DYNASTY OF DUNCES
Morrison was closer to the mark than he knew. Yuan Shi-k’ai had already decided by mid-1915 that he would succeed the Manchus with a dynasty of his own. He was urged on by his son K’e-ting—whom Morrison described as ‘half paralysed and half-witted’—his closest confederate, Liang Shih-yi—whom Donald called ‘China’s evil genius’—and the inner compulsions of Lord Acton’s homily that all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Yuan had come to identify his own interests with those of his nation and from that position there is no easy retreat. Indeed, the small cabal around him was tremendously active in whipping up the chimera of support for a monarchist movement. By 15 August they had created the Society of Planning for Peace and Stability (Ch’ou-an hui)