It's been a long while. Apologies, here's the next major update to The Manchurian Candidate.
The Xianhui Emperor, born Yuzhang of the Aisin Gioro Royal house, is the incumbent Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and has reigned since his coronation in 2015. Ascending upon the death of his father, the widely admired Renzun Emperor, Yuzhang's already advanced age (he was 73 on his coronation day) initially lead to speculation that the power of the Throne would recede under his tenure. However, Yuzhang quickly proved himself to be a dynamic ruler, and was able to push the Qing Parliament to enact further political reforms including a push for greater gender equality. The Emperor has also garnered praise for his handling of ethnic and cultural issues, and became the first Qing Emperor to give a speech in Russian to an assembled crowd in Harbin on Orthodox Christmas. A lifelong Buddhist, the Emperor has notably leveraged his faith to reach out to Han and Korean Qing citizens to appeal to cultural and national unity.
Emperor Xianhui's popularity would spike after his calm and resolute response to a new round of terror attacks within Hulunbuir carried out by Mongol nationalists; his diplomatic presence has also been frequently praised, and Yuzhang became the first Qing Emperor to visit the Forbidden Palace in Peking since the Manchu Restoration over a hundred years ago during a diplomatic mission to the Chinese Empire. The Emperor has also prioritized relations with the Japanese Empire and it's Co-Prosperity Sphere after a decade of slowly rising tensions, taking a more cautious approach to the Kwantung Question than his father did, conspicuously avoiding the issue altogether while abroad on diplomatic missions. Though well liked by much of the Qing population, the Emperor has already dealt with increased activity from Mongol and Korean nationalist groups in the few short years of his reign thusfar.
Though Yuzhang hails from a family well known for longevity (Puyi reigned for nearly 50 years following restoration, and the Xianhui Emperor's father lived well into his 90s), his poor health is an open secret and certain diplomatic and Imperial duties have already begun to fall to the Emperor's son, Heng Jin.
The Xianhui Emperor is the ruler of the Empire of the Great Qing, known in the rest of China as the Northern or Later Qing Dynasty. While Yuzhang is officially the 15th Qing Emperor, dating back to the rise of the Qing Dynasty hundreds of years prior, he is more widely acknowledged to be the "恢復以來的第四位皇帝," the "Huīfù yǐlái de dì sì wèi huángdì." The Fourth Emperor Since Restoration. Indeed, the Interregnum between 1911 and 1917 stands as a 'hole in history' for the Qing Empire, which ceased to be following the Xinhai Revolution and was only revived following the National Protection War and the shortly following Manchu Restoration. Even then, for over 70 years following Restoration, the Qing Empire would continue to claim the entirety of it's former holdings to the South, a claim strongly disputed by the Chinese Empire and a diplomatic sticking point between the two neighbors. The current diplomatic relationship between the two Empires would only take shape with the signing of the Inter-Dynastic Treaty in Peking, which normalized relations between the Qing and Gang Dynasties and would ease tensions in East Asia.
While the rest of the world commonly refers to the Qing Empire as Manchuria or the Manchu Kingdom, the Qing Empire is only about a fifth ethnic Manchu, and is known generally as the melting pot of the Orient. Han Chinese citizens make up a plurality of the Qing population, and represent the largest demographic group in the country, even after the Northeast Expulsions of the 50's. After the ethnic Manchu, who benefited from decades of favorable cultural policies, Mongols represent the next relatively large ethnic group, and make up a majority of citizens in the Northwest Hulunbuir Province, which is home to Mongol Nationalist and Terrorist Groups seeking reunion with the mother country to the West. Koreans and Japanese citizens have likewise played a major role in the development of Qing nationhood, and both groups are strong advocates for Qing membership in the Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, a proposal made near-impossible by what is officially acknowledged in Mukden as the Occupation of the Kwantung Territory, widely known in foreign diplomatic circles as the "Kwantung Question." The Empire's Russian population has largely been clustered in the city of Harbin ("the Moscow of Asia") but waves of immigration from the Second World War and the Japanese Invasion of the Far East have made the country's Slavic population a significant demographic bloc at the polls, making Russian ethnic parties a frequent center of political intrigue.
A rapidly developing country (though still leagues behind the Chinese Empire proper), the cosmopolitan Qing Empire boasts cultural and economic strength and a high standard of living not always common in Asia.
A common assumption when considering the 'Mandate of Heaven' is that the Mandate is lost by one Dynasty and then cleanly passed to another, yet throughout Chinese Dynastic History this is only occasionally true. During the Three Kingdoms Period, the 16 Kingdoms Period, the Northern/Southern Dynasties Period and many other Periods, ownership of the Mandate of Heaven has frequently been contested - as it is today.
In today's Modern Period, also known as the Two Dynasties Period, the Gang and Later/Northern Qing Dynasties each claim the Mandate for their own, a dispute taking the form of an actual Territorial dispute until the Inter-Dynastic Treaty was signed. Today, the two dynasties still claim the holy birthright as their own, but exist simultaneously in a slightly uneasy status quo, with the ancient concept of the Mandate having to be balanced with modern diplomatic and trade relations. Rather than live out the old tradition of a dynasty conquering another and reunifying China, the facts of geopolitics has made two Dynasties inevitable: the Qing Dynasty is militarily far too weak to conquer it's Southern neighbor, a proposition made all the more impossible by the Chinese Empire's large nuclear arsenal, and the Gang Dynasty cannot conquer Manchuria without disrupting the region's unsteady balance of power and causing war with Japan, a proposition made all the more dangerous by Japan's quite similarly sized nuclear arsenal. Thus, the Gang and Qing dynasties exist side-by-side, divided only by the Great Wall and the modern facts of geopolitics.
On the matter of inter-dynastic diplomacy, the current sovereign of the Chinese Empire, the Shiquan Emperor (born Yuan Liyang) has made great strides to further normalize relations between the Gang and Qing Dynasties. A member of the House of Yuan, Liyang ascended to the throne in 2003 after over a month of squabbling and bickering during the 2003 Chinese Succession Crisis, as the much-beloved Emperor Shan died without legitimate heirs. Throughout 2002, a huge host of illegitimate sons and pretenders angled for power, and the Emperor's sudden death at the beginning of 2003 sparked a fierce internal struggle lasting nearly 2 months.
Thus, the Shiquan Emperor entered office surrounded by new questions regarding the throne and it's power - the fierce battle for the crown had cost Liyang a great deal of goodwill and political capital, and the Emperor ascended more as a compromise pick than anything else. However, while his predecessor had been praised as a wise and reform-minded sovereign, the Shiquan Emperor has done a great deal to re-centralize power in the monarchy, consolidate political strength and remove opponents from Chinese politics. Reform edicts were swiftly overwritten, allies quickly assumed control of the Imperial Chinese Military and state press outlets were suddenly brimming with praise for the young emperor. After nearly 20 years of rule, Liyang shows no signs of slowing down.