Biography in English

T'ang Shao-yi (1860-30 September 1938), long-time associate of Yuan Shih-k'ai who became the Chinese republic's first premier in 1912. He broke with Yuan in June 1912 and later allied himself with Sun Yat-sen. After Sun's death, T'ang lent support to various movements within the Kuomintang which opposed the growing authority of Chiang Kaishek. T'ang was killed by an unknown assassin at Shanghai in 1938.

Hsiangshan (later Chungshan), Kwangtung, was the birthplace of T'ang Shao-yi. Little is known of T'ang's father, but his uncle was the prominent entrepreneur, T'ang T'ing-shu ( 1 8321892; T. Ching-hsing; West. Tong King Sing), who served as compradore for Jardine Matheson & Co. from 1861 to 1873, and then, under Li Hung-chang (ECCP, I, 464-71), as director of the China Merchants' Steam Navigation Company from 1873 to 1884, and finally as the principal organizer and director of the K'aip'ing Mining Company from 1877 until his death in 1892. As a boy of ten, T'ang T'ing-shu had entered the Morrison Education Society school in Hong Kong, where he began a life-long friendship with his classmate there, Yung Wing (Jung Hung; ECCP I, 402-5). One result of this friendship was that T'ang Shao-yi was selected as a member of the third contingent of Chinese students to be sent to the United States to receive Western training under the program of the China Educational Mission, headed by Yung Wing. The mission had been proposed by Yung, and had been approved by the imperial court in 1871. Other Chinese students sent under the same program included Chan T'ienyu, Ts'ai T'ing-kan (qq.v.) and Liang Tun-yen. Upon arrival in the United States in the autumn of 1874, T'ang's group—which also included M. T. Liang (Liang Ju-hao), who later served as foreign minister, and Chu Pao-k'uei, who became minister of communications—was sent to Hartford, Connecticut, for orientation and preliminary instruction. T'ang later studied at Columbia University and New York University but failed to complete the B.A. degree requirements because he was recalled to China in 1881. The Ch'ing government abolished the China Educational Mission and its program because of reports to the effect that the students were becoming inordinately Americanized and were neglecting their Chinese studies.

Like most of the Chinese students who had studied in the United States, T'ang Shao-yi, after his return to China, was treated with contempt by Ch'ing officials on the grounds that he had lost many essential Chinese characteristics. He was assigned to subordinate clerical work in various offices of the imperial government. Finally, in 1882, he was appointed assistant to the new imperial customs inspector in Korea, P. G. von Mollendorff, in connection with the attempt of Li Hung-chang to buttress China's claim to suzerainty over the so-called Hermit Kingdom. T'ang thus was in Seoul at the time of the disorders there in 1884, and his actions gained him the approbation of Chinese garrison commander Yuan Shih-k'ai. He went with Yuan to Tientsin in April 1885 for consultation with Li Hung-chang, and their discussions with Li and Ito Hirobumi led to the signing of the Tientsin Convention, by which both China and Japan agreed to withdraw their garrisons and military instructors from Korea. When Yuan Shih-k'ai returned to Seoul in August 1885, T'ang Shao-yi accompanied him as a member of his personal staff. After Yuan assumed the offices of commissioner of commerce and Chinese resident in Korea on 30 October, T'ang served as his deputy, with particular responsibility for handling Chinese political and commercial interests in the port town of Jinsen. In July 1894, as war with Japan over Korea loomed, Yuan Shih-k'ai moved to resign his post. Although his resignation was rejected, he returned to China, saying that he was ill, leaving T'ang Shao-yi to perform his functions at Seoul.

China's ignominious defeat in the Sino- Japanese war marked the beginning of a new phase in the career of T'ang Shao-yi. After serving briefly as Chinese consul general in Korea, he returned to China in 1896 to become secretary to Yuan Shih-k'ai at the headquarters of the Newly Created Army (Hsin-chien lu-chun) in Hsiaochan, Chihli (Hopei). T'ang also became managing director of the northern railways administration. When Yuan was appointed acting governor of Shantung in December 1899, T'ang accompanied him to that province to serve as his chief political officer and head of the provincial trade bureau. They firmly suppressed the Boxer movement in Shantung, and when the crisis ended Yuan recommended T'ang to the throne as "a man of superior talent and perception, well versed in diplomatic affairs." With the death of Li Hung-chang in November 1901 and the appointment of Yuan Shih-k'ai as governor general of Chihli, T'ang was named customs tao-t'ai at Tientsin.

In September 1904, as a result of the crisis precipitated by the Younghusband expedition to Tibet (see Dalai Lama), T'ang Shao-yi was appointed special commissioner for Tibetan affairs and was charged with investigating the situation. On 7 September, however, the British forced the Tibetan Grand Council to sign an agreement that, in effect, established a British protectorate. The Chinese court, which deemed the Lhasa Convention highly unsatisfactory, appointed T'ang minister to the Court of St. James's and ordered him to Calcutta for negotiations with the British. T'ang and his staff, which included Liang Shih-i (q.v.), arrived in Calcutta in February 1905 with the aim of securing recognition of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet and of the Chinese government as the proper intermediary between Tibet and India. The British proved intransigent, and T'ang returned to China in September 1905. In November, however, he was appointed acting junior vice president of the Board of Foreign Affairs, in which capacity he reopened negotiations on the Tibetan problem with the British minister at Peking, Sir Ernest Satow. On 27 April 1906 the British and the Chinese signed an agreement that acknowledged China's suzerainty over Tibet.

By this time, T'ang Shao-yi had become associate controller general of a new revenue council in the Imperial Maritime Customs, and director general of the Peking-Hankow and Nanking- Shanghai railways. In November 1906 he was appointed senior vice-president of the Board of Communications. He joined with other high officials at Peking to initiate anti-opium legislation which was adopted and proclaimed by the throne on 22 November as the Opium Abolition Regulations. In his communications posts T'ang implemented the throne's policy of primary dependence on loans from abroad for developing a railroad system in China, a policy that drew political criticism. Moreover, his practice of giving preference to foreign-trained Chinese for responsible posts in the Board of Communications caused him to run afoul of its president, Chang Pai-hsi. After T'ang signed a loan agreement with the British in March 1907 for construction of the Canton-Kowloon railway, impeachment proceedings were begun against him. Under heavy political pressure, he resigned all of his posts at Peking in April 1907.

With the reorganization of Manchuria in April 1907 (for details, see Hsu Shih-ch'ang), T'ang Shao-yi became governor of Fengtien. In this post, he again was concerned with railway loans, and he turned to the United States for support against the Japanese and the British. Backed by Yuan Shih-k'ai, then president of the Board of Foreign Affairs at Peking, he negotiated with Willard Straight, the American consul general at Mukden, to secure assistance in the underwriting of currency reform, the establishment of a new bank in Manchuria, and the building of a railroad to compete with the Japanese South Manchurian railway (in defiance of the provision in the Sino-Japanese Protocol of 1905 which prohibited construction of new lines parallel to the Japanese-controlled rail system). T'ang thus became involved in the international railway rivalry that focused on Manchuria. He also was the probable initiator of a policy of colonization of Outer Mongolia by Manchurian peasants in 1908, a policy which soon led to Mongol unrest.

After the accession to the throne of the Hsuant'ung emperor, P'u-yi (q.v.), Yuan Shih-k'ai was relieved of his posts and was sent into retirement early in 1909. Yuan's lieutenants also lost power. In 1908 Willard Straight had negotiated preliminary agreements for the establishment of a Manchurian bank and had returned to the United States to work on final arrangements. T'ang Shao-yi had gone to the United States later that year for discussions, but the project had failed because of the political changes in China. T'ang returned to China in mid- 1909 only to lose his post as governor of Fengtien because of his association with Yuan Shih-k'ai. He remained in retirement until August 1910, when he was called back to Peking as expectant vice president of the Board of Communications. In October, he became acting president of that board. Because Yuan Shih-k'ai was still in retirement, however, T'ang's position in Peking was not what it had been in previous years, and he resigned early in 1911.

With the outbreak of the republican revolution in October 1911 and the emergence from retirement of Yuan Shih-k'ai, T'ang Shao-yi replaced Sheng Hsuan-huai as president of the Board of Communications. In December, when Yuan Shih-k'ai was appointed premier and was authorized to deal with the republican revolutionaries, he named T'ang head of the imperial delegation charged with negotiating peace. At Shanghai, T'ang Shao-yi and his associates met with a southern delegation headed by Wu T'ing-fang (q.v.). When Sun Yat-sen was inaugurated as provisional president, however, Yuan requested T'ang's resignation from the imperial delegation. The ostensible reason for the request was that T'ang had exceeded his authority in negotiating an agreement regarding the composition of the proposed national assembly, but the actual reason was Yuan's belief that his bargaining position had been compromised by Sun's election to office. T'ang Shao-yi gave up his assignment as requested, but he continued to work on Yuan's behalf. When Yuan Shih-k'ai assumed office at Peking in March 1912 as provisional president, he appointed T'ang Shao-yi premier. By that time, T'ang apparently had won the confidence of Sun Yat-sen and several other republican leaders. However, Ch'en Chi-mei (q.v.), the military governor of Shanghai and one of the leaders of the 1911 revolution, expressed apprehension about the possibility of T'ang becoming Yuan's tool in the undermining of the republican program. To allay doubts about his devotion to republicanism and his willingness to work with the revolutionaries, T'ang joined the T'ung-meng-hui. Yuan responded to this action by proceeding to undercut Tang's position. Because the government stood in urgent need of funds, T'ang, as responsible head of government under the provisional constitution adapted at Nanking, promptly signed a loan contract with the Banque Sino- Belgique for £ million. The four-power banking consortium protested the contract as an infringement of its rights. Yuan thereupon asserted that he had known nothing of the matter and left T'ang to put the best face possible on it. Thus began an estrangement between Yuan and T'ang. Then, in June 1912, the Chihli provincial council nominated a Kuomintang official, Wang Chih-hsiang, to command the provincial forces. Both Yuan and the cabinet approved the nomination, but when Wang arrived in north China to assume office and the Chihli forces issued a statement opposing the appointment, Yuan changed his position and sent Wang south to inspect troops. T'ang Shao-yi took this occasion to resign the premiership on 16 June 1912 and leave for Tientsin without bidding Yuan goodbye. Liang Shih-i was sent by Yuan to Tientsin in an effort to change T'ang's mind, but to no avail. T'ang also ignored Yuan's proffer of a sinecure position as "Superior Adviser to the President on State Affairs" and retired to private life in Shanghai, where he became managing director of the Venus Assurance Company.

T'ang Shao-yi continued to oppose Yuan Shih-k'ai's policies, and after Yuan revealed his plan to become monarch, T'ang joined the Kuomintang opposition to Yuan's government. In 1916 T'ang served as special representative in Shanghai of the southern military council based at Chaoch'ing, Kwangtung (for details, see Ts'en Ch'un-hsuan). After Yuan's death in June, Tuan Ch'i-jui (q-v.) named T'ang foreign minister, but strong opposition in north China prevented him from assuming office. T'ang then strengthened his association with Sun Yat-sen and the political forces in south China. Like Sun, T'ang showed some inclination in late 1916 to embrace pan-Asianism as a solution to the problem of Western expansion, suggesting that China should work with Japan and India "for Asian independence against all outside aggression." He also allied himself with Sun in opposing Chinese participation in the First World War and in resisting the idea of changing the provisional constitution of 1912. In mid-1917 Sun Yat-sen launched the socalled constitution protection movement, and some members of the recently dissolved Parliament at Peking (see Li Yuan-hung) went to Canton for a rump session. A military government was formed at Canton, with Sun at its head. At this point, T'ang Shao-yi and Wu T'ing-fang (q.v.) joined Sun in Canton, where T'ang was named minister of finance and Wu was named minister of foreign affairs. Neither of them formally assumed office, though both remained in Canton to advise Sun. In 1918, when the Kwangsi faction took control of the southern government and Sun departed in disgust for Shanghai, T'ang and Wu remained behind to serve on the seven-man governing board headed by Ts'en Ch'un-hsuan (q.v.). Early in 1919 T'ang left Canton for Shanghai to participate in peace negotiations with northern representatives. After the talks broke down in October 1919, T'ang returned to his native Hsiangshan, where he built an estate called Kung-lo-yuan [garden of common enjoyment] and made plans to live in retirement. He refused an offer from Sun in May 1921 to serve as foreign minister and declined Peking offers of the premiership (August 1922) and the portfolio of foreign minister (November 1924). When interviewed by a correspondent from the Chicago Daily News in 1925, T'ang Shao-yi urged recognition of the "universality of the Chinese soul" and the "domestic heart of China" on the basis of which he believed "the unity of national interests" and the political progress of the country could and should be promoted. In an October 1925 statement expressing his opposition to tariff negotiations in Peking, he advocated general revision of the constitution, local self-government, revival of the civil service as "one of our finest heritages," elimination of "personal" armies, and reduction of foreign influence in China's domestic affairs. Chiang Kai-shek named T'ang "superior adviser" to the National Government at Nanking early in 1929, but T'ang ignored the appointment. When Chiang's arrest of Hu Han-min (q.v.) in 1931 led to a secessionist movement in south China, T'ang threw in his lot with the Canton coalition led by Wang Ching-wei, Sun Fo, Ch'en Chi-t'ang (qq.v.), and others. Although unity between the Nanking and Canton leaders was restored after the Japanese attack on Mukden in September 1931, T'ang continued to support the semi-independent Southwest Executive Headquarters of the Kuomintang and the Southwest Political Council. During this period, he also served briefly as magistrate of his native hsien, which had been renamed Chungshan in honor of Sun Yat-sen and which had been designated a model hsien under the direct jurisdiction of the National Government. T'ang's magistracy was not a success, however, and he soon relinquished the post.

In 1936 T'ang Shao-yi decided to oppose the increasingly apparent plans of Ch'en Chi-t'ang to stage a revolt against the National Government. Accordingly, he went to Nanking that summer to attend a session of the central committees of the Kuomintang (he had become a member of the Central Supervisory Committee). At the session, he led a group of Cantonese leaders in presenting a resolution calling for the abolition of the Southwest Executive Headquarters and the Southwest Political Council. He also assumed office as a member of the State Council.

After the Sino-Japanese war began, T'ang Shao-yi, burdened by his 77 years, did not follow the National Government to west China but took up residence in the French concession at Shanghai. In 1938 it was rumored that the Japanese had solicited his support. The details of this overture and of T'ang's reaction remain obscure. On 30 September 1938 T'ang was assassinated in his Shanghai home by four axewielding men who had gained admission on the pretext of showing him rare pieces of porcelain. identities and the motive for the assassination remained mysterious, and the case never was solved. T'ang was survived by his second wife, two concubines, four sons, several daughters, and numerous grandchildren. His son T'ang Liu served for a time as Chinese consul general at Singapore and later became director of the ministry of foreign affairs and consul general at Honolulu. The eldest daughter (d. 1918) had been the wife of V. K. Wellington Koo (Ku Wei-chün, q.v.). T'ang Shao-yi's youngest daughter (by his second wife) married a son of the Singapore multimillionaire K. C. Lee (Li Kuang-ch'ien, q.v.).

Biography in Chinese




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