D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi

Sun Yatsen

     Early Leaders of Modern Constitutionalism in China


                                        LIANG Qichao

The first introduction of the concept of modern democracy into China is credited to exiled Chinese writer Liang Qichao. In 1895, he participated in protests in Beijing for increased popular participation during the late Qing Dynasty, the last ruling dynasty of China. It was the first of its kind in modern Chinese history. After escaping to Japan following the government's clampdown on anti-Qing protesters, Liang Qichao translated and commented on the works of Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Hume, Bentham and many other western political philosophers. He published his essays in a series of journals that easily found an audience among Chinese intelligentsia hungering for an explanation of why China, once a formidable empire of its own, was now on the verge of being dismembered by foreign powers. In interpreting Western democracy through the prism of his strongly Confucian background, Liang shaped the ideas of democracy that would be used throughout the next century. Liang favored gradual reform to turn China into a democratic constitutional monarchy.


                                              Sun Yat-sen

Liang's great rival among progressive intellectuals was Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a republican revolutionary. Sun felt that democracy would be impossible as long as the Qing monarchy still existed. Democracy was part of his platform, the Three Principles of the People (三民主義) - the principle of the people under 1 nation (nationalism), the principle of the people's rights (democracy), and the principle of the people's livelihood and well-being (civility, decency and respect). Like Liang, Sun agreed that democracy, or at least universal suffrage, could not happen overnight in a country with high illiteracy rates and lack of political consciousness. Sun's Three Stages of Revolution called for a period of "political tutelage" where people would be educated before elections can occur.