Reflected Glory in a Bottle

Chapter Four LEADERS OF THE REPUBLIC Fig. 64. Yuan Shih-k'ai the first President of the Republic of China. Yuan Shih-k'ai (1859-1916) The years between 1880 and 1916 are essentially the story of attempted reform movements as the Ch'ing dynasty tried to preserve itself. Yuan Shih-k'ai had been a dominant figure in the Manchu government for many years. Since he commanded the largest force in the north, he was the logical choice to direct the reorganization of the army. Yüan's expansion of the army, combined with rapid promotions and regular pay, created a web of loyal subordinates; it also formed the base for his future political ascendancy. Out of this army grew what came to be known later as the "Peiyang Military Clique." Well aware of the dangers of being the most powerful Chinese official in an alien regime, Yuan Shih-kai carefully cultivated the friendship of highly placed Manchu nobles. Despite these safeguards, he was abruptly summoned to Peking in 1907 and made Minister of 44