Anglo-Chinese Diplomacy in the Careers of Sir John Jordan and Yuan Shih-k'ai

Anglo-Chinese Diplomacy in the Careers of Sir John Jordan and Yuan Shih-k'ai

Anglo-Chinese Diplomacy in the Careers of Sir John Jordan and Yuan Shih-k'ai

Anglo-Chinese Diplomacy in the Careers of Sir John Jordan and Yuan Shih-k'ai

Excerpt

WAN SHIH-K'AI (1859-1916) has inspired much historical discussion, writing, and scholarship. One recurrent theme is that he was respected, admired, and even fervently supported by the foreigners in China. In short, from the turn of the century Yüan was regarded as the strong man to whom foreign missionaries, as in the Boxer Uprising, looked for protection, and on whom foreign merchants and governments depended for the peace and stability which they recognized as vital for their economic prosperity in China.

Chinese Communist and Nationalist historians have denounced this foreign attitude to Yüan. They see it as a major contribution to his political influence, which brought about the decade of warlordism. following his death and China's ensuing political tumults. To the Communist writers the harm was only undone in 1949 when the Communists took over control in China. The Nationalists, on the other hand, still feel themselves experiencing bitter consequences of Yüan's influence. Impartial historians have generally agreed on the crucial importance of foreign backing in Yüan's political career.

This book attempts to explain this aspect of Yüan Shih-k'ai's political power by analysing the relationship between him and Sir John Newell Jordan, British minister at Peking from 1906 to 1920. To say that Jordan was an important foreigner, when he was representing a nation which at least until Yüan's death was still regarded as the most influential power in China, is an understatement. The interaction between Jordan and Yüan mirrors not only Anglo-Chinese relations but also international diplomacy in China during this fascinating period.

That this study should in the main be undertaken from the point of view of Jordan, is largely determined by the available source materials. Jordan's opinions, attitudes and emotions emerge clearly from his telegrams and dispatches to the Foreign Office and to the consular staff in China, and from his private correspondence. The same, however, are not available for Yüan. Accessible materials attributed to him are mostly official statements and public announcements which are no guarantee, to say the least, of genuine feelings and intentions.

The story begins in the year 1906 when Jordan arrived in China as British minister, and Yüan Shih-k'ai was governor-general of Chilhi, the . . .

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