Post by ieshima on May 27, 2020 12:23:09 GMT -5
It is indeed strange to think of providence as a man. The divine power, the Heavenly Mandate once believed by my ancestors and those who ruled before them become flesh and blood. Such ideas are perhaps quaint crutches to fall upon when it is difficult to understand or explain how events occurred. I myself, now at the twilight of my reign, having long ago given up such notions as rather foolhardy endeavors to be told in stories and poems. But even I, with long decades of experience, with the finest education in both the East and the West, find myself falling upon those same crutches to explain the impossibility that became reality. For, on the actions of one man, history chose a different path.
-From Emperor to Citizen, The Autobiography of Zaitian Guangxu, Peking Printing House, 1953
Tianjin, Imperial China, September 20th, 1898
The evening rain pattered softly on the roof of the building, doing little to cut the fading heat of the day as the sun hung low over the city. The tea had long grown cold, the cups robbed of their warmth by the air around them. It was replaced by tension, for the meeting taking place had not gone as expected and the fate of the empire hung in the balance.
Ronglu, Grand Secretary, Overseer of the Ministry of Justice, Secretary of Imperial Defense, Governor General of Zhili Province, High Minister of Trade and Favored of Empress Dowager Cixi, stared across the table at the man he once considered a friend. It was a foolish mistake on his part, he reasoned quietly. He was born of the Guwalgiya clan under the Plain White Banner, one of the highest families in empire. His clan held ties to the Imperial dynasty, consorts to divine blood since the time of the Ming. It was an unreasonable fault to have befriended the son of a minor, rural clan from Henan. No, he realized, it was disgraceful to have even become associated with a man who failed the Examinations not once, but twice!
“What you have said, Grand Secretary, is worrying.” Stated his acquaintance. “For it has confirmed much of what I have found on my own.” The bald general sipped from his cooling tea. “There are indeed elements of the court who are threatening the Empire. Many of them in positions of power, in positions of influence. They seek to undermine the strength of our people for their own gains.” The cup clinked on the saucer. “They must be stopped.”
“Then you understand what must be done?” Asked Ronglu, between his own sips, the cold tea having gone bitter. A poor choice of leaves, most likely cheap ones. A shame. Thankfully, the chilled drink helped counter the humid air that surrounded them in sweaty embrace. “Your army is the best in Empire. It would ensure our success.”
“Yes. The Emperor’s reforms are failing. He is attempting too much too quickly, and he shall fail.” The taste of cheap tea was still on his tongue. Longjing, perhaps. There was a poor harvest of that variety recently, his compatriot must have acquired some of it by mistake. He pursed his lips, trying to drive it away as the general finished his own. Maybe more honey with the next cup. “So you will help?” He asked, as the servant filed the empty porcelain with the steaming pale drink.
The general gave a slight smile, his eyes not quiet matching the expression. “My men are readying to leave as we speak. By morning the capital will be secure.” Ronglu fumbled slightly with the honey spoon as he replied, “Then I shall travel with you. Tomorrow will see our Empire restored.” Good man, seeing the way the fates lit for them.
Both men raised their cups in salute to each other. “For the Empress.” Ronglu stated, drinking deeply.
His counterpart nodded, saying nothing as he followed suit and drained his cup.
They stood, pins and needles running down Ronglu’s legs as he stretched them awake, the sudden rush of trapped blood setting the room spinning as the servant quietly gathered the tea set. That tea must have been very bad indeed, he thought as his stomach rolled. The older man moved to join his new ally by the window, only for his leg to give out on the first step. Yelping was not a very dignified sound to make, even if it did capture the pain of his shin meeting the chair on the way down
“Our Empire is troubled indeed, Grand Secretary.” Murmured the general, ignoring his sudden collapse in favor of looking out over the city. “Corruption and rot infest it to the core. We remain stagnant as the world moves away from us.” The servant whispered from the room, not helping as he struggled to his knees. “The Emperor’s attempts to fight against it will fail without help. He does not have the power to see them through.” Ronglu fell to all fours, his attempt to stand failing as the contents of his stomach emptied onto the floor. “What did you do?” He panted, spitting bile from his lips.
“Poison. From Nepal. An excellent choice, as you can tell.”
“The tea?” He hissed, as the feeling of numbness washed over him. “You poisoned yourself too?”
“The honey.” The general replied, not looking away from the balcony. “As I said, corruption, rot and stagnation. It is best if it gets cut out quickly.” Ronglu collapsed, his strength failing as the poison spread. “Tomorrow I will secure the capital in the name of the Emperor. Your coup will fail. His reforms will succeed. Our people will be led into a new golden age, under our guidance.”
He couldn’t move his hands! He couldn’t move at all! The light was fading rapidly, and not because of the setting sun. His breaths came in short, sharp gasps, each failing to give the air that he needed to live. “It is time for change, Ronglu. I am sorry, truly. But there is no place for you anymore. May the Jade Emperor welcome you to his court.”
The old man gave one last gasp, and then lay still. Yuan Shikai ignored his former friend’s demise, and instead looked down into the courtyard of the garrison. His men, over 7,000 of them, all trained to the exacting standards of the Western powers, bustled hurriedly from one place to another in preparation of their march. Tomorrow they would storm the Summer Palace and capture the Empress Dowager and her coconspirators. The Emperor would remain on the Dragon Throne and China would take its rightful place in the world.
Excerpts from Year of the Earth Dog, An Examination of Modern China’s First Year, Chapter 15: The Fall of Change
The sudden rapid social and political upheavals sparked from the Guangxu Emperor’s reforms had the unintended consequences of turning General Shikai into the kingmaker who would decide the fate of the Empire. His iron control over the reformed and modernized New Army stationed in the critical port city of Tianjin, less than an hour’s journey by train from Peking, meant that his support of either side in the growing conflict would all but assure their victory. Because of this, both the Loyalists and the Conservatives made increasingly desperate overtures to sway him to their side. Interestingly, the final attempt made by the Conservatives would lead to their downfall.
Hoping to finally guarantee the support of the critical wild card that the New Army represented, Grand Secretary Ronglu, close advisor and confidant of the Empress Dowager and defacto head of the dissatisfied elements of the court, traveled from Peking to Tianjin on the evening of the 20th of September, 1898, due to communications from the General suggesting of his support of the Conservative faction. In reality, Shikai had already declared his loyalty to the Emperor, and seized the opportunity presented by Ronglu’s journey to assassinate the Grand Secretary before beginning his march on Peking. The fate of Ronglu cannot be understated, as the successful political maneuvering he had done in order to ensure his near total command over the Conservatives meant that his subsequent death resulted in an almost complete paralyzation of the rebellious faction at the most critical moment in Chinese history.
The sudden arrival of 7,000 highly trained and modernized soldiers loyal to the Emperor on the grounds of the Forbidden City was an unprecedented and unexpected move. Many of the plotters were unaware of the shift in power right up until the moment they were dragged out of their offices, palaces, and quarters at rifle point. A brief engagement between the Loyalist New Army forces and a segment of the Conservatively aligned Kansu Braves at the gates of the Summer Palace, the home of the Empress Dowager, represented the only escalation of the otherwise bloodless takeover. Her capture and subsequent imprisonment in a heavily guarded palace within the Forbidden City, as well as the beheadings of several of the more influential members of her faction, signified the end of anti-reformist control over the Empire.
While the direct threat to the Guangxu Emperor had been largely dealt with, there still existed problems within and without the capital. Many of the court eunuchs, whose roles largely consisted of very little work in exchange for positions of influence, power, a hefty salary and access to conveniently pocket-sized items of immense worth, had openly supported the Empress Dowager as one of the Emperors reforms aimed to curtail much of their ill-earned authority. An attempt by one of the more courageous, or foolhardy, of their number to strangle the sovereign in his sleep was answered by the mass beheading of several hundred of his fellows, with the punishments of the survivors ranging from blinding to the relatively lucky prospect of permanent banishment to the freezing mountains of Tibet. Shikai personally oversaw the administration of the fate dealt to the failed assassin, the details of which are perhaps best left as thankfully unconfirmed, though very gruesome, rumors.
Unfortunately, the massively influential and intensely conservative Eight Banners would remain a long-lasting thorn in the side of the Reformist’s efforts. Normally the eight power blocks could be played off one another due to the inherent hatred that five centuries of competition created. However, the danger that the reforms posed to their traditional authority had successfully accomplished what no ruler could ever hope to achieve, that being the unification of the Banners against an outside threat. With the calcified giant that they represented posing a problem that even the New Army could not handle, the Loyalists carefully sidestepped around the prospect of an immediate confrontation and conceded that, yes, the clans’ long history of mostly suspect loyalty and largely dubious service to the Dragon Throne did, in fact, entitle them to certain exceptions under the new reforms.
The possibility of a catastrophic civil war being kicked slightly further down the road, efforts were made to reinforce the Emperor’s partially modified, no longer quite as comprehensive and now rather porous reforms, the first of which being the simple task of converting the thoroughly gutted Imperial Court into a functioning constitutional monarchy. Four months, three more assassination attempts, one peasant revolt, and an abortive invasion made by Imperial Russia into Northern Hebei being met by a General Shikai who was completely done trying to be civil later, the first elections under the new Imperial Constitution were held.
The subsequent charges of voter fraud, ballot stuffing, destruction of at least two voting halls and threats of bodily harm against those who complained of the presence of New Army soldiers overseeing the collection of ballots are unconfirmed.
Needless to say, few were surprised by the election of Yuan Shikai to the position of Grand Secretary. The changes, appointments and decisions made by the former general are among the most influential, and controversial, in the history of the Empire. Chief among them being Order 89903, now known as the Modern Military Bill, calling for the complete and total modernization of the Chinese armed forces. This bill authorized the hiring of foreign advisors from the Western powers, the construction or expansion of five arsenals, the appointment of General Wang Yingkai as Secretary of the Army, as well the expansion and modernization of the Jiangnan Shipyard and the creation of a modern naval academy at Shanghai staffed by Western advisors, all being overseen by the newly appointed Secretary of the Navy Sa Zhenbing…
Game Information and Set Up:
In the late summer of 1898, the Guangxu Emperor initiated a series of reforms with the intention of westernizing China along similar lines to that of the Japanese Meiji Restoration. These reforms, had they succeeded, would have ended the calcified Confucian Examinations, modernized the Chinese armed forces, revolutionized Chinese industry, implemented nationwide education, and established a constitutional monarchy like that of Great Britain. They failed. Corrupt officials, with everything to lose if the Emperor continued his reforms, persuaded Empress Dowager Cixi and her ‘confidant,’ Grand Secretary Ronglu, to stage a coup d’état against the Emperor in order to undo his progress.
The Emperor and his supporters were aware of the plots existence and sought the aid of General Yuan Shikai, with his modernized army, to preempt the coup and imprison the plotters. Shikai was to kill Ronglu and then capture the Empress and the remaining conspirators. Instead he betrayed the Emperor, meeting with the Grand Secretary in secret and revealing the Emperor’s knowledge of the attempt to overthrow him. The Emperor lived out the rest of his life as a figurehead while Empress Dowager Cixi and Yuan Shikai controlled the Empire in his name. He was poisoned by the Empress the day before her own death to ensure he would never take the throne again.
But what if this never happened?
Dragons Roar is a Narrative After-Action Report of Rule the Waves 2 set in an Imperial China where Yuan Shikai remained loyal to the Guangxu Emperor. Utilizing a modified version of the Chin China custom nation and starting from the Point of Divergence, September 20th 1898, and running forwards hopefully to the 1955 end date, I will attempt to answer the question of how the existence of a resurgent, modernized China could have shaped the world.
This AAR will be using a modified version of the Chin China Custom nation. Below is a list of all the changes made to the game in order to make this happen, with the minor ones first:
General Name Changes and Graphical Tweaks: Changed the name of the nation in all AAR writings from the Romanized ‘Chin’ to the more accurate ‘Qing’, still pronounced the same. Changed the Leader’s title from ‘Empress Dowager’ to ‘Grand Secretary’, for obvious reasons. Changed the national turret style from ‘neutral 1’ to ‘German 2’, to reflect the fact that most of China’s important early ships came from German yards. Reworked the names of battleships to be Chinese provinces and added a list of Chinese dragons to serve as names for battlecruisers. Names for armoured and heavy cruisers have been changed to province capitals and protected, scout and light cruisers have been changed to defunct towns and cities. Names for destroyers are historical names for Chinese gunboats, corvettes, frigates and destroyers.
Added oil to the Liaotung Peninsula Province: Some of the largest oil fields in the world are located in Manchuria, now known as Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang. While Manchuria is not a map location in game, the Liaotung peninsula, in Liaoning province, is close enough and has its own real-world oil deposits. Yes, this is a very convenient location for oil to be, but it is accurate.
Adjusted National Traits: Traits for the nation are:
Changes have been made to reflect the very tumultuous nature of the China at this time (Autocracy, Bombastic and Poor Education have all been turned on) as well as the addition of Inconsistent Naval policy, which is a straightforward trait to give to a nation that bought ships from France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain, America and Austria-Hungary. These negative traits have been tempered by the addition of Delayed Economic Growth, which begins sometime around 1916. This was done for two reasons: One, it lessens the pain that all the negative traits have created, and two, the Chinese economy really did take off in the late 1920’s. This was mainly because the nominally Republican (read, dictatorial) government at the time was finally able to start modernizing the nation as a whole. I’m just jumpstarting that growth a bit.
Added Research Advantages and Bonus Techs: Gave China a research advantage in ‘Light forces and Torpedo Warfare’ as well as 600 ton and 700 ton DD bonus techs to reflect the fact that for close to six decades the only ships that China built domestically were destroyers and gunboats, and they got pretty good at it too. Also gave China a research advantage for ‘Naval Aviation, Lighter than Air’, mainly because I was unable to give them the advantage in armored trains that they historically got from Germany, Austria-Hungary, and White Russia post WWI.
Note: No changes have been made to dockyard size, budget, or the models of guns available, as these are surprisingly accurate to the historical situation China was in at the time.
I will be using Version 1.20 of Rule the Waves 2.
Fleet size will be set to Super Large, Historical resources is on, Research Rate is set to 70 (I find that the normal tech progression is far too fast), Maximum Airbase Size is set to 100 and Manual Legacy fleet is active.
I have made it a personal rule that I must start my legacy fleet with the five protected cruisers, the two ship Hai Qi class from Britain and three ship Hai Yung class from Germany, that China had historically ordered prior to the Point of Divergence, replicated as closely as possible in the Ship Designer.
For those of you wondering what happened to my Confederate AAR on the original forum, I have posted an explanation in that thread, but in short: I lost the drive that had the AAR on it, it will hopefully be rewritten on the RtW2 forum, until then enjoy a new AAR set in the amazing clusterf*ck that is late imperial China.
That seems to cover everything. Shall we begin?