Born October 30, 1887
Died April 5, 1975
Chinese revolutionary, military leader, and politician
After the 250-year-old rule of the Manchu-Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty came to an end in the early twentieth century, the country of China was fragmented and in the hands of hundreds of warlords, local military governors who wrested control of parts of the country since no central government was in power. At this time Chiang Kai-shek rose to leadership within the revolutionary army of Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925). After Sun's death, Chiang took over the army and brought about the unification of China's huge population under a single Chinese flag. He fostered the modernization of his nation and led the Chinese Republic during World War II (1939–45). After his defeat at the hands of China's Communists in 1949, he established a prosperous state on the island of Taiwan (formerly Formosa).
Chiang was born on October 30, 1887, in the tiny village of Chikow in the east coast province of Chekiang. His father, Chiang Su-an, was a moderately successful salt merchant who died when Chiang was eight. Raised by his mother, Wang Tsai-yu, and his grandfather, Chiang spent the remainder of his childhood in poverty.
Chiang wanted to become a soldier, and knew that the best training would be in a Japanese military academy, so he went to Tokyo at the age of eighteen. There he became involved in revolutionary activities and met the Chinese Nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen. A typical revolutionary, young Chiang was extreme in his nationalism, the belief that one's nation is superior to all others in all ways. The Japanese academies would not admit radicals (people who don't conform to traditional views), so he was initially forced to attend a Chinese academy. Chiang was finally admitted to a military academy in Tokyo in 1907. After graduating in 1909, he served two years in the Japanese army.
Chaos throughout country
Chiang returned to China in 1911 after learning that Sun Yat-sen's revolution against the Manchus had begun. After the collapse of the Manchus in 1912, Sun formed a government, with Yüan Shikai (pronounced you-ahn shir-kie; 1859–1916), the commander of the northern forces, serving as its president. When Yüan died in 1916, chaos again reigned in China. Power in the country fell into the hands of some two hundred warlords, who controlled numerous regions. In 1918, Sun Yat-sen established a new government in Guangzhou (Kuang-chou or Canton; in southeast China) with Chiang as his personal military advisor. Sun began calling himself the "generalissimo." The majority of the warlords supported a rival government that had been set up in Beijing (Peking), in northeast China.
In early 1922, Sun broke with the warlord in Guangzhou who had been supporting him. The warlord then attacked Sun's presidential headquarters, hoping to kill him. Chiang helped Sun to safety on a gunboat, and the two men lived for fifty-six days on the boat in some very desperate circumstances. During their escape, they became very close.
Seeking support for Sun's revolutionary government, Chiang traveled to the Soviet Union in 1923 to study its military and social systems. He was not impressed with the Russians, but Sun welcomed their help. After Chiang returned to China, he became commandant of a new military academy at Whampoa (Huang-p'u), ten miles outside of Guangzhou. Although the academy was set up following a Soviet model, Chiang refused to embrace communism. Communism, a set of political beliefs that calls for the elimination of private property, is a system in which goods are owned by the community as a whole rather than by specific individuals and are available to all as needed.
Leads Northern Expedition to unify China
When Sun died in 1925, Chiang became one of three leaders of the Kuomintang (pronounced KWOE-min-TANG), the ruling party of the government, along with Wang Chingwei (1883–1944) and Hu Han-min (1879–1936), leaders respectively of the Kuomintang left and right wings. (Leftists traditionally seek progress and reform, focusing on the needs of the common people, while rightists are more conservative, wanting to maintain business interests and strong, authoritative governments.) But in 1926, Chiang suddenly got rid of leading communists within the Kuomintang, such as the future Chairman of the Communist Party in China, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung; 1893–1976; see entry), and he jailed others, including the future premier Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai; 1898–1976). At the same time he forced Wang Ching-wei to retire. By these sudden and swift moves, Chiang had gained control of Sun's total movement, becoming the Kuomintang's chairman. But Chiang did not break with the communists completely. He needed them for his march north.
At this time, the Kuomintang controlled only two southern regions in China. Eager to defeat the powerful warlords and unify the country, Chiang began a military campaign called the Northern Expedition in 1926. As his Nationalist army defeated many warlord armies, they absorbed them into its own ranks. Within a year, the wealthy provinces of southern, central, and eastern China were under Nationalist control. On March 24, 1927, Chiang seized the eastern city of Nanking, which he then proclaimed as China's new capital. During the march, journalists bestowed upon him Sun's title of generalissimo, or "the gissimo" for short.
Under Sun, the Kuomintang had cooperated with the growing Communist Party in China, but Chiang reversed that policy. He ordered the execution of thousands of communists and forced those in the Kuomintang to resign. When Chiang's forces captured the city of Shanghai in 1927, Chiang called on a group of about one thousand armed civilians to attack the city's major trade unions. Chaos and terror followed, and thousands were killed. Chiang's "party purification" movement, aimed particularly at the communists, soon spread through other provinces. After capturing the warlord capital of Beijing in June 1928, his massive military campaign came to an end. He became the leader of the majority of China for the next twenty years, although he allowed some warlords to maintain their regional power.
Chiang institutes changes
Chiang then began modernizing China. Hospitals, high schools, universities, airports, and power stations were built throughout the country. Telephone lines were installed in remote regions and seventy-five thousand miles of road were laid. He balanced China's budget and stabilized its currency. Although the cities prospered, farming areas remained poor. Most crops were still harvested by hand. Lacking proper medical care, many farm children died.
Other problems abounded. Chiang's government was too small to provide adequate services to an impoverished population of four hundred million. Illiteracy was widespread and transportation was primitive. The warlords remained in power in the north. The ruling Kuomintang party was splintered into various factions. As the government fragmented, Chiang installed a disciplined military and secret police force that was personally loyal to him and intimidated Chiang's political opponents. In 1932, he made himself chief of the General Staff and chairman of the National Military Council, which gave him far broader political powers than were allowed in the constitution.
Japan invades China
In 1931, Japan seized Manchuria, an area of northeast China, but Chiang decided not to regain the region. He felt it necessary first to attack China's growing communist movement, which had proclaimed a Chinese Soviet republic in the southwest region of the country. Although the fighting was fierce and thousands of communists were killed, Chiang could not effectively crush the movement. In 1934, as a result of a major assault, he destroyed two-thirds of the communist forces. On October 16, 1934, one hundred thousand communists, led by Mao Zedong, began their famous Long March, traveling some five thousand miles amid daily battles. Chiang's mission to eliminate the communists was for good reason: while his support came from business people in the cities and landowners in the country, Mao was attracting the peasants and intellectuals.
The leaders of the Communist Party appealed to Chiang to stop the civil war and to fight with them against the Japanese, but he refused. In December 1936, while in Xi'an (Sian), the capital of Shanxi (Shensi) province, Chiang was kidnapped by the warlord Zhang Xueliang (Chang Hsueh-liang). Sympathetic to the communists, Zhang refused to release Chiang until he agreed to halt all attacks against the communists. Chiang agreed to a truce while China faced Japanese invasion and occupation.
Chinese and Japanese battle on the Marco Polo Bridge
On July 7, 1937, Chinese troops clashed with a Japanese force at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing, and the second Sino-Japanese War broke out. Whatever chance Chiang had of establishing a strong central government was gone. By the fall of 1938, he had lost all of eastern China. One million Japanese occupied eight provinces, including every harbor along the coastline. Because the Japanese controlled the most fertile farmland in the country, Chiang's Nationalist government seized the food of the poorer peasants, leaving five million Chinese to starve.
World War II
In 1941, the war in China had become part of World War II (1939–45), a worldwide engagement that pitted the Allies (the United States, the British Commonwealth, the Soviet Union, and other European nations) against the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan, among others). The United States and England sent needed supplies to Chiang to help in his effort against Japan. Even with the additional aid, however, Chiang was not able to defeat the Japanese. At the end of the war in the Pacific, which came with the dropping of two atom bombs on Japan in August 1945, the Japanese were forced to surrender in China and Korea by the Allied powers.
Liberation from Japan did not bring peace to China, however. What little cooperation there had been between the Nationalists and the Communists during the war soon dissolved as both groups rushed in to claim the areas liberated from the Japanese. Civil war broke out again in 1946. The long war with Japan had weakened the Nationalist government. The Communists, under the leadership of Mao, made steady gains. By the end of 1947, they controlled most of Manchuria. By the end of 1948, they controlled the northern provinces.
Chiang's army had badly bungled its efforts against the communists. At the same time, his government was bungling the economy, with excessive taxation and profiteering (making money for oneself or friends at the expense of others), resulting in inflation and starvation. He was rapidly losing the support of the people of China and only added to this by continuing the civil war. Chiang's support had originally come from merchants and bankers. By the end of World War II, however, he was supported mainly by conservative landlords. During a protest demonstration in July 1948 Chiang's forces killed fourteen unarmed students in Beijing.
Flees country, rules in Taiwan
Unable to stop the communist forces in the south, Chiang and his government were forced to flee on December 10, 1949, to the island of Taiwan, one hundred miles off the east coast of China. Here he set up his Nationalist government. Six months later, the Korean War (1950–53) broke out. The United States retained its alliance with Chiang, recognizing his government in Taipai as the Republic of China. General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964; see entry), commander of the United Nations forces in the Far East, even threatened to "unleash" Chiang's forces on the mainland, though this was only a threat.
In the first days of the Korean War, the United States sent a navy fleet to the waters between Taiwan and mainland China with orders to prevent either the Nationalists or the Communists from returning to active combat. Chiang had a good-sized army with him at Taiwan and offered its use to the United Nations to repulse the communist North Koreans and later the Chinese who invaded South Korea. At first President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) seriously considered taking Chiang up on this offer, but he was talked out of this by his Secretary of State Dean Acheson (1893–1971; see entries). The introduction of the Nationalists in the Korean War would have broadened the conflict to a multinational one. Other United Nations members were deeply opposed to it, for fear it would ignite another world war so soon after the last. Although many of the advocates of an all-out war in Korea argued for the use of Chiang's Nationalist troops in Korea, they were never deployed in the war. Taiwan was almost certainly saved from an attack from the mainland by the blockade imposed during the war.
Even though Chiang ruled as a virtual dictator (retaining the title of chairman of China's Military Affairs Commission, he became president in 1943; during the war years he held no fewer than eighty-two posts), the Taiwanese economy prospered under his control. Chiang promised to retake China from the Communists, but never did. In 1972, the United Nations recognized the Communist Party as the legal government of China, rejecting Taiwan's previous claim. Chiang died of a heart attack in Taiwan three years later, on April 5, 1975.
Where to Learn More
Chang, Chun-ming, ed. Chiang Kai-shek, His Life and Times. New York: St. John's University, 1981.
Ch'en, Chieh-ju. Chiang Kai-shek's Secret Past: The Memoir of His Second Wife, Ch'en Chieh-ju. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.
Crozier, Brian. The Man Who Lost China: The First Full Biography of Chiang Kai-shek. New York: Scribner, 1976.
Dolan, Sean. Chiang Kai-shek. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.
Payne, Robert. Chiang Kai-shek. New York: Weybright & Talley, 1969.
Words to Know
Communism: a system of government in which one party (usually the Communist Party) controls all property and goods and the means to produce and distribute them.
dynasties: periods in China's history in which one particular family ruled, sometimes for centuries.
nationalism: belief that one's nation is superior in all ways.
profiteering: making a lot of money out of a crisis situation; finding a way to profit from a national emergency, when others are suffering.
warlord: a leader with his own military whose powers are usually limited to a small area that, in most cases, he took by force.
Born October 31, 1887
Died April 5, 1975
Chinese general and leader of the
Kuomintang or Nationalist Party
As a young man Chiang Kai-Shek fought with the revolutionary leader Sun Yat-Sen, who successfully ended the reign of the Manchus, a minority ethnic group that had controlled the government of China for three hundred years. Even after Chiang had gained great power as head of the Kuomintang or Nationalist Party, he continued to battle—this time against Japanese invaders as well as warlords, rival politicians, and Communists from within his own country. During World War II, Chiang and his wife tried to influence public opinion in the United States to raise money for China's war against Japan. Although they were successful for a while, Chiang was unable to stop the tide of change that swept over China when Communists led by Mao Zedong took power.
Finding a home in the military
Chiang's father, Chiang Su-an, was a village leader and manager of a government-owned salt company. When he died, his nine-year-old son was left to the care of his mother, Wang Tsai-yu, and grandfather, who sent him to work for some relatives who owned a shop. Chiang was mistreated and unhappy, so he ran away and joined the army. There he found a new home, and he was to remain devoted to the military for the rest of his life.
When he was eighteen, Chiang passed the entrance examination for the Baoding Military Academy. Although young, Chaing was already married—he had wed a young woman named Miss Dao in a traditional wedding ceremony— and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, was born before he entered the academy. He would eventually divorce his first wife.
Sun Yat-Sen's revolutionary movement
In 1907 Chiang went to Tokyo to attend the Japanese Army Military State College. At this time he, like many other Chinese students living in Japan, became involved with the revolutionary movement led by Sun Yat-Sen. The movement aimed to overthrow China's Manchu government. Chiang returned to China in 1911 and took part in fighting near the city of Shanghai. The Manchus were defeated, and a republican government (in which power is held by citizens entitled to vote for elected officials, who rule or govern by law) was formed. Sun was the first president but he resigned one year later and General Yuan Shikai, a strong military leader, took over.
Sun Yat-Sen was disappointed in Yuan's rule, which was repressive, and withdrew to Japan. After taking part in an unsuccessful counter-revolution to remove Yuan from power, Chiang and other members of Sun's T'ung-meng Hui ("Revolutionary Alliance") party, which later became the Kuomintang party, also fled to Japan. Chiang returned to Shanghai in 1915 and spent a few years moving in a shady world of business and organized crime as part of a secret organization called the "Green Society."
A new government
The death of President Yuan Shikai in 1916 led to disorder in China, and power was divided among about 200 war-lords (military leaders not connected to a central government). In 1918, Sun Yat-Sen formed another government ruled by the Kuomintang. Its capital was established at Guangzhou (located in southern China) and Chiang became Sun's military advisor. Meanwhile, most of the warlords supported a rival government that had been established in the northern part of the country at Beijing.
In setting up his government, Sun had relied on supplies and advice from the Soviet Union and he had strong ties to that country's ruling Communist Party. Chiang was sent to Moscow in 1923 to study the Soviet military and political systems, but he did not become a convert to communism—in fact, he decided that he hated communism. He returned to China in 1924 to become the director of the Whampoa Military Academy, where his job was to train young men to be loyal, capable members of the military.
Leading the Kuomintang to power
When Sun Yat-Sen died in 1925, China was still a divided country. Taking charge of the Kuomintang, which still controlled only two southern regions, Chiang set out to unify China by force. In a military campaign called the Northern Expedition, he moved his army into northern China and captured the city of Hankou. Chiang's army defeated many war-lord armies and absorbed them into the Nationalist army. In March 1927 the Nationalist Party established a new, central government at Nanjing. Chiang's distrust of communism led him to order a purge or cleansing of all Communists from the Kuomintang, many of whom were executed. Despite his efforts to oust the Communists, the movement continued to grow in China.
On December 1, 1927, Chiang—having divorced both his first wife and his second, Chen Chieh-ju, whom he had wed six years earlier—married the polished, charming, and attractive Soong Mei-Ling, the younger sister of Sun Yat-Sen's wife. Madame Chiang had been educated in the United States and would prove an effective spokesperson for her husband when he later sought aid from the West. The majority of Chinese follow Buddhism or other Eastern religions, but Madame Chiang was a Christian, and on October 23, 1930, Chiang too was baptized into the Christian faith.
From 1927 to 1931, Chiang ruled the Kuomintang government, while trouble brewed in the form of rebellious war-lords, devious political leaders, and the Communist movement. In 1931, Japan occupied Manchuria, a region in northeast China, but Chiang decided not to try to regain the region. He felt it was necessary first to attack China's growing Communist movement. Public opinion turned against him for not resisting the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and Chiang retired from public life. Within a year, however, he was called back to lead the government. It had become clear that no one else could do a better job of bringing the hostile groups together—even though Chaing was still unable to control the Communists, who had gained control of some regions of China.
Fighting the Japanese
The Japanese remained a threat throughout the early 1930s, and some Chinese thought that the Kuomintang and the Communists should put aside their differences in order to fight their common enemy. One of these was a former military officer named Chang Hsueh-Liang, who managed to kidnap Chiang in 1936. He tried to persuade Chiang to cooperate with the Communists in resisting Japanese aggression.
When he was released, Chiang claimed that he had not agreed to anything; nevertheless, his party and the Communists soon formed a "United Front" against the Japanese. War broke out in July 1937 when Chinese and Japanese forces clashed at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing. By the fall of 1938, the Japanese had conquered all of eastern China. They had control of the most fertile farmland in the country, which resulted in starvation for millions of Chinese peasants.
A plea for help from the United States
In 1941, with World War II raging, the Allied countries (the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and and the other countries fighting against Germany, Italy, and Japan) joined China's fight against Japan, which was expanding its empire throughout the eastern Pacific region. Chiang had been serving as commander in chief of China's army, and now the Allies put him in command of the entire Chinese theater (area of action in the war). Chiang and his wife traveled to the United States to request help with their war effort through the Lend-Lease Program, which allowed those on the Allied side to borrow money and weapons with the promise of paying for them after the war.
Although Chiang was portrayed by both Chinese and American propaganda (printed or other material designed to persuade people to support a certain viewpoint) as a courageous leader struggling against a brutal enemy, some American leaders felt that precious war supplies and funds were being wasted on China, when they could be put to better use elsewhere in the world. General Joseph W. Stilwell, the leading military advisor on China, claimed that the Chinese leaders were incompetent and corrupt. He criticized Chiang for refusing to modernize his army and for not taking more aggressive action against the Japanese. It seemed that Chiang wanted to conserve his troops for a future struggle with the Communists, and that he was more concerned about keeping his own power than helping the Chinese people.
Nevertheless, President Franklin Roosevelt (1882- 1945; see entry) hoped that perhaps Chiang could lead China to greatness. In November 1943, Chiang represented his country at the Cairo Conference, a meeting between world leaders (including Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Great Britain) where the Allies mapped out their plans for the war in Asia. But by 1944, the Japanese had conquered much Chinese territory, while the Kuomintang government and military grew weaker and weaker. Meanwhile, the Communists worked behind the Japanese lines in northern China to strengthen their own troops and to win over more Chinese to their ideas.
Civil War with the Communists
The war in Asia ended when Japan, devastated by a long series of defeats in battles as well as the atomic bombs that had been dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surrendered to the Allies in August 1945. For about a year after the end of the war, the chief of staff of the U.S. Army, General George Marshall (1880-1959; see entry), and other leaders tried to get Chiang to form a coalition government with the Communist Party. These efforts did not succeed, and the Communists began a full-scale civil war against the Kuomintang.
The Nationalist government had been greatly weakened by the many years of fighting against Japan. The Chinese people suffered from famine, inflation, crime, high taxes, and forced conscription (involuntary enrollment) into the army. Many of them were attracted to the Communist message of equality between people and the sharing of both resources and power. The Communist fighters made steady gains against Chiang's forces, so that by the end of 1948 they controlled most of northern China.
Retreat to Taiwan
Chiang appealed desperately to the United States for help, but the American government did not want to get involved in the civil war. On December 10, 1949, Chiang fled to Taiwan (formerly called Formosa), an island located about one hundred miles off the eastern coast of China. He made a brief return to China and tried to reorganize his exhausted soldiers, but finally brought them back with him to Taiwan.
Over the next two decades, Chiang vowed that he would return to China and vanquish the Communists, but he never did. When Communist North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, the United States began to worry about the spread of communism through Asia. Since Taiwan was not Communist, it was seen as worth strengthening, so Taiwan received more U.S. aid. Chiang continued to portray himself as a fighter against tyranny, yet he ruled Taiwan as a dictator. Taiwan's economy did very well, but the country became more and more isolated as mainland China's relations with other countries—especially the United States—improved.
In 1971, the United Nations voted to recognize the People's Republic of China (the name the Communists had given their country) as the true China, and the delegates from Taiwan were expelled. Chiang, who had been elected president in every election since his arrival in Taiwan, died on April 5, 1975. His son from his first marriage became the ruler of Taiwan.
Where to Learn More
Chang, Chun-ming. Chiang Kai-Shek, His Life and Times. New York: St. John's University, 1981.
Crozier, Brian. The Man Who Lost China: The First Full Biography of Chiang Kai-Shek. New York: Scribner, 1976.
Curtis, Richard. Chiang Kai-Shek. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1969.
Dolan, Sean. Chiang Kai-Shek. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.
Loh, P.P.Y. The Early Chiang Kai-shek. New York: Columbia University E.Asian Institute Occasional Papers, Books on Demand, 1971.
Chiang Kai-Shek fought both the Japanese and Chinese Communists for control of China, finally retreating to Taiwan.
How Madame Chiang Kai-Shek Helped Her Husband
In 1927, Chiang Kai-Shek married a woman from a famous Shanghai family. Soong Mei-ling was the daughter of Soong Yao-ju or Charles Jones Soong, who had gone to college in the United States and returned to serve as a Methodist missionary before becoming a businessman. Mei-Ling's brother, T.V. Soong, attended Harvard and held several important positions in the Kuomintang government; one of her sisters was married to Sun Yat-Sen.
Like her father and all of her siblings, the new Madame Chiang Kai-Shek had reached young adulthood in the United States, graduating from Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She was intelligent and charming, and she found several ways to help her husband in his quest to keep China free from both foreign aggression and Communist influence.
In the years just before World War II, she tried to help China's orphans andhomeless people, find work for poor women, and promote children's education, but her efforts did little to ease the great suffering of her people.
Madame Chiang played her most important role during the war, when she served as her husband's voice in pleading for help from the rest of the world. When General Claire L. Chennault arrived with his Flying Tigers—a small but effective group of American fighter pilots who battled the Japanese in China and Burma— she helped him communicate with her husband, and she was made honorary commander of the group.
The high point of Madame Chiang's wartime career was her visit to the United States from November 1942 to May 1943. She spoke to crowds at rallies and addressed Congress, describing how the war had affected her country and asking for help in the form of money and supplies. Her face even appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
After the Communists took over China in 1949, Madame Chiang fled with her husband to Taiwan, where she remained until his death in 1975. Since then she has spent most of her time living quietly in New York City.
Born October 31, 1887
Qikou, Zhejiang Province, China
Died April 5, 1975
President of the Republic of China
C hiang Kai-shek was a longtime leader of China. First, he ruled Mainland China from 1927 to 1949. In 1949, Chinese communist forces defeated Chiang in a civil war. He fled to the island of Taiwan, where he established the Republic of China (ROC). He ruled over Taiwan in a dictatorial fashion into the 1970s.
Chiang Kai-shek was born in October 1887 in the village of Qikou, within the coastal Zhejiang Province, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the city of Shanghai. His father, a salt merchant, died when Chiang was nine years old. Chiang's early education was in the Confucian tradition, instilling him with strong self-discipline. Confucianism is an educational system based on the teachings of the early Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 b.c.e.); it includes training in ethics and diplomacy. Because of his schooling in Confucianism, which teaches students to be inwardly reflective, respect authority, and not call attention to oneself, Chiang would always be quiet and passionless in his mannerisms and diplomatic relations.
Chiang gained admission to the Paoting Military Academy in 1906 and was a good enough student to be sent to a Japanese academy in 1907 for advanced study. While in Japan, Chiang met a Chinese revolutionary named Sun Yatsen (1866–1925), who became his mentor. When student revolts broke out in China in 1911 against the Manchu dynasty, Chiang became a military commander for Sun. In 1912, Sun founded the Kuomintang, or Nationalist movement, based in Canton in southeast China. With the fall of the Manchu in 1913, the young revolutionaries continued fighting the new Chinese leader, Yüan Shih-k'ai (1859–1916). When Yüan died in 1916, the country fragmented into a number of regions ruled by local warlords, or dictatorial leaders. For the next several years, Chiang shifted back and forth between China and Japan, at times doing work for Sun. In 1921, Chiang became chief of staff of Sun's Nationalist government.
During the early 1920s, the Kuomintang were allied with Chinese communist forces and supported by the newly established communist government in the Soviet Union. Sun sent Chiang to the Soviet Union in 1923 to study Soviet military organization and obtain aid. Using the information Chiang gathered in the Soviet Union, Sun established the Whampoa Military Academy and appointed Chiang commander of the academy. The academy would train many of China's future military leaders. Chiang had returned from the Soviet Union with valuable military information, but during his stay he had formed strong anticommunist views.
Leader of the Chinese Nationals
Sun died in 1925, and after a power struggle, Chiang took command of the Kuomintang. Still holding power only in the south of the country, Chiang launched a major military expedition in July 1926 to gain control of the remainder of China. However, Chiang felt threatened by the increasing popularity of the Chinese communists. In April 1927, during his expedition, Chiang carried out a surprise bloody massacre of thousands of communists. Surviving Chinese Communist Party members, led by Mao Zedong (1893–1976; see entry) and Zhou Enlai (1898–1976; see entry), fled to the southern Jiangxi Province. With the communists temporarily beaten back, Chiang established a base for the Nationalist government in the city of Nanking. However, the warlords still controlled much of northern China.
In September 1927, during a lull in the military expedition, Chiang journeyed to Japan to marry Soong Mei-ling (1897–), an American-educated daughter of a prominent Chinese Christian family. To fulfill a condition of the December wedding, Chiang became a devout Christian. Mei-ling, who became known as Madame Chiang, would later help Chiang gain crucial support from the United States.
Leader of China
In 1928, Chiang continued his military expedition to the north. Gaining control of the northern city of Peking in June, Chiang claimed rule over all of China. He proceeded to build a strong political and military base. However, warlords still persisted in controlling some areas, the communists were expanding their control of the Jiangxi Province, and in 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria, a northeastern region of China. Even though the Japanese were clearly interested in expanding their influence, Chiang decided to focus his efforts on eliminating the communists. In 1934, Chiang's Nationalist army encircled the communist forces. However, many of the communists escaped, and in a 6,000-mile (9,654-kilometer) journey known as the Long March, they made their way to northwestern China, where they would regroup once again.
Chiang modernized China by bringing in foreign-educated intellectuals and emphasizing higher education. He began the "New Life Movement," promoting a lifestyle combining Confucian values, the Western Christian religion values of Protestantism, and strict military discipline. However, as urban development flourished, conditions in rural China declined.
From their distant location in northwest China, the communists tried to negotiate with Chiang to end the hostilities between them and join forces against the Japanese in Manchuria. However, Chiang refused to cooperate with the communists. Then, in December 1936, the Sian Incident occurred: A group of warlords kidnapped Chiang and insisted that he confront the Japanese. Seizing on the opportunity, communist leader Zhou Enlai rushed to where Chiang was being held. Arguing to save Chiang's life, Chou was able to reach an agreement on ending the Chinese civil war and joining forces with Chiang's army and the warlords to battle the Japanese. Their alliance, called the United Front, benefited both sides: The Chinese communists gained public respect for obtaining a peaceful end to the incident, and during the late 1930s Chiang's popularity soared in China and the United States because of his ability to hold full military power over the union of nationalists and communists.
Decline of the Nationalist government
The United Front stayed together until 1941, splitting just before the United States entered World War II (1939–45) against Japan. The United States threw its support behind Chiang's Nationalist government. However, the Chinese people were growing weary of war, and the Chinese economy was suffering; Chiang's popularity sagged. In addition, Allied leaders soon grew wary of Chiang's increasingly corrupt and inefficient government. During this period, the Chinese communists gained popularity by deciding to take a different strategy and take advantage of the growing discontent to gain greater political strength, albeit underground; however, some degree of cooperation persisted with Chiang and Zhou Enlai acting as the go-between until civil war broke out again after Japan was defeated.
After the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, ending World War II, Chiang once again focused on eliminating the Chinese communists. The United States made diplomatic efforts to help the different Chinese factions form a coalition government, or partnership, but this attempt was unsuccessful. Civil war once again broke out between the army supporting Chiang and the communist forces led by Mao Zedong. Chiang's support was weak, primarily coming from merchants, large landowners, and the military. The communists appealed to the peasants, who made up 90 percent of the Chinese population. Despite their numbers, Chiang had largely ignored them during his period in power. Seeing no advantage in further supporting Chiang, President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53; see entry) reduced U.S. aid to Chiang's forces. Mao's forces finally captured Mainland
China and formed the Communist People's Republic of China (PRC) in October 1949.
Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan
Chiang fled with over one million refugees to the island of Taiwan, located 90 miles (145 kilometers) off the south coast of Mainland China. There, he established the Republic of China (ROC). On Taiwan, Chiang was unchallenged and gained unlimited power over the fifteen million inhabitants of Taiwan. Chiang declared martial law (military rule) and jailed dissenters. Martial law would continue into the late 1980s, and the ROC government was essentially a dictatorship. Chiang Kai-shek's son, Chiang Ching-kuo (1910–1988), gained a reputation for ruthlessness as head of the ROC secret police.
In the United States, President Truman faced renewed pressure from influential Chinese Nationalist supporters, who were greatly dismayed by the communist takeover of Mainland China. They criticized U.S. leaders for not assisting Chiang more during the struggle. Therefore, the United States renewed its support of Chiang and officially recognized the ROC as the only legitimate government of China. For years, the China Lobby, an influential U.S. group of Chinese Nationalist supporters with lots of money and political clout, continued to pressure the U.S. government to recognize ROC as the main government of China, not the PRC. The United States fought against the Communist PRC's entrance into the United Nations for thirty years.
Chiang had long harbored a desire to invade Mainland China and recapture it from the Chinese communists. The outbreak of the Korean War (1950–53) in 1950 raised his hopes of attacking the PRC from the south while PRC forces were busy to the east in Korea. However, Truman did not want to potentially draw the Soviet Union into a much wider conflict. During the 1950s, feeling threatened by Chiang, the PRC twice bombarded the ROC-controlled islands of Quemoy and Matsu, off the southern coast of China. In both cases, the United States intervened, threatening the PRC with nuclear weapons while extracting guarantees from Chiang that he would drop any ideas of invading Mainland China.
Taiwan, the island Chiang controlled under the ROC government, enjoyed strong economic growth after 1954, achieving one of the highest standards of living in Asia. It became a center of technology. However, the 1970s brought important changes for Chiang. The PRC replaced the ROC in the United Nations in 1971. With Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994; served 1969–74; see entry) now president, the United States backed off on its opposition and the inevitable UN switch occurred. Most countries had favored recognizing PRC over ROC to begin with, since it represented the bulk of the population and Chiang was essentially a leader in exile. In 1972, Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit the PRC. During his visit, Nixon verbally agreed with Mao and the Chinese communist leaders that Taiwan was part of Mainland China. Also during 1972, Chiang's son, Chiang Ching-kuo, assumed most leadership responsibilities in Taiwan. Chiang remained leader in title only, until his death from a heart attack in April 1975; his son succeeded him in power. In 1979, the United States wanted to open up a new market for U.S. businesses, but it could not expand relations with the PRC while still recognizing the ROC; so it dropped formal diplomatic relations with the ROC and officially recognized the PRC.
For More Information
Chiang Kai-shek, Madame (Soong Mei-ling). The Sure Victory. Westwood, NJ: Revell, 1955.
Crozier, Brian. The Man Who Lost China: The First Full Biography of Chiang Kai-shek. New York: Scribners, 1976.
Furuja, Keiji. Chiang Kai-shek: His Life and Times. New York: St. John's University, 1981.
Seagrave, Sterling. The Soong Dynasty. New York: Harper and Row, 1985.
Madame Chiang Kai-shek
Soong Mei-ling, the wife of Chiang Kai-shek, played a major role in sustaining U.S. financial and military support for the Republic of China (ROC) through much of the Cold War. The Soong family was prominent in Chinese politics throughout the twentieth century. Mei-ling's father, Charlie Soong (1866–1918), became a wealthy businessman by the 1890s. All four of his children were educated in the United States.
In 1894, Charlie became a supporter of Sun Yat-sen's revolutionary movement to overthrow the oppressive Manchu dynasty in China. He financed Sun's newly formed Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party. An older sister of Mei-Ling, Soong Ch'ingling, married Sun in 1914, even though he was twenty-six years older than she was. After Sun's death in 1925, Ch'ing-ling actively supported the more liberal wing of the Nationalist Party as Chiang Kai-shek gained control of the larger conservative wing. When Chiang purged communists in 1927, Ch'ing-ling denounced the slaughter and left China for the Soviet Union. Later that same year, her sister Mei-ling married Chiang.
Graceful and charming, Mei-ling became better known as Madame Chiang. She introduced Chiang Kai-shek to Western culture and promoted Chiang's cause throughout the United States, building strong support for his war against the Chinese communist forces. During World War II, Madame Chiang wrote many articles, published in U.S. journals, in support of the
China Lobby, an influential U.S. group of Chinese Nationalist supporters. After the war, her sister Ch'ing-ling returned to Chinese politics, actively opposing Chiang's war against the Chinese communist movement. When Chiang lost to the communists in 1949 and fled to Taiwan, Ch'ingling remained in Mainland China and became an important official in the Communist People's Republic of China (PRC) government.
In 1943, Madame Chiang became the first Chinese citizen and only the second woman in history to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. In 1951, she received the Stalin Prize; in 1967, her name appeared on a U.S. list of the ten most admired women in the world; and in 1981, she was named honorary chairperson of the PRC.
Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) was a Chinese nationalist leader. For 2 decades he was head of state on the Chinese mainland, and after 1950 he served as president of the Republic of China on Taiwan.
Chiang Kai-shek was born in Ch'i-k'ou, Chekiang, on Oct. 30, 1887. His father, a salt merchant, died in 1896, leaving his third wife with the burden of Chiang's upbringing. In 1905 Chiang went to Ningpo to study and decided on a military career. In 1906 he went to Tokyo but failed to qualify for military training. Returning to China, he studied at the Paoting Military Academy, continuing his military education in Tokyo at the Shikan Gakko Military Academy.
Protégé of Ch'en Ch'i-mei
In Tokyo, fellow Chekiangese Ch'en Ch'i-mei sponsored Chiang's entry into Sun Yat-sen's revolutionary party, the T'ung-meng hui. When the revolution broke out in Wuhan on Oct. 10, 1911, Chiang returned to Shanghai to fight under Ch'en. A series of triumphs by Ch'en and other revolutionists in the lower Yangtze Valley set the stage for the installation in Nanking of Sun Yat-sen as provisional president of the Chinese Republic.
Ch'en Ch'i-mei and Chiang also fought in the 1913 abortive "second revolution," but by the end of the year both were back in Japan. In 1914 Chiang traveled to Shanghai and Harbin to undertake missions for Sun Yat-sen. In mid-1915 Ch'en and Chiang returned to Shanghai, but on May 18, 1916, Ch'en was assassinated.
In the fall of 1917 Sun Yat-sen moved to Canton, where he tried to establish a military base via an alliance with a local warlord, Ch'en Chiung-ming. Chiang was assigned to Ch'en's staff, but as a Chekiangese, Chiang was not readily accepted among Ch'en's Cantonese followers.
Between 1918 and 1920 little is known of Chiang's career. He and other followers of Sun engaged in financial speculation, and it was also at this time that Chiang established cordial relations with the "Green Gang," a secret society that wielded great power in the Shanghai underworld.
By early 1922 differences in policy between Sun and Ch'en had reached the breaking point and Sun and Chiang had to seek refuge on a gunboat. But before long, fortune turned once again in Sun's favor, and by February 1923 he was back in Canton. On April 20 Chiang assumed duties as Sun's chief of staff. Sun by now had turned for support to the revolutionary regime in Moscow, and Chiang headed a delegation to seek military assistance in the former U.S.S.R. Returning in December 1923, he soon was given an opportunity to put his newfound knowledge to use. When Sun's Kuomintang (KMT), reorganized along Leninist lines, held its first party congress in January 1924, Chiang was appointed to the Military Council.
On May 3 Chiang became commandant of the Whampoa Military Academy. There, with Soviet advisers and arms, Chiang organized a military elite, the Whampoa Clique, bound to Chiang by ties of personal loyalty. There too, by virtue of the KMT's united front with the fledgling Chinese Communist party (CCP), Chou En-lai and other future Communist luminaries gained experience as political commissars.
After Sun Yat-sen died on March 12, 1925, Chiang won out in the ensuing power struggle. With support from the chief Soviet adviser, Borodin, Chiang made the most of these circumstances and established himself on a par with Wang Ching-wei, the leader of the KMT's "left" wing. That Chiang's commitment to his radical allies was a matter of power rather than principle became apparent in the Chungshan gunboat incident of March 1926, when Chiang jailed alleged Soviet and Chinese Communist conspirators and forced Wang Ching-wei to retire. He also purged high party posts of leading Communists, including the acting head of the propaganda department, Mao Tse-tung.
Having consolidated his political position, Chiang prepared to carry out Sun Yat-sen's dream of national reunification. On July, 9, 1926, he became supreme commander of the Northern Expeditionary Forces. Chiang's troops struck northward through Hunan and Hupei, captured key Wuhan cities, and moved eastward through Kiangsi and Fukien toward the rich provinces of the lower Yangtze. Shanghai was occupied on March 22, 1927, Nanking on March 24. In less than a year Chiang had brought the wealthy and populous provinces of southern, central, and eastern China under Nationalist control.
However, success was complicated by new problems. A widening split had developed within the ranks of the expeditionary armies. On April 12, 1927, Chiang moved, swiftly and brutally, against Communists and Communist suspects in Shanghai, especially in the labor movement. This initiated a "party purification" movement that swiftly spread through other provinces controlled by Chiang or antipathetic to the Communists. On April 18 Chiang proclaimed a national government at Nanking in rivalry with the "left KMT" regime allied with Borodin and the CCP at Wuhan. Two months later Chiang precipitated the collapse of the Wuhan coalition with the cooperation of the powerful warlord Feng Yü-hsiang.
However, Chiang was unable to untangle the remaining political and military rivalries. He thereupon resigned his command and on Sept. 29, 1927, sailed for Japan to arrange his marriage to Soong Mei-ling. Chiang's bride was a member of a leading Christian family of Shanghai, and one of her sisters, Soong Ch'ing-ling, was the widow of Sun Yatsen. As a condition of the marriage, Chiang agreed to study Christianity; he eventually became a devout Methodist.
Chiang's brief retirement proved politically useful, for his participation had become absolutely essential to the new regime. Having resumed command, Chiang launched the second stage of the Northern Expedition. Peking fell in June 1928, but since Chiang's power still rested in the lower Yangtze Valley, Nanking became the national capital while Peking ("Northern Capital") was renamed Peiping ("Northern Peace").
The decade from 1928 to 1937 was peaceful only in comparison to what preceded it and what followed. Not a year passed without bloodletting among militarists, Nationalists, Communists, and Japanese invaders. For the Nationalist government these were, nonetheless, years of promise and accomplishment, and Chiang built up a formidable political and military machine. German advisers and arsenals helped build a modern army, which finally ousted the Communists from their principal base in Kiangsi and forced their decimated legions to flee to the distant northwestern periphery of China's heartland.
These were also years of promising developments in the urban sector of the country, especially in the lower Yangtze Valley and, until Sept. 18, 1931, Manchuria. With their emphasis on modern, urban development, the Nationalists secured the cooperation of many talented, foreign-educated intellectuals, and higher education flourished. At the same time Chiang initiated a "New Life Movement," seeking to infuse China's millions with enthusiasm for Confucian values revitalized with the spirit of puritanical Protestantism and military discipline. However, neither this nor the ideology of Sun Yat-sen provided an attractive alternative to Marxism. Moreover, two unresolved problems, the deterioration of rural China and the thrust of Japanese aggression, provided opportunities for the Communists.
Chiang, nonetheless, emerged from his first decade in power as the strong man of China. His good luck held when he needed it most. The Japanese, preoccupied with their conquests in Manchuria and adjacent areas of North China, slowed down the pace of aggression and appeared willing to come to an understanding. Chiang therefore concentrated on fighting the Communists and very often was able to capitalize upon the miscalculations of his rivals. Kidnapped at Sian on Dec. 12, 1936, by the Manchurian warlord Chang Hsüeh-liang, Chiang was forced to accede to Chang's demands that he join the Communists in a united front against Japan. But a fortnight later Chiang returned to Nanking a national hero.
During the first year of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) Chiang's popularity soared. From August to December 1937 his German-trained armies fought a magnificent holding action around Shanghai and Nanking, allowing the government to withdraw briefly to Wuhan and, by the end of 1938, to Chungking. Proud and stubborn, Chiang symbolized China's dogged resistance against the Japanese juggernaut. His supremacy was confirmed in March 1938, when he assumed the title of Tsung-tsai (Party Leader)—successor to the Tsung-li (Party Director), Sun Yatsen.
By 1941, however, the wartime élan was beginning to crumble. Inflation was sapping the country's economic and moral reserves, and the break with the CCP was almost complete. By the time the United States entered the war in December, war-weary Chinese were becoming disillusioned and cynical. The American alliance proved disappointing. Through the good offices of Roosevelt, Chiang was able to join the Great Powers in world diplomatic councils, but he received little respect from Churchill and Stalin. Chiang welcomed the efforts of Maj. Gen. Claire Chennault, whose Flying Tigers (the 14th Air Force) operated from Chinese bases, but Lt. Gen. Joseph Stilwell, the acerbic American chief of staff for the China-Burma-India theater, was a thorn in his side. When Chiang secured Stilwell's dismissal in October 1944, he could take but bleak satisfaction, for the last Japanese offensive of the war was cutting China in two and, in fact, validating Stilwell's criticisms. Even China's Destiny, Chiang's wartime political-historical treatise, was coldly received by Americans for its rejection of Western-style liberalism and democracy and its harsh condemnation of the unequal treaties.
Defeat in Victory
By V-J Day, unresolved prewar problems exacerbated by wartime conditions had weakened Chiang's government and allowed Mao Tse-tung to expand control over a population of some 100 million Chinese. The Marshall mission, sent by President Truman on Oct. 27, 1945, to mediate between the two sides, failed to prevent the outbreak of civil war. Overconfident at the outset, Chiang committed serious blunders on the battlefield.
Chiang was also under pressure from political rivals at home and American critics abroad, who urged him to democratize his government. On Jan. 1, 1947, a new constitution was promulgated. An elected National Assembly chose Chiang as president, though the Kwangsi general Li Tsungjen won the vice presidency over candidates more to Chiang's liking. But the pomp and ceremony in Nanking occurred against a backdrop of disaster, because by 1948 the tide of battle had turned against the Nationalists. Mukden fell on Nov. 1, 1948, followed 2 months later by Peiping. On Jan. 21, 1949, Chiang retired from the presidency, leaving Li Tsung-jen with the thankless job of trying to salvage something from a situation beyond repair. Unable to build a bastion of resistance in southern or southwestern China, Chiang retired to Taiwan on Dec. 10, 1949.
Many of the goals that eluded Chiang on the vast mainland came within reach on the island of Taiwan (Formosa). There he gained unchallenged and virtually unlimited power. The National Assembly, under emergency law, reelected him to the presidency. His elder son, Chiang Ching-kuo, was groomed as his successor. Dissenters were jailed under martial law. The rugged central mountain range was free of rebel bands, and alliance with the United States protected the island from invasion. After 1954 the island enjoyed a spectacular economic boom, making its standard of living second only to Japan's among the nations of Asia.
Although, Taiwan, the largest of all islands which comprise the Republic of China, had many perquisites of independent nationhood, Chiang Kai-shek was not a man to surrender his youthful dreams. His diplomats tenaciously held on to the "China" seats in the United Nations, because Chiang saw Taiwan not as a nation but as a model province, where the teachings of Sun Yat-sen were being tested in preparation for the recapture of the mainland. But in 1972 representatives of Communist China replaced those of Nationalist China at the United Nations, the same year Taiwan's National Assembly elected Chiang Kai-Shek to a fifth six-year presidential term.
The year 1972 also proved to be pivotal for Chiang Kaishek and Taiwan because United States President Richard Nixon visited the People's Republic of China. President Nixon also agreed that Taiwan was a part of China. These diplomatic setbacks, mixed with a long bout of pneumonia, had many questioning Chiang Kai-shek's ability to lead the country. His son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who was appointed premier in May, assumed most of Chiang Kai-shek's duties. For the last three years of his life, Chiang Kai-shek was the ceremonial leader of the Republic of China, but his son was the practical leader. Chiang Kai-shek suffered a fatal heart attack and died on April 5, 1975.
Chiang's two major books are available in English translation. China's Destiny (1943) was published in both authorized and unauthorized translations in 1947. The latter, edited with notes and commentary by Philip Jaffe, also includes Chiang's essay "Chinese Economic Theory." In Soviet Russia in China: A Summing Up at Seventy (1957; rev. abr. ed. 1965) Chiang interprets his country's experience with communism from 1924 to 1949 and discusses problems of anti-Communist strategy. Also useful are Mayling Soong Chiang, Sian: A Coup d'Etat (1937), in which Chiang and his wife present their account of the Sian incident, and The Collected Wartime Messages of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, 1937-1945 (2 vols., 1946).
Biographies of Chiang Kai-Shek include Brian Crozier The Man Who Lost China: The First Full Biography of Chiang Kai-shek, Scribner, 1976; and Owen Lattimore, China Memoirs, Columbia University Press, 1991. His second wife also wrote of his life, Chen Chieh-ju, Chiang Kai-shek's Secret Past: The Memoir of His Second Wife, Chen Chieh-ju, Westview Press, 1993.
Among the books that treat Chiang in his historical setting are Paul M. A. Linebarger, The China of Chiang K'ai-shek: A Political Study (1941), which is sympathetic to Chiang, and Theodore H. White and Annalee Jacoby, Thunder Out of China (1946), which is not. Ch'ien Tuan-sheng, The Government and Politics of China (1950), provides a good description of political institutions under Chiang's leadership. Tang Tsou, America's Failure in China, 1941-1950 (1963), perceptively analyzes Chiang's relationship with his principal ally during the period of war and civil war. □
Born: October 30, 1887
Ch'i-k'ou, Chekiang, China
Died: April 5, 1975
Chinese president and political leader
Chiang Kai-shek was a Chinese political leader and the major figure of Chinese history from 1927 to 1948. He led the Chinese Republic during World War II (1939–45) and was eventually forced from power by the Chinese Communists. After 1950 he served as president of the Republic of China on Taiwan.
Early years and military education
Chiang Kai-shek was born in Ch'i-k'ou, Chekiang, China, on October 30, 1887. Chiang was the son of a salt merchant and grew up in the densely populated province of Zhejiang. He received a traditional Chinese schooling which centered around Confucianism, a religious system based on the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 b.c.e.).
In 1905 Chiang went to Ningpo to study and decided to pursue a military career. In 1906 he went to Tokyo where fellow Chekiangese Ch'en Ch'i-mei sponsored Chiang's entry into Sun Yat-sen's (1866–1925) revolutionary party, the T'ung-meng hui. When the revolution broke out in Wuhan, China, on October 10, 1911, Chiang returned to Shanghai, China, to fight under Ch'en. A series of triumphs by Ch'en and other revolutionists in the lower Yangtze Valley set the stage for the installation of Sun Yat-sen as temporary president of the Chinese Republic. In 1916, Ch'en was assassinated.
In the fall of 1917 Sun Yat-sen moved to Canton, China, where he tried to establish a military base through an alliance with a local warlord, Ch'en Chiung-ming. Chiang was assigned to Ch'en's staff, but as a Chekiangese, Chiang was not readily accepted among Ch'en's Cantonese followers.
By early 1922 differences in policy between Sun and Ch'en had reached the breaking point and Sun and Chiang hid on a gunboat, a small, armed craft. But before long, fortune turned once again in Sun's favor, and by February 1923 he was back in Canton. On April 20 Chiang assumed duties as Sun's chief of staff. Sun by now had turned for support to the revolutionary group in Moscow, and Chiang headed a group to seek military assistance in the former Soviet Union, a formerly powerful country made up of Russia and several other nations.
On May 3, 1923, Chiang became commandant of the Whampoa Military Academy. There, with Soviet advisers and arms, Chiang organized a military elite, the Whampoa Clique. After Sun Yat-sen died on March 12, 1925, a power struggle followed, and Chiang won. With support from the chief Soviet adviser, Michael Borodin, Chiang made the most of these circumstances and established himself as an able leader. Chiang also rid the party of leading Communists, people that believe in a political system where goods and services are owned by the government.
Having strengthened his political position, Chiang prepared to carry out Sun Yatsen's dream of national reunification, or to bring the country back under one government. On July 9, 1926, he became supreme commander of the Northern Expeditionary Forces. Chiang's troops struck northward and Shanghai was occupied on March 22, 1927, and Nanking on March 24. In less than a year Chiang had brought the wealthy and heavily populated provinces of southern, central, and eastern China under Nationalist control.
However, Chiang was unable to untangle the remaining political and military rivalries. He briefly retired in 1927 to arrange his marriage to Soong Mei-ling. Chiang's bride was a member of a leading Christian family of Shanghai, and one of her sisters, Soong Ch'ing-ling, was the widow of Sun Yat-sen. As a condition of the marriage, Chiang agreed to study Christianity; he eventually became a devout (deeply religious) Methodist.
The decade from 1928 to 1937 was peaceful only in comparison to what came before it and what followed. Not a year passed without bloodshed among militarists, Nationalists, Communists, and Japanese invaders. German advisers and arsenals helped build a modern army, which finally drove out the Communists from their base in Kiangsi and forced their demolished army to flee.
These were also years of promising developments in the Chinese cities, especially in the lower Yangtze Valley and Manchuria. With their emphasis on modern, urban development, the Nationalists secured the cooperation of many talented, foreign-educated intellectuals, and higher education flourished. At the same time Chiang initiated a "New Life Movement," seeking to introduce China's millions with military discipline and enthusiasm for Confucian values. However, neither this nor the ideas of Sun Yat-sen provided an attractive alternative to Marxism, the social and political philosophy that is the basis for communism. Moreover, two unresolved problems, the poor state of rural China and the thrust of Japanese aggression, provided opportunities for the Communists.
Kidnapped at Sian on December 12, 1936, by the Manchurian warlord Chang Hsüeh-liang, Chiang was forced to accept Chang's demands that he join the Communists in a united front against Japan. But two weeks later Chiang returned to Nanking a national hero.
During the first year of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), where Japanese and Chinese forces clashed over land, Chiang's popularity soared. From August to December 1937 his German-trained armies fought a magnificent holding action around Shanghai and Nanking. Proud and stubborn, Chiang symbolized China's resistance against the Japanese war machine. His supremacy was confirmed in March 1938, when he assumed the title of Tsung-tsai (Party Leader).
By 1941, however, the wartime enthusiasm was beginning to crumble. The economy was headed into a tailspin, and the break with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was almost complete. By the time the United States entered the war with Japan in December, war-weary Chinese were losing faith. The American alliance proved disappointing. Through the good offices of President Franklin Roosevelt (1882–1945), Chiang was able to join the Great Powers in world diplomatic councils, but he received little respect from British prime minister Winston Churchill (1874–1965) and Soviet premier Joseph Stalin (1879–1953).
Defeat in victory
By Victory in Japan Day (V-J Day) on August 14, 1945, unresolved prewar problems that increased by wartime conditions had weakened Chiang's government and allowed Marxist Mao Tse-tung (1893–1976) to expand control over a population of some one hundred million Chinese. The Marshall mission, sent by President Harry Truman (1884–1972) on October 27, 1945, to work with both sides, failed to prevent the outbreak of civil war. Overconfident at the outset, Chiang committed serious mistakes on the battlefield.
By 1948 the tide of battle had turned against the Nationalists. Mukden fell on November 1, 1948, followed two months later by Peiping. On January 21, 1949, Chiang retired from the presidency, leaving Li Tsung-jen with the thankless job of trying to salvage something from a situation beyond repair.
Many of the goals that escaped Chiang on the vast mainland came within reach on the island of Taiwan (Formosa), a seat of the Chinese Nationalist government. There, he gained unchallenged and virtually unlimited power. After 1954 the island enjoyed a spectacular economic boom, making its standard of living second only to Japan's among the nations of Asia.
The year 1972 proved to be pivotal for Chiang Kai-shek and Taiwan because President Richard Nixon (1913–1994) visited the People's Republic of China. President Nixon also agreed that Taiwan was a part of China. These diplomatic setbacks, mixed with failing health, had many questioning Chiang Kai-shek's ability to lead the country. His son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who was appointed premier in May, assumed most of Chiang Kaishek's duties. For the last three years of his life, Chiang Kai-shek was the ceremonial leader of the Republic of China, but his son was the practical leader. Chiang Kai-shek suffered a fatal heart attack on April 5, 1975.
For More Information
Chieh-ju Chen. Chiang Kai-shek's Secret Past. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.
Crozier, Brian. The Man Who Lost China: The First Full Biography of Chiang Kai-shek. New York: Scribner, 1976.
Dolan, Sean. Chiang Kai-shek. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.
Lattimore, Owen. China Memoirs. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.
Chiang Kai-Shek 1887-1975
Chiang Kai-shek was a Chinese political and military leader who took power after the death of Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925). Born into a salt-merchant family in Zhejiang province, Chiang’s education included a military academy in Japan from 1908 to 1910, during which time he joined the anti-Manchu movement called the Revolutionary Alliance and became a disciple of Sun, the leader of Guomindang, the Nationalist Party.
In 1923 Sun took Russian advice to accept the Chinese Communist Party as an ally for his cause of national revolution and sent Chiang to the Soviet Union for military training. Upon his return Chiang was appointed head of the Whampoa Military Academy, which later became the most important political capital for Chiang, as many cadets had a personal allegiance to him. In 1925, upon Sun’s death, Chiang became the new leader in the Guomindang and soon launched the Northern Expedition (1926-1928), the military campaign against the northern warlords, to unify the country. After a military success Chiang decided that he could not tolerate the Communists, who had been his ally during the expedition but who also began to encourage workers and peasants to launch a social revolution. He ordered a bloody suppression of Communists and labor activists in Shanghai, and his cooperation with the Communists was broken. Chiang established the Nationalist Government in Nanjing on April 28, 1927, six days after the Shanghai massacre.
Chiang’s government made efforts to modernize the country, and his governing ideology was a mixture of Confucianism and European fascism. But Chiang faced challenges both at home and from abroad. In 1931 the Japanese occupied Manchuria by force and created a national crisis for Chiang, who decided to take issue with the Communists first before facing foreign invaders. The Communists, led by Mao Zedong, established rural bases through a policy of land redistribution. Despite continuous suppression from the government, the Communists survived and received popular support, first in Jiangxi in the southeast then, after the Long March, in Shaanxi in the northwest. In December 1936 Chiang was kidnapped in Xian by his military deputy, Zhang Xueliang (1898-2001), who resented Chiang’s policy of not fighting the Japanese. The crisis ended peacefully as Chiang agreed to work with the Communists in fighting the common enemy. During the second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Chiang remained China’s national leader although the country was divided. The United States and China became allies during the war, but Chiang had a rocky relationship with his chief of allied staff, American general Joseph Stilwell (1883-1946), who was finally recalled by Washington in 1944. The American advisors were dismayed by the corruption of Chiang’s government, as well as its ignorance and indifference.
Under Mao’s leadership the Communists grew stronger during the war. Civil war broke out between Chiang’s government and the Communists soon after World War II ended. Despite strong American financial and military support, Chiang lost the war, and his government was forced from the mainland to Taiwan. Chiang remained the president of the Guomindang Government, an authoritarian regime long supported by the United States, until his death in 1975.
SEE ALSO Mao Zedong; Sun Yat-sen
Fairbank, John King, and Albert Feuerwerker, eds. 1986. Republican China. Vol. 13 of The Cambridge History of China. New York: Cambridge University Press.