Sun Yat-sen and Chinese and Western culture

Research on this topic has been extended on the basis of the studies in the 1980s. Regarding the evolution of Sun’s thought, some scholars said that Sun’s attitudes toward Chinese and Western culture changed greatly with time. Before and after the 1911 Revolution, he advocated absorbing modern Western culture to transform the feudal culture thoroughly; after the “May 4th Movement”, he promoted the restoration of tradition. Some scholars said that the gist of his thought on culture was to integrate Chinese and Western culture, absorb the merits of different cultures and make cultural innovation. He was neither the advocate of complete Westernization who discarded the traditions totally, nor the cultural conservative who stuck to the traditions tenaciously. It is biased to say that Sun had the tendency to “return” to the traditional culture in his later years.83

As for Sun Yat-sen and Western culture, some scholars thought that in the transformation of modern culture, Sun still remained at the level of advocating the adoption of Western modern science and technology and political and economic systems, but he seldom advocated absorbing the modern ideological theories based on the principle of individuality, which was at the deeper level of the spiritual culture.84 As for Sun Yat-sen and the traditional Chinese culture, some scholars said that Sun’s long-term residence overseas determined that the tradition of Chinese culture in his mind had been “filtered” by the Western culture; although much of his thought was compatible with the traditional culture, but the phenomenon of Westernization was still inevitable. Throughout his whole life, he had the consistent belief in the traditional culture, but also had made some appropriate adaptations at times. It was this attitude that distinguished him from the anti-traditionalists and cultural conservatives.85

2.4.3 Sun Yat-sen and Japan

Great progress has been made in this area. Research on the Relationship between Sun Yat-sen and Japan and Sun Yat-sen and Japan chronologically explored the complex relationship between Sun and Japanese personages of all circles during various important periods. The authors of these two books held that “Sun Yat-sen and the Chinese revolutionaries expected Japan’s aid to achieve their revolutionary goal, while the Japanese side, especially the Military Ministry and the ronin, were undoubtedly in a futile attempt to achieve their expansion in China by taking advantage of their dependents”.86 “The fundamental purposes of both sides had been antagonistic all the time. However, sometimes they had common interests on some issues, to wit, their means and methods for realizing their own purposes were sometimes identical under special historical conditions”.87 It reflected that Sun Yat-sen was idealistic in politics, but in practice he was often pragmatic and opportunistic. The Chronicles of the Historical Events of Sun Yat-sen and Japan was a highly informative book, which unveiled all kinds of conspiracies of the Japanese imperialists to take advantage of, manipulate, and suppress the Chinese revolutionary forces, and also revealed Sun Yat-sen’s expectations and illusions about the Japanese authorities and the gradually improving process of his understanding.88

Another focus was the discussion on the authenticity of The Sino-Japanese Treaty. Some researchers took a negative attitude toward “The Sino-Japanese Treaty” and argued that it had the following flaws: its source was unknown; Sun Wen’s seal on it was a forged one; Sun Wen’s signature on it was an imitated one; February 5 was not the date of signing. It was only “a conspiracy organized by the Military Ministry of Japan to invade China, whose purpose was to use it as an argument for Japan’s plunder of China, and thus covered its ambition of invading China in the ‘Twenty-One Demands’”. Sun Yat-sen opposed the “Twenty-One Demands” resolutely, and “he would neither mortgage China’s sovereignty for Japan’s aid to Chinese revolution, nor accept the so-called ‘Sino-Japanese Treaty’ which was equal to the Twenty-One Demands”.89 Some scholars held a neutral position on this issue and doubted both the view confirming the authenticity of “The Sino-Japanese Treaty” and the view negating its authenticity.90

Sun Yat-sen’s relationship with Soviet Russia was also one of the focuses of research during this stage. Some scholars discussed the relationship among Sun Yat-sen, Zhang Zuolin, and Soviet Russia. In order to achieve the purpose of cooperating with Soviet Russia, Sun Yat-sen tried very hard to mediate the relationship between Zhang Zuolin and Soviet Russia, which “reflected that on the one hand, Sun Yat-sen was determined to inaugurate a new phase of Chinese revolution with the help of Soviet Russia. On the other hand, his attempt to incorporate old ways and strategies of struggle into the new plan revealed the complexity of his thought on the revolutionary struggles in his later years”.91

Some scholars thought that in the early 1920s, Soviet Russia took its national interests as the starting point and ultimately decided to cooperate with Sun Yat-sen. Soviet Russia’s China policy had a dual nature, aiming at not only promoting the Chinese revolution, but also establishing diplomatic relations with China to safeguard its interests in China. Soviet Russia initially chose Wu Peifu, who held the real power of the Beijing Government, as its cooperator. Soon afterwards, it strongly urged Wu Peifu and Sun Yat-sen to establish a pro-Russia government jointly, but finally they turned to Sun Yat-sen, whose strength and status had been rising constantly.92

Adolf Abramovich Joffe had played an important role in the secret negotiations prompting Sun Yat-sen and Wu Peifu’s cooperation, and some scholars had made investigations into this issue based on the newly discovered and newly published historical data, holding that the failure of Jofife’s secret promotion of “Sun-Wu cooperation” frustrated Soviet Russia’s wish to achieve the two goals of its China policy at the same time. Since then, Soviet Russia had to continue to deal with the two Chinese regimes in the North and the South respectively. However, the establishment of the cooperative relationship with Sun Yat-sen made Soviet Russia gain great initiative in its diplomatic activities in China. “This unsuccessful secret negotiation was of great importance for Sun Yat-sen’s political struggle in his later years”.93

It is particularly worth mentioning that the first book series of the Sun Yat-sen Foundation were published in October of 1996, including Jin Chongji’s Sun Yat-sen and the 1911 Revolution, Zhang Lei’s Sun Yat-sen: A Tough and Great Pioneer, Huang Yan’s Sun Yat-sen Research and the Compilation of Historical Data, Jiang Yihua’s When the Great Tao Prevailed - Study of Sun Yat-sen’s Thought, Duan Yunzhang’s The Chronicles of the Historical Events of Sun Yat-sen and Japan, Li Jikui’s Sun Yat-sen and Japan, Lin Jiayou’s Sun Yat-sen’s Thought on Revitalizing China, Qiu Jie’s The Revolutionary Movement Led by Sun Yat-sen and Guangdong in the Late Qing Dynasty, Liu Manrong’s Sun Yat-sen and the National Revolution of China, and Li Zhiye et al.’s Sun Yat-sen and Guangdong - Selected Translations of the Archives of the Customs Held in the Archive Library of Guangdong Province. All these books could be labeled as excellent works, reflecting the academic level and new advancement of that time. Other works like Mo Shixiang’s History of the Constitution Protection Movement, Duan Yunzhang’s Sun Yat-sen with the Whole World in View, Huang Mingtong and Lu Changjian’s Study of Sun Yat-sen’s Economic Thought, Zhou Xingliang’s Sun Yat-sen's Great Thought and Revolutionary Practice also had proposed many innovative views.

In the 1990s, Sun Yat-sen research had achieved results of high quality in three aspects: the first was the continuous expansion of research perspectives, involving many aspects like ideological trends and mentality research; the second was the breakthroughs in many difficult points, for example, several masterpieces on Sun Yat-sen and Japan had been published, and the research on the relationship between Sun Yat-sen and Soviet Russia had been deepened further; the third was the steady growth in the number of the research teams and works. However, there also existed some shortcomings: first, except for modernization, there were few highly controversial and original ideas, and few breakthroughs were made in major theoretical issues; second, some works were of low quality, filled with flattering words, plagiarism, and repetitions; third, the average age of the research team was supposed to become younger.

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