The most widely-quoted statement on this subject is the remarkable interview, published in the first week of July, 1915, throughout the metropolitan press, between President Yuan Shih-kai and General Feng Kuo-chang, commanding the forces on the lower Yangtsze. This statement was telegraphed by foreign correspondents all over the world. Referring to the many rumours afloat that titles of nobility would be revived as a precursor to the monarchy the President declared that even if he seized the Throne that would not increase his powers, whilst as for transmitting the Imperial Yellow to his sons none were fitted for that honour which would mean the collapse of any new dynasty. Here General Feng Kuo-chang interrupted with the remark that the people of South China would not oppose such a change ultimately, though they thought it was too early to talk about it just now. Thereupon the President’s features became stern and he declared in a heightened voice: “You and others seem still to believe that I harbour secret ambitions. I affirm positively that when I sent my sons to study in England, I privately ordered the purchase of a small estate there as a possible home. If the people of China insist upon my accepting the sceptre I shall leave this country and spend the remaining days of my life abroad.” This interview, so far from being denied, has been affirmed to the present writer as being substantially correct.
THE MONARCHY MOVEMENT IS OPPOSED
THE APPEAL OF THE SCHOLAR LIANG CH’I-CHAO
We have already referred in several places to the extraordinary role scholarship and the literary appeal play in the governance of China. It is necessary to go back to the times of the birth of the Roman Empire, and to invoke the great figure of Cicero, to understand how greatly the voice of men of recognized intellectual qualities influences the nation. Liang Ch’i-chao, a man of some forty-five years, had long been distinguished for his literary attainments and for the skill with which, though unversed in any Western language, he had expounded the European theory and practice of government to his fellow-countrymen. To his brain is due the coining of many exact expressions necessary for parliamentary government, his mentality having grown with the modern growth of China and adapted itself rather marvellously to the requirements of the Twentieth Century. A reformer of 1898—that is one of the small devoted band of men who under Kang Yu Wei almost succeeded in winning over the ill-fated Emperor Kwang Hsu to carrying out a policy of modernizing the country in the teeth of fierce mandarin opposition, he possessed in his armoury every possible argument against the usurpation Yuan Shih-kai proposed to practise. He knew precisely where to strike—and with what strength; and he delivered himself over to his