Jiang Jieshi on the Three Principles of the People (1943)


In 1943 Jiang Jieshi published China’s Destiny, which became his best-known work. In this extract he discusses and endorses Sun Yixian’s Three Principles of the People:


“In my article ‘The System and Practice of the Three Principles of the People’, I stated: The reason why we human beings are different from, and higher than, all animals and can continuously develop and make progress, is because we have emotions, laws, discipline and reason, all of them indispensable for maintaining human survival and pushing forward human progress.

Nationalist emotion is the noblest of all human emotions. This is because a nation is formed by the forces of nature, so to unite the nation we must depend on the natural emotions of humankind.

As for the principle of democracy, the finest of legal human organisations is the politics of the whole people, which is the politics of democracy. To lay down rules for the duties and privileges of each nation depends entirely upon law and discipline, equitably applied by government.

As concerns people’s livelihood, the most rational pattern is economic equality of the whole people, without oppression or exploitation, with the interests of the great majority harmonised, and able to reach the state of equality without poverty, harmony without isolation, and peace without instability…

So I say that nationalism is based on emotion, democracy on law, and the principle of the people’s livelihood on reason… So emotion, reason, and law each has its own proper function, which means that the three principles of the people are more complete, as well as more far-reaching and easier to implement, than any other doctrine. It is obvious from this that in the Three Principles of the People, emotion, reason and law each receives its proper emphasis and has its proper place.

There are some scholars who argue that China’s political philosophy lays stress on rule by propriety or rule by man, but opposes rule by law. This is a misunderstanding. We can see that rule by law has a very important place and function in the three principles of the people.”