This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.
His Excellency Li Yuan-hung, Ex President of China, was born in 1864, at Huang-pi Hsien, Hupeh. He graduated from the Peiyang Naval College in 1888, and then entered the Navy. His naval career covered seven years, and included active service in the Sino-Japanese War.
Following the war, he was engaged to supervise the construction of the Nanking Forts; and later was commissioned to undertake the modernization of Hupeh forces with the assistance of German officers. On three occasions he was sent to Japan on missions of investigation. Subsequently he became Commander of the Infantry Guards, Brigade Commander, and Divisional Commander of the Second Army Division. When the Second Division became the Twenty-first Mixed Brigade, General Li was appointed to its command, holding an appointment as Superintendent of the Cavalry, Artillery, Engineering, and Commissary Corps, with the rank of Major General.
During the Grand Manoeuvres of 1905 at Chengteh, Hunan, between the Northern and Southern Armies, General Li directed the operation of the Eighth Division. Following this, he was appointed Director of the Munition Works at the Hanyang Arsenal and Superintendent of the Military Academy. Six cruisers and four torpedo boats of the Hupeh Provincial Squadron were placed under his command.
Upon the outbreak of the Revolution of October 10th, 1911, at Wuchang, General Li was elected Tutuh (Military Governor) of Hupeh. Later he was elected Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Forces. In that capacity, he appointed Dr. Wu Ting-fang to open negotiations at Shanghai with His Excellency Tong Shao-yi, the Imperial Representative, which negotiations resulted in the abdication of the Emperor Hsuan Tung and the establishment of the Republic.
In January 1912, General Li was elected Provisional Vice-President of the Republic of China. At the same time he was appointed to act concurrently as Chief of General Staff and Military Governor of Hupeh and Kiangsi; and awarded the Grand Order of Merit. October 7th, 1913, he was formally elected Vice-President by the First Regular Parliament of China, and proceeded to Peking to assume his duties, holding concurrently the posts of Chief of the General Staff and Speaker of the National Council. After the death of His Excellency Yuan Shih-kai, June 6th, 1916, General Li succeeded to the Presidency.
In the following year (July 1st, 1917) an attempt was made to restore the Manchu Dynasty. President Li appointed Marshal Tuan Chi-jui as Premier, and invited His Excellency Feng Kuo-chang (who had been elected Vice-President after General Li became President to take over, temporarily, the duties of Chief Executive. When the restoration movement had been suppressed, General Li declined to resume his office, and was succeeded by His Excellency Feng Kuo-chang.
In June 1922, the members of the Old Parliament met in Tientsin and urged the reinstatement of President Li. After repeated refusals, he was finally forced to accede to the demand of the people, and to resume the Presidency. However, before proceeding to Peking to assume office, he issued a flaming denunciation of the Tuchun system, and urged that the military oligarchy, which was ruining the country, should be abolished, and that all superfluous troops should be disbanded. He then entered Peking to resume office on June 11th, 1922.
One year later, in June 1923, the entire Cabinet resigned en bloc, and refused to reconsider its resignation and resume office, although repeatedly urged to do so by President Li. Immediately following the resignation of the Cabinet, it became evident that the troops and police, in and about the capital were about to create disturbances at the instigation of a certain political party in Peking. Therefore, on June 13th, 1923, President Li sent dispatches to the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Diplomatic Corps, announcing his inability to exercise freely his executive function in Peking; and was consequently forced to depart for Tientsin. He has since interested himself in industrial and commercial enterprises, and has made large contributions toward charity.