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Thread: Two Republics in China

  1. #11
    Yuanwanted to be the new emperor

    On the 4thof November, Yuan gave an order to disband the national Party, usingtheir rebellion as a pretext. Simultaneously, he drove all themembers of the national Party out of the congress. On the 10thof January, 1914, Yuan dismissed the congress entirely and formed hisown council of state, which meant that all the members were his men.He was still dissatisfied with being president. He wanted to beemperor.
    To attain his goal, hefirst had to get international support. In January of 1915, Japansecretly gave Yuan a document containing 21 articles in 5 chapters,through which China should cede to Japan a variety of economic andcommercial rights and benefits, such as options on railroads andother profitable fields in Manchuria, and in Shandong province, andalso the extension of Japan’s occupation of Luushun and Dalian (twoharbor cities) to 99 years, etc. But two articles in particular wereunacceptable. One was to employ Japanese advisors in the Chinesecentral government, in the financial and military fields. The otherwas to employ Japanese advisors in local police departments. Thenegotiations ran from the 2ndof February to the 7thof May.
    Yuan accepted most of thearticles in order to secure Japan’s support for his ambition to beemperor. But such a big secret could not be kept for long and soonthe public heard that he was selling them out. Yuan was severelycriticized, but to no avail.
    Then Yuan’s supportersbegan to circulate their theory that the republican form ofgovernment was not suitable to China. They formed a committee on thepolitical future of China and sent out their men to all the provincesto persuade officials and officers and businessmen to support Yuan asemperor, promising all of them personal benefits. Then suchsupporters were summoned to the capital as “people’srepresentatives.” Those representatives formed groups and on the1st of Septemberhanded a petition to the Council of State organized by Yuan) to askYuan to be the emperor.

  2. #12
    In atraditional show of modesty, Yuan initially refused their petition.On the 19th, theyorganized the “National Petition Committee” to turn in a secondpetition, this time requesting that the 1993 people’srepresentatives should hold a conference to decide the future of thenation. Accordingly, the conference was in session at 9 o’clock inthe morning on December 11. The representatives were to cast votes.All the representatives voted for imperial system. Yuan graciouslyaccepted the result as the supposed will of the people, and decidedthat the next year (1916) would be the first year of his Empire ofChina.


    In December, just afterYuan accepted the petition, Cai E, the governor of YunNan province,was the first to object. He announced the independence of YunNan,followed by many provinces. Even Yuan’s former subordinates, FengGuozhang (1859–1916), governor of Jiangsu province, Li Chun,governor of Jiangxi province, Zhu Rui, governor of Zhejiang province,Jin Yunpeng, governor of Shandong province, and Tang Xiangming,governor of Hunan province, all sent telegrams asking Yuan to rescindthe empire.

  3. #13
    Seeing that even hisformer subordinates had betrayed him, Yuan had to declare openly thathe was rescinding the empire and restoring the presidency on the 22ndof March, 1916. He had been Emperor only for 83 days. Once a highmilitary official of the Qing Dynasty, he had turned against theempire, and then he was subverted in turn. He contracted a fataldisease and died on the 6thof June.
    If he had not been soambitious and had contented himself with the presidency, Yuan wouldhave been spared the hatred of almost all the people in China. Hewould not have been betrayed by his closest generals, who commandedpart of his new army. But he went against the historical tide,against the will of people. He wanted to turn back time to theimperial age. As a president, his subordinates only had to stand upbefore him and salute him, whereas during his heady days as emperor,his subordinates had to kneel before him and kowtow to him. Any manwho has had a chance to stand up never wants to bend his knees again.Sense of dignity.
    There would have to be apublic funeral for Yuan. According to the law, when the presidentdied, the vice president would succeed him. So Li Yuanhong became thepresident. Also, as a rule, the public funeral for a deceasedpresident should be led by the succeeding president. But Li had alittle problem with Yuan, for Yuan had imprisoned Li. That made itrather hard for Li to feign any esteem of Yuan. So on the day of thefuneral, he just went there to bow once and left, back to his office.As etiquette required, he should have bowed at least three times.Then the Premier Duan Qirui took over the role.

  4. #14
    Restorationof the abdicated emperor

    Li and Duan had alsoclashed. Their opinions and political attitudes were different. As Lihad no supporters in the government, Duan had no respect for him.Duan also had command of part of the new army. So Li sought supportoutside the capital.
    In May of 1917, during the First World War,there was a dispute about whether China would join in the war or not.Duan, supported by Japan, was in favor of joining the war, while Liand most of the congressmen thought it better not to join the war. Onthe 23rd of May,Li issued an order to remove Duan from the office of premier. Duanwent to Tianjin City and instigated all the governors to declareindependence. So Li summoned General Zhang Xun (1854–1923) to thecapital to mediate.
    Zhang Xun was still loyal to the Qing Dynastyand the soldiers in his army still maintained their queues. So hisarmy was called the pigtail army. He thought that this was a greatopportunity and took five thousand soldiers with him. On the 14thof June, he entered Peking. On the night of the 30thof June, he sent his soldiers to occupy strategic points like therailway station and telegraph office. He went to see Li and tried topersuade him to return the political power to the abdicated emperorFu Yi, by now using the Western name of Henry, but got a flatrefusal.
    On the 1stof July, 1917, Zhang Xun let the abdicated emperor sit on the throneagain and issue a few orders, such as to change the national flagfrom the five-colored flag (the symbol of Republic of China) todragon flag (the symbol of the Qing Dynasty).

  5. #15
    On the 2ndof July, Li went to the Japanese embassy for protection while issuingtwo orders: appointing Feng Guozhang as the deputy president andrestored Duan to the office of the premier. So on the 3rdof July, Duan gathered his army, and on the 14thday, he defeated Zhang Xun’s pigtail army. Zhang Xun escaped to theDutch embassy, then went to live in Tianjin City. The Emperorabdicated once more. And Duan went to the Japanese embassy to welcomeLi back to his presidency. On the 28thof August, Li went to Tianjin City after resigning.
    Thus, in the early historyof the Republic of China, there were two restorations. One was underYuan Shikai, who wanted to be emperor himself and founded the Empireof China. The other was Zhang Xun, who put the abdicated emperor onthe throne again. But both quickly ended in failure. The chariot ofhistory always runs forward and no one can pull it back. People won’tgo back to the old life style once they start to enjoy a new one,especially one that offers more freedom and dignity.
    As Li Yuanhong resigned from the presidency,the deputy president Feng Guozhang became the president. Feng was thegovernor of Jiangsu province and lived in Nanking. Now he was thepresident and had to take up office in Peking. That left the positionof governor of Jiangsu province vacant. Duan wanted to appoint DuanZhigui as the governor there, but Feng wanted to appoint Li Chun, thepresent governor of Jiangxi province as the governor of Jiangsuprovince. He promoted Chen Guangyuan, who was the commander of thetwelfth division, to be the governor of Jiangxi province. Both weresupporters of Feng. Before he left for Peking, he divided his armyinto two divisions. The sixteenth division would stay in Jiangsuprovince. He brought his fifteenth division to Peking as hisbodyguard so that he wouldn’t be controlled by Duan.
    Duan dismissed the old congress because most of thecongressmen had opposed him on the question of joining in the FirstWorld War. Since there was no more congress, the Duan governmentdeclared war against Germany and Austria.

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