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Persons in Chinese History - Sun Yat-sen (Sun Wen 孫文, Sun Zhongshan 孫中山)

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Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925, in China called Sun Wen 孫文 or Sun Zhongshan 孫中山 "Nakayama"; the name Sun Yixian 孫逸仙, Cantonese "Sun Yat-sen", is only used in the West) is the most prominent leader of the Chinese "bourgeois" revolution (he called himself a professional revolutionary), he was called the "father of the nation" (Guofu 國父). Being born in the poor town of Xiangshan 象山 near Guangzhou (Canton)/Guangdong he followed his brother to Honolulu as a child where he studied some of the traditional Confucian Classics and obtained his college degree in Hong Kong. He lived in a time when China was again and again defeated by foreign powers and humiliated by the unequal treaties, and Sun concluded that it was time to overthrow the corrupt Manchu Dynasty, like the Taiping rebels had tried. During his studies and practice in medicine in the area of Hong Kong, Macao, and Guangzhou he developed contacts with some of the traditional secret societies by his partner Zheng Shiliang. In Hawaii Sun had learned more about democracy, modern legal systems, modern schools and the need for industrial development, and he became aware that the foundation of a democracy was not a sufficient measure to protect a state against foreign intrusion. Much more important was the creation of a sense of nationalism and the will to support the nation by a people under better social conditions than in actual China.
Sun Yat-sen had contact with reformists among the traditional Chinese elite, the journalist Wang Tao and the doctor He Qi (He Kai). His attempt to reach the important Qing politician Li Hongzhang was fruitless. His help could mainly come from the Chinese overseas in America, Japan and Southeast Asia. In 1894 he founded the Revive China Society (Xingzhonghui 興中會) whose goal was to overthrow the Manchus and to found a republic. The symbol of the society was the blue sky-white sun flag later used by the Republic of China. After a revolutionary uprising in Guangzhou Sun had to flee to Japan where he gained also the support of Japanese Pan-Asiatists like Miyazaki Yazō. In 1896 the Qing secret service kidnapped Sun Yat-sen while he was staying in London. Through the intervention of the British foreign office he was released and became famous overnight.
In the following years Sun developed his ideology, the Three People's Principles (sanmin zhuyi 三民主義: nationalism, democracy, people's livelihood - minzu zhuyi 民族主義, minquan zhuyi 民權主義, minsheng zhuyi 民生主義). By national consciousness, the Chinese had to overthrow the corrupt Manchu regime that was held guilty for all the sufferings since the Opium War and to remove the yoke of foreign imperialism. Democracy had to be established in Five Powers, the executive, legislative, juristiction, supervisory control, and officials' examination (the two last being a reminescence of the traditional Chinese bureaucracy and examination system for officials), and modeled after Western democracies, especially the American. People's livelihood was especially meant as the undertaking of social reforms and land reforms. But Sun also developed detailed plans for the period after the revolution. For three years, there would be a military government that should act as military and civil administration. Old political and social evils had to be abandoned during this time, slavery, foot-binding, opium-smoking, and bureaucratic corruption had to be given up. The second stage of about six years should be period of political tutelage during which local selfgovernment and democracy at county level would be established. A provisional constitution should be introduced on national level. After this period the military government should be dissolved.
But Sun did not find large support among the Chinese overseas, and further, he had to cope with the hostility of the monarchist reformists like Kang Youwei 康有為 and Liang Qichao 梁啟超 that did not accept revolutionary activities. Liang Qichao later approached to Sun, especially after the desastrous Boxer Rebellion in 1900. Sun now obtained support by writers and intellectuals within China, like Cai Yuanpei, Huang Xing, and Song Jiaoren. Newspapers spread the revolutionary thoughts, and many revolutionary societies were founded on Chinese soil. These societies were joined in 1905 under the United Leage (Tongmenghui 同盟會), a society that would be able to stage several revolutionary uprisings, and that embraced very different groups of people discontent with the Qing Dynasty.
Agents of the Tongmenghui were able to convince members of the New Army of the revolutionary cause, and the garrison at Wuchang (Wuhan)/Hubei started a revolution late 1911 after large groups of the gentry that had invested money, felt discontent with the nationalization of the Sichuan Railway. Although Sun who was abroad in November 1911 was proposed as the leader of the new republic, the ceded presidency to the powerful general Yuan Shikai 袁世凱 who was able to convince the Manchu government to retreat. Yuan Shikai on his side tried to manoever out Sun Wen and his party collegues after he had founded a united front, the National Democratic Party (Kuomintang 國民黨). After an attempt to encounter the dictatorial politics of Yuan Shikai in a second revolution (Erci geming 二次革命) Sun fled to Japan where he married Song Qingling 宋慶齡 in 1914.
When the usurper Yuan Shikai who had proclaimed himself emperor in 1916, died, Sun Wen could return to China. Because of factional strifes he could not but found his own military government in his home province of Guangdong. But Sun had to leave Guangzhou once more when the militaries did not support the Kuomintang. In his exile in Shanghai Sun wrote down his political theories and tried to reorganize his party that obviously lacked political attactivity. With the support of the warlord Cheng Jiongming 陳炯明 Sun could return to Guangzhou in 1920 and took over presidency two years later. He announced a northern expedition make an end of the warlord rulers in northern China, but again he had to flee to Shanghai, accompanied by Chiang Kai-shek, one of his military caders. In 1923 Sun published his manifesto that described the Three People's Principles. Because Sun had lost his confidence in the support of the Western powers he sought material and organisatory support by Soviet and Comintern advisors. He concluded an arrangement with the Communist Party that had been founded in 1921 to collaborate for the unification of a reformable China. Double-membership in the CPC (Communist Party of China) and the KMT was allowed, a circumstance that should later be employed by Chiang Kai-shek to accuse the Communists of undermining the GMT. As president of a new Guangzhou military government, Sun prepared a national party congress of the GMT in Beijing for 1924. The party was reorganized following the model of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union with a central executive committee. A crucial point in the history of the GMT was the foundation of the Huangpu military academy (in the West known as Whampoa; Huangpu junxiao 黃埔軍校) with Chiang Kai-shek as director that trained military and political caders of the GMT and the Communist Party. The military staff of the two parties should be superior to that of the warlords and thus be able to defeat the warlords during the later Northern Expedition. The northern warlord Zhang Zuolin 張作霖 signalized his willingness to cooperate with Sun. The president traveled to Beijing but died on March 12, 1925 by liver cancer. He is buried in the Zijinshan Hills 紫金山 east of Nanjing and is venerated as the founder of republican China in both the People's Republic and in Taiwan.


March 8, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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