Sunday, February 17, 2008
WU PEIFU'S WESTERN ARMAMENTS ACQUISITIONS
Like Sun Chuanfang, it was also rumoured that Wu Peifu was assisted by the British because his power base was located in the Changjiang area, which was claimed by the British as their "sphere of influence." While one writer has stated that Wu's arsenals in Hangyang and Gongxian, Henan, were equipped with machinery imported from Britain,''' there is little hard evidence demonstrating British complicity in Wu's power machinations. The British were certainly disposed to Wu as a potential strongman of China."' But even though the British
legation in Beijing and the British colonial government in Xianggang discussed Wu's request for fifteen million taels to purchase arms and recruit soldiers in 1921, the British would not deviate from their stated policy of official neutrality.
British government was also steadfast in preventing British merchants in warlord China from providing financial aid to Wu Peifu. Without apparent British assistance, Wu Peifu looked elsewhere to strengthen his military capability. Like all warlords, he negotiated with those foreigners who could offer him the best price. In February 1922, Wu Peifu purchased machinery manufactured by the firm of Niles, Bement, and Dord of New York to equip his
arsenal at Gongxian. This cargo shipped from the United States to Arnhold Karberg and Company and Carlowitz and Company of Shanghai was designed to equip the arsenal fully.124T wo months later, two French engineers employed by Wu began an inspection tour of the Hanyang and Gongxian arsenals to determine the feasibility of manufacturing airplanes. They also explored the possibility of constructing an aerodrome for the aircraft taken from Duan Qirui in 1920."5 In August, 1922, an Italian intermediary named Galanga sold rifles, field and machine guns, and accompanying ammunition valued at $5.6 million to Wu Peifu.
A bargain payment of $250,000 was deposited in a Western bank on 4 September 1922.12I6n the same period, an American called Stevens was instrumental in the smuggling of rifles, machine guns, and ammunition form an American ship that docked at Vladivostok. Overseeing their transfer on the Chinese Eastern Railway, Stevens camouflaged the contraband by labelling the shipment "fish." Travelling through Harbin and Changchun, the cargo was destined for Wu Peifu's camp in Luoyang."' Another American, James Slevin, was reported selling airplanes to Wu Peifu in February 1923."' In the same month, a vessel carrying White Russians fleeing from Siberia docked at Wusong. Before travelling the short
distance to their final destination in Shanghai, some of the refugees sold Wu Peifu's Shanghai agent a supply of war materials. He received one 6" calibre gun with 104 rounds of ammunition, two 4" calibre guns with 1,000 rounds of ammunition, two 75 cm guns with I20 rounds of ammunition, two 47 cm guns with 127 rounds of ammunition, ten 40cm guns with 2,700 rounds of ammunition, one 22 cm gun with 527 rounds of ammunition, eleven machine guns, 24 cases of spare parts for the various guns, 26 cases of telegraphic apparatus, 2,000 rifles of which 119 were the old Russian model, and accompanying ammunition. While no
exact price was reported, the money exchanged was adequate for many White
Russians to begin a new life in Shanghai."
In the spring of 1924, Wu Peifu again dealt with the Italians. For $3 millon he bought 40,000 rifles, 50 million rounds of ammunition, several 7 cm cannon with 50.000 shells, and 6 machine guns with ammunition that were originally stored in Tianjin. I3O Like all warlords, Wu Peifu's transactions with these Westerners demonstrated that he was ready to deal with any foreigner who could benefit his political and military aspirations. His superior, Cao Kun, also looked to those foreigners who could assist him in reaching his political and military objectives.