@jry I think making a MC in this game would be bad. Because then most of the MCs would be a dark villian straight out of hell.
Late 18th century Qing China was an extremely violent genocidal dynasty. The rabbit hole. For eg. this:
Since the MC would be sitting for the Imperial Services exam when he is in his late 20s or early 30s in the 2nd decade of the 19th century, he should know them.
He should have a view on that. And it won’t be a great view, if he supports the Qing dynasty (which should always be an option in this kind of game). Also railroading people to play as a soft-hearted “chivalrous” MC would be extremely unrealistic and unpopular.
Also not sure how many would want to play a genocidal “Great Leader” game. And how such a MC can even believe in making China a republic or democracy is beyond me.
Rather than that, I think a changing point-of-view mechanics, where you jump from character to character (famous people), where each character’s action influences the whole “spirit of the nation” which decides what the country becomes, ultimately would be a better alternative.
If I am not wrong, you were planning to do such a thing, but limited in scope and optional, aside from the main character. I would recommend you to make that the whole premise of the story.
After all, as @Bryce_Kaldwin said, one man couldn’t have changed China.
Also I think it will be easier to do because you don’t have to invest much work and time in coming up with Personality stats game mechanics. The man/woman’s personality is already known more or less from historical accounts. Only what action he undertakes in a given situation leads to the betterment/detriment of the country. And it will certainly help in the gender-choice department, because from what I understand if this game has an MC, it would have to be gender-locked if it wants to be realistic.
But, then it won’t be alternate history, which is the main thing the author wants to focus on, as far as I understand.