SUN YAT-SEN AND REPUBLICAN CHINA

SUN YAT-SEN


Sun Yat-sen in 1924

The main figure in the revolutionary movement that overthrew imperial rule was Sun Yat-sen (1866--1925), who, along with other republican political leaders, endeavored to establish a parliamentary democracy. They were thwarted by warlords with imperial and quasi-democratic pretensions who resorted to assassination, rebellion, civil war, and collusion with foreign powers (especially Japan) in their efforts to gain control.

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “By 1900 the leading revolutionary in China was Sun Yatsen (1866-1925), a man very different from previous Chinese reformers. Born to a peasant family in the Guangzhou region, Sun was educated in missionary schools in Hawaii and Hong Kong and developed a world view as much Western as Confucian. In 1894 he founded his first revolutionary organization, and by 1905 he was made head of the Revolutionary Alliance (Tongmenghui) in Japan by representatives from Chinese secret societies, overseas Chinese groups, and Chinese students abroad. After sixteen years of traveling, planning, writing and organizing, his dreams were realized when the revolution of 1911 led to the end of the Qing dynasty. He gave up the presidency in favor of General Yuan Shikai, whose death in 1916 led to an era of local warlord rule. Sun died in 1925. His "three principles of revolution" were first articulated for the Revolutionary League and later formed the foundation for the Nationalist (Kuomintang) Party. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]

Ignored by the Western powers and in charge of a southern military government with its capital in Guangzhou, Sun Yatsen eventually turned to the new Soviet Union for inspiration and assistance. The Soviets obliged Sun and his Guomindang (Nationalist Party). Soviet advisers helped the Guomindang establish political and military training activities. But Moscow also supported the new Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which was founded by Mao Zedong (1893---1976) and others in Shanghai in 1921. The Soviets hoped for consolidation of the Guomindang and the CCP but were prepared for either side to emerge victorious. The struggle for power in China began between the Guomindang and the CCP as both parties also sought the unification of China.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen was a the reformer and revolutionary who spent his life trying to bring down the corrupt Qing dynasty and replace it with a democratic government. He is revered by both Communist mainlanders and Nationalist Taiwanese as the father of 20th century China. Sun Yat-sen's picture is on Chinese banknotes.

Sun, whose original name was Sun Wen, advocated "the Three Principles of the People: nationalism, democracy and the people's livelihood." Regarding nationalism, Sun aimed to guarantee people's political rights, including the right to vote, establish parliamentary democracy and ensure the separation of administrative, legislative and judicial powers.

Good Websites and Sources on Early 20th Century China Sun Yat-sen Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Time Asia time.com ; My Grandfather Sun Yat-sen Asia Week ; May 4th Movement Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Chiang Kai-shek Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times Obituary New York Times ; Madame Chiang Kai-shek Wikipedia article Wikipedia ;

Good Websites and Sources on Empress Dowager Cixi: Court Life During the Time of Empress Dowager Cixi etext.virginia.edu; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Cixi’s Luxurious Life xinhuanet.com ; Book on Cixi royalty.nu; The Last Emperor Puyi Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Time Asia time.com ; Hartford Courant hartford-hwp.com/archives; Puyi Biography royalty.nu/Asia

Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge; 5) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; Links in this Website: Main China Page factsanddetails.com/china (Click History)

Books: 1) The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China by Julia Lovell (Picador, 2011); 2) China: Alive in the Bitter Sea by Fox Butterfield; 3) China: A New History by John K. Fairbank; 4) China's Imperial Past: An Introduction to Chinese History by Charles O. Hucker; 5) In Search of Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence; 6) The Chan's Great Continent: China to Western Minds by Jonathan Spence (Norton, 1998). 7) Cambridge History of China multiple volumes (Cambridge University Press). 8) Shark Fins and Millet is an excellent depiction of China in the 1930s by Polish-born journalist Ilona Ralf Sues, who met up with Big-Eared Du and Madame Chiang Kai-shek. You can help this site a little by ordering your Amazon books through this link: Amazon.com.

Sun Yat-sen's Early Life


17-year-old Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen was born in Guangdong province on November 12, 1866 into a farming family. He studied for a few years in Chinese schools. At the age of 13 he moved to Hawaii, where his elder brother had emigrated. He studied there at a boarding school run by the Anglican Church. Sun Yat-sen later moved to Hong Kong. He spent more than a decade there, was baptized as a Christian and graduated from the the Hong Kong College of Medicine in 1892. He practiced medicine briefly in 1893.

Sun was guided partly by his Christian beliefs. As a teenager he spoke out against China’s slavery, ancestor worship and idolatry. In a speech in 1912 he said "the essence" of the revolution "could be found largely in the teachings of the church." Sun was a patriot who wanted to make China strong and self reliant using both modern technology and China’s human and natural resources. He was also a great admirers of rebels who formed secret societies and risked their life fighting against the Qing dynasty.

In 1905, Sun developed a coherent guiding philosophy that became the guiding ideology for the secret society through which he carried out his activities. The "Three Principals of the People" combined elements of nationalism, socialism and democracy and asserted that government should be "of the People, by the People and for the People." His goals were first to end the Qing dynasty, kick out the foreign occupiers and develop a government with a strong central leadership based on socialist principals. Democracy would emerge, he believed, when China was ready for it.

Sun's political philosophy was conceptualized in 1897, first enunciated in Tokyo in 1905, and modified through the early 1920s. It centered on the Three Principles of the People (san min zhuyi): "nationalism, democracy, and people's livelihood." The principle of nationalism called for overthrowing the Manchus and ending foreign hegemony over China. The second principle, democracy, was used to describe Sun's goal of a popularly elected republican form of government. People's livelihood, often referred to as socialism, was aimed at helping the common people through regulation of the ownership of the means of production and land. [Source: The Library of Congress]

Sun Yat-sen's Early Political Activity


Sun and some early political friends

Sun operated out of Hong Kong, then a center of revolutionary activity against the imperial government. He led his first insurrection against the Qing dynasty in 1895 in southeast China. It failed and at the request of the government, Sun was kicked out of Hong Kong by the British. He sought refuge in Japan.

Sun Yat-sen organized a secret revolutionary society and led or inspired periodic uprisings in southern China, all of which failed due to poor planning and lack of weapons. Sun himself narrowly avoided capture and certain execution several times.

Sun spent much of his life in exile---in Hawaii, Japan and Southeast Asia---with a big price on his head. He traveled widely in Europe and the United States trying to secure money and drum up support for his cause and his uprisings. Sun was very persuasive and committed to his goals. He was able to raise large amount of money, mostly from overseas Chinese in North America and Southeast Asia.

Sun Yatsen’s "Three People's Principles"


Sun's family

Sun Yat-sen’s "Three People's Principles of of Revolution" were first articulated for the Revolutionary League and later formed the foundation for the Nationalist (Kuomintang) Party. They include: “1) Nationalism. Finding evidence of proto-nationalism throughout Chinese history, Sun believed that he had enlarged and modernized the principle to include opposition to foreign imperialism and a firm sense of China as an equal among the nations of the world. He also addressed the need for self-determination for China's minorities. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]

“1) Nationalism. Finding evidence of proto-nationalism throughout Chinese history, Sun believed that he had enlarged and modernized the principle to include opposition to foreign imperialism and a firm sense of China as an equal among the nations of the world. He also addressed the need for self-determination for China's minorities. <|>

“2) Democracy. Finding important Chinese precedents for the notion of the voice of the people, Sun introduced the new notions of a republican government and a constitution as the best way to articulate and protect people's rights. Sun advocated popular elections, initiative, recall and referendum, but he felt that China was not yet ready for full democracy, requiring instead a preparatory period of political tutelage. <|>

“3) Livelihood. Sun believed in both economic egalitarianism and economic development. He sketched out a complicated plan to equalize land holdings and ensure that taxation was both widely and fairly implemented. Dedicated to industrialization but concerned about China's difficulty in securing investment capital and also about social unrest, Sun advocated nationalization of key industries as the best way to ensure both economic development and political stability. <|>

“Three Stages of Revolution" (1918) by Sun Yat-sen

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “Sun Yat-sen hoped to make his Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, into a strong organization that could bring coherence, unity, and effective government back to China. In doing so, Sun prepared statements of his ideology and goals. A Program of National Reconstruction, published in 1918, was part of that project. This document drew on statements of Sun’s revolutionary thought going back to the period before the 1911 Revolution. Thus, some of the rhetoric addresses issues (such as the need to overthrow the Manchus) that had been resolved by 1918. [Source:Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]


Sun in Japan in 1900

In “Selections from A Program of National Reconstruction: “The Three Stages of Revolution” (1918) Sun Yat-sen wrote: “The Three Phases of National Reconstruction As for the work of revolutionary reconstruction, I have based my ideas on the current of world progress and followed the precedents in other countries. I have studied their respective advantages and disadvantages, their accomplishments and failures. It is only after mature deliberation and thorough preparation that I have decided upon the Program of Revolution and defined the procedure of the revolution in three stages. The first is the period of military government; the second, the period of political tutelage; and the third, the period of constitutional government. [Source: “Selections from A Program of National Reconstruction: “The Three Stages of Revolution” (1918) By Sun Yat-sen, from “Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century”, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 328-330; Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]

“The first stage is the period of destruction. During this period martial law is to be enforced. The revolutionary army undertakes to overthrow the Manchu tyranny, to eradicate the corruption of officialdom, to eliminate depraved customs, to exterminate the system of slave girls, to wipe out the scourge of opium, superstitious beliefs, and geomancy, to abolish the obstructive likin trade tax and so forth. <|>

“The second stage is a transitional period. It is planned that the provisional constitution will be promulgated and local self-government promoted to encourage the exercise of political rights by the people. The xian, or district, will be made the basic unit of local self-government and is to be divided into villages and rural districts — all under the jurisdiction of the district government. <|>

“The moment the enemy forces have been cleared and military operations have ceased in a district, the provisional constitution will be promulgated in the district, defining the rights and duties of citizens and the governing powers of the revolutionary government. The constitution will be enforced for three years, after which period the people of the district will elect their district officers. In respect to such self-governing units the revolutionary government will exercise the right of political tutelage in accordance with the provisional constitution. When a period of six years expires after the attainment of political stability throughout the country, the districts that have become full.fledged self-governing units are each entitled to elect one representative to form the National Assembly. The task of the assembly will be to adopt a five.power constitution and to organize a central government consisting of five branches, namely, the Executive Branch the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch, the Examination Branch, and the Control Branch [Censorate]. When the constitution is promulgated and the president and members of the National Assembly are elected, the revolutionary government will hand over its governing power to the president, and the period of political tutelage will come to an end. <|>

“The third phase is the period of the completion of reconstruction. During this period constitutional government is to be introduced, and the self-governing body in a district will enable the people directly to exercise their political rights. In regard to the district government the people are entitled to the rights of election, initiative, referendum, and recall. In regard to the national government, the people exercise the rights of suffrage, while the other rights are delegated to the representatives to the National Assembly. The period of constitutional government will mark the completion of reconstruction and the success of the revolution. This is the gist of the Revolutionary Program. <|>

Sun Yat-sen and the End of the Qing Dynasty


The Nationalist Revolution of 1911, which included the Wuchang Uprising and Railway Protection Movement, toppled the Qing dynasty. The Qing dynasty collapsed mainly due to weakness from within Qing government. Even though Sun wasn't in China when the Qing dynasty collapsed he played a part in the revolution by inspiring revolutionaries with his philosophy and putting pressure on the Qing government with the rebellion he inspired.

On October 10, 1911, seventeen provinces formed a provisional government in Nanjing. Sun was selected as its provisional leader. Realizing he needed military support Sun formed an alliance with the military leader Li Yuanhong. On January 1, 1912 Sun was sworn in as the President of the newly formed Republic of China. He established a government based on the "Three People's Principle"

Amidst the anarchy that followed the collapse of Qing Dynasty, Sun made the bold decision of transforming his revolutionary society into a mainstream political party. The result: the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party), which emerged as the dominant political party in China. The Kuomintang won in China's first ever national elections in 1913 but didn’t hold on to power for long. The republic that Sun Yat-sen and his associates envisioned evolved slowly. The revolutionists lacked an army, and the power of Yuan Shikai began to outstrip that of parliament. Yuan revised the constitution at will and became dictatorial.

Sun Yat-sen Loses Power to the Warlords


Chinese warlord Feng Yuxiang

Sun's power and charisma unfortunately was not enough to overcome the military muscle of China's divided warlords and the remnants of the Manchu army and forge China into a true nation. With the preservation of the republic taking precedence over his own ambitions, Sun relinquished power after only three months to Gen. Yuan Shih-kai, a commander in the Manchu Army who promised to get the Manchu's to surrender and install a republican government.

Yuan Shih-kai had helped Sun's Nationalists to force the Manchu abdication. Once in power Yuan reneged on his promise and set about shoring up his power by murdering political opponents, ignoring the new constitution, ruthlessly putting down local uprisings and later named himself emperor of a new dynasty.

After Yuan Shih-kai's death in 1916 the country once deteriorated into anarchy as fragmented states ruled by warlords fought for control.

Republican China and Yuan Shikai

After the death of the Empress Dowager and the abdication of Puyi, China descended into an anarchy in which a weak republican government fought for control of the country against local warlords. The predecessors of the Communist party that existed at this time consisted of discussion groups at Beijing University who argued over points in the Communist Manifesto.


Yuan Shikai

In August 1912 a new political party was founded by Song Jiaoren (1882-1913), one of Sun's associates. The party, the Kuomintang (Guomindang or KMT--the National People's Party, frequently referred to as the Nationalist Party), was an amalgamation of small political groups, including Sun's Tongmeng Hui. In the national elections held in February 1913 for the new bicameral parliament, Song campaigned against the Yuan administration, and his party won a majority of seats. Yuan had Song assassinated in March; he had already arranged the assassination of several pro-revolutionist generals. Animosity toward Yuan grew. In the summer of 1913 seven southern provinces rebelled against Yuan. When the rebellion was suppressed, Sun and other instigators fled to Japan. In October 1913 an intimidated parliament formally elected Yuan president of the Republic of China, and the major powers extended recognition to his government. To achieve international recognition, Yuan Shikai had to agree to autonomy for Outer Mongolia and Xizang. China was still to be suzerain, but it would have to allow Russia a free hand in Outer Mongolia and Britain continuance of its influence in Xizang. [Source: The Library of Congress]

“In November Yuan Shikai, legally president, ordered the Kuomintang dissolved and its members removed from parliament. Within a few months, he suspended parliament and the provincial assemblies and forced the promulgation of a new constitution, which, in effect, made him president for life. Yuan's ambitions still were not satisfied, and, by the end of 1915, it was announced that he would reestablish the monarchy. Widespread rebellions ensued, and numerous provinces declared independence. With opposition at every quarter and the nation breaking up into warlord factions, Yuan Shikai died of natural causes in June 1916, deserted by his lieutenants. [Ibid]

Sun Yat-sen, the Kuomintang and the Communists

After his ouster, Sun attempted to build a stronger political and military base. In 1914, while in Japan, he married his personal secretary, the American-educated Soong Ching-ling. She was 21 and he was 50. She held radical political views and was one of the Soong Sisters. See Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

By 1923, Sun established himself in Canton with the backing of local military and political leaders and created the National Revolutionary Army, which welcomed both Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists. He served again briefly as the president of China and desperately sought help from the Western powers who turned their backs on him because they were preoccupied with the aftermath of World War I. The Russian Bolsheviks were only willing to help out though and they infiltrated China with Communists.

Sun made a deal with Communist leader Adolfe Joffe at the Communist International on January 26, 1923 that allowed the Chinese Communist party to join the Kuomintang if they abandoned their Marxist goals and worked under Nationalist leadership. In accordance with the deal Communist party members were allowed to keep their Communist party membership and their weapons.

The Communist party at this time was relatively small. Sun reasoned he could use the Communists to help him mobilize the Chinese masses in the countryside. Sun was convinced that he could keep the Communists in line with his organization. The Soviet Union agreed to secretly supply the Kuomintang with military advisers, arms, ammunition and political advisors that helped him strengthen the Kuomintang. They also helped Sun found the Whampoa Military Academy with Chiang Kai-shek as its superintendent.

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “The Republic of China was in a shambles in 1924. The national government in Beijing was a virtually powerless prize over which warlords fought; it had no real authority over the country, which was administered (more or less) in a patchwork fashion by hundreds of independent warlords. Sun Yat-sen was in Guangzhou, working, with Soviet assistance, to turn his Kuomintang or Nationalist Party into a tightly organized Leninist political party in command of an army strong enough to defeat the warlords and reunite China. <|> [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]

Whampoa Academy


Sun and Chiang Kai-shek at the creation of Whampoa Academy

Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, “It was 1926, not long after the fall of the Qing dynasty, and much of China had been divided among warlords. In the south, leaders of the young Kuomintang mustered an army. At its head rode Chiang Kai-shek, who called to his side officers he had helped train, and together they marched north to take down the warlords, one by one. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, December 27, 2012 +++]

“The Northern Expedition was one of the first major tests for graduates of the Whampoa Military Academy, founded just two years earlier on quiet Changzhou Island, about 10 miles east of central Guangzhou, then known to the West as Canton. Mr. Chiang was the academy’s first commandant, appointed by Sun Yat-sen, the idealistic firebrand who wanted to build an army that would unite China. +++

“When Sun Yat-sen founded the Whampoa academy, his goal was to unite China and to revive China as a nation, which is exactly the same mission that Secretary Xi is on,” said Zeng Qingliu, a historian with the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences who wrote a television script for a drama series on Whampoa. “Under that goal and that mission, Chinese people from all over the world and across the country were attracted to Whampoa.” +++

“The first class at Whampoa had 600 students, 100 Communists among them, Mr. Zeng said. Prominent Russian advisers worked at the school. Zhou Enlai was the political director, and other famous Communists held posts or trained there. But the school was never under the party’s control. +++

“The Kuomintang moved it to the city of Nanjing in 1927, after a split with the Communists, and then to the southwestern city of Chengdu, after the Japanese occupied Nanjing, then known as Nanking. After the Kuomintang moved to Taiwan, they established a military academy there that they called the successor to Whampoa. But when historians speak of Whampoa, they mean the original incarnation of the school, before it moved from Guangzhou, Mr. Zeng said. Japanese bombs decimated the campus in 1938.” +++

Sun Yat-Sen Tries to Unite China and Turns to the Soviet Union for Help

Ignored by the Western powers and in charge of a southern military government with its capital in Guangzhou, Sun Yatsen eventually turned to the new Soviet Union for inspiration and assistance. The Soviets obliged Sun and his Guomindang (Nationalist Party). Soviet advisers helped the Guomindang establish political and military training activities. But Moscow also supported the new Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which was founded by Mao Zedong (1893---1976) and others in Shanghai in 1921. The Soviets hoped for consolidation of the Guomindang and the CCP but were prepared for either side to emerge victorious. The struggle for power in China began between the Guomindang and the CCP as both parties also sought the unification of China.

The May Fourth Movement helped to rekindle the then-fading cause of republican revolution. In 1917 Sun Yat-sen had become commander-in-chief of a rival military government in Guangzhou in collaboration with southern warlords. In October 1919 Sun reestablished the Kuomintang to counter the government in Beijing. The latter, under a succession of warlords, still maintained its facade of legitimacy and its relations with the West. By 1921 Sun had become president of the southern government. He spent his remaining years trying to consolidate his regime and achieve unity with the north.

Sun’s efforts to obtain aid from the Western democracies were ignored, however, and in 1921 he turned to the Soviet Union, which had recently achieved its own revolution. The Soviets sought to befriend the Chinese revolutionists by offering scathing attacks on "Western imperialism." But for political expediency, the Soviet leadership initiated a dual policy of support for both Sun and the newly established Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Soviets hoped for consolidation but were prepared for either side to emerge victorious. In this way the struggle for power in China began between the Nationalists and the Communists. [Ibid]

Necessity of Political Tutelage by Sun Yat-sen


Article by Sun Yat-sen

In another part of “Selections from A Program of National Reconstruction” Sun Yat-sen wrote: “What is meant by revolutionary reconstruction? It is extraordinary destruction and also rapid reconstruction. It differs from ordinary reconstruction, which follows the natural course of society and is affected by the trend of circumstances. In a revolution extraordinary destruction is involved, such as the extermination of the monarchical system and the overthrow of absolutism. Such destruction naturally calls for extraordinary reconstruction. [Source: “Selections from A Program of National Reconstruction: “The Three Stages of Revolution” (1918) By Sun Yat-sen, from “Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century”, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 328-330; Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]

“Revolutionary destruction and revolutionary reconstruction complement each other like the two legs of a man or the two wings of a bird. The republic after its inauguration weathered the storm of extraordinary destruction. This, however, was not followed by extraordinary reconstruction. A vicious circle of civil wars has consequently arisen. The nation is on the descendent, like a stream flowing downward. The tyranny of the warlords together with the sinister maneuvers of unscrupulous politicians is beyond control. In an extraordinary time, only extraordinary reconstruction can inspire the people with a new mind and make a new beginning of the nation. Hence the Program of Revolution is necessary. It is not to be denied that the Chinese people are deficient in knowledge. Moreover, they have been soaked in the poison of absolute monarchy for several thousand years. … What shall we do now? Men of the Yuan Shikai type argue that the Chinese people, deficient in knowledge, are unfit for republicanism. Crude scholars have also maintained that monarchy is necessary. <|>

“Alas! Even an ox can be trained to plow the field and a horse to carry man. Are men not capable of being trained? Suppose that when a youngster was entering school, his father was told that the boy did not know the written characters and therefore could not go to school. Is such reasoning logical? It is just because he does not know the characters that the boy must immediately set about learning them. The world has now come to an age of enlightenment. <|>

“Hence the growing popularity of the idea of freedom and equality, which has become the main current of the world and cannot be stemmed by any means. China therefore needs a republican government just as a boy needs school. As a schoolboy must have good teachers and helpful friends, so the Chinese people, being for the first time under republican rule, must have a farsighted revolutionary government for their training. This calls for the period of political tutelage, which is a necessary transitional stage from monarchy to republicanism. Without this disorder will be unavoidable. <|>

“Principle of Democracy" (1924) by Sun Yat-sen

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “The Republic of China was in a shambles in 1924. The national government in Beijing was a virtually powerless prize over which warlords fought; it had no real authority over the country, which was administered (more or less) in a patchwork fashion by hundreds of independent warlords. Sun Yat-sen was in Guangzhou, working, with Soviet assistance, to turn his Kuomintang or Nationalist Party into a tightly organized Leninist political party in command of an army strong enough to defeat the warlords and reunite China. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]


Letter in English by Sun Yat-sen

“As a part of the rebuilding of the Kuomintang, Sun Yat-sen gave a series of lectures on the Three People’s Principles. “The Three People’s Principles (Democracy, Nationalism, and People’s Livelihood) were the ill-defined“ideology” of the Nationalist revolution. Sun had begun articulating these three principles as a revolutionary conspirator prior to the 1911 Revolution. Now, as the leader of a political party, Sun wanted to sharpen the definitions of the Three People’s Principles and fit them to the needs of the mid-1920s.” <|>

On Separation of Sovereignty and Ability Sun Yat-sen said in his “The Principle of Democracy” lecture in 1924: “How can a government be made all.powerful? Once the government is all.powerful how can it be made responsive to the will of the people? … I have found a method to solve the problem. The method that I have thought of is a new discovery in political theory and is a fundamental solution of the whole problem. … It is the theory of the distinction between sovereignty and ability. [Source: "The Principle of Democracy" (1924) by Sun Yat-sen from “Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century”, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 323-324; Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]

“After China has established a powerful government, we must not be afraid, as Western people are, that the government will become too strong and that we will be unable to control it. For it is our plan that the political power of the reconstructed state will be divided into two parts. One is the power over the government; that great power will be placed entirely in the hands of the people, who will have a full degree of sovereignty and will be able to control directly the affairs of state — this political power is popular sovereignty. The other power is the governing power; that great power will be placed in the hands of the government organs, which will be powerful and will manage all the nation’s business — this governing power is the power of the government. If the people have a full measure of political sovereignty and the methods for exercising popular control over the government are well worked out, we need not fear that the government will become too strong and uncontrollable. Let the people in thinking about government distinguish between sovereignty and ability. Let the great political force of the state be divided into two: the power of the government and the power of the people. Such a division will make the government the machinery and the people the engineer. The attitude of the people toward the government will then resemble the attitude of the engineer toward his machine. The construction of machinery has made such advances nowadays that not only men with mechanical knowledge but even children without any knowledge of machinery are able to control it. <|>

Four Powers of the People by Sun Yat-sen

left On “The Four Powers of the People,”Sun Yat-sen said in his “The Principle of Democracy” lecture: “What are the newest discoveries in the way of exercising popular sovereignty? First there is suffrage, and it is the only method practiced throughout the so-called advanced democracies. Is this one form of popular sovereignty enough in government? This one power by itself may be compared to the earlier machines, which could move forward only but not back. The second of the newly discovered methods is the right of recall. When the people have this right, they possess the power of pulling the machine back. [Source: "The Principle of Democracy" (1924) by Sun Yat-sen from “Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century”, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 323-324; Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]

“These two rights give the people control over officials and enable them to put all government officials in their positions or to remove them from their positions. The coming and going of officials follows the free will of the people, just as the modern machines move to and fro by the free action of the engine. Besides officials, another important thing in a state is law; “with men to govern there must also be laws for governing.”1 What powers must the people possess in order to control the laws? If the people think that a certain law would be of great advantage to them, they should have the power to decide upon this law and turn it over to the government for execution. This third kind of popular power is called the initiative. If the people think that an old law is not beneficial to them, they should have the power to amend it and to ask the government to enforce the amended law and do away with the old law. This is called the referendum and is a fourth form of popular sovereignty.” <|>

1: Probably a reference to Huang Zongxi, whose writings on rulership and law Sun had reprinted and widely distributed. Only when the people have these four rights can we say that democracy is complete and only when these four powers are effectively applied can we say that there is a thoroughgoing, direct, and popular sovereignty. <|>

Five-Power Constitution by Sun Yat-sen

right On the “The Five-Power Constitution”, Sun Yat-sen said in his “The Principle of Democracy” lecture: “With the people exercising the four great powers to control the government, what methods will the government use in performing its work? In order that the government may have a complete organ through which to do its best work, there must be a five.power constitution. A government is not complete and cannot do its best work for the people unless it is based on the five.power constitution [i.e., a government composed of five branches: executive, legislative, judicial, civil service examination, and censorate]. [Source: "The Principle of Democracy" (1924) by Sun Yat-sen from “Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century”, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 323-324; Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]

“All governmental powers were formerly monopolized by kings and emperors, but after the revolutions they were divided into three groups. Thus the United States, after securing its independence, established a government with three coordinate departments. The American system achieved such good results that it was adopted by other nations. But foreign governments have merely a triple.power separation. Why do we now want a separation of five powers? What is the source of the two new features in our five.power constitution? The two new features come from old China. China long ago had the independent systems of civil service examination and censorate, and they were very effective. The imperial censors of the Manchu dynasty and the official advisers of the Tang dynasty made a fine censoring system. The power of censorship includes the power to impeach. Foreign countries also have this power, only it is placed in the legislative body and is not a separate governmental power. <|>

“The selection of real talent and ability through examinations has been characteristic of China for thousands of years. Foreign scholars who have recently studied Chinese institutions highly praise China’s old independent examination system. There have been imitations of the system for the selection of able men in the West. Great Britain’s civil service examinations are modeled after the old Chinese system, but they are limited to ordinary officials. The British system does not yet possess the spirit of the independent examination of China. In old China [however], … the powers of civil service examination and the censorate were independent of the Throne. Hence, as for the separation of governmental powers, we can say that China had three coordinate departments of government just as the modern democracies. China practiced the separation of autocratic, examination, and censorate powers for thousands of years. Western countries have practiced the separation of legislative, judicial, and executive powers for only a little over a century. However, if we now want to combine the best from China and the best from other countries and guard against all kinds of abuse, we must take the three Western governmental powers — the executive, legislative, and judicial — add to them the Chinese powers of examination and censorate and make a perfect government of five powers. Such a government will be the most complete and the finest in the world, and a state with such a government will indeed be of the people, by the people, and for the people.” <|>

Sun Yat-sen's Death

Sun's plan was to expand out of Canton and link up with supporters in northern China and unify China. In 1924, he was invited by northern military leaders for discussions in Beijing on the reunification of China. Sun was very ill when he arrived in Beijing. Doctors discovered he had malignant liver cancer. He died on March 12, 1925 at the age of 59 and his efforts to form a lasting democratic China were nipped at the bud.

Sun's body was used as a political symbol. It was preserved and kept in a temple just outside Beijing. Loudspeakers played recordings of his speeches and images of Sun were flashed on a screen as crowds came to look at the body.

After he became head of the Kuomintang Chiang Kai-shek ordered construction of an immense mausoleum for Sun in the new capital of Nanjing and transported his body there with great fanfare. Sun's philosophy became the guiding ideology of the Kuomintang and later Taiwan.


Sun's funeral

China Achieves Modern State

Ken Pomeranz and Bin Wong wrote: “When we think of what becomes twentieth-century China, about its institutions and ideologies, it's important to recognize that some of the possibilities that existed in the twentieth century existed because of the ways in which Chinese ideas and institutions worked in earlier periods. To take, for example, the relationship between politics and culture in late imperial China between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries especially, the government assumed a responsibility to define what was morally correct for people living throughout the empire. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu ]<|>

“ Moral correctness was a goal of education. And it defined much of what was culturally acceptable. It's therefore not that surprising that political leaders in the twentieth century might have ideas or assumptions that are somehow related to the ways their predecessors considered the relationship between politics and culture. In other words, the fact that after 1949 Communist leaders have had a certain set of assumptions about how government is responsible for cultural orthodoxy is not surprising within a Chinese context. <|>

“The Tradition of Campaigns We tend to think that post-1949 Chinese concerns about correct thought and ideas are a peculiar trait of communism. While these concerns may be related to being communist, they're not solely related to being communist. That's one point. A second point is that we can't assume that practices that existed before 1900 magically become negative and irrelevant after 1900, negative in the sense that they're obstacles to the future or that they became irrelevant because becoming modern must mean doing things differently. <|>

Whampoa Today as a Symbol of Unity Between Taiwan and China

Reporting from Guangzhou, Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, “The academy, now a collection of two-story white buildings near an active naval yard, stands as one of the most potent symbols of the nationalist movement led by Mr. Sun, which has strong contemporary echoes in the rallying cry that Xi Jinping made to his fellow Chinese after taking over in November as general secretary of the Communist Party. Mr. Xi has spoken of a “great revival of the Chinese nation,” apparently to be accomplished through further opening the economy, tackling official corruption and building up the military. This month, on his first trip outside Beijing, Mr. Xi traveled to several cities here in Guangdong Province; the tour included visits with senior officers of the People’s Liberation Army and a photo opportunity on a naval destroyer. Though he did not visit the Whampoa academy, the message Mr. Xi was telegraphing was the same one Mr. Sun had relayed a century ago. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, December 27, 2012 +++]


Whampoa emblem

“In fits and starts since the end of the Mao era, the Communists and the Kuomintang, who decamped to Taiwan after losing the civil war in 1949, have been engaging in rapprochement. The Whampoa academy represents an era when the two sides cooperated for a greater good, and recent exhibitions organized there by a museum portray the Kuomintang in a relatively conciliatory light. That, too, has resonance with Mr. Xi’s clarion call, which is meant to inspire all Chinese, even those outside the mainland, including in Taiwan, to take part in the Communist-led project of reviving the motherland. Whampoa was not rebuilt until after 1984, when plans were made to establish a museum. The white buildings interlaced with thick wooden beams are recreations of the originals. A statue of Mr. Sun overlooks the site from a hill. +++

“Military enthusiasts, history buffs and other tourists reach the museum by a 10-minute ferry ride from a quiet pier on the east side of Guangzhou. On a recent afternoon, a young woman guided a handful of soldiers. They walked along a balcony on the second floor and peered into the recreated rooms, including a dormitory with dozens of simple beds on wooden floorboards, a dining room and Mr. Sun’s office. Outside the main gate, not far from a black wall inscribed with the names of fallen soldiers, tour groups posed for photographs. Then they walked slowly through the gallery rooms to gaze at the black-and-white photos and paintings that showed, from a party-approved perspective, the history of China’s 20th-century wars. +++

This year, there was a special exhibition on Chinese soldiers who had fought the Japanese in southwest China, along the Burma Road. Depictions of Mr. Chiang and senior Kuomintang cohorts seemed to draw the most attention, especially from visitors who had spent decades hearing the Communists demonize them. Texts praised Mr. Chiang for leading the Northern Expedition and the earlier Eastern Expedition, which in 1925 wrested territory from warlords in Guangdong. “In my time, the Communists called him Bandit Chiang,” said Yook Kearn Wong, 80, a former Communist soldier visiting from the United States (and a relative of this reporter). “Now he’s known as Mr. Chiang.” +++

Image Sources: 1) Sun Yat-sen, Ohio State University; 2) Sun Yat-sen, Columbia University; 3) Cutting queue,and 4) May 4th, Ohio State University; 5) Whampoa, Wikipedia

Text Sources: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated November 2016

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