By David Strand
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Extra info for An Unfinished Republic: Leading by Word and Deed in Modern China
The longer the revolution, the greater this stratiﬁed complexity and the stronger the pressure for bold and simplifying strokes and measures that were, however, often blunted by the inertial force of personal and local habit and conviction. In step with overlapping regimes and competing calendars, for several months the Chinese Republic also had two presidents: Sun Yat-sen, who accepted the position on January 1 after a vote of the Nanjing revolutionary assembly, and former Qing loyalist Yuan Shikai in Beijing, whom Sun almost immediately acknowledged as the Republic’s logical choice to replace him as president.
Upon returning to China in 1912 after fourteen years of exile to the public acclaim he expected and deserved, Liang Qichao confessed privately that being a public ﬁgure was more taxing than he had bargained for: “The misery of socializing is absolutely beyond words. If one has to live such a life constantly, I wonder where the pleasures of life could be. . People here in the capital welcome me as if they were crazy. ”45 Liang had long called for such politically excited social interaction as a pathway to citizenship.
Nor was he a celebrated scholar like Liang Qichao or Liang’s mentor and reformer Kang Youwei. Sun had written and spoken volumes about his plans for China. But despite an education that included time in a missionary school in Hawaii and a medical degree, Sun lacked the literati background of China’s best and brightest. This lack contributed to denying him in 1894 the political access he sought. However, for many contemporaries Sun in 1912 surpassed men like Kang and Liang because he was the face and voice of progress.