This Chinese general and statesman was born in 1887. He assumed control of the Chinese government (Kuomintang) in 1926, and led a far from pacific Northern Expedition from 1926 to 1928. He is said to have been ruthless in suppressing trade union and communist organisations, and actually shoved the communists out of the Kuomintang.
He established the national government in Nanjing in 1928, which lasted until 1937, and then succeeded in what was considered an impossible task – the unification of all China, or most of it. He improved education and communications, and expedited major financial reforms.
Chiang Kai-shek believed in Confucian values, and supported the ‘New Life’ movement from 1934 to 1937. He was eager to combat communist ideas or ideology. His government established an almost permanent war with the warlords, who maintained the fighting communists in their rural land bases; he also fought the encroaching Japanese. This did not prevent him from being kidnapped in 1936 in what was named ‘The Xi’an Incident’, but he was released, having agreed to co-operate with the communists (much to their surprise) in fighting the invading Japanese. In this he was supported by the USA, and encouraged by his wife.
He led nationalist forces in China from 1937 to the end of the Second World War, but failed to control most coastal regions, and lost most of the principal cities to Japan during the wars. Conversations with Mao Tse Tung (Mao Zedong) patently did not provide a basis for agreement in 1945 after the US nuclear attack on Japan, and the Chinese Civil War started, finished in 1949 with Chiang’s resignation as President and evacuation to the island of Taiwan.
Though few people could understand how, Chiang stayed with his ‘Republic of China’ on Taiwan, as President, although the island was under constant threat from Communist China – until his death in 1975. Taiwan is still there however, and China has emerged as a ‘democratic’ state dominsted by communist rules.