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 Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal sheds new light on the equally controversial history of this talented administrator, fearsome general, and enthusiastic modernizer. 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.
Just a single biography of Yuan has been published in English in the past hundred years. Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal rectifies that remarkable dearth, drawing on previously untapped primary sources and recent scholarship to posit a lucid, comprehensive, and critical new interpretation of this multifaceted figure.
Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal will appeal to students, scholars, and general readers who are interested in modern China and its history.
This book is the most detailed and refreshing account of Yuan Shikai ever published. Drawing on a wide array of source materials, it sheds new light on political changes in the formative era of the modern Chinese state.
Patrick Shan’s balanced, comprehensive, and analytical study of Yuan Shikai presents a complete portrait of this bewilderingly controversial leader.
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