Three Principles of the People

Template:Politics of Taiwan

The Three Principles of the People (Traditional Chinese: 三民主義 ; Pinyin: Sān Mn Zhǔy ; Wade-Giles: San-min Chu-i), also translated as Three People's Principles, or collectively Sanmin Doctrine, is a political philosophy developed by Sun Yat-sen as part of a program to make China a free, prosperous, and powerful nation. Its legacy of implementation is most apparent in the governmental organization of the Republic of China, which currently administers Taiwan, Penghu, Quemoy, and Matsu Islands. The principles form the basis of the National Anthem of the Republic of China.


Enumeration of the principles

  • The Principle of Mnz (Min-tsu, 民族主義 "The People's Relation/Connection" or "Government of the People"): Nationalism. By this, Sun meant freedom from imperialist domination.
  • The Principle of Mnqun (Min-ch'an, 民權主義 "The People's Power" or "Government by the People"): Democracy. To Sun, it represented a Western constitutional government. First, he divided political life of his ideal for China into two 'powers':
    • The power of politics (zhèngquán): This is the power of the people to express their political wishes, similar to a parliament in other countries, and is represented by the National Assembly.
    • The power of governance (zhìquán): this is the power of administration. Here he expanded the European-American constitutional theory of a three-branch government and a system of checks and balances by incorporating traditional Chinese administrative tradition to create a government of five branches (each of which is called a yuàn or 'court'). The Legislative Yuan, the Executive Yuan, and the Judicial Yuan came from Montesquieuan thought; the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan came from Chinese tradition. (Note that the Legislative Yuan was first intended as a branch of governance, not strictly equivalent to a national parliament.)
  • The Principle of Mnshēng (Min-sheng, 民生主義 "The People's Welfare/Livelihood" or "Government for the People"): this is sometimes translated as socialism, although the government of Chiang Kai-Shek shied away from translating it as such. Sun understood it as an industrial economy and equality of land holdings for the Chinese peasant farmers. Here he was influenced by the American thinker Henry George (see Georgism); the Land Value Tax in Taiwan is a legacy thereof. He divided livelihood into four areas: food, clothing, housing, and transportation; and planned out how an ideal (Chinese) government can take care of these for its people.

Influences, canon, and legacy

The ideology is heavily influenced by Sun's experiences in the United States and contains elements of the American progressive movement and the thought championed by Abraham Lincoln.

The most definite (canonical) exposition of these principles was a book compiled from notes of speeches Sun gave near Guangzhou (taken by a colleague, Huang Chang Gu, in consultation with Sun), and therefore is open to interpretation by various parties and interest groups (see below) and may not have been as fully explicated as Sun might have wished. Indeed, Chiang Kai-shek supplied an annex to The Principle of Mnshēng, covering two additional areas of livelihood: education and leisure, and explicitly arguing that Minshēng was not to be seen as either supporting communism or socialism.

The Three People's Principles was claimed as the basis for the ideologies of the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek, of the Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong, and of the Japanese collaborationist government under Wang Jingwei. The Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China largely agreed on the meaning of nationalism but differed sharply on the meaning of democracy and people's welfare, which the former saw in Western social democratic terms and the latter interpreted in Marxist and Communist terms (though how well they both carried it out is subject to debate). The Japanese collaborationist governments interpreted nationalism less in terms of anti-imperialism and more in terms of cooperating with Japan to advance pan-Asian interests.

There were several higher-education institutes (university departments/faculties and graduate institutes) in Taiwan that used to devote themselves to the 'research and development' of the Three Principles; in this aspect. Since the late 1990s, these institutes have re-oriented themselves so that other political theories are also admitted as worthy of consideration, and have changed their names to be more ideologically neutral (such as Democratic Studies Institute).

In addition to this institutional phenomenon, many streets and businesses in Taiwan are named "Sanmin" or for one of the three principles. In contrast to other street names, there has been no major renaming of these streets or institutions in the 1990's.

Although the term "san-min zhu-yi" has been less explicitly invoked since the mid-1980s, no major political party has explicitly attacked its principles. The Three Principles of the People remains explicitly part of the platform of the Kuomintang and in the Constitution of the Republic of China. As far as Taiwan independence supporters, there is very little overt hostility to the principles themselves and attitudes toward the Three Principles of the People span the spectrum from indifference to reinterpreting the Three Principles of the People in a local Taiwanese context rather than in a pan-Chinese one.


  • Reed W. L. and Bristow M. J. (eds.), (2002), "National Anthems of the World", 10 ed., London: Cassell,p.526. ISBN 0-304-36382-0

External link

zh:三民主義 ms:San_Min_Chu-i


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