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Three Principles of the People
Sunyatsen1.jpg
Sun Yat-sen, who developed the Three Principles of the People
Traditional Chinese 三民主義
Simplified Chinese 三民主义
This article contains Chinese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.

The Three Principles of the People, also translated as Three People's Principles, or collectively San-min Doctrine, is a political philosophy developed by Sun Yat-sen as part of a philosophy to make China a free, prosperous, and powerful nation. Its legacy of implementation is most apparent in the governmental organization of the Republic of China (ROC) (not be confused with the People's Republic of China), which currently administers Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu Islands. This philosophy has been claimed as the cornerstone of the Republic of China's polity as carried by the Kuomintang (KMT). The principles also appear in the first line of the National Anthem of the Republic of China.

Contents

Enumeration

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Mínzú

The Principle of Mínzú (民族主義, Mínzú Zhǔyì) is commonly rendered as "nationalism", literally "the People's relation" or "government of the People." By this, Sun meant freedom from imperialist domination. To achieve this he believed that China must develop a "civic-nationalism," Zhonghua Minzu, as opposed to an "ethnic-nationalism," so as to unite all of the different ethnicities of China, mainly composed by the five major groups of Han, Mongols, Tibetans, Manchus, and the Muslims (such as the Uyghurs), which together are symbolized by the Five Color Flag of the First Republic (1911-1928). This sense of nationalism is different from the idea of "ethnocentrism," which equates to the same meaning of nationalism in Chinese language.

Mínquán

The Principle of Mínquán (民權主義, Mínquán Zhǔyì) is usually translated as "democracy"; literally "the People's power" or "government by the People." To Sun, it represented a Western constitutional government. First, he divided political life of his ideal for China into two sets of 'powers':

Powers

Politics

The power of politics (政權, zhèngquán) are the powers of the people to express their political wishes, similar to those vested in the citizenry or the parliaments in other countries, and is represented by the National Assembly. There are four of these powers: election (選舉), recall (罷免), initiative (創製), and referendum (複決). These may be equated to "civil rights."

Governance

The power of governance (治權, zhìquán) are the powers of administration. Here he expanded the European-American constitutional theory of a three-branch government and a system of checks and balances by incorporating traditional Chinese administrative tradition to create a government of five branches (each of which is called a Yuan (院, yuàn) or 'court'). The Legislative Yuan, the Executive Yuan, and the Judicial Yuan came from Montesquieuan thought; the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan came from Chinese tradition. (Note that the Legislative Yuan was first intended as a branch of governance, not strictly equivalent to a national parliament.)

Mínshēng

The Principle of Mínshēng (民生主義, Mínshēng Zhǔyì) is sometimes translated as "the People's welfare/livelihood," "Government for the People," or even socialism, though the government of Chiang Kai-shek shied away from translating it as such. The concept may be understood as social welfare or as populist ("for the people," "to pleasure the people") governmental measures. Sun understood it as an industrial economy and equality of land holdings for the Chinese peasant farmers. Here he was influenced by the American thinker Henry George (see Georgism); the land value tax in Taiwan is a legacy thereof. He divided livelihood into four areas: food, clothing, housing, and transportation; and planned out how an ideal (Chinese) government can take care of these for its people.

Influences

The ideology is heavily influenced by Sun's experiences in the United States and contains elements of the American progressive movement and the thought championed by Abraham Lincoln. Sun credited a line from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, "government of the people, by the people, for the people," as an inspiration for the Three Principles.

Sun was also heavily influenced by Confucian ideologies.

Canon

The most definite (canonical) exposition of these principles was a book compiled from notes of speeches Sun gave near Guangzhou (taken by a colleague, Huang Changgu, in consultation with Sun), and therefore is open to interpretation by various parties and interest groups (see below) and may not have been as fully explicated as Sun might have wished. Indeed, Chiang Kai-shek supplied an annex to the Principle of Mínshēng, covering two additional areas of livelihood: education and leisure, and explicitly arguing that Mínshēng was not to be seen as either supporting communism or socialism.

Legacy

The Three Principles of the People were claimed as the basis for the ideologies of the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek, of the Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong, and of the Wang Jingwei Government. The Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China largely agreed on the meaning of nationalism but differed sharply on the meaning of democracy and people's welfare, which the former saw in Western social democratic terms and the latter interpreted in Marxist and communist terms. The Japanese collaborationist governments interpreted nationalism less in terms of anti-imperialism and more in terms of cooperating with Japan to advance pan-Asian interests.

There were several higher-education institutes (university departments/faculties and graduate institutes) in Taiwan that used to devote themselves to the 'research and development' of the Three Principles in this aspect. Since the late 1990s, these institutes have re-oriented themselves so that other political theories are also admitted as worthy of consideration, and have changed their names to be more ideologically neutral (such as Democratic Studies Institute).

In addition to this institutional phenomenon, many streets and businesses in Taiwan are named "Sãn-mín" or for one of the three principles. In contrast to other controversial street names, there has been no major renaming of these streets or institutions in the 1990s.

Although the term "San-min Chu-i" has been less explicitly invoked since the mid-1980s, no major political party has explicitly attacked its principles. The Three Principles of the People remains explicitly part of the platform of the Kuomintang and in the Constitution of the Republic of China.

As for Taiwan independence supporters, some have objections regarding the formal constitutional commitment to a particular set of political principles. Also, they have been against the mandatory indoctrination in schools and universities, which have now been abolished in a piecemeal fashion beginning in the late 1990s. However, there is little fundamental hostility to the substantive principles themselves. In these circles, attitudes toward the Three Principles of the People span the spectrum from indifference to reinterpreting the Three Principles of the People in a local Taiwanese context rather than in a pan-Chinese one.

See also

Bibliography

  • Sun Yat-sen, translated by Pasquale d'Elia.The Triple Demism of Sun Yat-Sen. New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1974.

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