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- The Fight For The Republic In China - 10/86 -

November the agreement conceding autonomy to Outer Mongolia was signed with Russia, China simply retaining the right to station a diplomatic representative at Urga. [Footnote: A full copy of this agreement will be found in the appendix.]

In spite of his undisputed power, matters however did not improve. The police-control, judiciously mingled with assassinations, which was now put in full vigour was hardly the administration to make room for which the Manchus had been expelled; and the country secretly chafed and cursed. But the disillusionment of the people was complete. Revolt had been tried in vain; and as the support which the Powers were affording to this regime was well understood there was nothing to do but to wait, safe in the knowledge that such a situation possessed no elements of permanency.




With the Parliament of China effectively destroyed, and the turbulent Yangtsze Valley dragooned into sullen submission, Yuan Shih-kai's task had become so vastly simplified that he held the moment to have arrived when he could openly turn his hand to the problem of making himself absolutely supreme, de jure as well as de facto. But there was one remaining thing to be done. To drive the last nail into the coffin of the Republic it was necessary to discredit and virtually imprison the man who was Vice-President.

It is highly characteristic that although he had received from the hero of the Wuchang Rising the most loyal co-operation--a co- operation of a very arduous character since the Commander of the Middle Yangtsze had had to resist the most desperate attempts to force him over to the side of the rebellion in July, 1913, nevertheless, Yuan Shih-kai was determined to bring this man to Peking as a prisoner of state.

It was just the fact that General Li Yuan-hung was a national hero which impelled the Dictator to action. In the election which had been carried out in October, 1913, by the National Assembly sitting as a National Convention, in spite of every effort to destroy his influence, the personal popularity of the Vice- President had been such that he had received a large number of votes for the office of full President--which had necessitated not one but three ballots being taken, making most people declare that had there been no bribery or intimidation he would have probably been elected to the supreme office in the land, and ousted the ambitious usurper. In such circumstances his complete elimination was deemed an elementary necessity. To secure that end Yuan Shih- kai suddenly dispatched to Wuchang--where the Vice-President had resided without break since 1911--the Minister of War, General Tuan Chi-jui, with implicit instructions to deal with the problem in any way he deemed satisfactory, stopping short of nothing should his victim prove recalcitrant.

Fortunately General Tuan Chi-jui did not belong to the ugly breed of men Yuan Shih-kai loved to surround himself with; and although he was a loyal and efficient officer the politics of the assassin were unknown to him. He was therefore able to convince the Vice- President after a brief discussion that the easiest way out of the ring of intriguers and plotters in which Yuan Shih-kai was rapidly surrounding him in Wuchang was to go voluntarily to the capital. There at least he would be in daily touch with developments and able to fight his own battles without fear of being stabbed in the back; since under the eye of the foreign Legations even Yuan Shih- kai was exhibiting a certain timidity. Indeed after the outcry which General Chang Cheng-wu's judicial murder had aroused he had reserved his ugliest deeds for the provinces, only small men being done to death in Peking. Accordingly, General Li Yuan-hung packed a bag and accompanied only by an aide-de-camp left abruptly for the capital where he arrived on the 11th December, 1913.

A great sensation was caused throughout China by this sudden departure, consternation prevailing among the officers and men of the Hupeh (Wuchang) army when the newspapers began to hint that their beloved chief had been virtually abducted. Although cordially received by Yuan Shih-kai and given as his personal residence the Island Palace where the unfortunate Emperor Kwang Hsu had been so long imprisoned by the Empress Dowager Tsu Hsi after her coup d'etat of 1898, it did not take long for General Li Yuan-hung to understand that his presence was a source of embarrassment to the man who would be king. Being, however, gifted with an astounding fund of patience, he prepared to sit down and allow the great game which he knew would now unroll to be played to its normal ending. What General Li Yuan-hung desired above all was to be forgotten completely and absolutely--springing to life when the hour of deliverance finally arrived. His policy was shown to be not only psychologically accurate, but masterly in a political sense. The greatest ally of honesty in China has always been time, the inherent decency of the race finally discrediting scoundrelism in every period of Chinese history.

The year 1914 dawned with so many obstacles removed that Yuan Shih-kai became more and more peremptory in his methods. In February the young Empress Lun Yi, widow of the Emperor Kwang Hsu, who two years previously in her character of guardian of the boy- Emperor Hsuan Tung, had been cajoled into sanctioning the Abdication Edicts, unexpectedly expired, her death creating profound emotion because it snapped the last link with the past. Yuan Shih-kai's position was considerably strengthened by this auspicious event which secretly greatly delighted him; and by his order for three days the defunct Empress lay in State in the Grand Hall of the Winter Palace and received the obeisance of countless multitudes who appeared strangely moved by this hitherto unknown procedure. There was now only a nine-year old boy between the Dictator and his highest ambitions. Two final problems still remained to be dealt with: to give a legal form to a purely autocratic rule, and to find money to govern the country. The second matter was vastly more important than the first to a man who did not hesitate to base his whole polity on the teachings of Machiavelli, legality being looked upon as only so much political window-dressing to placate foreign opinion and prevent intervention, whilst without money even the semblance of the rights of eminent domain could not be preserved. Everything indeed hinged on the question of finding money.

There was none in China, at least none for the government. Financial chaos still reigned supreme in spite of the great Reorganization Loan of 25,000,000 pounds, which had been carefully arranged more for the purpose of wiping-out international indebtedness and balancing the books of foreign bankers than to institute a modern government. All the available specie in the country had been very quietly remitted in these troubled times by the native merchant-guilds from every part of China to the vast emporium of Shanghai for safe custody, where a sum not far short of a hundred million ounces now choked the vaults of the foreign banks,--being safe from governmental expropriation. The collection of provincial revenues having been long disorganized, Yuan Shih- kai, in spite of his military dictatorship, found it impossible to secure the proper resumption of the provincial remittances. Fresh loans became more and more sought after; by means of forced domestic issues a certain amount of cash was obtained, but the country lived from hand to mouth and everybody was unhappy. Added to this by March the formidable insurrection of the "White Wolf" bandits in Central China--under the legendary leadership of a man who was said to be invulnerable--necessitated the mobilization of a fresh army which ran into scores of battalions and which was vainly engaged for nearly half a year in rounding-up this replica of the Mexican Villa. So demoralized had the army become from long license that this guerilla warfare was waged with all possible slackness until a chance shot mortally wounded the chief brigand and his immense following automatically dispersed. During six months these pests had ravaged three provinces and menaced one of the most strongly fortified cities in Asia--the old capital of China, Hsianfu, whither the Manchu Court had fled in 1900.

Meanwhile wholesale executions were carried out in the provinces with monotonous regularity and all attempts at rising ruthlessly suppressed. In Peking the infamous Chih Fa Chu or Military Court-- a sort of Chinese Star-Chamber--was continually engaged in summarily dispatching men suspected of conspiring against the Dictator. Even the printed word was looked upon as seditious, an unfortunate native editor being actually flogged to death in Hankow for telling the truth about conditions in the riverine districts. These cruelties made men more and more determined to pay off the score the very first moment that was possible. Although he was increasingly pressed for ready money, Yuan Shih- kai, by the end of April, 1914, had the situation sufficiently in hand to bring out his supreme surprise,--a brand-new Constitution promulgated under the euphonious title of "The Constitutional Compact."

This precious document, which had no more legality behind it as a governing instrument than a private letter, can be studied by the curious in the appendix where it is given in full: here it is sufficient to say that no such hocuspocus had ever been previously indulged in China. Drafted by an American legal adviser, Dr. Goodnow, who was later to earn unenviable international notoriety as the endorser of the monarchy scheme, it erected what it was pleased to call the Presidential System; that is, it placed all power directly in the hands of the President, giving him a single Secretary of State after the American model and reducing Cabinet Ministers to mere Department Chiefs who received their instructions from the State Department but had no real voice in the actual government. A new provincial system was likewise invented for the provinces, the Tutuhs or Governors of the Revolutionary period being turned into Chiang Chun or Military Officials on the Manchu model and provincial control absolutely centralized in their hands, whilst the Provincial Assemblies established under the former dynasty were summarily abolished. The worship at the Temple of Heaven was also re-established and so was the official worship of Confucius--both Imperialistic measures-- whilst a brand-new ceremony, the worship of the two titulary Military Gods, was ordered so as to inculcate military virtue! It was laid down that in the worship of Heaven the President would wear the robes of the Dukes of the Chow dynasty, B. C. 1112, a novel and interesting republican experiment. Excerpts from two Mandates which belong to these days throw a flood of light on the kind of reasoning which was held to justify these developments. The first declares:

... "In a Republic the Sovereign Power is vested in the people, and the main principle is that all things should be determined in

The Fight For The Republic In China - 10/86

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