Sun Yatsen

  • Michael Twohey
Part of the Studies on the Chinese Economy book series (STCE)


In order to understand how traditional authoritarian principles were transferred and used after China’s 1911 Revolution, this section of the book examines modern China’s most important revolutionary figures: Sun Yatsen, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. This chapter describes Sun Yatsen’s support for authoritarian rule in China by analyzing his ideas about nationalism, democracy and welfare in his lectures on the ‘Three People’s Principles’ (Sanmin Zhuyi).1 Much has been written about the Sanmin Zhuyi and critics agree that it represents Sun’s most important work.2 In this chapter, an attempt is made to contribute to this research by suggesting that the fundamental elements that comprise Sun’s nationalism, democracy and welfare can be traced to Xunzi’s philosophy. Much more than Kang Youwei or Liang Qichao, Sun seemed to have built his political ideology on patterns that Xunzi established. The Sanmin Zhuyi also marks a turning point in the definition and legitimacy of authoritarian politics in China. Its importance as a text during Sun’s life, and later for figures like Mao Zedong, meant that the Chinese state was legitimated on socialist foundations, as they were defined by Sun’s welfare principle. This seemed to inform Mao’s authoritarian stance and major policies of the Chinese Communist Party in Mao’s early years3 and may have continued to influence Deng Xiaoping’s political outlook, as Chapters 6 and 7 indicate.


Chinese Communist Party Confucian Tradition Chinese Nation Chinese Socialism Chinese Nationalism 
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© Michael Twohey 1999

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  • Michael Twohey

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