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Sun Yat-sen's concept of 民族主義 mínzú zhǔyì is apparently translated as "nationalism": "Sun’s work is also divided into three parts: “the principle of nationalism” (民族主義), “the principle of the people’s sovereignty” (民権主義), and “the principle of the people’s livelihood” (民生主義). Though Sun’s first principle is translated as ‘nationalism’ (...)" (Nie, 2009). See also his Wikipedia article.

However, there is a Chinese word for nationalism, or liberal nationalism (in the flavor of Enlightenment thinkers), which is 國家主義 guójiā zhǔyì. In (liberal) nationalism, a nation is defined as "A considerable quantity of people, who inhabit a certain extent of country, enclosed within certain limits, and who obey the same government." (Diderot, L'Encyclopédie).

On the other hand, the word/concept 民族主義 mínzú zhǔyì encompasses the word 民族 mínzú which means 'ethnic group', the first character 民 mín meaning ‘people’, and the second 族 meaning 'clan, race, ethnic group'. The term 民族 was introduced by the late Qing dynasty scholar Wang Tao (Matten, 2012):

For instance, when the term minzu appeared for the first time in the Chinese language in the text "Yangwu zai yong qi suo chang" 洋務在用其所長 (“On Using the Advantages of Foreign Things") written by Wang Tao 王韜 (1828-1897) in 1874, its usage was rather old-fashioned: "China is the largest country in the world, with a huge territory, numerous tribes [minzu], and rich resources. Once we can strive to self-strengthen, the country will be rich and strong, and no other countries can compete with us."

Additionally:

  • Sun's ideology is built upon the idea that the Chinese race was ultimately made of a single, pure people:

After the 1911 Revolution that overthrew the Qing, Sun accepted that the Manchus were a Chinese ethnic minority, along with Tibetans, Mongols, Hui, and others. But he never lost his belief that the core Chinese identity was that of the Han people—whether seen as a race, ethnicity, or even lineage. True, he thought the 1911 Revolution had created a new multiethnic nation—but he also believed these different ethnic groups were evolving into a single people that was, indeed, pretty much indistinguishable from its most civilized element: the Han, which would inevitably absorb and assimilate the others.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/07/01/chinese-communist-party-ccp-sun-yat-sen/

  • He believed in the concept of "race", as a dividing force based on blood:

Mankind is divided first into the five main races—white, black, red, yellow, brown. Dividing further, we have many sub-races, as the Asiatic races—Mongolian, Malay, Japanese, Manchurian and Chinese....The greatest force is common blood,” in politics and international politics.

Sun quoted in Dikötter, F. (2015). The discourse of race in modern China. Oxford University Press, p. 125.

  • He believed in the superiority of the Asian race:

The topic of the day is "Pan-Asianism" (Dai Ajishugi), but before we touch upon the subject, we must first have a clear conception of Asia's place in the world. Asia, in my opinion, is the cradle of the world's oldest civilization. Several thousand years ago, its peoples had already attained an advanced civilization; even the ancient civilizations of the West, of Greece and Rome, had their origins on Asiatic soil. In Ancient Asia we had a philosophic, religious, logical and industrial civilization. The origins of the various civilizations of the modern world can be traced back to Asia's ancient civilization. (...) From the aspect of cultural development during the last several hundred years, the material civilization of Europe has reached its height while Oriental civilization has remained stagnant. Outwardly, Europe is superior to Asia. Fundamentally, European civilization during the last several hundred years is one of scientific materialism. Such as civilization, when applied to society, will mean the cult of force, with aeroplanes, bombs and cannons as its outstanding features. Recently, this cult of force has been repeatedly employed by the Western peoples to oppress Asia, and as a consequences, there is no progress in Asia. To oppress others with the cult of force, in the language of the Ancients, is the rule of Might. Therefore, European civilization is nothing but the rule of Might. The rule of Might has always been looked down upon by the Orient. There is another kind of civilization superior to the rule of Might. The fundamental characteristics of this civilization are benevolence, justice and morality. This civilization makes people respect, not fear, it. Such a civilization is, in the language of the Ancients, the rule of Right of the Kingly Way. One may say, therefore, that Oriental civilization is one of the rule of Right. Since the development of European materialistic civilization and the cult of Might, the morality of the world has been on the decline. Even in Asia, morality in several countries has degenerated. Of late, a number of European and American scholars have begun to study Oriental civilization and to realize that, while materially the Orient is far behind the Occident, morally the Orient is superior to the Occident.

Sun Yat-Sen (1941), "Pan-Asianism." China and Japan: Natural Friends - Unnatural Enemies, Shanghai: China United Press, 141-51

Question:

Why Sun Yat-sen's 民族主義 mínzú zhǔyì is not translated as "ethno-nationalism"?

Response to answers:

In my impression, the answers overlook the fact that "nation" is normally a highly political concept, related to the political organization of a group of people around a nation-state.

A nation is a large type of social organization where a collective identity has emerged from a combination of shared features across a given population, such as language, history, ethnicity, culture, territory or society. Some nations are constructed around ethnicity (see ethnic nationalism) while others are bound by political constitutions (see civic nationalism and multiculturalism). A nation is generally more overtly political than an ethnic group. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nation

This is why there is a specific term "ethno-nationalism", for when there is an emphasis of the "ethnicity", over the political values (e.g. freedom, democracy, etc.) that would unite the people around this "nation-state".

References:

Dikötter, F. (2015). The discourse of race in modern China. Oxford University Press.

Geping, N. I. U. (2009). A Comparison of Tagore’s Nationalism and Sun Yat-sen’s The Three Principles of the People from the Perspective of Nationalism. Core Ethics: コア・エシックス= Core Ethics: コア・エシックス, 5, 463-476.

Matten, M. A. (2012). " China is the China of the Chinese": The Concept of Nation and its Impact on Political Thinking in Modern China. Oriens Extremus, 51, 63-106.

Sun Y.-S. (1941). "Pan-Asianism". China and Japan: Natural Friends - Unnatural Enemies, Shanghai: China United Press, 141-51

2 Answers 2

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Why Sun Yat-sen's 民族主義 is not translated as "ethno-nationalism"?

well, mr 孫’s notion of “民族” was “chinese nation” (中華民族), which suppressed the identity of tibetan, manchurian, mongolian, uyghurs & other ethnic groups 😾

at that time, 97.5% people of the chinese empire were han-chinese

「就中國的民族說,總數是四萬萬人,當中參雜的不過是幾百萬蒙古人,百多萬滿洲人,幾百萬西藏人,百幾十萬回教之突厥人。外來的總數不過一千萬人。所以就大多數來說,四萬萬中國人可以說完全是漢人。」

https://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-hk/三民主義

the term "ethno-nationalism" would remind all ethnic minorities in the chinese empire, that, they could establish their own nation-state (民族國家)

that, mr 孫’s notion to overturn the governance of manchu, was to establish a republic, keeping all territories & people intact, not a partitioned china

anyway, mongolia achieved actual independence from the Republic of China in 1921, . . .

so, the english term “nationalism” reflected this notion of 民族主義

have fun :)

btw, this question is related to politic, imo, ask it also in politics se 😸

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  • The "suppressed the identity" and "keeping all territories & people intact" parts of this answer read like a contradiction to me.
    – Will
    Jan 19 at 0:13
  • @Will, well, think it in this way: mr 孫’s idea is, all ethnic minorities do not have the right to revolutionise, to establish their own nation-state (tibet for tibetan, mongolia for mongul, turkistan for uyghurs, manchuria for manchurian). the “chinese-nation” is invented for this purpose, that, all ethnic minorities abandoned their own identities, and used “chinese-nation” instead. so, the republic could inherit the chinese empire, keep the territory as a whole (not han-chinese’s china, tibetan’s tibet, uyghurs‘s turkistan, . . . etc), and, such republic would be lead by . . . han-chinese 😼 Jan 19 at 1:59
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    Okay, I see what you mean now. Advocating inclusiveness under the "nation-state umbrella" as a component of long term cultural assimilation. An effective strategy throughout history in many countries, China included. +1
    – Will
    Jan 19 at 2:29
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    @Will another easy way to see this, is with language. All chinese languages are called as "local variations", when by linguistic standards most of them are different enough to not even be grouped in the same branch of languages. A lot of terminology is set by social or political standards instead of being straight forward (:3」z)
    – zagrycha
    Jan 19 at 2:31
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The word nation comes from the idea of where you were born. -ion is a suffix for making 3rd declension nouns.

nation: Latin nationem (nominative natio) "birth, origin; breed, stock, kind, species; race of people, tribe," literally "that which has been born," from natus, past participle of nasci "be born" (Old Latin gnasci)

民族: nationality, ethnic group

主義: 行为的指导原则: guiding principles of behaviour

A People is not "One nation undivided under God". People are a raggle-taggle mixture of all kinds of nationalities. A nation is a raggle-taggle mixture of all kinds of people. A good example of this are the English. The main binding force for a nation is their language. The teaching of 普通话 in schools is exactly for this: to bind a fractious group of ethnic minorities together.

Why Sun Yat-sen's 民族主義 is not translated as "ethno-nationalism"?

Because that would be a mistranslation. The intended nationality is Chinese in its widest sense.

I believe the customs and rights of the smaller ethnic groups in China are respected and not suppressed.

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  • Allow me to further this question. In China, there is a government-sponsored magazine 《民族翻译》,whose official name in English is Minority Translator Journal. Why is 民族 Minority? Do you think it is an authentic translation? Jan 19 at 7:13
  • No. Bad translation. 民族 is nationality, where you were born. 小民族 means smaller nationality groups, Officially, there is 汉族 and then there are 55 小民族 and 入籍外国人
    – Pedroski
    Jan 20 at 6:51
  • @Pedroski Then why "ethnic minorities" (Hui, etc.) are called 少数民族, if 民族 is "nationality"?
    – Starckman
    Jan 20 at 7:45
  • Strange question! 少数 few (in) number 民族
    – Pedroski
    Jan 20 at 14:49
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    Leaving aside the broader question, "民族 is nationality, where you were born" is not true. A Han person born in Malaysia's 民族 is Han, not Malaysian. Their 国籍 is Malaysian. Jan 20 at 23:50

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