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The Historical Record January 1, 1912: Sun Yat-sen named president of Republic of China

"What do we do with a drunken walrus? What do we do with a drunken walrus? What do we do with a drunken walrus? Put him in a position of power!"

“What do we do with a drunken walrus? What do we do with a drunken walrus? What do we do with a drunken walrus? Put him in a position of power!”

On January 1, 1912, Sun Yat-sen was named the new president of the new Republic of China.

But since Sun would hand over the presidency to an ethically-challenged power-hungry thug before the first spring thaw of 1912, this wasn’t quite the new beginning everybody had been hoping for.

Sun did change the calendar, which meant that January 1, 1912 was not just the start of the 民国 Minguo (Republican) era but also the beginning  of China’s use of the Gregorian calendar.

Unfortunately, Sun barely had time to unpack his collection of snazzy collarless jackets before he was forced to play let’s make a deal with Yuan Shikai.  Yuan’s position as head of the Beiyang Army, North China’s best equipped and best trained military force, made him a key power broker in the negotiations between the new republic and the Qing court.

Sun wanted to preserve the gains made by the revolution and knew that even though Yuan looked vaguely like a drunken walrus he was still a potent military and political force.  Yuan played hardball, including hinting that he just might side with Qing government, and eventually the republican government relented and gave the presidency to Yuan.

President Yuan then returned the favor by assassinating the leader of Sun’s new political party, disbanded parliament and declared himself president for life.  In 1916, he launched an ill-fated bid to become emperor.

 (Also on January 1, in 1979 the US  recognized the PRC as the legitimate government of China and it’s the birthday of Chinese gymnast He Kexin, born in Beijing, just don’t ask what year.)

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