As the Western New Year broke Sun Yat-sen was sworn in as the first President of the provisional government in Nanking. But the oath was worded—at Prime Minister Yuan Shi-k’ai’s insistence—not so much to define his duties but to describe his departure from office. ‘…I will faithfully obey the wishes of the citizens, be loyal to the nation and perform my duty in the interest of the public, until the downfall of the despotic government… then I shall relinquish the office of provisional president. I hereby swear this before the citizens.’ After the ceremony he telegraphed Yuan to confirm his promise to stand down once Yuan announced his support for the republic. Meanwhile, it was Yuan’s task to secure the downfall of the last dynasty with the least possible bloodshed and the least damage to China’s fragile international reputation.