Cao Kun (Traditional Chinese: 曹錕; Simplified Chinese: 曹锟; pinyin: Cáo Kūn; Wade-Giles: Ts'ao K'un; Courtesy name: Zhongshan (仲珊) ) (December 12, 1862-May 15, 1938) was a military
leader of the Zhili clique in the
Beiyang Army, and trustee of the
University of Peking.
Early life & Rise to leadership
born in a poor family in Tianjin.
First Sino-Japanese War in
1894, he went with the army to fight in Choson.
After the war was over, he joined Yuan
to participate in the training of New Army
(Known as the Beiyang Army
). Admired by Yuan, Cao managed to
rise very quickly.
He was made a general in the Beiyang
and led the Zhili clique after the death of Feng Guozhang
. During the 1918 election, he
was promised the vice-presidency by Duan
but the office remained vacant after most of the National Assembly
left, depriving it of a quorum
. He felt
betrayed by Duan and defeated him in battle in 1920. He forced the
resignations of both Xu Shichang
and was president of the Republic of
) from October 10
to November 2
Cao Kun infamously acquired the presidential office by openly
bribing assembly members with 5000 silver dollars each. This
episode brought disrepute to the Beiyang government
and its assembly,
which lacked a quorum to even hold elections. It turned all the
rival factions against him and his own clique began suffering from
dissension. Relations with his chief protege, Wu Peifu
, soured and there was rumours of an
impending split within the Zhili clique but they stayed together to
fight against the Fengtian
One of his first acts as president was to promulgate the 1923 constitution of China
Hastily drafted by the guilt-ridden assembly, it was deemed the
most democratic and progressive yet, but like previous charters it
was ignored completely.
During a war against Zhang Zuolin
October 1924, Cao was betrayed and imprisoned by his General
in the Beijing coup
. Feng occupied Beijing
and forced Cao to resign. His brother, Cao
Rui, committed suicide while under house arrest. He was released
two years later as a goodwill gesture by Feng to Wu Peifu.
in his home at Tianjin in May