In 1929, Li and Bai, known as the Guangxi clique, rebelled against Jiang to protest his concentration of power, receiving support from Feng Yuxiang (Feng Yü-hsiang), Yan Xishan (Yen Hsi-shan), and Wang Jingwei (Wang Ching-wei). The resulting struggle ended in a stalemate, as national unity against the Japanese seemed more important after the 18 September 1931 Mukden (Shenyang) Incident in Liaoning Province. In late 1931, Li rejoined the GMD and resumed the post of Guangxi's pacification commissioner, preparing for the forthcoming anti-Japanese war. In mid-1936, he resolved his differences with Jiang and had his forces reorganized as the Fifth Route Army, with himself as commander in chief.
After the Sino-Japanese War began in July 1937, Li became commander in chief of the Fifth War Zone, comprising northern Jiangsu (Kiangsu), northern Anhui (Anhwei), and southern Shandong (Shantung); he was concurrently governor of Anhui. Li established his headquarters in Xuzhou (Hsuchow) in Jiangsu Province, engaging the Japanese in the Battle of Xuzhou at Taierzhuang (T'ai-Erh-Chuang) in March 1938. In May, he moved to Hubei (Hupeh) to defend Wuhan, which fell to the Japanese at the year's end. In early 1939, Li confronted the Japanese at another Hubei city, Hankou (Hankow), successfully holding them there and preventing them from advancing westward until early 1945, when he was sent to Shaanxi (Shensi) to head the GMD's Military Affairs Commission.
After the war, Li became director of the presidential headquarters at Beijing (Peking), Hebei (Hopeh), until April 1948, when he was elected vice president. On 21 January 1949, he became acting president. In that capacity, he released able military men, such as Wei Lihuang (Wei Li-huang), who had been imprisoned by Jiang, and he made a last attempt to negotiate with the Chinese Communists to settle the Chinese Civil War. Since Jiang continued to rule behind the scenes while preparing his way to Taiwan, Li failed to prevent the GMD's defeat. In November 1949, he went to the United States for medical treatment, and he stayed there and continued advocating China's unification. In July 1965, Li returned to Beijing, receiving a warm reception from the new Chinese Communist leaders. He died in Beijing on 30 January 1969.
Bonavia, David. China's Warlords. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1995.; Lary, Diana. Region and Nation: The Kwangsi Clique and Chinese Politics, 1925–1937. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.; Melby, John F. The Mandate of Heaven: Record of a Civil War, 1945–1949. London: Chatto and Windus, 1989.