Biography in English

Wang I-t'ang (6 October 1878-September 1946), political associate of Yuan Shih-k'ai and Tuan Ch'i-jui who later served on the Hopei-Chahar political council. Wang was among the first of the Peiyang politicians to cooperate with the Japanese in 1937. He served as minister of relief and later as chairman of the Japanese-sponsored government in north China. In 1946 Wang was tried and executed for treason.

Hofei, Anhwei, was the birthplace of Wang I-t'ang. He was the second son of Wang Hsiyuan (d. 1907; T. Tse-chai) and the younger brother of Wang Chih-yü. After receiving a traditional education in the Chinese classics, Wang I-t'ang passed the examinations for the chü-jen degree in 1903 and achieved the chinshih degree in 1904. He then went to Japan, where he received military and legal training. Upon his return to China in 1907, he came to the attention of Hsu Shih-ch'ang (q.v.), the governor general of the Three Eastern Provinces, who appointed him to the military staff in Fengtien. Wang rose to the rank of brigade commander and served for a time in the Kirin military training headquarters.

In 1909 Wang I-t'ang was selected to accompany Tai Hung-tz'u, an imperial commissioner, on a courtesy mission to Russia. With the completion of that mission, Wang went to Germany for additional military training. He toured Europe and the United States before returning to China late in 1910. In March 1911 he became military councillor at the Kirin military training headquarters, with the rank of expectant tao-t'ai. At the time of the 1911 revolution Wang, on the recommendation of Hsu Shih-ch'ang, joined Yuan Shih-k'ai's secretariat. And when Yuan succeeded Sun Yat-sen in 1912 as provisional president of the Chinese republic, Wang became his political adviser and a lieutenant general in the army. At Peking, Wang founded a college of law, the Fa-cheng ta-hsueh, which later became the Chung-hua ta-hsueh. Wang I-t'ang soon became an active organizerandofficialof the Kung-ho-tang [republican party]. In the parliamentary elections held early in 1913 he became a senator representing Tibet. Because the Kung-ho-tang emerged a poor second to the Kuomintang in these elections, it merged with the Min-chu-tang [democratic party] and the T'ung-i-tang [united party] to form the Chin-pu-tang [progressive party]. This party, which sided with Yuan Shih-k'ai in his struggle with the Kuomintang and supported his plans for the Reorganization Loan from an international banking consortium, was led by such men as Liang Ch'i-ch'ao, Chang Chien, Wu T'ing-fang, T'ang Hualung (qq.v.), and Wang I-t'ang. The Chin-putang, however, was still a minority party. The Kuomintang dominated the constitution drafting committee, whose work was of greatest concern to Yuan Shih-k'ai. Wang I-t'ang and the other Chin-pu-tang representatives on the committee could not control its deliberations. The failure of the so-called second revolution (see Li Lieh-chun) provided Yuan with a pretext for ordering the dissolution of the Kuomintang and the expulsion of its members from the Parliament. The speakers of both chambers on 13 November 1913 announced the suspension of the Parliament for want of a quorum. On 10 January 1914 Yuan formally proclaimed its dissolution.

Yuan Shih-k'ai then organized the Political Conference (Cheng-chih hui-i), which, in turn, convened a conference on the provisional constitution. It was composed of 60 members representing Peking, various provinces, and the National Federation of Chambers of Commerce. Wang I-t'ang was elected to the conference as a representative of Anhwei province. It convened on 18 February 1914 and completed its work on 29 April. The resulting Hsin yueh-fa [new provisional constitution] incorporated all of Yuan's recommendations and gave the president virtually dictatorial powers. The Hsin yueh-fa, in effect from 1 May 1914 to 12 December 1915, provided for a unicameral legislature called the Li-fa yuan. Prior to its establishment, the Ts'an-cheng yuan [council of state], an advisory body created by Yuan, would replace the Political Conference. The appointment of Wang I-t'ang to the Ts'ancheng yuan was announced on 26 May 1914. In August 1915 Wang I-t'ang resigned his Peking post to become governor of Kirin. By this time, Yuan Shih-k'ai's plans to become monarch were well advanced. In December, Wang became a baron in the new order. Soon afterwards, however, Yuan was forced to abandon his plans. On 22 April 1916 Tuan Ch'i-jui (q.v.) was appointed premier at Peking in an attempt to salvage Yuan's regime. Wang I-t'ang was recalled to Peking as minister of the interior. At Peking, he also founded Kuo-min and Chung-hua universities. Wang resigned from office after Yuan Shih-k'ai's death in June, and in the autumn he went to Europe. He returned to China in April 1917. When a new provisional National Assembly was convened at Peking in November, Wang was elected its speaker.

On 7 March 1918 Wang I-t'ang and Hsu Shu-cheng (q.v.) established the Anfu Club to influence the election of the new Parliament in June. Elections were held in only 14 provinces —the others did not participate either because of opposition to Tuan Ch'i-jui or because of civil war conditions. The Anfu Club won an overwhelming victory, and when the new Parliament convened on 12 August, Wang I-t'ang was elected speaker of the National Assembly. Thereafter, Wang worked to manipulate the National Assembly in favor of Tuan's policies, and he represented Peking for a time in the unsuccessful peace negotiations with representatives of Sun Yat-sen at Shanghai. The struggle for power between the Chihli clique of Ts'ao K'un and Wu P'ei-fu (qq.v.) and the Anhwei clique of Tuan Ch'i-jui finally led to open warfare in July 1920. The Chihli clique joined forces with Chang Tso-lin (q.v.) to administer a decisive defeat to Tuan, who resigned the premiership. Wang I-t'ang was removed from his posts, and orders were issued for his arrest on 29 July. The Anfu Club was dissolved on 4 August. Wang fled to Japan, where he remained until November 1924, when Tuan Ch'i-jui became provisional chief executive at Peking. Upon his return to China, Wang was appointed governor of Anhwei and director for the readjustment of military affairs. In 1925, however, he was compelled to give up the governorship by Chang Tso-lin. Wang retired to Tientsin, where he devoted his time to the study of Buddhism. When the Northern Expedition reached Peking in 1928, his arrest was ordered. He then moved to the Japanese concession in Tientsin.

In 1931 Wang I-t'ang was plucked from obscurity to become a member of the Peiping political affairs council. In 1935 he and other former Peiyang politicians received membership in the Hopei-Chahar political council, which functioned as a buffer between the National Government at Nanking and the Japanese militarists in north China. After the Sino- Japanese war began, the Japanese sponsored the establishment of a puppet government at Peiping on 14 December 1937. Wang and many of his council colleagues moved smoothly into the new regime.

Wang I-t'ang belonged to the small group of men who controlled the Japanese-sponsored government at Peiping through interlocking membership in all its important organs. He was a member of the executive and legislative councils and minister of relief. In 1938 he participated in the conference in Dairen at which representatives of the Peiping and Nanking puppet governments came to an agreement on the means of cooperation between the two regimes. When the Nanking government headed by Wang Ching-wei (q.v.) was established in 1940, an attempt was made to give an appearance of unity by appointing Wang I-t'ang to the presidency of the examination yuan at Nanking, but he never assumed that office. In March 1940 he became chairman of the Peiping regime (then known as the north China political council), and director of its bureau of the interior. He held the chairmanship until February 1943, when he resigned in favor of Chu Shen. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, Wang I-t'ang was arrested. He was imprisoned in Peiping and was tried and executed for treason in September 1946. Wang I-t'ang's writings include a book on poetry, Chin-ch 'uan-shih-lou shih hua, of 1933; a monograph on the Shanghai concessions, Shanghai tsu-chieh wen-t'i, of 1924; and a travel book on Japan, Tung-yu chih-lueh, of 1934.

Biography in Chinese

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