The Impact of the Three Principles of the People on China and Taiwan

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“We shall establish a united Chinese Republic in order that all the peoples—Manchus, Mongols, Tibetans, Tartars and Chinese—should constitute a single powerful nation.… Such a nationalism is possible, and we must pursue it.”- Sun Yat-sen, Three Principles of the People.

Countless nationalists across the world seek for the rights Dr. Sun Yat-sen stated in his Principles. Sun Yat-sen was born in Cuiheng, a small village in Guangzhou Province, during the Qing Dynasty in 1866. At this time, the Qing was slowly declining. The Taiping Rebellion, an unsuccessful, large-scale revolt against the Qing dynasty led by Hong Xiuquan, threatened the survival of the empire, the Confucian system. The ascension of the two-year old Emperor Puyi also made the empire extremely vulnerable to internal and external issues. When Sun was thirteen, his elder brother took him to live in Honolulu, where he was taught English and studied medicine (Goldston 197-202). He later returned to China. He gradually became interested in politics and became extremely upset with the corruption of the Chinese government and the government’s inability to defend its borders from neighboring countries (Zhao). During his time in the West, Sun was influenced by the political ideas of Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln and began to dress as a Westerner. After leading several unsuccessful uprisings against the government, Sun was exiled in Europe, North America, and Japan for sixteen years (ABC-CLIO “Sun Yat-sen”). During his time exiled, he recognized that his career consisted of numerous failures and unorganized plots. However, with the success of the Wuchang Rebellion, the successful uprising that overthrew the Qing, Sun returned back to China and was declared president of the temporary government in Nanking. On January 1, 1912, Sun and his supporters founded the Republic of China, with his philosophical doctrine, Three Principles of the People, as a guide for establishing numerous policies (Goldston 203). The Three Principles of the People, a document created by Sun Yat-sen to declare his beliefs on three major ideas: Livelihood, Democracy, and Nationalism, has shaped both the government and societies of both mainland China and Taiwan today both politically and culturally. Sun’s first step in the reconstruction of China is to promote the economic well being of the people or Minsheng; this was his first principle. Sun stressed the idea of equality of land holdings for the peasants (“Sun Yat-sen”). Sun studied the concept of social welfare and incorporated it into his first principle. Social welfare is the in which the way citizens or communities take action and give educational, medical, and financial support for the lower class. Sun defined this principle simply as communism and socialism (Roberts 134). He was influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx, the founder of Marxism, and Henry George, who was the founder of Georgism. Georgism was the idea that all land belongs equally to all social classes and Henry George believed there should be a single tax on the land value (Humanistic Texts “Sun Yat-sen”). The Kuomintang, the political party founded by Sun and the current ruling party in Taiwan, had Marxist leaders however they were opposed to the Communist Party ideology; their views on welfare is the one of the major differences of the two parties (TIMEasia). Sun Yat-sen divides welfare into four areas: food, clothing, housing and transportation. He focused on improving those four categories. Sun believed that if these four areas of welfare were improved, then a powerful government could emerge and the economy would grow stronger (Goldston 204). Sun’s Second Principle of the People is the promotion of democracy or Minquan. In the Second Principle, Sun stressed that the government must be focused on educating the people, exercising their rights and giving them political training. He noted that the reason why the Qing government was starting to decline was because...
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