Yuan Shikai (Chinese: 袁世凱; pinyin: Yuán Shìkǎi; 16 September 1859 – 6 June 1916) was a Chinese military and government official who rose to power during the late Qing dynasty. He tried to save the dynasty with a number of modernization projects including bureaucratic, fiscal, judicial, educational, and other reforms, despite playing a key part in the failure of the Hundred Days' Reform. He established the first modern army and a more efficient provincial government in North China in the last years of the Qing dynasty before the abdication of the Xuantong Emperor, the last monarch of the Qing dynasty, in 1912. Through negotiation, he became the first official president of the Republic of China in 1912.
This army and bureaucratic control were the foundation of his autocratic rule as the first formal President of the Republic of China. He was frustrated in a short-lived attempt to restore hereditary monarchy in China, with himself as the Hongxian Emperor (Chinese: 洪憲皇帝). His death shortly after his abdication formalized the fragmentation of the Chinese political system and the end of the Beiyang government as China's central authority.
Yuan is an extremely controversial figure in Chinese history. Despite his attempts at modernization throughout the country, ultimately he is seen as a power-hungry strongman who sought autocratic control of the country for himself and the military and whose reforms mainly benefited allies and the elite rather than the citizens. What's more, his attempts to restored the Imperial era of China only led to an increasing amount of chaos throughout the country as the de facto control of the country fell to regional warlords such as Zhang Zuolin and Duan Qirui rather than the central Republican government, leaving it ripe for a Japanese invasion.
He is often compared to Xi Jinping.