“The role of Sun Yatsen (Sun Yat-sen) in the emergence of modern China has been greatly exaggerated.” To what extent do you agree with this statement? (M09)

Why Sun Yet Sen is considered to be exaggerated?

  • Sun spent most of his time abroad, drumming support from overseas
  • He did not participate in the Wuchang Uprising, rather earlier he had failed in 1895 during another uprising. After Wuchang, he merely returned to be nominated to be President
  • After becoming president, he turned his power over to Yuan Shi Kai, allowing him to enforce a Monarchic rule
  • His second revolution failed terribly in 1914
  • Both the PRC and ROC name him as the founding father of their respective nations
  • He never participated in the Northern Expedition, he had died before the army was ready
  • His ideology was widespread by the KMT, but never fully enforced

Sun’s Aims:

  • Unifying China
  • Modernize, strengthening China by resisting foreign influences
  • Drum up support overseas to support the new Democratic Alliance cause


  • Viva la revolution (1895 Canton Uprising, 1914 Second Revolution)
  • Creation of the Tongmenghui (in Tokyo)
  • Travelling in the USA and Japan to raise support
  • Acceptance for the role of President (1912)


  • Sun gain international recognition of a new democratic movement, especially gaining fame over the London kidnapping incident
  • Gain of Soviet Support by creating the Soviet-KMT-CCP United Front (1924)
  • His Three People’s Principles and Three Stages of Revolution would be the basis of KMT rule after his death
  • The Tongmenghui became a prominent underground organization


  • Had no real achievement, two failed revolutions and never within the country to plan
  • the 1911 uprising had nothing to do with the revolutionary forces, rather was a convenience of economic depression, flooding, discontent within the army and railway protests
  • He turned over his power to Yuan Shi Kai, a conservative monarch (HOWEVER, arguably Sun was no in a position to fight a civil war)
  • His Three People’s Principles were not completely followed (First point only)
  • He was transformed into a cult by Chiang Kai Shek
  • His United Front collapsed after his death
  • Never succeeded to initiate his social/ economic reforms

Sun Yatsen (Sun Yat-sen) is remembered as the “father” of modern China, whose opposition to the Qing (Ch’ing) led to their overthrow in 1911. Sun’s uprising in Canton in 1895 failed and he spent most of the following years abroad, organizing opposition to the Qing (Ch’ing) and raising support for the revolutionary cause in Europe and the United States and amongst the Overseas Chinese in general. In 1905 he formed the Tongmenghui (Tung Meng Hui) in Tokyo, along with another revolutionary, Huang Xing (Huang Hsing) (1874–1916). In the following years several unsuccessful revolutionary incidents occurred in the South. In 1911 the situation was worsened by severe flooding in central China, economic depression, opposition to the proposed nationalisation of the railways and discontent within army units. The 1911 rising began when a planned insurrection was brought forward after the plot was discovered. Sun was abroad and did not return to China, instead raising support in the United States for the revolution which was supported by the provincial assemblies of southern and central China. Though Sun returned to China and accepted the presidency of the revolutionary government, he turned it over to Yuan Shikai (Yuan Shih-kai). Sun continued to play an active role until his death in 1924. Expect reference to his role in reorganizing the Guomindang (Kuomintang) and defining the Three Principles of the people.

[0 to 7 marks] maximum for narrative or unstructured general comment. [8 to 10 marks] for an uncritical account of the role of Sun Yatsen.

[11 to 13 marks] for simple analysis of Sun’s role with reference to other revolutionaries and events leading to the revolution of 1911 and in the period thereafter to 1924.

[14 to 16 marks] for detailed comparative analysis of Sun’s role and that of other revolutionaries and events.

[17+ marks] for detailed analysis and comment on the role of Sun in the events leading to the establishment of the republic and in the years after.


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