The vision of Sun Yat-sen

Yang Meiping
Celebrating the centenary of a visionary book.
Yang Meiping

One hundred years ago, soon after the end of World War I and as the victors reshaped the map of the world, Sun Yat-sen’s masterpiece “The International Development of China: A Project to Assist the Readjustment of Post-Bellum Industries” was published.

Government officials, researchers and academics gathered in Shanghai on Tuesday to commemorate the centenary of a 110,00-word English-language book that inspired many around the world.

Sun began writing the book in 1918 in Shanghai and finished it in early 1919.

Other revolutionaries and scholars, such as Liao Zhongkai, Zhu Zhixin, Lin Yungai and Ma Junwu, later jointly translated Sun's words into Chinese, serialized in “The Construction,” the official newspaper of the Kuomintang and published as a book by The Commercial Press in July 1920. 

The English version of the book was published in 1922 in New York and London by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Shen Zuwei, vice director of the Shanghai Academy of Sun Yat-Sen Studies, told Tuesday's forum it was not a coincidence that the book was written in Shanghai where eastern and Western knowledge integrated and traditional and modern minds met.

“The book was an advanced blueprint drawn for an independent China by Sun, an ideologist and activist knowledgeable both in eastern and Western studies,” he said.

“He had not only precise understanding of China’s conditions, but also knowledge of advanced engineering, technologies and economics in the world. This project was not a romantic fiction, but a practical plan.”

Sun mentioned building an oriental super port, and his selection of location and description of hydrological characteristics are very close to those of the current Yangshan Deep-Water Port, Shen said.

He even proposed introducing foreign investment into China and developing a capital market to develop the economy.

But the People’s Republic of China has developed beyond his vision.

“For example, China’s railway network now spans 131,000 kilometers, including 29,000 kilometers of high-speed rail tracks — about 60 percent of the world's total," he said. "It’s far beyond Sun’s expectation. But the approaches that Sun had proposed to readjust industries in China post-war is still worth learning.”

Jiang Yihua, a professor from Fudan University, said he was impressed by Sun’s large collection of books when studying about him. 

“He had bought a lot of books about the latest academic achievements at that time, which have become classics now 100 years later,” said Jiang. “Many of those books were published in English, so I wish young researchers now can study on or translate those books to better understand Sun’s thoughts.”

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