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A great achievement in difficult times

China Daily

After being rescued from Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) officials, Sun Yat-sen fled to London, where he spent a major part of his time researching at the British Museum to determine which direction China should move toward. During the course of his study, Sun Yat-sen realized that China had to solve three important problems first.

When nation states were being formed in Europe, the Qing Dynasty was in power in China and regaled in ethnic discrimination. Consequently, Sun advocated, though temporarily, that the Manchu rulers be expelled.

China had been subjected to feudal autocracy for a couple of thousand years when the Western-educated Sun realized that the country belonged to the people. Till then, most of the attempts to overthrow the monarchy had ended in the loss of innocent lives and entailed huge social costs. So Sun Yat-sen changed the norms and propagated democracy, replacing "beheading" with votes to bring the curtains down on the monarchy.

During his studies in London, Sun found that workers still lived a hard life even in the most developed countries, because capitalists were too obsessed with profits and wealth to care about laborers' livelihoods. To nip similar phenomena in the bud and avoid piling up of social costs, Sun realized he had to "accomplish the revolution at one stroke". That gave birth to "the Three Principles of the People" which explained history in terms of people's livelihoods.

Sun's "Three Principles of the People" were aimed at protecting the country and people, overthrowing the autocratic Qing Dynasty and establishing a democratic republic ruled by the people to ensure that everyone lived a life of dignity.

Sun wanted a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

And not surprisingly, he declared that government officials were servants of the people and the government should take measures to improve people's livelihoods.

Just as Deng Xiaoping said, "no matter if it is white cat or a black cat, as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat." A government can only be good if it ensures that the people live a life of happiness and dignity.

Both the mainland and Taiwan are now striving to improve people's livelihoods and establish an atmosphere of peace for the benefit of the people, which is exactly what Sun Yat-sen tried to do. Mencius said that "the people are the most important, next is society, and the least important are the rulers" - which means a country should exist for its people.

On the centenary of the 1911 Revolution, let's bow to the martyrs who devoted their lives to the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. We also need to commemorate Sun Yat-sen who put forward the "Three Principles of the People" that saved China and its people.

The author is a professor at Chinese Culture University in Taipei and former chairman of party history committee of Kuomintang central committee.

(China Daily 10/10/2011 page9)