..which stripped the field of flowers and left only weeds to grow

It is one of the truisms of government by assasination that it removes the most promising leaders from competition. This was certainly true of the period that ensued in China, which stripped the field of flowers and left only weeds to grow.

Among the early victims was thirty-one-year-old Sung Chiao-jen, a leader of the new KMT party and one of only four independent republicans remaining in [Yuan Shih-k’ai‘s] Cabinet.  This young politician had a capacity that was quite original for China – in addition to being a remarkable administrator, he was a grassroots campaigner, able to rouse popular support in the countryside, something even Dr. Sun had not attempted. Sun’s immediate circle held that peasants needed to be led for a time by an educated elite, before they could be entrusted with a more direct role in the democratic process. By comparison, the popular appeal of Sung Chiao-jen was a political phenomenon. When Yuan began his power grab, Sung Chiao-jen and the three other independent Cabinet members resigned in protest, creating a direct confrontation. On March 20, 1913, while Sung was boarding a train in Shanghai, an assassin shot him twice in the stomach. The bullets were aimed to cause the greatest agony. It took two days for him to die.

– Sterling Seagrave, The Soong Dynasty (1985)

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