Evaluate the importance of Sun Yixian’s (Sun Yat-sen’s) role in bringing about the 1911 Revolution in China.
Sun Yat-sen’s role in the 1911 revolution against the Qing dynasty was an indirect one. Sun Yat-sen was exiled in the United States during the events of the Wuchang Uprising of October 10th, 1911, hearing about it through a newspaper publication in Denver, Colorado. Many Historians view Sun’s accession as the provisional President of the Republic of China, directly following the revolution, as due to his position as a “compromise candidate”(Bergere, Marie-Clare, Sun Yat-sen, 1994, p. 12). This interpretation holds Sun Yat-sen as a respected but unimportant figure in the revolution, serving as an ideal compromise between the revolutionaries and the conservative gentry. However, perspectives differ, Sun Yat-sen is credited for the funding of the revolutionary movement and for “keeping the spirit of revolution alive”(MacFarquhar, Roderick, Cambridge History of China: The People’s Republic, 1998, p. 261), despite a series of previous failed uprisings. His ability to be flexible in his ideology and merge the political beliefs of smaller revolutionary groups into a single larger party also provided a better power base for the officers and soldiers of the New Army at Wuchang. Sun Yat-sen’s role in the 1911 revolution was as an ideological leader rather than as a direct military opponent against the Qing dynasty.
The view that Sun Yat-sen’s role in the revolution of 1911 was as a compromise candidate was defined by his wide sphere of influence and accessibility to all factions of early 20th century Chinese society. At age 13, Sun Yat-sen went to live with his expatriate brother Sun Mei, in Honolulu, Hawaii. In this period, Sun Yat-sen received an education from British Christian missionaries, instilling western principles and the political ideals of democracy and socialism into his perspective on China. After visiting China in 1883, Sun Yat-sen was appalled by what he perceived as a backward governmental system, criticising the exorbitant taxes and levies placed upon the impoverished Chinese people. Sun Yat-sen’s egalitarian ideals were shaped by these experiences and these ideals were the basis for his appeal to the lower classes, the largest strata group within China at the time. Despite this influence with the lower classes, Sun Yat-sen did not ignore the gentry. Sun Yat-sen quit his medical education and aligned himself with reformists, Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, seeking to transform China into a constitutional monarchy. His initial revolutionary action was to write a lengthy letter to Li Hongzhang, the governor general of Zhili and a reformer in the court, suggesting drastic political reform. His efforts were rebuffed. Sun Yat-sen had never been trained in the Confucian classics, thus the gentry did not full accept him within their circles. However, on the 29th of December when it came to electing a Provisional President for the newly established Republic of China, the representatives from the provinces ignored Sun Yat-sen’s lack of traditional education, perceiving him better equipped then his revolutionary rival, Huang Xing, who had a direct role in the Wuchang Uprising.
Although Sun Yat-sen was in exile from China in October 1911, his ideological and financial contributions to the revolution are evident. In October 1894, after visiting China, Sun Yat-sen founded the Revive China Society to unveil his political and sociological ideologies. Sun Yat-sen based his idea of revolution on three principles: nationalism, democracy and socialism. The first of these held that Chinese government ought to be in the hands of the Chinese rather than a foreign imperial house. Government should be republican and democratically elected. Finally, disparities in land ownership are to be equalised among the people, wealth more evenly distributed, and the social effects of unbridled capitalism and government...
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