Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen, the son of a farmer, was born in 1866. He moved to Hawaii where he was brought up by his older brother. He studied medicine in Hong Kong and after graduating in 1892 he worked in Macao, Guangzhou and Honolulu. Sun Yat-sen became interested in politics and established the Revive China Society.

In 1895 Sun Yat-sen took part at Guangzhou in his first abortive uprising. Forced into exile he lived in Japan, the United States and Britain. While in London he was kidnapped and imprisoned in the Chinese legation. In danger of being executed the British Foreign Office got involved and obtained his release.

The Qing dynasty was finally overthrown in the Chinese Revolution of 1911. Sun Yat-sen briefly became president and with Song Jiaoren established he Kuomintang (National People's Party). When the party was suppressed in 1913 by General Yuan Shikai, Sun Yat-sen escaped to Japan.

Sun Yat-sen returned to Guangzhou and with the the help of advisers from the Soviet Union the Kuomintang gradually increased its power in China. In 1924 it adopted the "Three Principles of the People" (nationalism, democracy and social reform). He also established the Whampoa Military Academy under Chiang Kai-Shek.

Sun Yat-sen died of cancer in Beijing in 1925.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Su Kaiming, Modern China (1985)

In February 1923, Sun Yat-sen returned to Guangzhou where he immediately set up a headquarters of a new revolutionary government. Soviet Russia sent Michael Borodin (1884-1951) and some military advisers to help him, and a provisional central committee of the Kuomintang which included a number of Communists was organized.

The Chinese Communist Party held its Third National Congress in Guangzhou in June 1923, and the question of forming a revolutionary united front with the Kuomintang was discussed. The congress affirmed Sun Yat-sen's contribution to the Chinese revolution and resolved to help him in reorganizing the Kuomintang and establishing cooperation between the two parties.

The gap between Sun Yat-sen and the West continued to widen. When he threatened in December to seize the customs revenues in the port of Guangzhou, the powers staged a naval demonstration to preserve the status quo. Thwarted, Sun angrily stated, "We no longer look to the Western powers.

Our faces are turned toward Russia."

In January 1924, Sun Yat-sen called the First National Congress of the reorganized Kuomintang in Guangzhou. Among the Communists who attended were Li Dazhao, Mao Zedong and Qu Qiubai (Chu Chiu-pai, 1899-1935). The congress adopted the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal policy advanced by the Communists, agreed to absorb individual Communists and Socialist Youth League members into the Kuomintang, and decided to reorganize the Kuomintang into a revolutionary alliance of workers, peasants, the petty-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie. In this way, new blood was infused into the ranks of the Kuomintang and Sun Yat-sen became the leader of a revitalized revolutionary movement.

(2) Qi Wen, China (1979)

In 1923, the Chinese Communist Party decided to establish a revolutionary united front. It helped Sun Yat-sen reorganize the Kuomintang (the old Tong Meng Hui was reorganized into the Kuomintang after the Revolution of 1911). With the formation of the Kuomintang-Communist united front, the Chinese Communist Party mobilized the masses on a broad scale, and the revolutionary situation developed vigorously. It continued to rise after the death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925. Organized and energized by the Party, the revolutionary forces swept away the reactionary forces in Guangdong, and in 1926 the Northern Expeditionary War began. Supported by the masses, the revolutionary army defeated the counter-revolutionary armies of the Northern warlords and occupied central and south China. The worker-peasant movement grew rapidly throughout the country.

Seeing that the warlord regime they supported was tottering in the sweep of the revolutionary tide, the imperialist forces hastily looked for new agents and finally picked Chiang Kai-shek who had worked his way into the position of Commander-in-Chief of the National Revolutionary Army". In April 1927, at a crucial moment in the forward advance of the Northern Expeditionary War, Chiang staged, with the active support of the big bourgeoisie and landlord class, a counter-revolutionary coup d'etat against the Chinese Communist Party and the revolutionary people.

(3) Sun Yat-sen, letter to the Kuomintang (1925)

For 40 years I have devoted myself to the cause of the people's revolution with but one end in view: the elevation of China to a position of freedom and equality among the nations. My experience during these 40 years has convinced me that to attain this goal we must bring about an awakening of our own people and ally ourselves in common struggle with those people of the world who treat us as equals.

(4) Sun Yat-sen, letter to Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party (1925)

I leave behind me a party which, as has always been my wish, will be bound up with you in the historic work of the final liberation of China and other exploited nations from the imperialist order. By the will of fate, I must leave my work unfinished and hand it over to those who, remaining true to the principles and teachings of the party, will show themselves to be my true followers.

Taking leave of you, dear comrades, I want to express the hope that the day will come when the U.S.S.R. will welcome a friend and ally in a mighty, free China, and that in the great struggle for the liberation of the oppressed peoples of the world, both these allies will go forward to victory hand in hand.

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