When classifying revolutionary movements of the 20th century it is often customary to try and label the conflict either Left Wing or Right Wing. However, in the cases of Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong, neither Left nor Right Wing seems an appropriate label for what their revolutions contained for China. The difference between democratic and anti-democratic is more fitting for the two Chinese revolutionaries. Both Sun and Mao advocated different methods of development to achieve the same goals but caused drastically different results. Sun Yat-sen, who was taught at a young age the Western ways of life, favored a revolutionary movement with democratic aspirations. Conversely, Mao admired Stalinism and the industrial drive of the Soviet Union, and favored moving away from Sun’s democracy to form a Communist government.
Sun Yat-sen was educated in Honolulu, Hawaii at a young age and was impressed by the United States industry, government, and technology. When he was older he wrote ‘The Three Principles of the People’ which was his political ideology created as a plan to revolutionize China. His ideology promoted three principles that “will lead China to a position of equality with other nations in her international relations, in her government, and in her economic status.”1 The three principles are: nationalism, democracy, and the people’s livelihood. All three of these needed to be present for a successful revolution to occur Sun advised. The three principles of Sun’s ideology clearly outline the structural features and economic strategies that he favored.
Firstly, he felt that nationalism is important because in China the race constitutes the nation. Since China is so connected by family and clans he felt that he needed to unify all the people together for “nationalism is a treasure, the possession of which causes a nation to aspire to (greater) development, and a race to seek to perpetuate itself.”2 With a united nation he believed he could motivate the Chinese to work harder and fight through the difficult times of industrialization by reminding them they were in the process of raising China’s status in the world. Sun wanted “all forms of class warfare and social division that threatened national unity to be rejected.”3 Sun did not favor any type of class struggle, for he felt that collaboration in the pursuit of economic prosperity and growth would be the correct way for China to industrialize. He wanted to unite the Chinese and use their shared background as a way of fostering cooperation and teamwork.
Secondly, and most importantly, he advocated democracy which he adopted from the United States and had always admired. He believed that China would need to have an all powerful state and a democracy that would “provide for the expression of natural inequality that would serve the fundamental interests of the people of China.”4 He stated that military rule in the form of an authoritarian regime would come first, then a period of tutelage, followed by a representative democracy.5 Sun knew that his end goal for China would be a constitutional government, but the process of achieving that goal would be difficult. Sun advocated democracy very heavily in his Triple Demism when he declared “without democracy, we cannot hope to achieve either a stable government and a lasting peace for the nation or the happiness of the people.”6 Sun created the Kuomintang political party in 1912 to lead China into the revolution because he “anticipated that revolutions, in our time, would be nationalist, and developmental – led by an elite, unitary party. For China, that party was the Kuomintang and its “charismatic” leader was Sun Yat-sen.”7 The structural features for Sun’s government leaned more towards a totalitarian command because he advocated a one party state. However, Sun promoted constitutional democracy and advocated having five branches of government that were modeled off the United States’...