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Speech at the Conference to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen


This speech by Xi Jinping reflects on the legacy of Sun Yat-sen, the first provisional president of the Republic of China. In the speech, Xi suggests that challenges lie ahead in pursuit of “national rejuvenation,” and emphasizes the importance of patriotism and perseverance toward this goal.

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Comrades and friends:


We are gathered here today to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, to remember his immortal contributions to national independence, social progress, and the happiness of the people, to promote his revolutionary spirit and noble character, and to inspire the Chinese people at home and abroad to unite and strive for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.


Dr. Sun Yat-sen is a great national hero, a great patriot, and a great pioneer of China’s democratic revolution. He dedicated his life to the revolution, aspired to save the country and the people, and made outstanding contributions to the Chinese nation that have been recorded for the ages.


A great figure is a product of his era, just as he influences the era itself. At the time of Dr. Sun’s birth 150 years ago, China was suffering from the savage aggression of imperialist powers and the corrupt rule of the autocratic system of feudalism. Wars were frequent, livelihoods were reduced to destitution and impoverishment, and the Chinese nation was plunged into the abyss of tribulation, both internal and external. The Chinese people were in a dire situation. In that dark era, the Chinese nation never succumbed to its suffering. One after another, countless patriots rose to the challenge, seeking a path to save the nation and the people and engaging in inspiring and heroic struggles. Sun Yat-sen was an outstanding representative among them.


In his youth, Dr. Sun witnessed the fragmentation of the country and the suffering of the people. He vowed to “save the people from the serious dangers they face and lift the country up in its moment of precarity,” raising the banner of opposition to feudal autocratic rule and resolutely dedicating himself to the cause of democratic revolution. He founded the Revive China Society and the Chinese United League, put forward the Three Principles of the People, civic nationalism, governance, and livelihood, actively disseminated revolutionary ideas, broadly united revolutionary forces, successively launched armed uprisings, and traveled far and wide calling loudly for the promotion of the democratic revolution.


In 1911, under his leadership and influence, the Xinhai Revolution, which shook the world, successfully overthrew the Qing dynasty, bringing to an end the era of monarchs and autocrats that had reigned over China for thousands of years. Because of the constraints of historical processes and social conditions, the Xinhai Revolution did not change the semi-colonial and semi-feudal nature of the society of old China. It also did not change the tragic fate of the Chinese people and did not achieve the historical tasks of national independence and the liberation of the people. However, it did initiate the modern national democratic revolution in the full sense of the term, opened the door to progress for China, spread the concept of the democratic republic form of government, and, to a great extent, promoted the ideological emancipation of the Chinese people, driving tremendous impact and influence in advancing societal change in China.


The greatness of Dr. Sun Yat-sen lies not only in his leadership of the Revolution of 1911, but also in his efforts to improve upon his revolutionary ideals and principles for struggle in accordance with the times, in order to accomplish the revolution, as well as his uncompromising struggle against the various forces that went against the tide of the times. He resolutely opposed warlord separatism and firmly upheld the democratic republic system and complete national unity. After the October Revolution, the introduction of Marxist–Leninist ideology opened up a new horizon for Dr. Sun’s understanding of the world and China. After the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, he cooperated in earnest with the Chinese Communists and, with the help of the Party, developed the old Three Principles of the People into the new Three Principles of the People, implemented the three major policies of “alliance with Russia, incorporation of the Communists, and assistance to peasants and workers,” reorganized the Kuomintang, and drove the victory of the Northern Expedition, advancing the anti-imperialist, anti-feudalist democratic revolution. Comrade Mao Zedong regarded the Three Principles of the People, the United Front policy, and the spirit of arduous struggle as “the most central, essential, and greatest legacies left to us” by Sun Yat-sen and “the greatest contribution to the Chinese nation.”


Dr. Sun lamented China’s poverty and weakness at that time and was the first to make resounding calls for “revitalizing China.” He believed that “construction is the sole objective of the revolution.” He believed firmly that after the revolution succeeded, with the efforts of the entire nation, China would certainly be able to catch up with the advanced countries of the world. He said with great enthusiasm, “Once we achieve the great goal of renewing China, not only will a new era dawn in our beautiful country, but the entire human race will also share a brighter future.”


Sun Yat-sen made outstanding contributions to the Chinese people and the Chinese nation, enjoys a prestigious reputation in the hearts and minds of the Chinese people, and is revered by all of them. Today, we commemorate Dr. Sun Yat-sen with deep respect for his historic achievements and his magnificent life dedicated to the Chinese people.


Comrades and friends!


The Chinese Communist Party is the staunchest supporter, the most loyal collaborator, and the most faithful inheritor of Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary cause. During his lifetime, the people of the Chinese Communist Party firmly supported Dr. Sun’s cause. After his passing, the Party faithfully inherited his legacy,united and led people of all ethnic groups in China to fight bravely and continue to forge ahead, making tremendous sacrifices to complete Dr. Sun’s unfinished work and achieve victory in the New Democratic Revolution, establishing the People’s Republic of China, in which the people are the masters of the country, and bringing about national independence and the liberation of the people. On that basis, the Party united and led the people of China to continue their struggle, completing the socialist revolution and establishing the socialist system.


In the 67 years since the founding of New China, and particularly in the more than 30 years of Reform and Opening-up, the Chinese people have, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, made one great leap after another on the socialist path, achieving remarkable accomplishments that have attracted worldwide attention. Today, we may reassure Dr. Sun that we are closer than ever to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and that we are more confident and capable than at any time in history to achieve that goal.


Comrades and friends!


The best way for us to commemorate Sun Yat-sen is to learn from his noble character, uniting all forces that can be united and mobilizing all elements that can be mobilized in the continuing struggle to achieve the revitalization of China that was his dream.


We should study Dr. Sun’s noble model of ardent love and devotion to one’s motherland. His greatest trait was his love for his country; he pursued the ideals of national independence and revitalization of development throughout his life and was resolutely and steadfastly committed to them. Sun Yat-sen once said: “The greatest thing a person can do is to know how to love his country.” He always encouraged himself with statements such as “I love my country as I love my life” and “As long as I live, I shall endeavor to save the nation.” Sun Yat-sen had a high degree of national self-esteem and confidence. He did not cling to the past or stubbornly adhere to old ways, and did not blindly revere foreign things and ideas or pander to foreign powers. Rather, he emphasized that “Chinese society is different from that of Western countries, and therefore the politics of managing Chinese society must also be different;” and that “The power of China’s development, when in our hands, shall ensure our survival; if entrusted to others, it shall be our downfall.” He concluded from his own difficult life experiences and long-term struggle that the transformation of China must proceed from China’s actual conditions and follow a path suitable to China’s particular situation.

——我们要学习孙中山先生热爱祖国、献身祖国的崇高风范。孙中山先生最大的特点是热爱祖国,一生追求实现民族独立和发展振兴的理想,对此矢志不移、无比坚定。孙中山先生说:“做人的最大事情是什么呢?就是要知道怎么样爱国” 。他总是以“爱国若命”、“一息尚存,不忘救国”等鞭策自己。孙中山先生具有高度的民族自尊和民族自信,不泥古、不守旧,不崇洋、不媚外,强调“中国的社会既然是和欧美的不同,所以管理社会的政治自然也是和欧美不同” ;“发展之权,操之在我则存,操之在人则亡” 。他从坎坷人生经历和长期斗争实践中得出一个道理,就是改造中国必须从中国实际出发,走适合中国国情的道路。

The history of ancient and modern times both at home and abroad tells us that no nation can achieve its own development and revitalization by blindly following the path of others, nor can a single fixed path guide all nations in their development and revitalization. All nations that have been successful in achieving those aims have found their own paths appropriate for their own actual circumstances. To create a new era of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation today, we must vigorously promote a great spirit of patriotism and firmly believe that the Chinese nation has the ability to find its path to successful rejuvenation. Patriotism is concrete and practical. To promote patriotism in contemporary China, we must fully recognize that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system in China are to be preserved unwaveringly over the long term; socialism with Chinese characteristics pioneered by the Chinese people under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party must be preserved unwaveringly over the long term; the general policy of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people of taking root in the great land of China, drawing on the excellent achievements of human civilization, and independently achieving national development must be preserved unwaveringly over the long term. We must enhance our confidence in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics and safeguard and develop our great country along that very path with resolve.


We must learn from the generosity of heart exhibited by Dr. Sun Yat-sen for the people and the world. Throughout his life, Dr. Sun took as the highest of ideals the concept of common good, that “all under heaven belongs to the people,” consistently showing deep compassion and dedicating himself to “removing the sorrows of the people and seeking happiness for them.” He was resolute and steadfast in that endeavor. Dr. Sun Yat-sen deeply understood that the people were the mightiest of forces and emphasized that they must be roused in order to achieve the goals of the revolution. He cared about the suffering of the people and stressed that “the foundation of a nation lies in its people” and that “the well-being of the people is the focal point of social progress.” He said, “We must do for the people what they cannot do for themselves, and strive on their behalf for rights they cannot obtain on their own.” He assiduously warned everyone, “We must aspire to achieve great things, not to achieve high official positions.” Dr. Sun’s profound affection for the people served as a source of strength in his pursuit of truth and commitment to revolution and was the deep foundation of his tireless struggle and determination.


For any great undertaking to succeed, it must find its roots in the people, gather strength from the people, and be accomplished by the people together. Any cause that goes against the will of the people or loses their support is destined to end up as a river without a source, a tree without roots, a futile effort. Today, in order to usher in the new era of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, the fundamental purpose of our Party must always be to serve the people with every effort of heart and soul, it must rely on the support and endorsement of the people as its source of strength, and we must insist on the paramount status of the people in our hearts and minds. We must adhere to the principle of everything being for the people, by the people, maintain our pure sincerity toward the people, always stand together with them, promote the results of reform and development to bring greater and fairer benefits to all people, continuously strive toward the goal of common prosperity for all people, and mobilize the tremendous strength of the more than 1.3 billion Chinese people to drive the development and growth of the Chinese nation.


We must learn from Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s pursuit of truth and his excellent quality of advancing with the times. He had broad vision and an open mind, pursued and persisted in truth throughout his life, and was resolute and steadfast in that pursuit. The world has no prophets or prognosticators. A maxim of Dr. Sun’s was “Those who follow the mighty tides and trends of the world will prosper, while those who resist will perish.” He was adept at learning from actual practice, including from the lessons of failure, and thus was able to “adapt to the tides of the world and meet the needs of the people.” He said, “Other than revolution, my only indulgence in life is reading. I cannot live a single day without reading.” He never stopped exploring and advancing and never refused to correct his thoughts and assertions. He always examined the circumstances of China internally and observed global trends externally, drew upon the strengths of others and innovated on them, and made every effort to keep abreast of the trends of the times. Both his transformation from a social reformist to a staunch democratic revolutionary and his development of the old Three Principles of the People into the new Three Principles of the People reflected his admirable spirit of daring to break through limitations and engage in continuous innovation of the self.


As the wheels of time roll ever forward, those who cannot keep up will inevitably be left behind and eliminated by history. History favors only those who are resolved, brave, and of a fighting spirit; it does not wait for the hesitant, remiss, or daunted. Today, in order to build this new era of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, we must establish a grand historical perspective, grasp the general trends of world development, listen to the voices of the times, courageously uphold truth and rectify errors, continuously promote innovation in theory, practice, systems, culture, and all other areas, and author a new chapter of Chinese national development within the powerful currents of advancement of the times.


We must learn from Dr. Sun’s tenacious and indomitable spirit. Dr. Sun devoted “forty years of effort to the national revolution” and, throughout his life, insisted on “pressing forward with courageous aspiration, continuing the struggle with determination despite setbacks, and exerting efforts unremittingly.” He was resolute and steadfast in that endeavor. Sun Yat-sen once said, “In the few decades on this earth before I inevitably pass, I will have laid the foundation for a country that will live on for tens of thousands of years. The significance of that is evident.” Dr. Sun’s revolutionary career was fraught with repeated frustrations and hardships. However, for the sake of “creating an independent and free country to support the interests of the nation and the people,” he never allowed himself to lose heart when faced with failure or cower before challenges. It was his firm belief that “If I am confident that it can be done, then even such a difficult task as moving a mountain and filling an ocean will eventually succeed. If I am convinced that it cannot be done, then even such an easy task as breaking a twig with a flick of my hand will be fruitless.” It was his firm belief that as long as “our spirit is concentrated, our full strength is directed forward, and we follow the trends of progress of the world and the natural order of good overcoming evil, then there will eventually be a day of ultimate success.” No external threats, internal divisions, or temporary failures could shake Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary will. Even on his deathbed, “peace, struggle, and saving China” remained front and center in his mind. Through a lifetime of struggle, Dr. Sun fulfilled his vows, demonstrating the heroic spirit and dedication to pursuit of a great revolutionary.


A great cause is great not only because it is righteous and magnificent, but also because it is achieved not without considerable difficulty. A great figure is great not only because of their tremendous contributions to the people, the nation, and humanity, but also because they have forged a strong will and a noble character through arduous trials. Today, to build this new era of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, we must take a calm and collected look at the profoundly complex and changing international situation, gain a comprehensive understanding of the formidable and difficult tasks of achieving reform, development, and stability, and make long-term, unremitting, arduous efforts; at no moment should we imagine that we can achieve our goals easily and smoothly. We must shoulder our responsibilities and be ever ready to respond to major challenges, withstand major risks, overcome major obstacles, and resolve major contradictions. With the courage to defy hardship and peril and the determination to tackle tough problems, with a high-spirited attitude and an enterprising and energetic drive, we will continuously advance the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.


Comrades and friends!


Sun Yat-sen was always staunchly committed to maintaining national unity and solidarity and was clearly and outspokenly opposed to any speech or action that would divide the country or the people. He said, “That China is a unified country is a fact firmly ingrained in our historical consciousness. It is precisely this consciousness that has enabled us to be preserved as a country.” He emphasized that “‘reunification’ is the hope of all Chinese people. If we can be united, all the people of China will enjoy prosperity; if we cannot be united, we will suffer.”


The complete “reunification”1 of the motherland is in the interest of the Chinese nation and is also the common aspiration and sacred duty of all Chinese people. Ensuring the integrity of the country, preventing its division, and safeguarding the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation is the common will of all Chinese people and is an unstoppable historical trend.


Compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are brothers and sisters of the same blood. The two sides form a community of common destiny and are inseparable. The peaceful development of cross-Strait relations is the correct path to maintain peace, promote common development, and benefit the people on both sides of the Strait. We adhere to the common political foundation of the “1992 Consensus,” deepening economic and social integration across the Strait, and promoting the well-being and kinship of compatriots. We are willing to engage with any party, group, or individual in Taiwan, regardless of what they have advocated in the past, as long as they recognize the “1992 Consensus” and agree that both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China.


The future and destiny of both sides of the Taiwan Strait are inextricably linked to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Compatriots on both sides of the Strait, along with all Chinese people in China and abroad, must join hands and collectively oppose “Taiwan independence” separatist forces, work together to promote the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and achieve complete “reunification” of the motherland, and together create a happy life and a bright future for all Chinese people.


In recent eras, China experienced a tragic history of national ruin and the trampling of our compatriots for more than a century, a history that is etched in the memories and minds of all Chinese people. Safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity and never tolerating a recurrence of the historical tragedy of national division is our solemn promise to history and to the people. All activities that seek to divide the country will be firmly opposed by the Chinese people. We will never allow any person, organization, or political party, at any time, in any form, to separate any piece of Chinese territory from China!


Comrades and friends!


When the country and the nation do well, everyone does well. Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s lifelong struggle was in the hope that China would become “the richest and strongest country in the world” and “the most peaceful and happiest country in the world,” and that the Chinese people would become “the happiest and most fortunate people in the world.” Dr. Sun hoped “to promote our inherent culture and to absorb the cultures of the world and expand upon them so as to keep pace with the other nations of the world.”


During the process of his intense revolutionary activities, Dr. Sun was always thinking about the issue of building China. From 1917 to 1919, he authored the “General Plan for the Founding of the Nation,” a book in which he outlined a grand blueprint for the building of China. In the book, he proposed the construction of approximately 160,000 kilometers of railroads connecting China’s coastal, inland, and border areas; the construction of 1.6 million kilometers of highways to form a nationwide public road network reaching the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau; the excavation and renovation of national waterways and canals, the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, and the development of inland river transportation and the water resources and electric power industries; the construction of major world-class seaports in the northern, central, and southern coastal areas of China, and the vigorous development of the agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and other industries. Dr. Sun’s blueprint demonstrated his outstanding vision and strong aspirations for the development of China. At the time, some foreign journalists believed that Dr. Sun’s ideas were wholly utopian thinking and would be impossible to realize.


Indeed, it would have been difficult to achieve those grand designs in the context of the political, economic, and social conditions of old China. Today, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and through the tenacious efforts of people of all ethnic groups across the country, the blueprint that Dr. Sun drew up has long been realized, and many achievements and creations of the Chinese people far exceed his expectations. Across the vast expanse of our motherland, there are railways into Qinghai and Tibet, highways crisscrossing the nation, reservoirs built among great gorges, ports connecting the five seas, a diverse range of industries, an abundance of rice and wheat, Shenzhou spacecraft reaching the cosmos, and national defense that is stronger than ever before.2 The independent, democratic, and prosperous country that Dr. Sun Yat-sen devoted himself to building stands firmly and majestically in the East.


Practice has amply demonstrated that as long as our path, theory, system, and culture are correct, we remain steadfast, tenacious, perseverant, and unremitting, we continuously advance toward our great objectives, and we are unshakeable in the face of difficulty, our goals will be achieved. Our goals will certainly be achieved!


92 years ago, Dr. Sun Yat-sen expressed his hope for the Chinese nation by saying, “If China becomes strong and prosperous, we shall not only restore the status of our nation, but also take on a great responsibility for the world.” 60 years ago, Comrade Mao Zedong pointed out on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Dr. Sun’s birth, “China should make greater contributions to humankind.” 30 years ago, Comrade Deng Xiaoping said, “With the overall strength of the country greatly increased, we can do more for humanity and exert more efforts in resolving the North–South issue. We have just such an ambition.” The Chinese people desire not only their own development, but also that of all other countries, and that the peoples of all nations may enjoy happy and peaceful lives. We must promote the construction of a new type of international relations based on cooperation and mutual benefit, advance the formation of a community of common destiny and common interests for humankind, always serve as a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of international order and, together with the people of all countries of the world, create a beautiful future of peace and development for humanity.

92年前,孙中山先生这样表述他对中华民族的期盼: “中国如果强盛起来,我们不但是要恢复民族的地位,还要对于世界负一个大责任。”60年前,毛泽东同志在纪念孙中山先生诞辰90周年时指出:“中国应当对于人类有较大的贡献。”30年前,邓小平同志说:“国家总的力量就大了,可以为人类做更多的事情,在解决南北问题方面可以尽更多的力量。我们就是有这么一个雄心壮志。”中国人民不仅希望自己发展得好,也希望各国都发展得好,希望各国人民都能拥有幸福安宁的生活。我们要推动构建以合作共赢为核心的新型国际关系,推动形成人类命运共同体和利益共同体,始终做世界和平的建设者、全球发展的贡献者、国际秩序的维护者,同世界各国人民一道,共同创造人类和平与发展的美好未来。

For more than 5,000 years the Chinese nation has, during the course of its own development, made great contributions to humankind. In the future, the Chinese people and the Chinese nation will continue to make new and greater contributions to the noble cause of peace and development for humanity!


Comrades and friends!


Dr. Sun Yat-sen once said, “With 400 million people and tens of thousands of miles of land, we are able to exert ourselves toward great power and influence and become unrivaled in the world.” He said, “My hope is that all of you will place the responsibility of revitalizing China on your own shoulders.” Even in the last moments of his life, Dr. Sun exhorted that the revolution was not yet successful and comrades must still devote great efforts to it. We still have a long way to go to achieve modernization in China, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and common prosperity for all Chinese people. There remain many difficulties and risks to be overcome.


I call upon all Chinese people who admire Dr. Sun, including compatriots from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, Taiwan, and overseas, regardless of party affiliation or location, to unite more closely, seize historic opportunities, shoulder historical responsibilities, and to continue to advance the great cause for which Sun Yat-sen and other revolutionary predecessors struggled! To continue to advance the great cause for which all righteous people have struggled in the modern era! To continue to advance the great cause for which the Chinese people and the Chinese nation have struggled in the modern era!


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习近平 (Xi Jinping). "Speech at the Conference to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen [在纪念孙中山先生诞辰150周年大会上的讲话 ]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Xinhua News Agency [新华社], November 11, 2016

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