Yuan's death left China almost completely disintegrated, broken into bits each of which was under the rule of a war lord. Yet, though he had debased the representative government by using it as a tool for his ends, a form of it remained which saved Peking from immediate civil war when the Vice-President, Li Yuan-hung, slipped into the Presidency in accordance with the rules. The war lords paused to take stock of the situation, and stayed their hands not because they expected the weak Li to put up any resistance, but for fear of each other. In the pause President Li reconvened parliament.
The Sun Yat-sen contingent found it possible to return from Japan, though it was still necessary to stay out of Peking's reach. Canton was their only safe foothold apart from Shanghai, where Sun had a house in the French Concession, and it was in Canton that they made plans to start once more on the long-delayed task of unification. During the long exile two men in Sun's coterie had risen to the top as his most trusted lieutenants, Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Ching-wei, though at the time Yuan died Wang was under a temporary cloud and had gone off to France to meditate on his sins. As for Sun's old friend Charles Soong, their relationship had suffered change and strain over a delicate family affair. Soong's three daughters had spent most of their childhood and adolescence at school in America. The two elder girls, Eling and Chingling, were now back in the East, though Meiling remained at Wellesley to finish her university course. In Japan Eling, the eldest, worked as Sun's secretary for a time before she married Kung Hsiang-hsi, scion of a rich Shansi family. The Kungs claim descent from Confucius, but Kung Hsiang-hsi was a Christian and had cast in his lot with republicanism. The young couple returned to Shansi, leaving Sun