Although the concept of international development is often said to have been pioneered in the West, Sun Yat-sen’s ideas on the topic predated those of most Western thinkers and included one of the first proposals ever advanced for an international institution with a core development mandate. In the immediate aftermath of World War I, Sun proposed the creation of an “International Development Organization” that could channel foreign capital to China in a manner that better respected the will of the Chinese people than private financiers had done. He also advanced arguments about why Western powers should support his proposal that anticipated—and may even have influenced to some extent—US rationales for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development twenty years later. Sun’s innovative ideas about international development emerged from a combination of three features of his thought: (1) his unusually ambitious and modern ideas about economic development, (2) his distinctive view that China’s economic development required (properly managed) foreign help, and (3) his optimism about the prospects for international cooperation in the immediate post–World War I context. Sun developed these ideas by drawing on a unique mix of foreign and Chinese intellectual sources.

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