This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.
His Excellency Chang Chi-tan, was born in 1883, at Fengjen Hsien, Chihli Province. He passed the government examinations during the Ching régime; and in 1904 received the degree of Chu-jen, equivalent to the present college degree of M.A.
Mr. Chang started his official career as a Senior Secretary of the Board of Army. Later he held the same rank on the Board of Civil Affairs. When former President Hsu Shih-chang was appointed, by the Manchu Throne, Viceroy of the Three Eastern Provinces, he made Mr. Chang his Secretary. Subsequently Mr. Chang was promoted to be councillor of the Military Training Bureau of the Three Eastern Provinces. He served concurrently as Co-Director of the Frontier Affairs Bureau of Kirin.
After the establishment of the Republic, in 1911, Mr. Chang became Secretary to President Yuan Shih-kai. Following the formation of the Military Affairs Department, plans for disbandment and military retrenchment were formed by Mr. Chang.
Mr. Chang served in Kiangsi as a Staff Officer, during the Second Revolution, in 1913; after which he served as a member of the Political Conference. Later he was appointed Taoyin of the Suiyuan District, which position he held but a short time, before he was recalled to Peking and appointed Secretary of the Cabinet, which was then headed by Marshal Tuan Chi-jui.
From that time on, Mr. Chang’s influence in Chinese political circles became more influential, daily. In January 1917, he was appointed Vice-Minister of Interior. Subsequently, he was ordered to take charge of the affairs of the same Ministry. While serving as Vice-Minister of the Interior, he concurrently held the position of Director-General of the Metropolitan Municipal Bureau.
During the European conflict, into which Japan and America had entered, the delicate position of China, as a Neutral, gradually became more difficult. The result was that the Chinese Government organized a special commission to study the various questions arising relative to China. Assured that the defeat of Germany and Austria was a foregone conclusion, Mr. Chang, as Vice-Chairman of this Comission, in face of overwhelming odds, definitely decided, and firmly insisted that it was in the best interest of China to sever diplomatic relations with, and later declare war upon, the Central Powers. Marshal Tuan Chi-jui approved, and the result was an increase of China’s prestige abroad.
In March 1918, when Marshal Tuan was re-appointed Premier, Mr. Chang was chosen to head the Secretariat of the Cabinet. Mr. Chang was always with Marshal Tuan. His service was indispensible. It was only when he opposed the convocation of the New Anfu Parliament by Marshal Tuan, that he resigned the Secretary-Generalship.
Mr. Chang was then made Councillor of the Cabinet, and of the War Participation Office, of which Marshal Tuan was Chief of the Confidential Documents Bureau. Mr. Chang observed neutrality, during the military operations between the Chihli forces and Marshal Tuan’s army, while serving as Vice-Minister of War. After the downfall of the Anfu Party, and the re-election of General Chin Yun-peng as Premier, Mr. Chang was appointed Acting Minister of Interior. He acted concurrently as Director of the Metropolitan Municipal Bureau.
In 1920, Mr. Chang was transferred to head the Ministry of Communications, when Dr. W.W. Yen was Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Washington Conference was then in session. Dr. Yen, greatly appreciating the ability and statesmanship of Mr. Chang, constantly consulted with him, and sought his advice in all important questions brought forward by China, in that Conference.
In 1923, Mr. Chang was elected Chairman of the International Loans Bureau, a semi-government organ; and in 1924, he was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Financial Readjustment Commission, of which Dr. W.W. Yen was the Head. Mr. Chang has been awarded the Fourth Order of Merit. He is a very able man, and is considered one of the most capable officials in China.
A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925). 47.