Sun Yat-Sen

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I. Introduction

Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese revolutionary born in 1866 and the first provisional president when the Republic of China was founded in 1912. Though commonly referred to as one of the greatest leaders of modern China, his political career was one of uncertainty and turmoil and being widely revered by the people, Sun was subject to frequent exile and a generally very fragile existence It was during his exile to Europe that Sun made key observations about Western economies and governance, which he would use to produce his most influential political philosophies. He died in 1924, with China in ruins, torn by the anarchy and violence. Sun is regarded by many Western academics as one of the most important and influential Chinese political thinkers of at least the last hundred years. His philosophies reflect both Chinese socialism and Western constitutional and democratic theory. The potential of his works is to develop a hybrid of Eastern and Western political philosophy, consolidating Chinese traditionalism with the increasingly dominant presence of Western philosophical influence. This paper will examine the political philosophy of Sun Yat-Sen from his work: “Fundamentals of National reconstruction” which was Published in 1919. Generally accepted to be Sun’s most important political statement, ‘it enunciates his infamous three principles whereby he set China on its path to modernity’ .

Sun based his theory of revolution on three principles: nationalism, democracy and equalitization . These three principles were eventually referred to as the ‘three peoples principles’ and Sun believed them to be the key to the unification and modernization of China. This paper will examine each of these three principles in turn, examining Sun’s reasoning behind and justification for each of them. For each, I shall also demonstrate how Sun’s principles either compliment or clash with the principles of Western constitutionalism and how they might relate to the future of constitutional development in China.

II. Nationalism

First, nationalization, Sun was adamant that the first action necessary was to place the power in the hands of the Chinese people, and not allow it to rest with any foreign imperial power. “Nationalistic ideas in China did not come from a foreign source; they were inherited from our remote forefathers. Upon this legacy is based my principle of nationalism, and where necessary, I have developed it and amplified and improved upon it… Externally, we should strive to maintain independence in the family of nations, and to spread our indigenous civilization as well as to enrich it by absorbing what is best in world civilization, with the hope that we may forge ahead with other nations towards the goal of ideal brotherhood” – Sun Yat-Sen The second aspect of the Doctrine of Nationalism is racial equality. Before 1911 the Manchus alone were rulers of China. This autocratic position of the Manchus was brought to an end by the Revolution, and it was replaced by a policy of cooperation among all races in China on the basis of equality.
III. Democracy

Second, government should be republican and democratically elected, this was for three reasons. The first, was that there was no ground for preservind a monachial for of government. Sun saw that all of the people were equal and all together constituted the foundation of the Nation. He also explained that in light of a Chinese history of oppression under foreign monarchs, it would be impossible for the Chinese people to suffer themselves to be subject to such rule ever again. Lastly, Sun reflected on the fact that the prolongued periods of turmoil and unrest in China’s domestic history after each rvolutionary period was a result of each insugent’s desire to become a king. He reasoned that a republican form of governance would be the successful was to realize their goals for democracy. Sun went into a great deal of detail with regard to the second stage...
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