Reflected Glory in a Bottle

Chapter Five CABINET MINISTERS Chao Ping-chün (1864-1914) Internal Affairs Yuan Shih-k'ai was formally inaugurated as the Provisional Presi- dent of China on March 10, 1912. His cabinet appointments were announced on the following day, with the key ministries going to Yüan's most trusted subordinates, men who had either been with or supported Yüan for many years. Chao Ping-chun assumed the position of Minister of the Interior. Chao Ping-chün claimed February 8, 1864 as his birthdate. This was the first day of the first month of the cyclical year Chia-tzu, which was in turn a combination of the first of the Heavenly Stems and the first of the Earthly Branches. His family name Chao was the first of the Hundred Names, and his own name of Ping-chün meant the first man under the Son of Heaven.' Such a concentration of 'firsts' was regarded as rare. Chao came to Yuan's attention during the period when Yuan was Viceroy of Chihli and engaged in the reorganization of the army. According to the expansion program, the army was to be divided into six divisions, with the Fourth containing Yuan's own men and the Sixth the Tientsin police force' Yüan attached special importance to these two divisions and selected Chao, then a jail warden, to train the police force. By 1905 Chao held the vice presidency of the newly created Ministry of Police in itself a forerunner of the Ministry of Internal Affairs), a meteoric rise due solely to Yuan Shih-k'ai's patron- age. When the Manchu court dismissed Yüan in 1909, Chao Ping-chün was ordered to retire from office. He nonetheless retained both his rank and his control of the police force, a position Chao used to keep Yüan informed of court activities. After Yuan was recalled in 1911 to be appointed Premier with virtual control over the country, Chao became his Minister of Internal Affairs. While conferences were being held at the palace to discuss Chao's proposal to set up a provisional government at Tientsin, Yuan conducted secret negotiations with the government at Nanking. The court recognized the hopelessness of the situation and announced the Emperor's abdication. 56