Why does Sun Yat-sen believe that China requires a revolution rather than reform? 

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The revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen believed as such due to the long history of China as a country, steep in traditions and rich in history. It was believed that foreign rule by the Qing Dynasty based on said traditions is what had brought China to its modern disheveled state, in which the Opium Wars greatly harmed their prestige in the eyes of the victorious Western Powers and the subsequent Chinese economy as well. These aspects played on the Chinese desire for stability, and his revolution had to as well, as it had to be seen as honoring Chinese history by the will of the people, rather than that of a Western educated usurper.

Revolution was also needed to avoid the more subtle influences of the Western Powers in China. While their presence was undoubtedly profit motivated, Yatsen’s own Christian upbringing and parents combined with his views on the weakness of capitalism and democracy motivated him to not follow the admitted positives of their systems over the current Qinq rulers in the Forbidden City. A revolution would be something new and unprecedented, by his and other Chinese western educated students, and molded into something unique in Chinese history, rather than just a shallow recreation of another system.

Perhaps nothing better describes the effectiveness of Sun’s strategy and ultimate revolutionary victory than the brief amount of time it took place over. Revolutions are often like that, but China’s was relatively difficult to achieve. Based on careful planned moves after each step (ie- The Boxer Rebellion, 1912) that built on what had been accomplished, even in the face of failure. This is even more important given the long history of China, how it changes in subtle ways over the years and how Sun’s vision for the future shaped the ideas of revolution instead of dominating the leadership upon success. While the Kuomintang did control China until 1949, the subsequent emergence of Mao Zedong and the People’s Republic of China shows that a vision is a path towards the future, but not a way to ensure total success.