Bǎi bù yùndòng ) was initiated to create a modern market economy independent of western powers. As industrialization took place military officers and entrepreneurs were given grants to start private franchises in collaboration with the state.Serving the needs of a growing military-industrial complex the coastal cities of China became industrialized quickly as many rural migrants poured in from the countryside seeking better fortunes. Traditionalists minsters were dismayed to see a decline in the country's agricultural population sensing a rupture of the traditional farming family. Reformists were excited to modernize the country but were divided between a nationalist and liberal factions.
Years of Dragon Realm
As the economy improved in the late 1920's more western style ideas developed within the civilian and military parts of the government. Younger bureaucrats and educated specialists often supported Western Liberalism, while cooperate industrialists and friends of Wang Jingwei were influenced by the birth of Fascism in Italy. The Army's command leaned towards conservative politics but officers were divided by the growth of factions. Japan's successful example of democratization appeared to make gradual reforms a possibility, a full republic was never considered but attempts to implement autonomy for local communities became known as the Sunshine Policy. Wang Jingwei always believed that political reforms were a submission to western decadence and actively undermined liberal political maneuvering with his infamous espionage group Blazing Dragon.
From the start attempts to relax the army's authority over public life faced setbacks from without as well as within. terror groups allegedly backed from the Soviet Union. Historians are still unable to determine how many attacks were false flag operations from militarists are genuine resistance groups. There is at least one documented event where the Blazing Dragon agents fooled resistance fighters into collaborating with them.The Wall Street Crash of 1929 assured the failure of reforms and the rapid monopolization of power by militarists in the army with dissent civilian officials forced to vacate their positions or take an oath of loyalty. The situation gave an opportunity for Wang Jingwei to convince the previously ambivalent emperor Keding that the west was waging economic war on China.
Ties grew with the Third Reich, so close to the point that Wang Jingwei was invited for a tour in July 1937. While being a friendship tour to the public behind closed doors the Jingwei-Ribbentrop pact was made in secret. This is not to be confused with the more famous Moltov-Ribbentrop pact that was signed in 1939. Details pf the Jingwei-Ribbentrop was kept suppressed until the end of the war and not parts of the agreement are completely known today. The most important conditions stipulated that on the outbreak of war the Germans would cede their last Asian colony of Yantai, pay a large subsidy to Chinese Government and concede any renaming claims in the Asia-Pacific region to the Xian Dynasty. In return the Chinese would go to war with any western power that Germany was also at war with.
With encouragement from Italian and Nazi German agents the Blazing Dragon group became a player in politics as an armed wing of the Avenging Dragons party. With permission from the emperor the era of 'Dragon Realm for the Restoration of the mother country' was proclaimed across the country. For ten years the country was actively mobilized for a planned conflict against the Soviet Union, the British Empire and Japan. Many traditionalists in the army despised the Avenging Dragons as a foreign style populist movement that contradicted with Confucian governance. Certain sectors of the army in Qiangdao- near Confucius's birth place led a conservative protest against a regime increasingly influenced by Nazi German advisers.
Dragons struck back by justifying its policies with Legalism from China's Warring States Period. The First Emperor of Qin, among others. Early Qing era military commanders such as Qianlong were also sanctified by the state for their victories against various Mongolic and Turkic peoples. Public culture especially cinema often reflected nationalist values but were also conflicted with traditional conservatism. Often times story plots that followed scripts from the Avenging Dragons were popular with urban men but traditional Conservative movies with emotional pretenses with farmers and women.
Ultimately the long term effects of the wall street crash led many of the Chinese People to accept and even anticipate a conflict with the western powers. Additional defense expenditures in peace-time also strained the Chinese budget.
Flying River WarAs the Dragon faction controlled Yuan Keding in September 1939 Xian China sprung planned operations on Europe's
Asian colonies called 'flash flood offensives. War was declared by the heavenly sanctioned emperor on the Barbarous Foreign nations of the United Kingdom, Netherlands and France.
The flash flood doctrine was similar but not identical to Blitzkrieg. Unlike their German counterparts Chinese style offensives took more care attention to the environment of the invaded countries. Control of great rivers such as the Mekong, Salaween, Bramphuta, and the Indus were crucial. Ironically flash flood offensives usually involved damming up rivers to prevent them from going downstream than initiating actual floods. Only in the case of Calcutta was environmental engineering used for offensive operations.
Sometimes the course of rivers were deliberately changed in 1940 so that ground forces could use the river as a highway relatively free of resistance. The 'flood' referred to mass tactical bombing campaigns followed by masses of infantry, Overall Chinese soldiers assigned to invade tropical Indo-China were prepared with jungle equipment. This adaptability to many climates was remarkably different from their German counter parts.
In a matter of days The Imperial Banner Army or (IBA) flooded into modern day Cambodia and Vietnam. Fierce resistance arose from native Vietnamese who feared a return to historical subjugation as had existed during the Han, Tang and Ming Dynasties for thousands of years.
Siege of Hong KongBritish Hong Kong was the first target of the mighty offensives, however unlike other European Colonies the Colonial Government of Hong Kong had made defensive preparations for an expected mainland offense for at least five years. Both Hong Kong natives and British officials did not expect the Xian Dynasty to respect the the 99 year lease of 1898. The IBA encountered many hidden fortifications in the outer territories and harassment from the British Secret Intelligence Service at every turn. The Xian government was disappointed that most native Hong Kongers resisted the invasion. As the offensive was supposed to be a 'liberation'.
The New Territories connected to the mainland finally capitulated to the IBA in two weeks time. Hong Kong and Lan Tau island continued to hold out and received British supplies. The Chinese Imperial Navy despite encouragement from the emperor was initially reluctant to attack the British Royal Navy on open sea. The British reinforcement of Hong Kong was harassed by continued bombing strikes on vessels and short range submarine attacks. On October 2nd, the Battle of the South China Sea successfully blockaded Hong Kong.
On October 10th the Siege of Hong Kong came to end. Despite the battle being much more difficult than expected it was publicized widely in the media as a glorious victory that removed the shame of the 1841 Opium War. The Siege of Hong Kong was proof that the western powers could be defeated.
Restoring Traditional Balance in Indo-China
Chinese made efforts to announce their annexations as 'Liberations from the Red Barbarians' these had some success in mobilizing Anti-western rebellions in Burma, British India, Cambodia and Malaysia but faced resistance areas with a history of direct Chinese rule.
Vietnamese did not trust or accept the Chinese occupation, different factions of rebel groups including Communists and Nationalists made peace with each other for their common struggle. In the Mekong Delta rebels intimated Chinese environmental warfare by unleashing the upstream Mekong upon Chinese Garrison. Chinese authorities were surprised that the native Vietnamese did not join with the Chinese Army. The Vietnamese however were determined to not trade one empire for another.
Eastward Chinese sponsored insurgency efforts enjoyed more success and allowed for the rapid advancement for the IBA. Local leaders were promised that China was only looking to restore the old tributary system which had existed prior to the Opium war a century before. In reality however Wang Jingwei wished for nothing less than full annexation to permanently make China self-sustainable and invincible from future invasions from western countries. German inspired theories of Han racial superiority became more apparent both on the home front and on the front-line.
After Thailand joined China into alliance British Burma was occupied in a matter of weeks. Chinese Bannermen split into two groups, Group A looked to overwhelm the British Raj governing India , Group B went towards Singapore with the additional goal of threatening the Dutch East Indies. The oncoming siege of Singapore would be longer and more costly than the more famous siege of Hong Kong
Wang Jingwei envisioned a post-British India as a Chinese client state and sent agents to instigate India's people against colonial government. Thousands of Assamese and Bengali people revolted on Christmas Day 1945 in anticipation of the Chinese approach. In January of 1940 over 500,000 soldiers entered what is today the modern territory of India. Most resistance to the Chinese invasion came from Muslim British loyalists who believed the downfall of the Raj would result in the loss of status in land to the majority Hindu population.
Anti British Riots took place across India, most famous was the brief uprising in Mumbai before Royal Navy Sailors crushed the insurrection. The British however placed grain quotas on Indian farmers under their control.
Under these circumstances Gandhi was consulted by the British for talks on possible independence, it was agreed that India would be granted full independence upon the conclusion of the war with Germany and China. Indians continued to blame the British for the Chinese invasion in the first place.
Despite being prepared with jungle-war equipment Group A was not without problems, the logistics soon grew to be more complicated than war planners had foreseen. Most supplies had to be delivered by land through the Burma Road, air transport was also used but they could also not maintain an army that was quickly spreading out through the Ganges plain. British Defense was highly concentrated in Calcutta which continued to resist attacks.
As bannermen turned to forage on the local land to sustain their advance public support for the Chinese was lost preventing a complete revolution. A large turning point between the Chinese and Indians came when Calcutta was purposely flooded to damaged the British military headquarters but many neighborhoods of the city were ruined as collateral damage. Reluctantly tens of thousands of Indians of all ethnic groups were conscripted by Chinese and British officers in what had become the largest if forgotten front of WWII. British in the homeland were reluctant to defend India as Great Britain suffered from the German Blitz at home. Chinese would advance steadily westward until late 1941.
In Spring of 1940 attacks were sprung with little preparation against Nepal, Kashimir and neutral Afghanistan to attack British India from its Northwestern frontier. As these countries were mountainous and rural the flash flood campaign tactics achieved little in lasting results. At time Afghanistan had become more friendly with Germany and was also interested in a weakened United Kingdom, the Xian Dynasty failed to take these political factors into account prior to invading Afghanistan.
The war in Afghanistan turned into a bloody religious guerrilla war, as symbolic measures great ancient wonders such as the Buddhas of Bamiyan were heavily damaged by rebels who wished to taunt Chinese Buddhists. Afghans were not aware that monastic Buddhism was being discouraged by ultra nationalist Chinese authorities who saw Buddhism as an Indian derived foreign influence.
Final Offensives, in the Chinese context refer to the second wave of war waged by the Xian Dynasty. China prepared for a potential war with the Soviet Union throughout 1939 and 1940. German officials only gave China one week's prior notice of the precise date of its planned attack on the Soviet Union.
Three days after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa in Europe, the Final Offensives began against the Soviet Far East and Central Asia. There were three final offensives, including march east, march central and march west. March East. March East struck towards Outer Manchuria, march central attacked Outer Mongolia while march west stretched towards Soviet affiliated Tanna Tuva. The public goal of retaking traditional Chinese territory that had been lost by the Unequal treaty of Aigun was achieved. However the strategic objective to break the Soviet Union by exhausting their garrisons in Asia were not successful. The infamous Russian Winter in both Siberia and Europe prevented the destruction of the Soviet Union by the allied armies of Germany and China. The Final Offensives, were the most deadly of the entire war.
The plight of the Soviet Union, however, did come to the attention of Japan and the North American nations, who turned weary of continued Axis expansion around the world.
War with Japan, America and Alaska
Japan had not entered the war on the side of the western powers but criticized Chinese actions in the League of Nations, Japan had also attempted to prevent Thailand from falling under Chinese Influence and had supported the western powers in defending their colonies. A huge diplomatic rift occurred when Japanese ammunition supplies were discovered after the fall of Hong Kong.
Nazi Germany to no avail had attempted to broker friendly relations between Japan and China in the hope that they would both ally to invade the Soviet Union together. However, Due to past experience of the Russo-Japanese War Japanese officials did not wish to initiate an offensive fight against the Soviet Union. In the meantime Chinese actions in the Soviet Far East and its demands for the island of Formosa laid the foundation for a second Sino-Japanese War.
To protect its interest the Japanese entered the war by launch a sneak attack on Hangzhou Harbor on November 21st of 1941. Due to faulty intelligence the attack is considered a strategic failure as the majority of the Chinese Fleet had been transferred to Guangzhou and Saigon. The attack surprised the distracted Chinese but it failed to destroy China's naval capabilities.
Taking the island of Formosa which had been a province of the previous Qing Empire was part of China's retaliation to the century of humiliation widely publicized to the Chinese public. In more practical matters retaking the island would grant China access to the Pacific Ocean. The battle of Taiwan Straits was a tactical victory that boosted Chinese Confidence. However American built equipment was captured and discovered, infuriating the Chinese leadership. The larger battle for Taiwan itself would transpire until February of 1944
Additional Conscription took place to facilitate an immediate invasion of Korea which was pronounced as a liberation, a Kingdom of Korea was proclaimed as an allied state to the Xian Dynasty. In reality Koreans did not enjoy actual autonomy in the short-lived puppet state. The Imperial Japanese Army and its supporters remained steadfast in the Pusan Corridor of the Korean Peninsula. The Pusan Corridor still governed by modern Japan.
The United States from the Philippines did not declare war on China but supplied the Japanese with raw material and technological blue-prints to defend themselves. Demands by China to stop supporting Japan were replied with demands for China to make peace with its neighbors.
Wang Jingwei believed that the United States was an obstacle to China's Asian hegemony. Many generals disagreed and believed that war on the United States would bring the downfall of the Xian Dynasty.. Jingwei however by late 1942 had complete control over Emperor Keding. Jingwei believed that the Americans could be intimidated with a devastating raid on the Philippines. With the Japanese Navy concentrating on maintaining ties to Korea America's Subic Bay was open for attack on April 1st 1942. Germany, China's ally also declared war on the United States.
Newly unified Alaska joined the war in June largely to support its American neighbor, As a result China was at war with every adjacent country with the exception of Bhutan
The war began with great enthusiasm from the majority of Han and Zhuang people though other ethnic minorities were less enthusiastic. Various ethnic minorities were afraid that they would be made targets of the national government. Ethnic Manchurians and Muslim Hui peoples were subject to discriminatory Nanking ordinances
Until the entry of the United States into the war China's population and war capacity was larger than its enemies and its economy grew due to war production. Early victories provided great confidence to China's civilians but ongoing struggles in Siberia and India waned people's confidence. In China's long history foreign wars were rare and they usually did not transpire for years but revolved around certain engagements. The Asian theater of WWII was open-ended and seemingly endless to the Chinese People. Culture became consumed with war, parents were encouraged to given new born-children war themed names such as Heavenly Empire. In 1942 the Days of the week were renamed after distinguished commanders and routine battle commands.
After the Xian regime's downfall families were required to provide normal names for their children. All media and consumer items were given war-time themes. For urban residents, citizens were given radios that could not be turned of in a case of extreme indoctrination. Insular periods of Chinese history such as the reign of Wang Mang from the 1st -century C.E were constantly presented as an example of pure Chinese culture. Study of the Tang and Song dynasties were dismissed in favor of the Zhou, Han and Ming periods
By 1944 public dissent erupted by draftees against conscription, authorities and intelligence agencies ruthlessly crushed resisters. Firebomb raids by the United States destroyed Southern Coastal Cities, industry and workers were evacuated to in-land provinces putting much strain on the people. In certain areas food-shortages became common. It is estimated that up to one million Chinese died from nourishment. Nonetheless, War-time production continued.
Downfall and Aftermath
While Germany became weaker in Europe, China fought to a stalemate around its frontiers, the most significant defeat came in Taiwain. Withdrawals from Taiwan occurred in the early Spring of 1944. Jingwei's reluctance to retreat caused many soldiers to be captured by Japan.
Elsewhere the frontline slowly contracted against the Chinese frontier. In early 1945 the impending collapse of Nazi Germany caused the Chinese to also withdraw from Afghanistan and purpose the army to defending the Northern Soviet border. Manchuria and occupied Korea were the subjects of major Soviet and Japanese counterattacks.
China's inland cities north of the Yangzee River and South of the Yellow River were safe from the attacks that took place from the coast as America's B-29 model could not safely reach deep inside China. The possibility of an eventual stalemate between the Xian Dynasty and the allied powers was high. Chinese military officials believed the Allies would eventually request terms than face a prolonged war of attrition.
The American invention of the Atom Bomb changed fortunes for the allies. The hastily invented Atom-Bomb originally meant for Nazi Germany was used on the coastal cities of Hangzhou and Ningbo, the only two cities in history to endure a nuclear strike.
With the prospect of most coastal areas being impacted by atomic strikes emperor Yuan Keding took direct control of the country and announced an unconditional surrender to the allied powers. Attempts by members of the Blazing Dragons to perform an overthrow of the dynasty to continue the war were not successful. After this all known Dragon affiliates were purged overnight from governmental and army positions, many high-level dragons would receive blame for initiating or aiding the war.
The unconditional surrender ceremony was met with bitterness by many who still wished to continue the war. The surrender mandated the break up of the Xian Dynasty into six different zones, with the northern two (Mongolia and Manchuria) annexed into the Soviet Union. Yuan Kedeing would step down as emperor and Wang Jingwei was to face trial by the hands of the international-community.
In the place of the Xian state, the Allied powers decided before-hand that the Chinese People would be more likely to support a future state that continued the nation's imperial traditions. The Soviets alone argued that all remnants of empire should be abolished.
The house of Southern Qing was created as a restoration of the Qing House that abdicated its rule in 1911. In the post-war era the Southern Qing emperor governed the country along with an international advisory board which consisted of representatives of all the Allied Powers except the Soviet Union. China faced peace-time occupation by the Japanese until 1979
The Xian Dynasty had the unique role of defining Chinese Culture in industrial times. Highly controlled by the regime the culture attempted to transmit themes of European style Nationalism compromised with traditional Chinese values. Though autocratic, the ministries of Propaganda and Education achieved several important milestones such as reforming China's Writing system which was an inspiration to the modern day simplified Chinese. Due to the stigma of being related to the militarism the reformed Chinese Writing system was phased out of use until it was reintroduced in 1985. New Simplified Chinese draws most of its inspiration from Xian era reforms.
Establishing near universal literacy and making Classical Chinese culture more accessible for common people. New technologies such as cinema and radio were used to bring the people closer to their leaders like never before. Prior to World War II Wang Jingwei as the chief symbol of the regime used the propaganda department and film to deify Yuan Keding. Keding himself rarely made public appearances.
To engage the public with the government's nationalistic agenda China's first pop-culture was invented. In the late 1930's under Wang Jingwei's suggestion Government sponsored aspiring artists who utilized western musical trends adapted to lyrics approved by the state. Despite strict governmental control of the media the medium of music was often not as regulated as the lyrics themselves. Some sponsored musical groups brought together western instruments such as cellos and saxophones playing them alongside Pipas and Guzhengs. In this way Xian China's culture differed strongly from that of other totalitarian states such as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
Allegedly both Yuan Keding, and Wang Jingwei were familiar with western pop-culture prior to WWII. American movies. Despite the governmental stated proscription against decadent foreign influences, there is evidence that a full government sanctioned pop culture based on American music was going to be initated after the war.