Education About Asia: Online Archives

American Influences on Sun Yatsen

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At the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States provided immigrants from troubled nations around the world with safe havens for revolutionary movements aimed at their homelands. Clan Na Gael, an organization seeking Irish independence from Great Britain, began in Philadelphia in 1870 and retained its base in the US. The Cuban Revolutionary Party, aiming at the island’s independence from Spain, was founded in 1892 among Cuban expatriates living in Florida. A bit later, in 1913, the Ghadar Party was established on the West Coast among Punjabi Indians in a bid for Indian independence from Britain. The career of renowned Chinese revolutionary Sun Yatsen (1866–1925) followed this same general pattern. In the course of his life, he converted to Christianity under American auspices, organized a revolutionary movement among ethnic Chinese in American-influenced Hawai`i, canvassed American Chinatowns for funds for his movement, and absorbed elements of the American political model into his famed Three People’s Principles. Along with Great Britain and Japan, the US helped shape Sun Yatsen’s sense of what being modern meant and of how China could reshape itself as a major modern power.

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