Sunday, September 6, 2009

Warlord's Den, Beijing

After the Qing Dynasty, China's last, collapsed in 1911, strong man Yuan Shikai was the force to reckon with in Beijing. He was appointed provisional president of the Republic of China in 1912, though it is not clear how much real authority he had outside of the Beijing area. There was an election in 1913 won by an opposition politico and member of the Nationalist Party who was soon after assassinated, probably by Yuan's henchmen. After this Yuan did what autocratic thugs are wont to do everywhere - he built a base of military support, dissolved elected bodies and replaced them with organizations he controlled via cronies he appointed. Towards the end of 1915, Yuan proclaimed himself emperor of his very own new dynasty. This did not go well as there was lots of opposition especially from Sun Yat Sen, safely ensconced at Tokyo. In any case, Yuan's position deteriorated and finally he lost the support of the foreign powers, fair weather friends all. Yuan saved himself further humiliation by dying some five months after proclaiming himself emperor. About all that remains of Yuan in Beijing is his headquarters building - now occupied by a government office and not open to the public - pictured above.

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