Oct 31, 1887-Apr 5, 1975
President of the Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalist partyby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Chiang Kai-Shek was a famous former Nationalist Chinese leader and was the generalissimo of China during the Second World War. He was born Chiang Chou-tai in Haikow Township, Fenghua County, Chechiang province, China. He was also known as Chiang Chung-Cheng; Chiang Kai-shek was his courtesy name.
Chiang, like many other leaders, did not start out life in an easy setting and had a rough childhood. He was born in a remote farm village and his father was a poor local farm merchant. Chiang’s father died when he was only eight years old, and he had to start working when he was only nine years old.
In 1907 Chiang went to Japan, and at the age of eighteen, he went to study at Tokyo’s Military Preparatory College. When he was there studying, he met Doctor Sun Yat-Sen and became his protégé.
Around 1911, Chiang returned to China to help fight in a brewing revolution to overthrow the Ching dynasty. The revolution was a success, and the Republic of China was set up in Nanjing. Also, the Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalist party was founded in 1912 under Sun Yat-Sen. Chiang appeared to be without a moral compass as he remarried 2 times and was known on a personal basis at the Shanghai brothels.
In 1920 he met Mayling Soong who was the daughter of methodist missionaries. For her to become Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, Mr. Kai-Shek showed proof of his divorce from his first wife and converted from Buddism to Christianity. He was not baptised until 1929 for he said that religion needed to be gradually absorbed, not swallowed like a pill.
In the year of 1923, Chiang attended military training in Moscow for about three months to learn about the Soviet military and political systems. Later in 1923, Chiang went to Guangzhou, where the new KMT military operations base was relocated. Soon after, Sun appointed Chiang as the commandant of the newly opened Whampoa Military Academy.
After Sun Yat-Sen died in 1925, Chiang experienced a dramatic rise to power. Almost immediately after Sun’s death, he became the Commander-in-Chief of the National Revolutionary Force. Having taken this prestigious position, Chiang launched the Northern Expedition. This was a successful and victorious campaign to defeat the warlords controlling Manchuria at the time and to unite the country under the KMT. In 1928, Chiang became the head of the Nationalist Government and committed himself to suppress the Chinese Communists, who were later led by the infamous Mao Tse-Tung. Many in the USA saw this as a struggle between Christianity and Atheistic communism.
In 1927, the KMT experienced a split. The leftists in the party (in other words, the liberals) moved the government from Guangzhou to Wuhan. Chiang responded by breaking up with the leftists and successfully establishing his own KMT government in Nanjing. After having consolidated power, he was named “Chairman of the National Assembly”.
The country would not be unified for long; the Japanese would launch a successful take over of Manchuria in 1931. Chiang was unable to stop the Japanese from invading the rest of China in 1937. Chiang was blamed for waiting for American forces to fight the Japanese and communists for him. The civil war between the KMT and the Mao's communist party temporarily ceased in order to unite agianst the Japanese. This was known as the Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945), which was when Japanese agression during WWI became full blown during the Second World War. Chiang led the united army as China’s generalissimo. (A generalissimo is he commander in chief of all the armed forces in a certain country.) This alliance, however, was broken, and he ended up fighting both the Communists and the Japanese at the same time.
The Japanese greatly weakened Chiang’s forces, and his government was growing very corrupt. In the civil war following the Second World War, Chiang and the KMT suffered heavy losses, despite lots of help from the American congress who had been addressed by Madame Chiang Kai-Shek in 1943. In the December of 1949, the Communist forces laid siege to Chengdu, the last city occupied by the KMT. That day, Chiang and his son were evacuated to the island of Formosa, also known as Taiwan. He took with him money from the Chinese National Treasury and precious artifacts which were eventually displayed in the National Taiwan Museum.
Chiang did not give up. He set up a KMT government in Taipei, Taiwan, where he claimed to be the president of China. He still promised reconquest of the mainland and even sent Nationalist guerillas to the Chinese coast. For the rest of his life Chiang lived as President of the Republic of China in Taiwan and established a strong government which suppressed dissent and instituted a stable one-party rule. This government foundation, elimination of much of the corruption, and the sound infrastructure developed by the Japanese all contributed to economic success and are the reasons why Taiwan is such a successful and wealthy democratic government to this day. During the time of the Cold War, the United States recognized Taiwan as the only government of China, although China never recognized Taiwan as her government or any sort of governmental affiliation with Taiwan. Taiwan also held China’s seat at the UN until Chiang died in 1975. Chiang remained the President of the Republic of China until his death in 1975. His wife, eleven years younger, lived to be 105 and died in 2003.
eHistory: Chiang Kai-Shek, © 2003 eHistory.com
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Bartleby Bookstore: Chiang Kai-Shek, Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition,
Mur Wolf, "Madame Chiang Kai-shek", http://www.wellesley.edu/Anniversary/chiang.html