• Rectifies the remarkable dearth of scholarship on Yuan.
• Draws on untapped primary sources and recent scholarship.
• Offers a lucid, comprehensive and critical new interpretation of this multifaceted figure.
Statesman or warlord? Yuan Shikai (1859–1916) has been hailed as China’s George Washington for his key role in the country’s transition from empire to republic. In any list of significant modern Chinese figures, he stands in the first rank. Yet, after toppling the last emperor of China, Yuan endeavoured to build dictatorial power and establish his own dynasty while serving as the first president of the new republic, eventually declaring himself emperor. Ever since his death during the civil war his actions provoked, he has been condemned as a counterrevolutionary, and much Chinese historiography portrays Yuan as a traitor, a usurper, and a villain. Patrick Fuliang Shan offers a wide-ranging analysis of the man’s complex part in shaping modern China. He develops a fresh account of Yuan’s life and career that introduces unique insights and challenges long-held stereotypes.
A major scholarly accomplishment in exploring the details of Yuan’s life and his many roles in China’s public sphere.