Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek

(1887-1975)

Chiang Kai-shek, the man who finally lost China to the Communists was born in Chikou, the son of a salt merchant who had built a modest fortune. He was educated at the government military college at Paoting. Chiang spent the years from 1907 to 1911 in Japan, training with the efficient Japanese military that had established its reputation in the Russo-Japanese War.

In 1911, Chiang joined the forces of revo¬ lution and reform in China. He fought in Shanghai during the conflict that led to the end of the Manchu Dynasty. He supported the new republican government founded in 1911, and in 1918, he joined the Kuomintang, the revolutionary government led by Sun Yat-Sen.

Chiang studied military tactics in Russia during 1923. He returned to China deter¬ mined to reform the Nationalist army along the lines of the Soviet army. He directed the Whampoa Military Academy in 1924, and after the death of Sun Yat-Sen in 1925, he became commander of the northern expedi¬ tionary forces. Chiang’s assignment was to subdue the five major warlords who dominated northern China.

Chiang carried out a military coup on March 20, 1926, against the Chinese Communists who had previously cooperated with the Kuomintang. He then went north and captured Peking in 1928.

In 1930, Chiang undertook heroic efforts to destroy what he saw as the greatest threat to China — the Communists within. Five times he tried to encircle them in their strongholds in the Jin Giang Mountains of southern China. In late 1933, he assembled a 700,000- man army. Using methods learned from a German advisor, he harried the Communists so effectively that they gave up their positions and undertook the “Long March” to safety in the north.

Chiang soon faced another threat, this one from Japan. The Japanese invaded China in 1937 and overran large sections of territory along the coast. Chiang and the Nationalists held out during the long period of Japanese ascendancy. Only the entry of the United States into World War II brought effective relief and the prospect of final success. Chiang remained commander-in-chief of the Nationalists throughout the war.

After World War II ended, Chiang again went to war with the Chinese Communists. He lost the battle in the countryside, where millions of peasants heard more hope in the messages of Mao Zedong (see no. 95) than in Chiang s. He resigned as president in January 1949 and fled to the island of Taiwan. Soon resuming his presidency, Chiang became head of the Chinese national government in exile. The United Nations recognition of mainland China in 1972 was a bitter blow to Chiang and the Nationalists he led. He died in Taipei.