The Right to Resist Tyranny in Ancient China

Now the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has admitted Communist China exists separately from Chinese culture and history. We explore how the current communist regime would be evaluated according to ancient Chinese culture

The CCP often uses what it calls “Guoqing 國情,” or “China’s special national condition,” to justify its totalitarian rule and crackdown on dissidents who challenge the Communist Party’s legitimacy.

But throughout thousands of years of Chinese history, the right to rebel against an unjust ruler has roots in mainstream traditional thoughts.

Sun Yat-sen was the founder of the first democratic republic in Asia. He established the Republic of China in 1912. The Republic of China’s government later relocated to Taiwan in 1949, and the Chinese communists took control of the Chinese mainland.

Sun attributes his “principle of democracy” (minquan zhuyi 民權主義) partially to traditional Chinese thought. These traditional phrases say things like, “Heaven sees with the eyes of its people,” “Heaven hears with the ears of its people,” and “The people are of supreme importance; the sovereign comes last.”

In ancient China, the source of an emperor’s legitimacy came from Heaven. It’s known as Tianming 天命, or the Mandate of Heaven. But it wasn’t an unconditional privilege.

The ruler was obliged by heaven to be virtuous and to implement benevolent governance (仁政).