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Dialogue of Cultures

Sun Yat Sen:
In Defense of Nationalism,
the Republic, and the
American System of Political Economy

by Neil Martin
LaRouche Youth Movement

Related Articles

“I do not understand. There is no reason in this sing-song, Why should I learn it?”

“What! You rebel against the Classics?”

“No, I do not rebel against the Classics. But why should I sing out this stuff day after day when I do not know what it means?”

“This is contumely against the learning and the wisdom of the ancients!”

“But I am taught to read, and I do not understand what I have learned to read. Will you, Master, kindly help me to know the reason of what I am learning?”

—Sun Yat-Sen: The Man and His Ideas, by John Wu

A teacher of Sun Yat Sen would go on to tell this young boy's father that, “when this young boy grows up, he will surely be able to accomplish great things. Little things will not interest him nor will he profit by them.”

“A jun [often translated as 'gentleman,' but also as 'monarch'] lives with the moderns but studies the ancients. What he does today will become an example for those in generations to follow. When he lives in times of political chaos, he neither courts favor from those in authority, nor is boosted by those below, and when the petty politicians join hands to defame or injure him, his life may be threatened, but in the course of his conduct may not be changed. Although he lives in danger, his soul remains his own, and even though he does not forgot the sufferings of the people. Such is his sense of responsibility.”

—Wisdom of Confucius

Dr. Sun Yat Sen, Founding Father of China, a Confucian, a Christian, a nationalist, a revolutionary, a jun to all countries, and a lit she (“dare to die”—someone who is willing to give his or her life for the welfare of others), is a shining example of a statesman, who showed extraordinary characteristics of leadership, endurance, optimism, and a sense of mission. Sun not only had a vision for China, but also a vision for the world. When China would achieve its own development, through the implementation of the American System of political economy, China would then liberate other countries in Asia. This would be done under the guidance of Confucian concepts of peaceful coexistence, which Sun believed to be coherent with John Quincy Adams' concept of the “community of principle among perfectly sovereign nation-states.”

In essence, Sun Yat Sen (also known as Sun Wen) held a universal mission for China—to be a leader for world reconstruction. Sun's ideas were molded by Confucius and Mencius, as well as the advocates of the American System of political economy, especially Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln, as opposed to the British System, characterized by the works of John Stuart Mill, Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx.

Sun in Hawaii

Throughout the later half of the 19th Century, China, under the rule of the deteriorating Ching Dynasty, nearly became fully partitioned by foreign powers. Several provinces of China were under the direct control of colonial powers, including France, Portugal, Japan, Russia, and England.

In 1879, Sun, at the age of 13, was sent from his home in Hsiang Shan, to Hawaii, to join his brother, who had set up a business there. Sun's ideas on government were strongly influenced at Oahu Charity School, which was run by advocates of the American System, led by Rev. Samuel Damon. Here, he studied the ideas of Alexander Hamilton and his Federalist allies, and of the great Abraham Lincoln, who had the most lasting impact on his thinking.

The teachers at the American school in Hawaii were part of the extensive circles of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM). Just as there were two schools of economics—the American System of political economy and the British System of free trade—so there were also two different types of missionaries. The ABCFM had a charter that stressed liberating humanity from the British Empire, including the extension of the British Empire known as the Confederacy. The ABCFM believed that liberating a country required that the advanced nations that were well-off in science should export their advanced technology to poor nations, while the British tried to keep them primitive. Sun's schooling, and his friendship with the Damon family, were not unlike being nurtured by Lyndon LaRouche's University on Wheels, rather than going to today's typical university, that trains kids in monkey-see monkey-do, and believe-and-never-know.

When Sun Yat Sen came back from Hawaii in 1883, there was a distinct change in his character regarding his approach to the question of the despotic government. Sun soon became known as “that madman” who had been too much influenced by the West. Many villagers did not want to be seen around this young polemical, axiom-breaking reformer. Now, all Sun did was question the manner in which the government acted, and why the Son of Heaven (the Emperor) was considered so great. He was quite amused to hear how the people defended the government and the Son of Heaven. Sun questioned why China had so few roads, and why the government and the Son of Heaven collected taxes, but the livelihood of the people never improved. Sun openly questioned the role of government, insisting the government must unconditionally meet the needs of the people. In Sun's village, he noted, taxes went to the Son of Heaven, and to making sure that the appearance of the three gods of the temple was maintained above all else. To Sun, this submission to tyranny and superstition had to be eradicated if the people of China were to be free of a despotic government, and to be able to know mankind's function in the universe.

At the age of 18, Sun was banished from his home village for mutilating painted wooden gods. He called these smiling wooden gods the superstitious “symbol of distress for China.”

Sun and the American System

There were elder revolutionaries in China at the time. One was Cheng Kuan Ying, who wrote a pamphlet called “Words of Warning in a Great Age,” giving proposals for the reform of China through a parliamentary system, the establishment of modern schools, the development of commerce and industries, the building of railroads and highways, the improvement of agriculture and sericulture, the abolition of foot-binding, and the prohibition of opium smoking.

Cheng Kuan Ying assisted Sun in writing a letter to Li Hung Chang, a high government official. This letter circulated widely in monthly journals such as the Wan Kuo Pao, laying out Sun's extensive knowledge of the American System of political economy. Sun said to Li: “I am keenly aware that the wealth and power of the European nations are the result not only of their having ships and powerful guns, strong fortresses, and formidable troops, but also because their people can fully employ their talents, their land can be fully utilized, their natural resources can be fully tapped, and their goods can freely flow. These four elements are the basis of a nation's wealth and strength and the root of good government” (from Sun's letter to Li Hung Chang, in Prescriptions for Saving China).

Leonard Hsu's book, Sun Yat Sen's Political and Social Ideals, provides more evidence of Sun's dedication to the American System of political economy, and in particular, to Alexander Hamilton's Report on Manufactures. Sun spoke of the four factors for a nation's wealth: “In order to develop superior talent, Dr. Sun proposed universal free education, vocational guidance, civil service, and scientific employment. The second factor is the development of agricultural science, the introduction of modern farming implements, and a modern system of government administration of agricultural affairs. The third factor, the full utilization of materials, includes the advancement of modern science and machine civilization, conservation of natural resources, and regulation of private ownership. The fourth factor, the easy transportation of commodities, includes the abolition of local road taxes, the institution of free trade (between provinces), due protection to merchants, and the development of transportation and commerce.”

However, Li Hung Chang did not heed Sun's advice for the salvation of China. Sun then decided to take the measures needed in order for China to no longer be plagued by a despotic and incompetent government. Sun wrote what could be called China's own declaration of independence: “Divine right does not last forever.” He later expanded it to “No longer shall we reverence the throne. The Son of Heaven is incompetent. His offices are corrupt. His rule is an abomination. He shall give way to the will of the people. No longer shall we reverence the throne.”

Sun Yat Sen soon retired from his practice of medicine to unconditionally devote his life to revolution.

Sun's Campaign for the Revolution

From 1894 to 1911, Sun travelled around the world, including Hawaii, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Japan, Macao, Taipei, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington D.C., New York, England, Singapore, Malaya, Vancouver, Brussels, Berlin, and Paris. At every stop, he raised provisions for the revolution from Chinese merchants, Chinese countrymen who showed empathy for the revolution, and from sympathetic foreigners. He established new societies or reorganized existing ones. He also met with Chinese students. In general, Sun had his very own University on Wheels. The students started newspapers at the universities they attended, which denounced the despotic government of China, and began to educate their fellow students on the ideas of Sun Yat Sen.

The students showed considerable respect towards Sun. Many were part of an earlier conspiracy of progressive elements of the Chinese government, to educate Chinese students abroad in various fields, to later take positions in government ministries. Several pictures of Sun Wen and Chinese students from abroad, picture Sun Wen in the center on a chair with the students standing around him.

During these travels, Sun was banished from China, and had a price on his head, for the unsuccessful attempt to capture Canton, a province in South China, in 1885, an attempt which Sun was instrumental in organizing. While in England, Sun nearly met the same fate as many of the early revolutionaries, who had died in efforts to seize power over cities in the south of China. Sun was kidnapped by the Chinese Embassy in London, and was close to being whisked off to China for a probable execution. However, a dear British friend, Dr. James Cantlie, who had taught him medicine in Hong Kong, intervened to save him.

Sun spent most his time in exile in Japan. Japan was a safe haven for revolutionaries from China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. During his stay in Japan, Sun met revolutionaries from across Asia, as well as other Chinese nationalists, including Huang Hsing, the future co-founder of the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang, with one mission: to restore China to the Chinese, and establish a republic.

Huang Hsing was known for his printing of revolutionary tracts, such as Tsou Jung's Revolutionary Army, and for organizing students to the cause of the revolution. Huang was introduced to Sun through Sun's Japanese friend Torazo Miyazaki. Through Huang, Sun met Sung Chiao Jen, another co-founder of the Kuomintang.

Sun also met influential Japanese politicians from the Meiji period, including: Count Shigenobu Okuma, a member of the Progressive Party, who introduced Sun to Phan Boi Chau, a Vietnamese nationalist; Viscount Inauaki, president of the Progressive Party; and Katsura Taro. These three men each headed the Japanese government at one time in their lives.

Another objective of Sun's work while overseas was to counter the ideas and organizing efforts of the “reformers,” led by Kung Yu Wei and Liang Chi Chao. Sun knew that China's dilemma was systemic, that the reforms proposed by this group, within the confines of the monarchical system, were no remedy for what had to be accomplished. Sun distributed Tsou Jung's Revolutionary Army while abroad in Chinese communities, and wrote a pamphlet of his own entitled “The true solution of the Chinese question.” The last sentence was: “China is now on the eve of a great national movement, for just a spark of light would set the whole political forest on fire, to drive out the Ching [Dynasty] from our land—our task is great, but it will not be an impossible one.” Sun wanted a form of government by which the people would be the masters of the state.

During Sun's stay in the U.S.A., he became acquainted with the head of a Chinese Christian mission in New York, known as Pastor Huei. Through him Sun met many Chinese Christians and Chinese students. Pastor Huei introduced Sun to Hu Han Min and Wang Ching Wei, who would later become the editors of the Min Pao, the People's Journal. Hu Han Min would also become part of the cadre of leadership in the Kuomintang.

While abroad, Sun undertook serious research in many areas, including politics, mining, cattle rearing, agriculture, engineering, economics, and social concepts, thereby preparing himself to design a plan for China's revolution and reconstruction.

Martyrs of the Chinese Revolution

Many of the nationalists and revolutionaries who worked with Sun and Huang Hsing, and lived the true life of revolutionaries, sacrificing all for the republic, did not live to see its realization. Sun spoke highly of these martyrs. On Dec. 10, 1912, at the gravesite of one of the martyrs (now a historic site), Sun said: “We should praise the Chinese Revolutionary League, and deeply cherish this great female warrior from Jian Lake.” He was referring to Chiu Chin (1875-1907), a poet, founder of a women's newspaper, and a teacher, who is known as the first woman martyr in the attempt to establish China as a nation-state. After the failed 1900 Boxer Rebellion, she left her husband and their children to study in Japan. In 1905, she joined the T'ung Meng, which Sun and Huang Hsing had organized. In Yokohama, Japan, she was one of the first students to labor in a secret cell that manufactured bombs. Later, in China, she provided arms for revolutionaries, recruited to the secret cell, and was in charge of masterminding revolts in Chekiang Province. There is a pavilion In her honor today in Chekiang.

Other well-known martyrs included Tsou Jung, who wrote the instrumental tract The Revolutionary Army mentioned above, which was widely circulated. Its main theme attacked the idea of loyalty to the emperor. Tsou Jung also stated that his policies to rid China of her bondage came from the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Another martyr, Lin Chueh Min, an original “dare to die,” took part in the battle at Huanghuakang (yellow flower mound), commonly known today as the holy land for the Republic of China, now the site of the Tomb of the 72 Heroes.

Sun's vision for China, following the revolution and reconstruction, was for China to be the leader of world liberation and reconstruction for countries under colonial rule. Sun and a Vietnamese nationalist, Phan Boi Chau, had plans for a Far Eastern Alliance of Asiatic People, to expel imperialism and feudalism. This would then permit countries such as Burma, Vietnam, Korea, and India to be economically independent.

Sun formulated his basic philosophy under the phrase, “The Three Principles of the People.” These were the means by which a state could attain independence and build a sovereign nation-state: nationalism (which Sun called “that precious possession by which a state perpetuates its existence and harmony among its people”); people's sovereignty; and the people's livelihood. Sun derived the framework for these Three Principles of the People from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: a government of the people (nationalism), by the people (sovereignty), and for the people (people's livelihood, or “the general welfare”).

Sun knew that society only progressed through the continual improvement of living standards. This means that man always has to be creative and vigorous in making discoveries in science to insure the survival of civilization. In John Wu's biography of Sun Yat Sen, Sun is quoted saying: “The mind is the beginning of everything that happens in the universe.” Thereby, cognition serves as the means by which mankind alters and improves his environment. This is a mindset which coincides with man and heaven being of the same mind, and sharing the same principles.

Revolution Succeeds, Temporarily

The Chinese Revolution succeeded in ousting the Ching forces from the southern provinces in 1911 (ten previous attempts had failed). The Oct. 10 revolution took place while Sun was abroad, in the United States.

Sun's close ally Huang Hsing took charge of the revolutionary forces 18 days after the start of the revolution. Hsueh Chun Tu's book Huang Hsing and the Chinese Revolution reports that the soldiers received him as “a general from Heaven.” During the defense of Hankow, under Huang Hsing, a number of other provinces also declared their independence from the empire.

On Dec. 14, 1911, an election took place in Nanking, the capital of the new Republic of China. Huang was elected Generalissimo and Li Yuan Hung was elected Vice Generalissimo. Huang, however, declined the post, leaving this honor to his dear friend Sun Yat Sen.

Weeks later, Sun received a telegram asking that he return as the first President of the Republic of China. Before returning to China, Sun went to England, and succeeded in convincing London to allow him to travel freely through British territories to get back to China safely. He also asked the British to end all financial assistance to the remnants of the Ching government, and to prevent Japan from supporting it. This diplomacy meant that China would face fewer immediate dangers in establishing its republic.

As President of the young republic, Sun Yat Sen had extraordinary responsibilities, including directing the provinces to encourage farming by protecting and helping farmers, ordering the foreign ministry to cease and desist exploitation of cheap labor, ordering the provinces to not seek revenge on the Ching, and banning opium.

Yuan Shi Kai and World War I

But, in order for China to be unified, south and north would have to become one. In 1912, Sun resigned as President so that Yuan Shi Kai, who had led the Chinese Army under the (now deposed) Ching Emperor, assume the Presidency. This was a compromise that Sun believed could not be avoided without experiencing continuous and debilitating warfare. But he hoped that Yuan Shi Kai would adapt himself to the republican system of government. With a provisional constitution intact, a strong parliament led by Sung Chia Jen of the Kuomintang, Huang Hsing being influential behind the scenes, and Sun taking a position as director of railway planning, the young republic still had a sound base to prosper.

Unfortunately, Yuan turned out to be both a tyrant and a tool of foreign colonial interests. He was able to suppress the republicans because he was heavily financed by the British and the Morgan interests in the United States. When Sun organized resistance to Yuan's increasing tyranny, the role of the Morgan and related interests was clear, as shown in this excerpt from an Aug. 6, 1913 New York Times editorial:

“The present so-called rebellion is not so much an uprising of the people against the government of Peking [Beijing], as an effort by disaffected politicians and place hunters to force themselves into power. The end of the civil war, which can not be much longer deferred, will leave Yuan Shi Kai more strongly established than ever as ruler of China; an event in which the rest of the world can not fail to find a cause for congratulation.”

On July 19, 1913, a London Times editorial commented: “It is the rebellion of jealous, rapacious politicians. Huang Hsing has been spoken of, in rather exaggerated fashion, as China's man of destiny and as a possible successor of Yuan Shi Kai, for whom he has suffered many slights of late.... The rebel leaders are certainly no patriots striking a mindful blow against tyranny. President Yuan may have been rough as of late in handling of provisional Governments, he may have treated the South with too much disdain, but to onlookers he still appears, for the present, the only man who can prevent the Chinese Republic from falling into pieces.”

While President, Yuan was responsible for the assasination of parliamentary leader Sung Chia Jen; ordered the assasination of another Kuomintang leader Chen Chi Mei, the former governor of Shanghai; jailed other collaborators of Sun; and finally, exiled Sun from China—and even attempted to have Sun exiled from Japan! From then on, Yuan was fooling nobody. He received a loan from the Five-Power Consortium, headed by the Bank of England and the J.P. Morgan interests, which was used to fortify his power. In doing this, Yuan breached the separation of powers, since the Legislative Yuan, which had sole authority in negotiating and accepting loans, had voted it down.

Yuan also took control of the Judicial Branch, and undertook other measures aimed at returning China to a monarchy.

Sun again moved to the revolutionaries' haven in Japan, where he reorganized the Kuomintang to go back to China to mobilize the Chinese population against Yuan's plan to restore the monarchy.

This was at the time of World War I, a war among imperialist powers. England promised Yuan Shi Kai that if China joined the war on the side of the Allies, England would support Yuan's desire to restore the monarchy.

The United States failed to come to the rescue of the young Republic. This would not be the last time England, or the United States, would subvert Sun Yat Sen's attempt to save the Republic of China.

Eventually, in 1916, Yuan succeeded in restoring the monarchy, but public sentiment did not respond too kindly to this treasonous act, and he was quickly forced to abdicate. Yuan died later on in same that year, which allowed for Sun to come back to China.

However, Li Yuan Hung, who became the next President of the Republic, did not follow the path which was vital to the fledgling republic. Instead of remaining neutral in World War I, which Sun declared necessary for China's survival, in his book The Problem with China, Li joined the British in declaring war on Germany.

But Canton in the South, which was largely under Sun's direction, refused to declare war on the side of the British. In 1917, the British Consul General in Canton tried to cajole Sun into joining England in fighting Germany. “Fight Germany,” the Consul General said, “because she robbed you of Tsingtao, and you should get it back.”

“Tsingtao” Sun replied, “is far away from Canton. How about Hong Kong, Burma, Nepal, and Bhutan, which were once either our own territory or tributary states, and which are much closer to Canton than Tsingtao? At the present time you [the British Empire] have an eye on Tibet. Ordinary logic suggests that if China is strong enough to get back her lost territories, she should proceed first to get back the closer and bigger ones. Tsingtao is but a small place, and Burma is bigger than Tsingtao, and Tibet is still bigger.”

After World War I, China gained nothing at all from being on the winning side, exactly as Sun had warned in The Problem of China. The territory that Germany had held in China was not even returned to China, but was given to Japan!

Sun's Ideas on Developing China

Sun's ideas about banking, economics, politics, military, and government illustrate that he based his policies on the notion that man is born to do good; this is based on the Confucian concept of ren, similar to the Christian agape, or “charity,” in the King James Bible.

For China to become a strong economic power, Sun placed crucial emphasis on the need for China to be industrialized, based explicitly on the Hamiltonian system of banking he had studied in Hawaii. In The Fundamentals of National Reconstruction, Sun argues that the key to China's development, is the establishment of a national bank. In Sun's “Statement on the Establishment of the Central Bank of China,” he describes, in fact, a national bank, not a (private) central bank: “Gentlemen. The opening of the Central Bank of China today marks the opening of the first bank established by the revolutionary government. In establishing this bank, the government desires to finance commercial enterprises. Therefore, today also marks the beginning of government participation in business enterprises.”

In the tradition of Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Treasury Secretary, Sun believed that the National Bank was to be the instrument by which the general welfare, “the people's livelihood,” would be upheld, by financing public-works projects.

Today, China is working on large-scale infrastructure projects, such as the Three Gorges Dam, which Sun had first proposed in 1919! The means by which this and other projects are being funded today comes compliments of the national banks China has established.

Sun's plan for China's industrialization was to have large-scale infrastructure projects, including: “100,000 to 200,000 miles of railroads, 1,000,000 miles of roads; improvement of existing canals; construction of new canals; regulating rivers; making rivers more navigable; the construction of telegraph lines throughout the country; the development of commercial harbors; the building of modern cities; with public utilities to be constructed in all railway centers; water power development; iron and steel works, and cement works on the largest scale; mineral development, which is compliments of the mining industry; agricultural development; irrigational work on the largest scale, in Mongolia and Sinkiang; reforestation of Central and North China. Integration of Manchuria, Mongolia, Sinkiang Kokonor, and Tibet.”

This comes from Sun's 1919 book The International Development of China, which included detailed plans for development corridors across China. The theme of this book was that, as the embodiment of God, human beings desire to increase, to grow.

Another requirement for China to become a strong economic power was the fostering of industrialization via the protection of China's domestic commerce, through protective tariffs. Sun directly tied the flourishing of domestic commerce to the livelihood of the people. One of the symptoms of China's oppression under imperialism were the “unequal treaties,” which played a crucial part in stifling economic growth. Sun likened economic oppression to an army composed of 100,000 men. In order to combat this economic oppression, Sun proposed that tariffs be used to limit the flow of cheap imports. In his Three Principles of the People, Sun compared tariffs to the forts which defend a nation from invasion.

Sun directly challenged the Marxist view on the fundamentals of an economy. Marx's labor theory of value said that value comes from laborers alone, at the point of production. Sun, a physical economist, showed the absurdity of this by a detailed description of what truly accounts for surplus value: “When we think about the raw materials of yarn and cloth, our minds turn to cotton; when we think about the source of the cotton, our minds turn to questions of agriculture. If we want to discuss in detail the cultivation of cotton, we shall have to refer to the scientific agriculturalists who study the selection of good cotton seed, and the best methods of planting and raising cotton. Many implements and machines must be used to plow the soil before the planting of the seed and to weed the soil after the planting; fertilizers must be applied to nourish the plants. When we consider the machines and the fertilizers, we have to give credit to the discoverers and the manufacturers of these things. After the cotton is picked, it must be transported to the mills to be spun and woven; after the yarn and the piece goods are manufactured they must be transported to the markets for sale. This leads our minds naturally to steamships and trains, and if we think why they are able to transport goods, we shall have to give credit to miners and manufacturers of metals and to foresters and to lumberman.”

Hence, Sun understood the principles upon which would make an economy prosperous, while poor Marx came to many false conclusions, based on his intentional negation of the most profound natural resource, the human mind.

In politics, Sun Yat Sen's idea of the purpose of a political party was to provide the population with optimism, and the sole goal of the party was to provide leadership onto the path of continual progress. In his Prescriptions for Saving China, Sun once said: “When a weak people have a wise leader, the nation's stability can temporarily be maintained; the problem is that, ultimately, the ability to uphold the nation will be lost. In the West, people cherish the concept of a heavenly kingdom inhabited by a divine people, grave and elegant, for the creation of a sacred dignified nation requires superior, lofty minded people. Without exemplary people there can be no exemplary politics, and without such politics there can be no exemplary nations.”

As with the American System of political economy, Sun believed that the big industries, such as banks, railways, and public utilities, are directly involved in the livelihood of the nation and the people; therefore, these industries and institutions must be regulated, so as to avoid hindering the economic life of the people.

Sun also referred to the printed media as the equivalent of an army of 100,000. The Min Pao, one of the revolutionary papers founded by Sun, first appeared on Nov. 26, 1905 and continued publishing until Feb. 1, 1910. It devoted its first issue to the Three Principles of the People. Sun's youth movement was instrumental in writing polemical essays in the Min Pao against the policies of the “reformers,” Liang Chih Chao and Kang Yu Wei.

Another aspect that was indispensable to the prosperity of the nation was the education of the military. In 1924, faced with the need to unify the country, Sun Yat Sen founded the Whampoa Military Academy near Canton, with Chang Kai Shek (who, after Sun's death became head of the Kuomintang), as the personal instructor to the cadets. Sun not only wanted the cadets to be outstanding soldiers, but to also be molded into being able to promote the people's livelihood. Hence, they would govern their actions for the prosperity of civilization, and not “might makes right.” They had classes in ethical philosophy, economics, and science. In addition, the students were taught the importance of the Three Priniciples of the People. Sun addressed the cadets and students at Whampoa numerous times. His last address, on Nov. 3, 1924, was on why the revolution had thus far failed, and how it could still succeed.

Following the Versailles Treaty's decision in May 1919 to keep China in semi-colonial bondage, student demonstrations erupted at Tiananmen Square. Sun supported the students, but expressed disappointment and rebuked them for what he considered an excessive expression of liberty, which conveyed disorder and chaos. Sun later said that the students knew nothing about revolution, or history—all they could do was act, but never know.

Sun attacked the then-popular idea that “to know is easy, and to act is difficult.” In his book The Program for Psychological Reconstruction of China, or Memoirs of a Chinese Revolutionary, he insisted that knowledge is difficult, and is primary, and only then can action be correct.

The last and most crucial factor in Sun's plan for developing China was his youth movement. This, for Sun, is the statesman's arsenal for democracy. Sun's student movement, which he focussed on intensely, in 1924, had a mission that was oriented toward educating the core of the Chinese population—the farmers—around the role of government and the Three Principles of the People. The students were to be the spearhead, the trail-blazers for this completion of the revolution.

Sun established a school for his student movement. The students were to ensure that the revolution would be complete, by reawakening the sense of nationalism in the older population, especially the farmers.

Sun emphasized that government, economics, and historical movements all revolve around the manner in which the “people's livelihood,” the third of his Three Principles, was approached. To Sun, when the people's livelihood was not the focal point for government, society would not grow, but deteriorate and degenerate.

For Sun, the goal for the Republic of China was not for government to be molded by one person, by power politics, or by majority rule, as in the fragile democracies of Europe. Rather, the government's agenda must be directed by virtue.

During the time Sun was focussing on his student movement, he was also planning his military campaign to unify China, through a “Northern Expedition,” from his base in the South. In his manifesto on the Northern Expedition to Peking, Sun said that the counter-revolutionary warlords, who ruled parts of China, used government, not to make the nation progress, but as a means to pursue their personal interests. One had endeavored to restore the Boy Emperor (the last Ching Emperor) to the throne, while one (Yuan Shi Kai) had made himself Emperor and suppressed the revolution.

Sun had long been aware that foreign powers wanted to keep China divided and weak. In 1912, soon after the 1911 Republican Revolution, Sun had likened the perils that were before the young Republic to those which the United States had faced 50 years earlier, compliments of the British: “To the Friends of China in the United States of America,” Sun wrote. “We understand too well that there are certain men of power who would view with a greater or lesser satisfaction an internal rupture in the new republic. They would welcome as a move toward the accomplishment of their own ends and designs a civil war between provinces of the north and the south; just as, 50 years ago, there was applause in secret (in certain quarters) over the terrible civil strife in the United States. Americans of today who were alive in those dark days of the great republic will remember the feelings in the hearts of the people—the bitter and painful thoughts that arose from the knowledge that foreigners were hoping and praying for the destruction of the American Union. Had the war been successful from the South's standpoint, and had two separate republics been established, is it not likely that perhaps half a dozen or more weak nations would have eventually been established? I believe that such would have been the result; and I further believe that with the one great nation divided politically and commercially, outsiders would have stepped in sooner or later and made of America their own. I do not believe that I am stating this too forcefully. If so, I have not read history nor studied men and nations intelligently. And I feel that we have just such enemies abroad as the American Republic had; and that at certain capitals, the most welcome announcement that could be made, would be that of a rebellion in China against the constituted authorities [i.e., against the new Republic]. This is a hard statement to make; but I believe in speaking the truth so that all the world may know and recognize it.”


Sun Yat Sen died on March 12, 1925, before the Northern Expedition was launched in 1926. He stands as a shining example of the leadership needed in a time of crisis. Those who live up to the highest standards of Confucianism live a life devoted to that precious principle that man is born to do good. Sun said in his Three Principles of the People: “Let us today, before China's development begins, let us pledge that we will uplift the fallen and aid the weak; then when we become strong and look back upon our sufferings under the political and economical domination of powers, and see weaker and smaller people undergoing similar treatment, we will rise and smite that imperialism. Then we will be truly governing the state and pacifying the world.”

Sun said: “I worship Jesus Christ, and as for men, I admire King T'ang of Shang and King Wu of Chou, and America's George Washington.” In addition to that, Sun also had a deep admiration for Abraham Lincoln. In his house in Shanghai, the only picture that was mounted on the wall was a picture of Lincoln. Not coincidentally, the Sun Yat Sen Memorial in China has Sun positioned just like Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Also, in Hawaii, two of the greatest nationalists of Asia, Dr. Sun Yat Sen and Dr. Jose Rizal, a Philippine nationalist, are memorialized in statues which are looking directly at one another from a distance.

To Confucius, the superior man expressed anguish in knowing that his deeds have not surpassed his words. Sun expressed the same thing near his death. In “Sun Yat Sen, a Portrait,” by Stephen Chen and Robert Payne, Sun is reported to have said: “Really, to live and to die makes no difference to me personally, but to leave unrealized the principles I struggled for, for so many years, grieves me deeply.”

The Vietnamese revolutionary Phan Boi Chau had these words to say on the passing of Sun: “Threefold right of the people was your standard. The threefold right of the peoples was your way. To me, at Yokohama's Shiwado, twice over, your brush spoke truly for a future day; all people under heaven you rejoiced in; all people under heaven you hold dear. For you, long years oppressed by empire's minions, for you I shed a final, painful tear.”

Ki Inukai, one of Sun's closest friends in Japan, also had touching words for Sun: “For more than 10 years in the last part of the Meiji reign, Sun and I were on most intimate terms. At that time, only few persons believed in the doctrines he preached. The royalist party of Kang Yu-wei and Liang Ch'I-ch'ao was a confirmed foe of his. Yet he never lost heart, but preserved till he finally succeeded in overthrowing the Ching Dynasty. Dr. Sun was born for the Chinese revolution, and died for the Chinese revolution. Without Dr. Sun there would be no China of today. Viewing his life as a whole, I can truly assert that he was the first man in political history of the whole world. His death is a great loss, not only to his party and his country, but also to all the peoples of the Eastern and Western hemispheres of the Earth.”

A fellow dare-to-die by the name of Chen Tien Hua said this about Sun Yat Sen: “There are heroes who succeed. There are those who fail. Those who succeed call forth glowing eulogies; those who fail call forth tears of sympathy. But what of a hero who has failed repeatedly, and yet whose future is bright with hopes? Such a one is bound to attract the attention of the whole world. Although he has failed repeatedly, he is a man of great fortune. Although he springs from our own nation, he is not a hero of just one nation. But a great man belonging to the whole world, for his ideals and vision are not limited to our own nation, but tend to open up a new era for mankind, and shed a strong radiance upon the whole globe. I do not know about the posterity, I do not know about other nations, but so far as China of today is concerned, I can positively assert that Sun Yat Sen is the representative of our 400 million people, and that he is the hero of heroes among us Chinese.”

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