Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (1866 - 1925) was a Chinese revolutionary thinker and political leader who had a significant role in the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty. A founder of the KuoMinTang, Sun Yat-Sen was the first provisional president when the Republic of China was founded in 1912.
Sun Yat-Sen was a uniting figure in post-imperial China and remains unique among 20th century Chinese politicians for being widely revered in both mainland China and Taiwan. On the mainland, Sun is highly regarded as the Father of Modern China. Although he is considered one of the greatest leaders of modern China, his life was one of constant struggle and frequent exile.
Sun Yat-sen was born to a peasant family. Supported financially by an elder brother who found success in the US, he studied English, mathematics and science, became a doctor and was influenced by Chistianity. He felt China was backward and quit his profession to try to push reforms. Rebuffed by the gentry because of his lowly background, Sun Yat-Sen formed the idea that the Qing dynasty should be overthrown and a republic created.
In 1895 a coup he had plotted failed, and for the next sixteen years Sun Yat-Sen was an exile in Europe, the US, Canada and Japan, raising money for his revolutionary party and bankrolling uprisings in China.
On October 10, 1911, a military uprising at WuChang, in which Sun Yat-Sen had no direct involvement, began a process that ended over two thousand years of imperial rule in China. When he learned of the successful rebellion against the Qing emperor, he immediately returned to China and on December 29, a meeting of representatives from provinces in Nanjing elected Sun Yat-Sen as the provisional President of the Republic of China.
However, even by the late 1910s, China was still greatly divided by different military leaders without a proper central government. The north was still resistant to the new republic. After Sun Yat-Sen's death, leadership of the Nationalists was gained by Chiang Kai-Shek who preferred to fight the communists rather than the japanese who began their invasion in northern China.
While the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek behaved like a new elite, the Communists gained respect for their treatment of the peasants and workers, and their bravery confronting the japanese. Ultimately, the communists won the civil war and the nationalists fled to Taiwan. In Taiwan today, there is a split between those who seek unification and those who seek formal separation from the mainland.
Sun Yat-Sen developed a political philosophy known as the Three Principles of the People, which still heavily influences Chinese governments today. He often said that a phrase from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, "government of the people, by the people, for the people", had been the inspiration for the Three Principles of the People.
Approximately, these principles concern freedom from oppression by an elite, as the imperial period had been ('government of the people'), that all people have a say in government ('government by the people') and social welfare ('government for the people'). He was also influenced by Confucianism regarding government responsibilities to the people.
Sun Yat-Sen was a moderniser, progressive and, above all, a nationalist in the best sense who wanted China and all its people to prosper.