Li Hongzhang was a prominent Qing Dynasty official and diplomat, who played a prominent role in many of the major events of late 19th century China.
Li rose to prominence as a military commander in the suppression of a number of rebellions around the 1850s or 1860s. In 1870 he was named governor-general of Zhili province, and imperial commissioner overseeing ports in the northern parts of the country. He commanded forces which helped defend the capital, and contributed suggestions as to aspects of the execution or direction of the Self-Strengthening Movement, and was dispatched on several diplomatic missions. Tianjin was made the chief site for major diplomatic negotiations taking place in China.
As tensions rose between China and Japan following the Taiwan Incident of 1871 in which a number of Miyako Islanders were killed by Taiwanese aborigines, the Japanese launched a punitive expedition to Taiwan, Li played a prominent role in meeting with Japanese official representatives, and with Ulysses S. Grant, in negotiations regarding responsibility for the incident, and competing Chinese and Japanese claims to the Ryûkyû Islands. The year 1873 saw the conclusion of the first initial treaty establishing modern diplomatic relations between China and Japan. Though the decade ended with Japan unilaterally annexing the Ryukyus despite Beijing's protests, in the end, war was avoided for the time being.
Tensions rose again in the 1880s, and diplomatic discussions between Li and Itô Hirobumi ended in both sides agreeing to inform the other if they were to again deploy troops to Korea. This manifested in 1894, when the Korean court requested Chinese aid in suppressing the Tonghak Rebellion. Li had 1500 troops sent, and informed the Japanese, who had already sent troops as well, for the same purpose. Li remained a powerful figure in the Chinese government through the Sino-Japanese War which followed. While in Shimonoseki negotiating an end to the war, Li survived an assassination attempt; he was shot, but survived, and his injuries were attended to by Julius Scriba, a German physician and professor at the Tokyo Imperial University School of Medicine.
Chop suey enjoyed a considerable boost in popularity in parts of the United States in conjunction with Li's visit to New York in 1896, when signs advertised it, likely quite erroneously, as Li's favorite food.
- Marius Jansen, China in the Tokugawa World, Harvard University Press (1992), 114.