The Right Revolution

Dr. Sun Yat-sen provided an answer for that question. Nationalism, for Dr. Sun, was what China needed to avoid “being lost and (its) people destroyed” (Sun Yat-sen, 1). Sun Yat-sen envisioned a China based on the principles of nationalism, democracy, and socialism. Democracy, espoused by the West at the time, was at the heart of Sun Yat-sen’s proposal. He envisioned a powerful republic, where the people and the government would share power to avoid its seizure by either side. Sun Yat-sen explicitly wished to “combine the best from China and the best from other countries” to prevent the abuse of power (Sun Yat-sen, 4). He also endorsed socialist programs such as land reform and capital regulation (Sun Yat-sen, 5).

On the surface, these reforms seem similar to those of the Qing reformers. Both espoused representation, modernization, and public spirit. The key difference was that Sun Yat-sen defined the new public spirit that people were to display. Nationalism was the guiding force of the new China. People were to abandon their antiquated superstitions and put the welfare of China at the center of their lives. Although Sun Yat-sen united China under the banner of nationalism, the Chinese people disagreed upon the means with which to pursue Sun’s ends. Everyone was working towards a strong, independent China, but in different ways. Some believed that a constitutional monarchy was the answer. Others wanted a democratic republic. Still others, influenced by the Russian Revolution, wished to create a Communist government. Sun Yat-sen’s movement was revolutionary and provided a new foundation for China, but failed to unify its people, a fact that led to the failure of the Revolution of 1911 to establish a stable government.

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