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Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石 pinyin: Jiǎng Jièshí) (October 31, 1887- April 5, 1975), nicknamed by the Americans as "Gimo", was the leader of the Kuomintang (KMT) (or Nationalist Party). He was President of the Republic of China (ROC) from 1948 until his death.

Table of contents
1 Early life
2 Rise to power
3 Wartime leader of China
4 Presidency in Taiwan
5 Legacy
6 Further reading
7 External link

Early life

Born Chiang Chou-t'ai (蔣周泰 Zhoutai), also called Chiang Chung-cheng (蔣中正 Zhongzheng), in Fenghua County (奉化縣), Zhejiang to Chiang Zhaocong (蔣肇聰) and Wang Caiyu (王采玉). Kai-shek is his courtesy name transliterated in a Chinese dialect. His name used to be officially written in the ROC as "The Late President (space) Lord Chiang" (先總統 蔣公), where the one-character-wide space showed respect; this practice lost its popularity after Taiwan's democratization in the 1990s.

In an arranged marriage, he was married to fellow villager Mao Fumei (毛福梅, 1882-1939). Chiang and Mao had a son (Ching-Kuo) and a daughter, Chien-hua (建華). After primary education in China he spent two years at a Japanese military academy (1908-1910). Chiang returned to China in 1910 and became prominent in the movement to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. He married Yao Zhicheng (姚冶誠, 1889-1972) in 1912 and Chen Jieru (陳潔如, 1906-71) in December 1921 as concubines. Yao raised the adopted Wei-kuo. Chen had a daughter in 1924, named Yaoguang (瑤光), who later adopted her mother's surname.

Rise to power

After the takeover of the Republican government by Yuan Shikai, Chiang became Sun Yat-sen's protégé and divided his time between exile in Japan and haven in Shanghai's foreign concession areas. In Shanghai, Chiang also cultivated ties with the criminal underworld dominated by the notorious Green Gang and later served as an officer in the army of the Cantonese Warlord, Ch'en Chiung-ming. In 1923 Sun Yat-sen moved his base of operations to Guangzhou, and, with the help of the Comintern, undertook a reform of the Kuomintang and established a revolutionary government. That same year, Sun sent Chiang Kai-shek to spend three months in Moscow studying the Soviet political and military system. Chiang returned to Guangzhou and in 1924 was made Commandant of the Whampoa Military Academy. The early years at Whampoa allowed Chiang to cultivate a cadre of young officers loyal to him and by 1925 Chiang's proto-army was scoring victories against local rivals in Guangdong province.

After Sun Yat-sen's death in 1925 Chiang was embroiled in a power struggle with left-leaning elements of the KMT over Sun's legacy.

Chiang's political maneuvering led him to become Commander-in-Chief of the National Revolutionary Forces. In July 1926, Chiang launched the successful Northern Expedition, a military campaign to defeat the warlords controlling northern China and unify the country under the KMT. Chiang Kai-Shek gained nominal control of China, but his party was "too weak to lead and too strong to overthrow".

In January 1927, allied with the Chinese Communists and Soviet Agent Michael Borodin, KMT leftists moved the civilian government from Guangzhou to Wuhan in central China. After conquering Shanghai and Nanjing in March, Chiang decided to break with the leftists. On April 12 Chiang began a swift and brutal attack on thousands of suspected Communists in the area he controlled. He then established his own KMT government in Nanjing, supported by his conservatives allies. The communists and other leftists were purged from the KMT.

On December 1 of the same year, Chiang married Soong May-ling, the younger sister of Soong Ching-ling (Sun Yat-sen's widow, whom he had proposed to beforehand but was swiftly rejected). To please Soong's parents, Chiang had to first divorce his first wife and two concubines and promise to eventually convert to Christianity. He was baptised in 1929.

Wartime leader of China

In 1928, having consolidated power, Chiang was named Generalissimo of all Chinese forces and Chairman of the National Government, a post he held until 1932 and later from 1943 until 1948, when, under a new Constitution passed in 1947, he was elected by the National Assembly to be President.

During and after World War II , Chiang and his American-educated wife Soong May-ling, commonly referred to as "Madame Chiang Kai-shek", held the unwavering support of the United States China Lobby which saw in them the hope of a Christian and democratic China. Chiang Kai-shek's policies were far from Christian or democratic, but this remained unknown to the US public due to strong state-imposed censorship in China and self-imposed censorship in the US during the war years and after.

Chiang's strategy during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) opposed the strategies of both Mao Zedong and the United States. The US regarded Chiang as an important ally able to help shorten the war by engaging the Japanese occupiers in China. Chiang, in contrast, used powerful associates such as H. H. Kung in Hong Kong to build the ROC army for certain conflict with the communist forces after the end of WWII. This fact was not understood well in the US. The US liaison officer, General Joseph Stilwell, correctly apprehended Chiang's strategy was to accumulate munitions for future civil war rather than fight the Japanese, but Stilwell was unable to convince Roosevelt of this and precious Lend-Lease armaments continued to be allocated to the Kuomintang.

The US continued to support Chiang Kai-shek against the communist Red Army led by Mao Zedong in the civil war for control of China.

Chiang resigned as President (and Vice President Li Tsung-jen became Acting President) on January 21, 1949, as KMT forces suffered massive losses against the communists in the Chinese Civil War. In early morning December 10 1949, CPC troops laid siege to last KMT occupied city in mainland China of Chengdu where Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-Kuo directed the defense at the Chengdu Central Military Academy. The aeroplane May-ling\ evacuated them to Taiwan on the same day; they would never return to mainland China.

Presidency in Taiwan

Chiang moved his government to Taipei, Taiwan where he resumed his duties as president on March 1 1950. Chiang was reelected President of the ROC on May 20, 1954 and later on in 1960, 1966, and 1972. In this position he continued to claim sovereignty over all of China.

Chiang died in Taipei in 1975 at the age of 88 and was interred at Tzuhu in Taoyuan. This tombsite is considered "temporary" in respect to Chiang's vow to return the mainland.

He was succeeded as President by Vice-President Yen Chia-jin. However, real power passed to his son Chiang Ching-kuo who was Premier and became President after Yen's term ended three years later.


Chiang Kai-Shek remains a largely unpopular figure on Taiwan because of his authoritarian rule of the island. Since the 1990s, his picture has tended to disappear from public buildings, coins, and money, and in sharp contrast to Sun Yat-Sen and his son Chiang Ching-Kuo, his memory is rarely invoked by current political parties, including the Kuomintang.

Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, in Taoyuan and serving Taipei, is named after him.

See also: History of the Republic of China

Further reading

External link

President of the Republic of China
Preceded by:
Chairman (1928-1932) Succeeded by:
Lin Sen
Preceded by:
Lin Sen
Chairman (1943-1948) Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
President (1948-1975) Succeeded by:
Yen Chia-kan