Principles that must not be forgotten

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 October, 2011, 12:00am


China is celebrating what many see as its most important revolution, the overthrow of the Qing dynasty to create the foundations of a modern nation. It is a centenary rich in symbolism and meaning, cause to give thanks to founding father Sun Yat-sen and the many others who tenaciously fought for a republic. Their guiding principles were nationalism, democracy and livelihood of the people, ideals that are the soundest of building blocks for any country. As China continues to develop, these principles must not be forgotten. They are key to ensuring the nation reaches its full potential

The creeping Western colonialism and corruption of 19th century Qing-era China angered Sun and his followers. They saw the empire being picked apart and Chinese trampled underfoot as the conservative imperial government stood idly by. From 1895, they tried again and again to take power, their ideology driven by the desire for a democratic republic. Their 10th attempt, launched on this day in 1911, known as the Xinhai revolution, was to bear fruit.

China had been inward-looking, ruled for centuries by emperors who saw themselves at the centre of the world with only barbarians beyond the imperial borders. The arrival of stronger colonial powers proved otherwise, sowing a desire among reformers for freedom, rights and nationhood. Sun and his Kuomintang nationalists succeeded and political systems were tried and tested, with communism eventually being victorious and the nationalists fleeing to Taiwan.

Sun is revered on the mainland and in Taiwan, but celebrations are in both places of a different nature. His democratic ideals are being played down on the mainland in favour of cultural events, the opening of museums, unveiling of statues and a movie starring Jackie Chan. In Taiwan, it is democracy that is being highlighted at conferences, rock concerts and a bicycle ride around the island. Hong Kong, where Sun furthered revolutionary ideas while a medical student, has rule of law, a free media and limited elections, under the 'one country, two systems' concept. This is not the case on the mainland, where there is a need for reforms which will allow different voices to heard, disputes in society to be resolved fairly and impartially, and for people to have more of a say in the way they are governed.

The mainland has come far in the past century, leaping to second to the US in global economic power and arguably beside it in terms of influence. The Communist Party's recent policies have lifted 350 million people from poverty and its drive for modernisation continues to make headway. Sound planning and oversight are the reasons, but Sun and his revolutionaries made it possible. If their founding ideology is allowed to flourish, so much more can be attained.