General Yuan Shikai had burned his bridges with both the republican and monarchist factions by this act of self-promotion. He had been the top military commander for the old empire, commanding the most powerful military forces of the late Qing Dynasty. However, when the 1911 Revolution broke out, rather than suppressing the rebels, whose ideological father was Sun Yat-sen, he made a deal with them. He would persuade the Qing Imperial court that all was lost and that they should give up power voluntarily in return for the "Articles of Favorable Treatment". In exchange for this, effectively selling out the monarchy and Qing loyalists, the republicans would make him the first President of the Republic of China. In due course, this all came about. The Empress-Dowager Longyu signed the abdication on behalf of little Puyi in 1912 and only a couple of days later Yuan Shikai became provisional President of China, being formally sworn in the following month. For many monarchists and those of and sympathetic to the Qing dynasty, Yuan Shikai took on the part of an arch-traitor who had sold out his own side for personal gain. The Qing Imperial forces had not been defeated outright after all, no rebel mobs had stormed the Forbidden City, the entire downfall of the Great Qing Empire had been noticeably anti-climactic. Many traditionalists viewed the situation as the Qing dynasty not really losing the 'Mandate of Heaven' but as having been deceived into abandoning it.
So it was that when, the following year, he began to make his transition from President to Emperor, the republicans who had previously supported him for getting rid of the Qing Dynasty for them had all turned against him. Traditional monarchists, likewise, had little reason to welcome this new turn of events. They had not forgotten his betrayal of the Qing, many blamed him for the entire state of affairs based on the view that he could have stopped the 1911 Revolution if he had really wanted to and now they viewed his effort to make himself monarch of a new sort of Chinese monarchy in the same way that most French royalists viewed Napoleon crowning himself emperor. They viewed him as a usurper and while they would love to see the restoration of the monarchy, they certainly saw no need for Yuan Shikai as emperor. For most of the monarchists, for those who believed in the traditional imperial system, China already had an emperor and that was the young boy being kept hidden away in the Forbidden City. Immediately, even within his own camp, things began to fall apart for Yuan Shikai. The military was divided, many of his supporters abandoned him, his sons began fighting over who would be the crown prince and most foreign governments refused to recognize his change in status, preferring to wait for things to settle down.
|PuYi in 1917|
Yuan Shikai, simply had nothing really going for him. Unlike Napoleon, he had won no great battles with which to rally the country behind him. He had no 'street cred' with the republicans and most monarchists viewed him as a traitor. For the republicans, he had not triumphed over the Qing Imperial Army, he had led the Qing Imperial Army and had used a combination of warnings and promises to convince them to hand over power without a real fight. He was not a republican by natural inclination and yet he had no legitimacy as a monarchial claimant to the throne. Just as for most conservative French royalists, Napoleon would never be anything but the 'upstart Corsican usurper' there were always going to be those Manchu loyalists who would never accept him. However, while Napoleon had struck down threats to France and conquered much of Italy and won battles in Egypt before claiming the throne, Yuan Shikai had not crushed his republican rivals, defeated any foreign armies or, such as with his reaction to the Japanese, done much to revive Chinese pride and prestige. He was, mostly by his own actions, caught between two irreconcilable forces. The republicans, obviously, wanted a republic and would not have an emperor. The monarchists, on the other hand, already had an emperor and it was not Yuan Shikai.