We must also ask how many Chinese would have been allowed to vote in Sun Yat-sen’s republic.
To find out, we need to take a closer look at who was eligible to vote in the United States during Sun’s life to discover that minorities [China has 56] and women in the United States were often not allowed to vote. In addition, some American states at the time had literacy laws in place and eligible adult men [mostly minorities] had to pass a literacy test to be able to vote. The first literacy test for voting was adopted by Connecticut in 1855. In fact, ten of the eleven southern states had subjective literacy tests that were used to restrict voter registration, but some of those states used grandfather clauses to exempt white voters from taking literacy tests.
Knowing this, it is highly likely that Sun Yat-sen would have created a republic in China that only allowed educated and wealthy Han Chinese men to vote. Women and children would have remained chattel—the property of men to be bought and sold at will for any reason—as they had for thousands of years and China’s minorities would have had no rights.
Therefore, once we subtract children, women, minorities, Han Chinese adult males who did not own property and any of those who were illiterate from the eligible voting population, what’s left is less than five percent of the adult population—and the educated Han elite adult males who owned property would rule the country. Most of the people in China would have no voice; no vote.
What about today’s China?
Six-hundred million rural Chinese are allowed to vote in local elections—only CCP members vote in national elections but at last count, there were 80 million CCP members; China’s leader—with limited powers—may only serve two five-year terms. And China has its own form of an electoral college. The President of China is elected by the National People’s Congress [NPC] with 2,987 members [dramatically more than the Electoral College in the United States]. The NPC also has the power to remove the President and other state officers from office. Elections and removals are decided by a simple majority vote.
There is another significant difference between China’s NPC and America’s Electoral College—members of China’s NPC are elected but members of America’s Electoral College are appointed by the major political parties in the United States. This means that the American people have no say in the few hundred who elect the U.S. President.
Then there is this fact: China’s culture is influenced by Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism—not Christianity, Islam or Judaism—and all three of these Asian religions/philosophies emphasizes harmony with little or no focus on individual rights as practiced in Europe and North America. Knowing that, it is highly likely that Sun Yat-sen would have supported some form of censorship over individuals in China when too much freedom of expression threatened the nation’s harmony.
Return to or start with Looking at Sun Yat-sen’s vision of a republic in China: Part 1
Discover three of China’s other republics; then decide how they are different from China.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.
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