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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

SUN YAT-SEN

By Lily Sui-fong Sun


Curriculum Vitae

MY GRANDFATHER, DR. SUN YAT-SEN, was a great revolutionary leader, an acclaimed national hero and the founding father of modern China. One of the century's most profound political thinkers and motivators, he mixed traditional Chinese cultural and moral values with the best of contemporary European and American social, political and economic ideas to create his famous "Three Principles of the People" (Nationalism, Democracy and People's Livelihood). His doctrine not only provided a blueprint for political reform and democratic thinking in China, but also became a model for many Third World countries.

What inspired Grandfather? He was born as Sun Wen to peasant parents on Nov. 12, 1866, in Xiangshan, Guangdong province. At 12, he went to Honolulu where he lived for four years and completed high school. There he inhaled the spirit of liberty and absorbed the influences of American life. He returned to China in 1883 and later moved to Hong Kong, where he completed his medical training in 1892. But he gave up medicine for a higher call after China's disgraceful defeat in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95). He traveled in the next 16 years, studying Western political and economic systems, and soliciting support from overseas Chinese for his ideas. Building a free, enlightened China became his life's goal.

In 1911, Dr. Sun inspired the epochal rebellion that toppled the Qing Dynasty and founded the Republic of China. On Jan. 1, 1912, he was inaugurated as provisional president. Soon, however, he stepped aside for Yuan Shih-kai, a powerful warlord with dynastic ambitions. Grandfather rallied the public against Yuan and his corrupt cohorts. Dr. Sun then focused on unifying the nation and improving the Nationalist Party's affairs. He established the Whampoa Military Academy. He developed the Three Principles to inspire his countrymen to patriotism and national unification, to lead China out of feudalism to democracy, and to spread prosperity. He dedicated himself to these goals until his death in Beijing on March 12, 1925.

Unfortunately, Dr. Sun's doctrine has not been faithfully implemented in China, and it has been largely ignored by the West. Recent years have seen renewed interest in the Three Principles as the value of my grandfather's ideology is increasingly recognized. More than 10,000 papers and books about the Three Principles have been published in 18 languages. This trend will continue. Dr. Sun's doctrine can stand the test of time and reality. To me, his greatest contribution is his concept of humanitarianism - the total well-being of the people.

Western democracies emphasize political rights, while socialist countries stress economic rights. Dr. Sun's Principle of Democracy takes care of political rights and his Principle of Livelihood economic rights. The West has begun to pay more attention to economic rights, while socialist nations are focusing more on political rights. Both are converging on the ideal my grandfather outlined: a combination of the two.

A Japanese scholar once told me: "The thought and spirit of Dr. Sun Yat-sen not only suits China but belongs to the whole world." The mark of a great leader is a lasting vision that will come to fruition long after he himself has passed on. These days, Dr. Sun's spirit continues to inspire the nearly 1.3 billion Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. He had uttered with his dying breath: "The mission of the revolution has not been completely accomplished. My comrades, you must continue to strive for peace! Save China!"

As I was born more than a decade after Grandfather's death, I never had the privilege of interacting with him. But his teachings were impressed upon me by his son - my father - Sun Fo. Father constantly reminded me that Grandfather stressed the need to study and to cultivate one's energy for the universal welfare. Dr. Sun himself was the epitome of scholarliness; he traversed America, Europe and Japan, culling their best social, political and cultural practices to develop a reconstruction plan for China. He was also a model of selflessness and nationalism, giving up the presidency to a powerful warlord to avoid civil war, then rallying the people to overcome this dictator.

It is the heritage of the Sun family to sacrifice its own comfort and security for the nation. For example, Father contributed the clan's entire wealth of 20,000 silver dollars to the army in its campaign against the Japanese invaders during World War II. He said: "If one loses one's country, what good is the family?" As a blood descendant and president of the Sun Yat-sen Foundation for Peace and Education, I am determined to carry on Grandfather's legacy.

Lily Sui-fong Sun, a granddaughter of Sun Yat-sen, has recently published a biography of the Chinese leader.


SUN YAT-SEN

•Born on Nov. 12, 1866

•Traveled widely, inspiring a revolution against the Qing Dynasty, 1895-1911

•Named provisional president of the Republic of China on Jan. 1, 1912, but soon relinquished post to avoid civil war

•Developed Three Principles of the People

•Died on March 12, 1925

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