Sun Yixian on the principle of nationalism (1924)


In January 1924 Sun Yixian (Sun Yat-sen) delivered a lecture, where he explained and expanded on his famous Three Principles. Here he discusses nationalism:

“What are the three principles of the people? The simplest definition is that they are the principles of saving the country… I ask you, is not this China of ours in need of salvation? If that is the case, then let us put our faith in the three principles of the people. This faith will bring about a great power which can save China…

What is nationalism? According to the social customs and conditions in Chinese history, I would say simply that nationalism is the doctrine of the state-nation (guozu zhuyi). What Chinese people worship is the family and clan, so China only adheres to the doctrines of family and clan. not to the state-nation. Foreign observers say that Chinese are a sheet of loose sand.

Why is this? it’s because the people as a whole care about the doctrines of the family and clan. but not the state-nation. For Chinese, the unifying force of family and clan is very great indeed and many have been willing to sacrifice their families and lives to defend the clan.. But there has never been a case of such a supreme sacri?ce for the sake of the country. So the unifying force of the Chinese extends only to the clan, not as far as to the nation-state.”