Sun’s First People’s Principle

If Sun’s political legacy remains his title of guofu (国父), or “father of the country,” his intellectual legacy is a series of lectures he gave to students in Guangzhou laying out his “Three Principles of the People,” the sanmin zhuyi (三民主义).

Sun’s first principle, “The Principle of Race,” minzu zhuyi (民族主义), established the importance of nationalism for China’s rejuvenation. Sun, like many Chinese of his time, closely identified China’s nationhood with the Han Chinese race. Nationalism for Sun was integral to restoring China’s national pride, which in turn would motivate Chinese to restore their nation. In this first principle, Sun coined one of his most famous metaphors, which gives this chapter its title:

Despite four hundred million people gathered in one China, we are, in fact, but a sheet of loose sand [yipan sansha (一盘散沙)]. We are the poorest and weakest state in the world, occupying the lowest position in international affairs; the rest of mankind is the carving knife and the serving dish, while we are the fish and meat…If we do not earnestly promote nationalism and weld together our four hundred millions into a strong nation, we face a tragedy–the loss of our country and the destruction of our race. (Wealth and Power, page 131)