CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
No. 19, September 2009


Nationalism and Internationalism | China Heritage Quarterly

Nationalism and Internationalism
As Phases
In the Growth of Society

C.L. Hsia 夏晉麟

This essay was published in the inaugural issue of T'ien Hsia Monthly. It considers issues that remain of concern globally, and relevant to discussions of China's engagement with the world today. C.L. Hsia is also known in English as Chin-Lin Hsia. His doctoral work concentrated on the 'questions for readjustment submitted by China to the Paris Peace Conference' and covered various issues related to Anglo-Chinese relations since the ceding of Hong Kong to the British Empire. Very much an intellectual of the May Fourth era, Hsia would be for some time an adviser to the Republican Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Among other works he was the author of Studies in Chinese Diplomatic History, Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1926, a book based on his doctoral dissertation which he completed in 1922 at the University of Edinburgh. The University of Glasgow awards an annual CL Hsia Prize, which was established by Hsia in 1966 (he had been awarded a BSc from that university in 1920). Hsia established the official Chinese New Service in New York in 1941 and was on the UN Nuclear Committee. In 1978, he published a memoir entitled Recollections of My Five Jobs in Foreign Affairs (Wo wudu canjia waijiao gongzuode huigu 我五度參加外交工作的回顧), Taipei: Zhuanji wenxue.

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Origin of Society

According to the theory of 'social compact', with which are associated the names of Hooker, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, in the beginning there existed a 'state of nature', in which life was of all against all and every man's hand against his fellow. But recent studies have shown that man was not the monster of inhumanity that Hobbes and his co-theorists would have us believe. It is Hobbes's fear of anarchy and his eagerness to justify despotism that led him into this sheer travesty of primitive life. For if it were true, the life of men would be static, society would have been contractually bound, and there would be little hope for human progress.

Fig 1
Fig. 1 Cover of The Civil Code of the Republic of China published in 1926.

It has been pointed out by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in one of his lectures, that men at an early date realising that they belonged to the same species and that they differed from the beasts, grouped together as members of the same species against individuals of other species. Never did they unite with animals of another species to devour men nor to injure individuals of their own species. 'Those gatherings amongst individuals of the same species, united spontaneously to fight poisonous reptiles and wild beasts, were natural and not artificial groupings.'[1] In fact, today every schoolboy knows that most mammals live in families and many wild beasts hunt in large groups. It is therefore almost certain that primitive men lived in groups and not as unattached individuals. There is no thought of contract. Every man's career is determined for him before his birth. His blood makes his life. John Morley's criticism of Rousseau is very apt when he says: 'The true ground is the acceptance of conditions which came into existence by the sociability inherent in man, and were developed by man's spontaneous search after convenience.'[2][ ] This is really a re-statement of Aristotle's great principle that 'Man is by nature a political animal.'

It seems clear from Westermarck's researches that among our earliest human ancestors the family formed the nucleus of every social group. Among the Aryan peoples there was first the family ruled by the father as king and priest. The sons had no separate and independent authority during their father's life time. All that they possessed, their lives even and the lives of those dependent upon them, were at the disposal of their absolute father-sovereign. Such a group broadens in time into the 'House' or gens, and over this too a chief kinsman rules. There are common religious rites and observations which the gens regards as symbolic of its unity as a composite family; and the heads of Houses exercised some magisterial functions by virtue of their position. Then, as the social order widens, Houses are in their turn absorbed. The first distinctively political unit, no doubt, was the Tribe: broader than the gens and tending to subordinate it; a body in which kinship must still have been deemed the bond of union, and in which family rights must steadily have tended to give way before the establish¬ment of a common order.

Tribes at length united to form a primitive state or nation. In days of nomadic habit the organisation of the Tribe sufficed. But when a people's travelling days were over, a settled life brought new needs of organisation: a larger power must have sprung up almost of itself. Then a very significant thing happened. The state in effect ousted both the House and the Tribe from their functions as political units, and came itself to rest, not upon these for foundation, but upon the family, the original foundation of the social structure.

The Rise of Nationality

The evolution from this primitive state to the modern nation was a slow historic process; for it took a circuitous route. The rise of nationality was stimulated in Europe at first by Roman and Mediaeval Universalism and later by Machiavellism or the Absolutism of the Renaissance sovereign states, and outside Europe by the oppression of modern Imperialism.

The Roman Empire was won and consolidated by the sword, and underneath the Roman order there was the strength of the Roman army. But order was achieved at the expense of liberty. An order which is inflexible is tyranny. In the words of Tacitus, 'they make a desert and they call it peace.'

Rome could not maintain the administrative order for long. Her own sons rose against her. The years which followed the death of Tiberius were filled with internecine and civil contests among the powerful for private gain. Gradually the provinces learnt to disregard their common interest. The Roman world was scattered into the dust of tribes out of which it had been made.

The ghost of old Rome haunted their minds; and they took the creature of the dream for the Roman Empire made holy by alliance with the Roman Church. But the Holy Roman Empire is less than even the shadow of a name.

The power of Rome disappeared from Europe and with it order and unity. Each locality preyed as much as it could on the other, and various tribes began moving across the settled lands of Europe, so that even the most primitive agricultural civilization became almost impossible. Those were the Dark Ages indeed.

These new states which arose in the fourteenth and grew to power in the fifteenth century tended to be hostile to one another and had little regard for the ideal of common interests and a universal brotherhood. In other words, the Renaissance divided Europe into a collection of states rather than into nations. 'The ideal of the time was governmental independence, not group development.' The need, Hobbes felt, was strong central government: that it rested ultimately on the will of the governed was a secondary consideration. It was thought worthwhile to sacrifice one's liberty in order to have 'contentment'. The special characteristic of these sovereign states was that the group was hardly considered as more than the subjects to be governed. The state was the king or at least the established government and not the people. The famous boast of Louis XIV of France L'État c'est moi, was apparently true even of the France of the seventeenth century.

Thus, in the Gospel of Revolution Jean-Jacques Rousseau declared: 'Man is born free but he is everywhere in chains.' Hobbes's society is a covenant of subjection; Rousseau's is a covenant of social brotherhood. Nationalism was therefore revolutionary, because Europe still bore traces of crude dynastic divisions of the Renaissance. Some people seem to think that nationality came first and then sovereign states. But events occurred in the reverse order. Governmental independence came before any clearly conceived nationalism. It was not until the Revolution had come and gone that the long slumbering national consciousness came to birth as a new ideal.

But out of much wandering and many wars and universal confusion the world of the Middle Ages was born. Feudal chiefs arose and established themselves as independent princes. Men were willing enough to give their princes any rights they chose to claim in order that the country might be freed from the perpetual scuffles of the local nobles. The king or prince was therefore accepted as the instrument for attaining permanent riddance from the brawls of the nobility. 'The movement of the time is thus hardly at all a conscious adoption of certain means for attaining a clearly conceived end; it is a clumsy experiment guided by an unstable desire.'[3][2]

Meantime, the roads went from bad to worse, travel became less and less easy, and different climates or soils modified the law or the language. 'Out of the confused unity of the Middle Ages came the definite separations of the Renaissance, and men began to feel what we now call their nationality.'[3][ ] Therefore, the making of nation states, which has been regarded as the characteristic work of the nineteenth century, merely placed the coping stone upon an edifice which had been in gradual course of erection ever since the last years of the fifteenth century. The main process of European history during the four centuries that closed in 1870-78 may be scientifically described as the triumph of Nationalism.

Fig. 2
Fig. 2 Manhua 漫畫 by Feng Zikai 豐子愷 published in Yuzhou Feng

England and Hungary were among the first of modern European nations to attain to political self-consciousness. France realised her national unity towards the end of the fifteenth century. The Spanish Kingdoms were at last united under a single ruler in the early years of the sixteenth century. The United Provinces of the Netherlands threw off their allegiance to the Spanish Crown and attained to the dignity of independent statehood before the closing of the sixteenth century. Austria as a distinct nation emerged about the same time. Portugal regained its independent national existence in 1640; Prussia entered the charmed circle of kingdoms in 1701. Russia as a united nation also dates from the early years of the eighteenth century.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire permitted the submerged nationalities to re-emerge and take their places as independent nation-states in the European polity.

Meantime two great powers had simultaneously attained the goal of national unity. The Franco-German War of 1870-71, put the coping stone upon the work of Bismarck in Germany, and upon that of Mazzini, Cavour, Garibaldi, and Victor Emmanuel in Italy.

In our own generation, in Gandhi and Ibn Sa'oud, Masaryk and Mussolini, Mustapha Kemal and Sun Yat-sen, we see at work this mysterious force, this love of nation, which these men at once inspire and incarnate. It behoves us to inquire what is the nature of the enthusiasm for a nation, and what are the forces in Nationalism that are so swiftly smashing up the old world, and what strength of will or ideas lies in them for rebuilding a new world for humanity.

Nationalism—Its Achievements and Its Dangers

When the local independence of the sovereign state was connected with the right of the inhabitants to choose their own form of government, the new conception had been that every group of sufficient permanence and with enough of a distinct tradition to have a 'national' character should have an opportunity for developing its own forms of law and government. Genuine political freedom has become a right which belongs to every, distinct national group. The theory is that modern nation-states should vary in their methods of law and government, reflecting in their variety the distinctions of human groups. Nationalism is a revolutionary force: it implies a shaking of established governments that are alien to the people governed. Nationalism is democratic: the people become the centre of interest; they and not their government are the nation. In this light, Nationalism is the vanguard of democracy. Nationalism is also a great constructive force in the world: it enriches the world by ensuring the existence of a happy variety of types within the same civilization; it ensures a willing and loyal acceptance by the citizens of the laws of the state; and it renders possible the development of self-government. It will not be seriously challenged to assert that it is the triumph of Nationalism that has in a large measure made possible many of the achievements of the modern world.

Nationalism is, however, not without its faults and defects. Some of its manifestations and tendencies are clearly vicious and dangerous. Thoughtful people are beginning to doubt whether the national state is the ultimate form of political organisation and whether Nationalism as a political idea has in it the strength of will for the rebuilding of a new world order for humanity.

One vice of Nationalism is jingoism. In a nationalist age, Pan-nationalism and its sturdier brother irredentism can admirably serve the purpose of Imperialism. In the name of Nationalism citizens have been called to take up arms to secure any territory to which their nationality has ever had any sort of claim or on which their national flag has ever been hoisted, and to wreak vengeance on any land on which their fellow nationals have suffered in person or purse. Such misplaced nationalism looks forward to the ultimate extension of one's 'mission' at the expense of the missions of all other peoples. Nationalism has not infrequently been associated with militarism and modern Imperialism. It cannot be denied that there is an ever-present temptation on the part of civilized nations to imagine that they are divinely appointed to make other men into an image of themselves. Nationalism thus becomes a menace so soon as any group has become more powerful than its neighbours. What is Nationalism in a small group becomes Imperialism when the group is powerful.

Extreme Nationalism has often created group jealousy and group hostility. Chauvinism in France once produced an almost barbaric hatred of everything German, and every race, growing large, tends to develop provincial jealousy into what is called Imperial policy. Thus Nationalism supports war and cramps progress just as effectively as Imperialism.

When Nationalism proceeds unchecked it becomes intolerant toward internal criticism or toward minorities within the nation which leads to either oppression or ugly domestic strife.

Finally Nationalism has sometimes tended to narrow political outlook. Dying languages have been revived and have proved obstacles to human intercourse rather than expressions of characteristic culture.

Lord Acton, a deeply read and thoughtful historian, regarded Nationalism as a dangerous and misleading formula, incapable of exact definition. There are many idealists who hold that 'the nationalist passion has been the greatest obstacle to mutual understanding and sympathy among peoples, and the most fruitful provoking cause of war; they see in it the chief barrier to the realisation of the brotherhood of man, and to the creation of that world-state by whose establishment alone the reign of peace can be finally instituted on earth.'

The Essence of Nationalism is a Sentiment

The existence of national characteristics in features, habits of mind or body, language and even dress, is an instance of the past living in the present. Natural surroundings, climate, and the resources of the country soon make considerable differences in any settled state of society. Yet different races at different times have inhabited the same place and one race has developed and the other has not. On the other hand, Dr. McDougall thinks national characteristics are in the main the expressions of different traditions. Continuous contact of men of the same group develop certain conceptions which are embodied in institutions supported by customs and expressed in literature and the other arts. A common memory and a common ideal, it has been regarded, more than a common blood make a nation.

In fact there is no single infallible test of what constitutes a nation, unless, says Professor Ramsay Muir, 'it be the people's own conviction of their nationhood, and even this may be mistaken or based upon inadequate grounds.' 'Nationality', he concludes, 'then is an elusive idea, difficult to define…. Its essence is a sentiment; and in the last resort we can only say that a nation is a nation because its members passionately and unanimously believe it to be so.'

Nationalism, we may safely conclude with Professor Hayes, 'is not a natural, instinctive thing.' It is not 'in the blood'; it cannot be transmitted biologically from one person to another; it is an 'acquired character.'

While it may be true that Nationalism is just an illusive idea, a mere sentiment and that its growth has been artificially stimulated and that perhaps it has not in it the strength for the rebuilding of a new world order for humanity, yet Nationalism is one very important and interesting phase in the growth of society as well as a part of the great historic process in the working out of human destiny.

The Future of Nationalism

What will be its future? We can be sure of one thing: Nationalism or the forces that make for Nationalism will go on evolving in response to new and ever-changing conditions of the world.

As far as it is humanely possible to see, three possible roads are open to Nationalism. They are Universalism, Cosmopolitanism and Internationalism. Of the three, Internationalism is by far the most favoured and perhaps rightly so. Before entering into any discussion of Internationalism, we shall briefly examine the other two conceptions.


Modern Imperialism is the tendency towards the old ideal of Universalism. It is argued that modern Imperialism differs radically from the old Imperialism. The Empire of Alexander was an accident and unstable. The Empire of Rome, admirable as it may have been, was formed by the forcible subordination of a world to a city. The Empire of the Middle Ages was a ghost. The Empire of Napoleon was established by the conquering ambition of military genius and suppressed the development of nations. Modern Imperialism is like the old in that vast territories are under the same government; it is unlike the old in that there is a conscious purpose that government should be for the good of the governed.

It seems hardly necessary to go to any length to show that Imperialism cannot be seriously maintained as the means and Universalism as the end in the evolution of political society. Liberty has been made to excuse license, and order has been made to justify tyranny. History has proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the 'way of might' as opposed to the 'way of right' is not the right method to achieve human unity and that true liberty or progress cannot be gotten of force.


Since the days of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, there has been the conception that 'we are members of one great society.' This cosmopolitan tendency was expressed in St. Augustine's magnificent language. 'That heavenly state,' he says, 'calls its citizens from all races and its pilgrim company is gathered from men of every tongue.' In theory and in sentiment, all men are recognised to have something in common; and if it be agreed that this common element must be maintained and developed, then we have the modern ideal of a common humanity. Cosmopolitanism decries local and national distinctions and patriotism; the unit of its ideal world-state was the individual or the social class and not the national state. The Cosmopolitan hates the Imperialist for not going far enough; the Imperialist despises the Cosmopolitan as feather-brained because he goes too far. It is generally considered too ineffective as an ideal. Mr. Burns says: 'Its strength may be greater in the near future, but at present it is not a political force. The smallest hint of national or local interest is sufficient to disperse it as completely as though it were smoke in the wind of real passion. It is as yet too indefinite even to be understood by the majority.'[5] Others dismiss it as an impractical proposition. 'To go from Nationalism to Cosmopolitanism is to hurdle from a familiar path to start off in an opposite direction along a path that is strange and choked with underbrush.'[6]


Internationalism differs from Universalism in that it substitutes the idea of the cooperation of free nations for the idea of a single, world dominion. It differs from Cosmopolitanism in that the latter wishes to do away with local and national distinctions and with patriotism, while the former aims at building the world society with national blocs.

The Rise of Internationalism

The economic interdependence of peoples, the development of international trade, the rapid multiplication and the widening jurisdiction of international administrative bodies, the establishment of the League of Nations, the Permanent Court of International justice and the International Labour Office—all these are implied in the word Internationalism. Internationalism is simply another name for international cooperation. To most people who use the word, it is neither a philosophy nor a political ideal but a simple recognition of the fact that the changes of the last hundred years have created a new world society. Even the most hard-boiled of nationalists will have to admit that all peoples of the world have been drawn into a single world community which bears little resemblance to the world of separate and self-contained states upon which the nineteenth century dawned. To use Professor Reeves's expressive phrase, the facts of modern international life constitute the new environment of civilized man today.

Nationalism and Internationalism

The rise of a society of nations, however, has been so rapid and so revolutionary that political thought has failed to keep pace with it, or to adjust contemporary life to its implications. Political concepts descended from, and appropriate to, an age of group isolation, still dominate international politics; and machinery of control ill-adapted to a closely integrated inter-group life still serves as a reminder of the hiatus between the old and the new.

There is therefore a clash in the first encounter of Nationalism with Internationalism. Nationalism tends to exalt the state as a bulwark against what it fears to be the ultimate outcome of Internationalism—the superstate. The modern state the nationalist deems to be the ultimate form of political organisation, and questions any inter-state policy that may have a tendency to undermine it. It must be admitted, on the whole, that Nationalism in theory, and in its more extreme manifestations in practice, has been unfriendly to Internationalism. Every advance made by Internationalism has represented a concession or retreat made by Nationalism. The extreme internationalist, on the other hand, questions the validity of states as divisions of society. It is denied that the modern state is the embodiment of any essential homogeneity—racial, economic, or intellectual, and it is argued that patriotism implies a traditional delusion. Nationalism is held to establish rivalries and conflicts which, because they rise from artificial divisions, evoke no nationally-imperative means for their conciliation, and impose divisions where otherwise there would be cooperation.

This conflict has been analysed by Professor Mower. 'Two ideals,' he says, 'of political organisation, in essence antagonistic, have held sway side by side—the individualistic or particularistic ideal of the state as a self-contained political unit, characterised by certain definite, exclusive qualities, sovereignty, independence, equality, on the one hand; and the ideal of Internationalism, anti-individualistic, social, unifying, on the other.'[7]

Nationalism as Basis of Internationalism

However true such an analysis may be, statesmen and thinkers alike are determined to reconcile the fact of Nationalism with the fact of Internationalism. The new international order, they aver, presupposes the continued existence and vigour of the old nationalistic order; and their aim is to work out a compromise between the two principles, to enlist the dynamic forces of Nationalism on the side of Internationalism. 'A sane Nationalism,' says one writer, 'when it understands itself, points the way to Internationalism as its completion.'[8] 'It is only on the basis of triumphant Nationalism,' says Professor Ramsay Muir, 'that an effective Internationalism can be realized.'[9]

Fig. 3
Fig. 3 Advertisement from Yuzhou Feng

We are not told, however, what is sane or vigorous Nationalism or in what way triumphant Nationalism may become the basis of effective Internationalism. There is no indication concerning the nature of the new international order when it comes. Will there be an international government of the federation of nations? Will national governments still retain unlimited sovereignty in a growing Internationalism? Perhaps such things must necessarily remain vague and shapeless and time alone will unfold. Men who have tried to gaze into the future seem to be convinced that the great historic process must go on and the forces which have brought forth Nationalism must further evolve and express themselves anew under changing conditions. All great leaders of nationalist movements are also conscious of some driving force behind Nationalism and that Nationalism as a political idea is only a half-way house.

Italy was the thing Mazzini loved and he would want her 'give the new Word to Europe.' The Word which Mazzini wanted Rome to give would be the Word for free cooperation between equal nations. He believed in nationality intensely, and only as an element in the larger whole. Nationality was the completion of individuality, but not itself complete without this. To Mazzini the pressing task before Europe was to build a framework for cooperation, 'associazione,' as he called it. He believed that 'the nation was the necessary middle term between the Individual and Mankind.'

In his fourth lecture on Nationalism, Dr. Sun Yat-sen declared: 'Today we want to revive the nationalism which China has lost; we want to make use of these four hundred million men to fight against injustice on behalf of mankind; that is the duty of our four hundred million men. . . . We, the abused race, must first of all recover the liberty and equality of our race, and then we shall be ready to talk of cosmopolitanism'[10] … . Do we know whence cosmopolitanism originated? It grew out of nationalism. So if we wish to develop cosmopolitanism, we must first of all strengthen nationalism, and then we can proceed further. If nationalism cannot be strengthened, then cosmopolitanism cannot be developed either.'

Three Guiding Principles in the Progress of Society

While we are not permitted to see the future, it is possible to read the future by the past. The cursory retrospect of history seems to point to certain principles by which the future progress of our political society must be guided. These principles, as far as we can see, have pre-determined the path of social evolution,—from the primal unit, the family, to the nation state—and must now assist man in his next and perhaps hardest ascent from Nationalism to Internationalism, and perhaps then beyond. The principles are Liberty, Unity and Loyalty.


Liberty is an ancient ideal and finds expression in every age. Not only is liberty the basis of civilized life, but the progress of civilization depends on it. Liberty is both a valuable possession to be defended and something to be increased and developed. It is thus both static and dynamic. Liberty involves the independence of the group to which we belong and at the same time implies that each individual remains free to choose what seems best to him. It has, therefore, two aspects: the individualistic tendency on the one hand, and the social tendency on the other. Liberty of the individual is the foundation of the growth of personality; liberty of the group is the basis of all political development of the human race. Liberty has been regarded as the principle of change, because it is democratic and it is revolutionary. Hence liberty is a word of power—power of progress; for it will not rest but will steadily increase and develop until it becomes the possession of every individual and of every group.


The ideal of unity is as old as that of liberty. 'All within the four seas are brothers,' has been for centuries a Chinese political ideal. The ideal of universal Empire and universal Church in Europe is a heritage from the Middle Ages. Ignorance, prejudices and artificial barriers have divided men and they still do. But men will sooner or later be brought to realise, sometimes by painful process, the ultimate unity of mankind. We are members of one great human family; we are brothers. Not only are we brothers, we have become our brothers' keepers. The political, economic and cultural life of the world today makes it daily more apparent that humanity is one indivisible whole. The sense of vicarious responsibility is brought home to every group of men; we feel interdependence in every department of life. This urge to unite with our fellow-men of whatever race or tongue or to be mindful of our common interests is to follow our natural dictates. This urge is as strong as the call of liberty. Our refusal to follow this natural instinct of man is tantamount to putting back the clock of progress.

It is also clear that the ideal of the Middle Ages was limited and defective in its rigidity. It did not allow of new developments of its parts. Unity, if desirable, must be that of a growing tree and not that of a stone. Unity that is external or dictated from above would be a dead and inorganic unity. Unity that lives and grows is true and permanent unity. The ideal of true unity must be accompanied by the ideal of liberty.

These two ideals seem, at first sight, to be opposed to each other; for liberty sometimes acts as a disintegrating force. In pursuit of liberty, the individual has sometimes set himself against the family, the tribe against the state, the nation against humanity. Herbert Spencer spoke of 'the Man versus the State'; we may in this generation anticipate the coming conflict between the nation and humanity. But this disintegration is more apparent than real. Liberty and unity are really twin brothers in this great historic process. The continuous integration and disintegration, grouping and re-grouping of men are but outward manifestations of these two forces at work. Man is born to be a seeker after liberty; he is also given a natural urge to be united with his fellows.

Thus the battle cry of the French Revolution was Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, and Young Italy was founded on the three inseparable bases of Independence, Unity and Liberty. There is no contradiction between Liberty and Fraternity or between Unity and Liberty, because to be free is to be equal and united, and to be independent and united is to be free.

The truth is that the evolution of man as a political animal is dominant and universal in the individual sphere, 'perhaps a more exact statement would be that man has two sets of relationships, one as between individual and individual, the other as between group and group; and that in both he is the same political animal.' The path of human progress seems to lie not only in increasing and developing liberty but also in widening and developing unity which stops at no racial or national boundaries.


Man's gregariousness has assumed many forms other than national, and similarly his sense of loyalty has not been limited to national objects; it has been displayed in a bewildering multiplicity of ways. Sometimes it has been loyalty to persons (i.e. tribal chieftains), or to supposedly divine monarchs or feudal lords, or to a clan. Sometimes it has been loyalty to places, to a grove or a stream, to natal home or tomb of ancestral dead, to fertile plain or great city. Man now applies it primarily to his nationality and his national state. Patriotism, therefore, has been historically related to other loyalties of man. It is only in very modern times that whole peoples have been systematically indoctrined with the tenets that every human being owes his first and last duty to his nationality, and that in the final analysis all other human loyalties must be subordinate to loyalty to the national state, that is, to national patriotism.

Throughout the history of social evolution, every age has witnessed the conflict of human loyalties. Filial piety in the Chinese ethical code was perhaps a masterly device by which the head of the family was made the object of loyal devotion. When families and tribes were united under a feudal lord or a king, the conflict of loyalties once again became acute. No sovereign state could endure for long unless the king or the crown could count upon the unquestioning obedience of his subjects. Thus there was introduced into the Chinese political and moral system the idea of still higher loyalty, namely, one's fealty to the king or emperor. In case of conflict, one's loyalty to the family or the sovereign-father 'must give way. The doctrine of the divine right of kings was inculcated for a similar reason. 'Le roi est mort; vive le roi'—the king is dead; long live the king. The monarch is therefore both a human being and an institution.

When sovereign states became nations, a new formula was needed to replace the older form of allegiance; it is patriotism, loyalty to the nation. It is the highest and widest loyalty that we know so far. To exalt national loyalty above all other loyalties is the foundation of vigorous nationalism. Mazzini realised that to instil into his people a spirit of patriotism was the first step to 'make Italy free'; for without this absolute loyalty from its people no nation can hope to be strong.

The most important question is whether man is capable of still larger and higher loyalty. 'For above our nationality, above all nationalities, though many persons of our age forget it, there is humanity.'[11] From Jesus of Nazareth to Nurse Cavell, men in every age have found that 'patriotism is not enough.' This new and larger and higher loyalty is as yet unborn and we know not even what will be its name. It has been said that institutions are not so much ideas, as emotion-charged and emotion-evoking names. We have to admit that at present the appeal of humanity does not receive instant and spontaneous response from the masses. To the average man, humanity is as yet too far off. Charity begins at home; there is my country, which has greater and more urgent claims upon my devotion and loyalty. While all this is too true, it does not necessarily mean that it will always be so. History seems to support the view that man has infinite capacity for change and development in this respect. There is every reason to think that man can and will rise to higher things.

The transition or ascent from Nationalism to Internationalism is not so much a constitutional or legal as it is a moral problem at bottom. In the last analysis, it concerns the attitude of mind. When our loyalty to the nation remains fixed and tied, no re-statement of the theory of state sovereignty will reduce the rigour of nationalism, and all devices to perfect the international organisation and mechanism will not bring about Internationalism. The central problem, we repeat, is therefore whether man is capable of rising above national loyalty and transferring his loyalty to a group wider than the nation. When this is done all other problems will resolve themselves.

The next stage of human development is called Internationalism, because man is not required to cast away his old national loyalty but to transcend it and to enlarge the circumference of his affection; his devotion and his interest. We know not what the new international order will be like nor how the nationalism of today will be related to the internationalism of tomorrow. But these things are of little consequence, so long as in that society men will find larger and more universal liberty, greater and wider unity, and higher and broader loyalty. If so, we are then on the path to progress. It is interesting to observe that Kant, Hegel and Rousseau all conceived that moral freedom is the peculiar and distinctive quality of man. It is expansion: it consists in the will to make one's outward self adequate to the measure of the fullness of one's thinking self. It is creative: it expresses itself in a series of outward manifestations—first the law; the rules of inward morality; and finally the whole system of institutions and influences that make for righteousness in the national state. 'In a word, it sustains personality, and it teaches personality to transcend itself by giving its devotion to something beyond itself.'

Thus Hegel is brought to a belief in the divinity of the nation. His great error is that he stops short at the nation as the final political development and that he fails to see anything beyond nationality. Surely there is nothing in our human constitution to prevent that expansive and creative personality to transcend itself by giving its devotion finally to humanity. T.H. Green tried to correct this fatal error with the conception of 'universal brotherhood.'

There is really nothing fantastic about these ideas. Many men of high ideals and sober judgment have shared Graham Wallas' speculation about the time when the name of humanity may become charged with emotion, and 'an idea of the whole existence of our species' may prove to have not less emotional effect than that of the visible temples and walls of the Greek cities.'[12]

The expression, 'the Universe belongs to all' was dear to Dr. Sun Yat-sen and it became his motto in life. The complete sentence from the Classics reads: 'When the Great Way prevails, the Universe will belong to all.'[13] Is it possible that when we contemplate some future society in which there will be liberty for all, where all men will be freely united and where human loyalties will find their true object of devotion, we shall be gazing at the Great Way? To some, Dr. Sun's motto is tantamount to advocating a democratic world of fraternity. Before such an ideal, all national interests must become unreal and give way to international considerations and thoughts of humanity.


T'ien Hsia Monthly 1, no.1 (August 1935):35-52.


[1] Dr. Sun's First Lecture on Democracy.

[2] John Morley: Rousseau.

[3] C.D. Burns: Political Ideals.

[4] J. A. R. Mariotte: Europe and Beyond.

[5] C. D. Burns: Political Ideals.

[6] C.J.H. Hayes: Essays on Nationalism.

[7] Edmund C. Mower: International Government.

[8] Stawell: The Growth of International Thought.

[9] Ramsay Muir: Nationalism and Internationalism.

[10] The Chinese expression he used was 世界主義 [Shijiezhuyi]. Cosmopolitanism is not the exact equivalent but the nearest we have in English.

[11] C.I.H. Hayes: Essays on Nationalism.

[12] Graham Wallas: Human Nature in Politics.

[13] 大道之行也天下為公