Sun Yat-sen: “The Three Principles of the People”

(1921)

Sun Yat-sen’s speech “The Three Principles of the People” (“Sanmin zhuyi”) was delivered on March 6, 1921, at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National People's Party in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou (Canton). In this speech, Sun, the founder of the Republic of China, elaborated on the three primary tenets of his political doctrine: the ethnic nation (minzu), the people's rights (minquan), and the well-being of the people (minsheng). In English, these principles have often been translated as nationalism, democracy, and Socialism. In Chinese, each of these principles contains the character min, which means “people.” Sun likened his principles to U.S. president Abraham Lincoln's ideals of government (expressed in the Gettysburg Address) “of the people” (nationalism), “by the people” (democracy), and “for the people” (Socialism).

As early as 1905, Sun had drafted the first version of “The Three Principles of the People” in collaboration with some of his...

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Sun Yat-sen (Library of Congress)

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