Liang Qichao, Sun Yat‐sen, and the 1905‐1907 debate on socialism

Cheng‐chung Lai (Department of Economics, National Tsing Hua University, Hsin Chu 30013, Taiwan)
Paul B. Trescott (Department of Economics, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, USA)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To review one of the earliest Chinese debates on socialism, highlighting the consequent changes in outlook by Sun Yat‐sen and Liang Qichao; and to demonstrate the influence of Western economic writers especially Richard T. Ely, Henry George, and German Bismarckian socialists.


Textual analysis of original Chinese‐language materials with extensive direct quotations (in translation).


Sun initially gave primary attention to land policy, using a (somewhat inconsistent) combination of George's “single tax” and a very different idea of land nationalization. As a result of the debate, however, Sun gave more attention to economic growth, capital formation, and import restriction. Liang initially favored Bismarckian socialism, but moved during the debate to increasing skepticism about a major economic role for government, recognizing the need for entrepreneurship and capital formation.


Existing literature fails to perceive the radical shifts in viewpoint which developed for both Sun and Liang. This is particularly important for Sun, whose later ideas had a major influence on Chinese economic policy after 1927.



Lai, C. and Trescott, P. (2005), "Liang Qichao, Sun Yat‐sen, and the 1905‐1907 debate on socialism", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 32 No. 12, pp. 1051-1062.

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