When assessing how crucial Asian political actors such as Sun Yat-Sen and the Independence Club in Korea approached the question of the construction of the modern nation, a recurring motif appears to be the sense in which it is the development of national autonomy that provides the necessary precondition for modernization. In the case of the Independence Club, its ideology was closely tied to a national sovereignty movement, which above all opposed the influence of Korea’s immediate geopolitical neighbors, such as Japan, China and Russia. (Lee, 387) Secondly, this movement away from its immediate geopolitical space emphasized that Korea should look towards the West for its political model, as demonstrated by the close connection between the Independence Club and Western ideas. (Lee, 387) At the same time, however, the Independence Club framed this discourse as one that emphasizes Korean autonomy, insofar as they felt they were the only political option that represented the “Korean party.” (Lee, 391) Accordingly, the key principles of Korean modernization are the movement away from the political influence of the immediate geopolitical space, which, in consequence, portrays these neighbors as those opposed to modernization, while locating modernity in autonomy and closer Western ties.
Sun Yat Sen also emphasized that the modernization of China would only be realized through an appeal to Chinese ethnic sovereignty and autonomy. (Bergere, 97) This principle, alongside his other two principles, democracy understood as people’s power and social welfare (Bergere, 97), emphasize the Chinese population itself, its welfare and its direct interaction in politics, as foundations of modernization. In this sense, for both the Independence Club and Sun Yat Sen, modernity is not an exclusively Western concept, based on Western values and social norms, but rather modernity is tied to national autonomy, recalling European events such as the Treaty of Westphalia, however, not placed within a wholly Asian and more specifically Korean and Chinese context.
- “The Independence Club and the People’s Assembly,” In Peter H. Lee, ed. Sourcebook of
Korean Civilization. Volume 2. From the Seventeenth Century to the Modern Period.
New York: Columbia, 1993, 386-392.
- “Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People.” In Marie-Claire Bergere. Sun Yat-sen.
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998, 352-394.