Liang Shih-i (5 May 1869-9 April 1933), government official and financier whose activities in the development* of banking, railroads, and loan programs during the Peiyang period made him the recognized head of the so-called communications clique. His removal from the Peking government premiership in January 1922 was the immediate cause of the Chihli- Fengtien war.
Born in the Sanshui district of Kwangtung, Liang Shih-i was the elder son of Liang Chihchien, who had been a disciple of the wellknown Cantonese scholar Chu Tz'u-ch'i. He had a younger brother, Liang Shih-hsu, and four sisters. Liang Chih-chien supervised his son's education in the Chinese classics, and the younger Liang became a sheng-yuan in 1886 and a chü-jen in 1889. After failing the chinshih examinations in 1890 and 1892, he passed them in 1894 and became a compiler in the Hanlin Academy at the age of 26 sui. His father took the chin-shih examinations in 1895 and 1896, but failed to pass them. Accordingly, Liang Chih-chien decided to abandon the idea of pursuing an official career at Peking. Liang Shih-i obtained leave from the Hanlin Academy and accompanied his father home. He remained in Sanshui until 1897, serving as head of the Feng-kang Academy. In 1897 he returned to Peking, where he held several scholarly offices in the imperial government until 1900, when he was forced to flee Peking because of the Boxer Uprising. He returned to Sanshui and reorganized the Feng-kang Academy as a modern school.
Liang Shih-i went to Peking in 1902 and sat for the special imperial examination on political economy in 1903. On the recommendation of T'ang Shao-yi (q.v.). Yuan Shih-k'ai, then the governor general of Chihli (^Hopei), appointed Liang director general of the Peiyang pien-shushu [Peiyang publishing house] , which published a series of military textbooks. Toward the end of 1904 Liang joined the staff of T'ang Shao-yi, who had been appointed minister to the Court H of St. James's, and accompanied T'ang to Calcutta for negotiations with the British concerning the Lhasa Convention of 7 September 1904. They arrived in Calcutta in February 1905 and returned to Peking seven months later. The negotiations resumed at Peking soon afterwards, and a Sino-British agreement on the matter was signed on 27 April 1906. By this time, T'ang had been appointed director general of the Peking-Hankow and Nanking- Shanghai railways, and Liang Shih-i had become chief clerk of the railway administration. In November, T'ang was made vice president of the Board of Communications, and in 1907 the board created a directorate general of railways, with Liang as its head. Thus began Liang's association with the so-called communications clique, which he later was to lead. He was responsible for many of the Ch'ing government's railroad reform and development programs during the next few years and helped recover managerial rights to the Peking- Hankow railroad. He also helped to found the Chiao-t'ung yin-hang Bank of Communications) in 1907 and became its assistant director. However, his interest in reform was confined to such areas as education, taxes, communica. tions, and banking. He apparently had little interest in constitutional reform. Liang served as director general of railways until early 1911, when he was dismissed by the new president of the Board of Communications, Sheng Hsuanhuai (q.v.). After the Wuchang revolt of October 1911, the Ch'ing government, in an attempt to save the monarchy, appointed Yuan Shih-k'ai premier. Liang Shih-i became vice president of the Board of Communications on 16 November. He was among the high officials at Peking who advised the Ch'ing government to abdicate in favor of a republican government. After the provisional republican government was inaugurated at Nanking on 1 January 1912, Liang, then president of the Board of Communications, joined with Hu Wei-te and Chao Ping-chün in submitting a memorial to the throne which called for the abdication of the emperor. He and the other members of Yuan Shih-k'ai's cabinet countersigned the abdication degree of 12 February.
When Yuan Shih-k'ai succeeded Sun Yat-sen as provisional president and m.oved the republican government from Nanking to Peking, Liang Shih-i became chief secretary in the presidential office and general manager of the Bank of Communications. He supported Sun Yat-sen's plans to create a national rail network and participated in the discussions at Peking which led to Yuan Shih-k'ai's order of 9 September 1912 appointing Sun director of railroad development. In 1913 Liang and Chou Hsuehhsi (q.v.), the finance minister, became the two senior commissioners of the newly established national finance commission. Chou resigned from office in May 1913, and Liang served as acting minister of finance until early 1915. In January 1914 he presided over a financial conference at which it was decided to reorganize the monetary system of China and to use a standard silver dollar. After Yuan Shih-k'ai promulgated a newconstitution on 1 May 1914, he created the post of Kuo-wu-ch'ing [secretary' of state aflfairs] and abolished the secretarial office held by Liang Shih-i. He appointed Liang director general of the national revenue administration in May and gave him the concurrent post of director general of the domestic loan office in August. Liang's loan, tax, and monetary activities greatly improved the fiscal situation of the Peking regime. In 1915 he helped to sponsor the establishment of the Hsin-hua Savings Bank and the Yen-yeh Bank. He also negotiated with the American firm of Metherns and Son of Maryland for ^e establishment of a Sino- American shijjpng company to be known as the Eastern Pacific Steamship Company. The Peking government agreed to guarantee capital investment and interest in return for special tariff rates on Chinese cargo, but the project soon was abandoned because of the unsettled political situation in China. By this time. Yuan Shih-k'ai's monarchical movement had begun. Although Liang Shih-i's name was associated with the Ch'ou-an-hui [society for planning stability] and the Ch'uan-kuo ch'ing-yuan lienho-hui [national federation for appeal for a monarchy], he later claimed that he had not been a leader of the monarchical movement and that his name had been used by these organizations without his permission. Liang Shih-i strongly advocated that China enter the First World War, and in 1915 he organized the Hui-min Corporation for the recruitment of Chinese laborers to serve with the AUies in Europe. In mid-1915 the company, which was managed by Yeh Kung-cho (q.v.) and Liang Su-ch'eng, entered into a contract with the French government under the terms of which more than 200,000 Chinese workers went to France during the war years. Although Liang Shih-i was criticized for undertaking this program, he later answered his critics by saying that the program was China's only active contribution to the war effort and, therefore, the sole justification for China's claim to a hearing at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. After Yuan Shih-k'ai died in June 1916, Liang Shih-i resigned from the national revenue administration. In July, he was named as one of the eight principal instigators of the monarchical plot, and an order for his arrest was issued. He immediately sought refuge in Hong Kong, where he continued his efforts to recruit Chinese workers for the war effort in France. When Chang Hsün (q.v.) staged his July 1917 attempt to restore the Ch'ing dynasty, Liang Shih-i called for punitive measures against Chang and instructed Yeh Kung-cho, then in charge of the Bank of Communications in Tientsin, to give financial aid to Tuan Ch'i-jui (q.v.) for his campaign against Chang. The large sum of money raised by Yeh Kung-cho enabled Tuan to move swiftly in driving Chang from Peking.
At the end of November 1917, Liang Shih-i went to Japan, where he remained for two months. On returning to Hong Kong in February 1918 he discovered that the order for his arrest had been rescinded. Accordingly, he went to Peking in March to see Feng Kuo-chang (q.v.), who had become acting president. Liang was made chairman of the board of the Bank of Communications, and on 22 August he became speaker of the National Assembly. In 1920 the Peking government reestablished the domestic loan bureau, with Liang as its director. That year, he joined with a group of bankers in founding a banking consortium, the Chung-hua yin kung-ssu [China financial corporation], and served as the chairman of its board of directors. When the Peking government created two official bureaus to assist industrial research, Liang was appointed to head the group concerned with the improvement of wool and leather industries.
In December 1921, at the behest of Chang Tso-lin (q.v.), Liang Shih-i was appointed premier by Hsü Shih-ch'ang (q.v.), who had become president. Wu P'ei-fu (q.v.) opposed the appointment, launched a vigorous campaign against Liang, and forced him to leave ofhce on 19 January 1922. Chang Tso-lin regarded Wu's action as a personal affront, and the incident was the immediate cause of the Chihli-Fengtien war. In May, Hsü Shih-ch'ang, who held Liang responsible for the war, formally dismissed him from office and ordered his arrest. Liang fled to Japan and remained there until September 1922, when he returned to Hong Kong.
Liang Shih-i left Hong Kong in March 1924 for an extensive tour of Europe and the United States. After reaching London on 6 April, he was interviewed by representatives of Reuters and other wire services on the political situation in China and was received by King George V. He also met with British industrial and political leaders before moving on to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, and Italy. While in Geneva, he met with Sir Eric Drummond, the Secretary General of the League of Nations. After completing his tour of Europe, Liang went to the United States, arriving in New York on 15 July. He called on J. P. Morgan, who entertained him at dinner, and then went to Washington and met with President Calvin Coolidge. After visiting the major cities of the United States, Liang returned to Hong Kong on 29 August 1924.
At the invitation of Tuan Ch'i-jui, who was serving as chief executive of the Peking government, Liang Shih-i went to Peking and participated in the national rehabilitation conference which met from 1 February through 21 April 1925. In May, he was appointed chairman of the national financial rehabilitation commission, which had been formed to plan a national conference on finances. Four months later, he was appointed to membership in the special tariff conference for the implementation of the decisions made at the Washington Conference of 1922. Both the national conference on finances and the special tariff conference convened in October. In April 1926, following the ouster of Tuan Ch'i-jui, Liang Shih-i went to Mukden and helped Chang Tso-lin plan a reorganization of the local currency and financial structure. He I went to Tientsin in June, paid a short visit to Hong Kong in August, and returned to Tientsin in October to establish residence there. When Chang Tso-lin took control of Peking in 1927, he asked Liang to form a cabinet, but- Liang declined the offer. Chang then appointed him chairman of his political consultative committee. At the end of 1927 Liang became director general of the revenue administration and a member of the tariff autonomy commission. When the National Revolutionary Army reached Peking in June 1928 at the end of the Northern Expedition, he retired to Hong Kong. The Nationalists issued an order for his arrest, which was rescinded in 1931 at the request of Chang Hsueh-liang (q.v.), the son of Chang Tso-lin. Early in 1932 Liang accepted the invitation of the National Government to participate in the national crisis conference, which was held at Loyang in April. After the conference ended, he returned to Hong Kong.
Early in 1933 Liang Shih-i accepted an invitation from Tuan Ch'i-jui to visit him in Nanking. He reached Shanghai on 3 March, but became ill and had to abandon the journey. He died in Shanghai on 9 April 1933. He was survived by his wife, nee Kao, whom he had •married in 1897, and by three sons and five daughters. His daughters were Hao-yin ( 1 896-) , Huai-sheng (1900-j, Yü-sheng (1900-), Tsangsheng (1904-), and Yi-sheng (1909-). His sons were Ting-ch'i (1898-), who studied at Boston University and became a banker; Ting-shu (1907-), who went to Oxford University and became a railway technician; and Ting-min (1908-), who studied at the University of London and became a civil engineer. A two-volume biography of Liang Shih-i, San-shui Liang Yen-sun hsien-sheng nien-p'u, was published in 1946 and reprinted in Taiwan in 1962. In addition to a detailed account of Liang's life, the book contains background material on economic and financial policies and politics in early republican China.