What they didn’t teach us in high school about Saint Sun Yat-sen

posted by Kaihsu Tai on July 16th, 2006

Sun Yat-sen 1912 Rudi Cilibrasi recently came to visit me from Amsterdam. On a punt gently chauffeured by a budding political-economist, in the serene surroundings of Oxford, we had fun talking about hoarding gold and the imminent collapse of world economy, amongst other things; and I found myself saying radical things like “houses and land should not have prices”. But more practically:

In the last few years, I have found more and more affinity with Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the Chinese revolution of 1911. Neither as celebrated in the West today as his contemporary and Mexican near-counterpart Emiliano Zapata, nor as (in)famous as Mao Zedong of the 1945 revolution, Sun Yat-sen was a Christian (it is unclear to which denomination he belonged) and a Western-style medical doctor, influenced in his politics by 19th-century American “liberalism”. He was briefly kidnapped in London by the Chinese Imperial embassy; and was in Colorado raising funds (and likely also running guns — but that was never taught in my high school in Taipei; not the part they wanted us to use as a role-model!) when the Wuchang Uprising broke out. Today, the Vietnamese sect Cao Đài considers him one of its three saints.

By a strange twist of history, though Henry George’s idea of land value tax was assassinated by a capitalist–scholarly coup in its country of origin (chronicled in the book Green economics edited by Scott Cato and Kennett), it remains implemented in Taiwan even today, as carried by the Three Principles of the People of Sun. The land value tax is now a manifesto policy of the Green Party of England and Wales. And I must add that the historical twist also involved that other Chinese president, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, a Methodist and doctor honoris causa of Bob Jones University, along with Ian Paisley, Jesse Helms, and John Ashcroft….

Perhaps we shall see an even-handed biography broad in its coverage (or even biopic) of Sun published in English by the centennial of the 1911 revolution…. I have not seen one so far, but perhaps it is because I have not looked hard enough. By the way, my conditional prediction is that the republican polity he helped to found might not survive a century if a candidate from his own party wins the next presidential election. Ironic, isn’t it. You heard it here first.

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  1. On July 17, 2006 at 13:17 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Hm! LVT seems like a good system for encouraging infill development. It looks like its benefits would be most manifest if it were implemented in urban areas.

  2. On July 21, 2006 at 11:59 xradiographer said:

    The geek in me wishes to point out that Sun Yat Sen was the godfather of Paul Linebarger.

  3. On March 9, 2010 at 19:22 Kaihsu Tai said:

    He also went to the same high school as Obama, namely Punahou in Hawaiʻi.