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Agree with Sun Yat-sen?


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Recently, I've been learning about the French Revolution, and while I was reading about it online, I found Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People. In it, he said

Therefore the aims of the Chinese Revolution are different from the aims in foreign revolutions, and the methods we use must also be different. Why, indeed, is China having a revolution? To put the answer directly, the aims of our revolution are just opposite to the aims of the revolutions of Europe. Europeans rebelled and fought for liberty because they had had too little liberty. But we, because we have had too much liberty without any unity and resisting power, because we have become a sheet of loose sand and so have been invaded by foreign imperialism and oppressed by the economic control and trade wars of the Powers, without being able to resist, must break down individual liberty and become pressed together into an unyielding body like the firm rock which is formed by the addition of cement to sand. Chinese today are enjoying so much freedom that they are showing the evils of freedom. This is true not merely in the schools but even in our Revolutionary Party. The reason why, from the overthrow of the Manchus until now, we have not been able to establish a government is just this misuse of freedom.

Is this true? The Chinese had too much freedom during the Manchu reign? I thought the Manchu reign was oppressive...

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My thought after reading the linked article is that the word "freedom" seems to be used in slightly different ways. I don't have too much expertise on the Qing dynasty, but from what I understand, I would agree it was a typical authoritarian monarchy that would not be considered a freedom-loving government by today's standard. I would interpret the usage of the word freedom as connoting the inability of the government fulfill its responsibility to organize the people along nationalistic lines to resist foreign powers. As a result of the lack of effective governmental organization, the individual Chinese were likened to sand particles. The concrete should be the effect of the organization from a responsible government. The last sentence quoted below seems to particularly focus on the chaos and power struggles that hurt the national cause after the fall of the empire. I doubt the word freedom signifies freedom of speech, or press, voting, protection from cruel and unusual punishment, etc. These freedoms, from what I understand were not generally existent in China of that day, and so it is seemingly not an excess of this sort of freedom that prevented unity of the nation. So I read the text as signifying that the major difference between Western revolutions and China's revolution following the Qing dynasty was that, in the Western cases, oppression was the result of an strong internal authoritarian government; in China's situation, oppression came from foreign powers because the Qing empire (and later the warlords) resulted in a weak national government. Obviously I have simplified things a bit, though.


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The reason why, from the overthrow of the Manchus until now, we have not been able to establish a government is just this misuse of freedom.

Sounds like he's talking about the time after the overthrow of the Qing dynasty.

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