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Chiang Kai-shek

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Chiang Kai-shek
  • 蔣中正
  • 蔣介石
Official portrait, 1955
Chairman of the National Government of China
In office
10 October 1943 – 20 May 1948
Acting: 1 August 1943 – 10 October 1943
PremierT. V. Soong
Vice ChairmanSun Fo
Preceded byLin Sen
Succeeded byPosition abolished
In office
10 October 1928 – 15 December 1931
Preceded byTan Yankai
Succeeded byLin Sen
1st President of the Republic of China
In office
1 March 1950 – 5 April 1975
Vice President
Preceded byLi Zongren (acting)
Succeeded byYen Chia-kan
In office
20 May 1948 – 21 January 1949
Vice PresidentLi Zongren
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byLi Zongren (acting)
Premier of the Republic of China
In office
20 November 1939 – 31 May 1945
PresidentLin Sen
Vice PremierH. H. Kung
Preceded byH. H. Kung
Succeeded byT. V. Soong
In office
9 December 1935 – 1 January 1938
PresidentLin Sen
Vice PremierH. H. Kung
Preceded byWang Jingwei
Succeeded byH. H. Kung
In office
4 December 1930 – 15 December 1931
Vice PremierT. V. Soong
Preceded byT. V. Soong
Succeeded byChen Mingshu (acting)
Acting Premier of the Republic of China
In office
1 March 1947 – 18 April 1947
Vice PremierWeng Wenhao
Preceded byT. V. Soong
Succeeded byChang Chun
Chairman of the Kuomintang
In office
12 May 1936 – 1 April 1938
Preceded byHu Hanmin
Succeeded byHimself
In office
6 July 1926 – 11 March 1927
Preceded byZhang Renjie
Succeeded byWoo Tsin-hang and Li Yuying
Director-General of the Kuomintang
In office
1 April 1938 – 5 April 1975
  • Wang Jingwei
  • Chen Cheng
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byChiang Ching-kuo
Chairman of the Military Affairs Commission
In office
15 December 1931 – 31 May 1946
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Personal details
Chiang Jui-yüan

(1887-10-31)31 October 1887
Xikou, Zhejiang, Qing dynasty
Died5 April 1975(1975-04-05) (aged 87)
Taipei, Taiwan
Resting placeCihu Mausoleum, Taoyuan, Taiwan
Political partyKuomintang
(m. 1901; div. 1921)
(m. 1913⁠–⁠1927)
(m. 1921⁠–⁠1927)
(m. 1927)
Alma mater
Military service
Years of service1909–1975
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese蒋介石
Simplified Chinese蒋介石
Register name
Traditional Chinese蔣周泰
Simplified Chinese蒋周泰
Milk name
Traditional Chinese蔣瑞元
Simplified Chinese蒋瑞元
School name
Traditional Chinese蔣志清
Simplified Chinese蒋志清
Adopted name
Traditional Chinese蔣中正
Simplified Chinese蒋中正
  1. ^ traditional Chinese: 特級上將; simplified Chinese: 特级上将; pinyin: tèjíshàngjiàng

Chiang Kai-shek[a] (31 October 1887 – 5 April 1975) was a Chinese statesman, revolutionary, and military commander. He was the head of the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) party, General of the National Revolutionary Army, known as Generalissimo, and the leader of the Republic of China (ROC) in mainland China from 1928 until 1949. After being defeated in the Chinese Civil War by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949, he led the ROC on the island of Taiwan until his death in 1975.

Born in Zhejiang, Chiang was a member of the Kuomintang, and a lieutenant of Sun Yat-sen in the revolution to overthrow the Beiyang government and reunify China. After the Soviet-led Comintern re-organized the Kuomintang and Chinese Communist Party, he headed the Whampoa Military Academy. As commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army, he led the Northern Expedition from 1926 to 1928, nominally reunifying China under a Nationalist government in Nanjing. Midway through the Northern Expedition, the KMT–CCP alliance broke down and Chiang massacred communists and KMT leftists inside the party, triggering a civil war with the CCP, which he eventually lost in 1949.

As the leader of the Republic of China during the Nanjing decade, Chiang sought to modernize and unify the nation, although hostilities with the CCP continued. His government presided over economic and social reconstruction while trying to avoid a debilitating war with Japan. In December 1936 he was kidnapped in the Xi'an Incident, and obliged to form an Anti-Japanese United Front with the CCP. Following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, he mobilized China for the Second Sino-Japanese War. For eight years, he led the war of resistance against a vastly superior enemy, mostly from the wartime capital Chongqing. As the leader of a major Allied power, Chiang met with British prime minister Winston Churchill and American president Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Cairo Conference to discuss terms for the Japanese surrender. When the Second World War ended, the civil war with the Communists (by then led by Mao Zedong) resumed. Chiang's nationalists were mostly defeated in a few decisive battles in 1948. In 1949, Chiang's government and army retreated to the island of Taiwan, where Chiang imposed martial law and persecuted critics during the White Terror. Presiding over a period of social reforms and economic prosperity, Chiang won five elections to six-year terms as President of the Republic of China in which he faced minimal opposition or was elected unopposed. Three years into his fifth term as president, and one year before the death of Mao, he died in 1975. He also held the position of Director-General within the Kuomintang until his death. Chiang was one of the longest-serving non-royal heads of state in the 20th century and the longest-serving non-royal ruler of China, having held the post for 46 years.

Like Mao, Chiang is a controversial figure. Supporters credit him with a major role in unifying the nation and ending the Century of Humiliation, leading the Chinese resistance against Japan, countering communist influence, and economic development in both mainland China and Taiwan. Critics portray him as a brutal dictator, head of a corrupt authoritarian regime, who massacred civilians and suppressed political dissent, and accuse him of being a fascist. He is also criticized for flooding the Yellow River and allowing the Henan Famine during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Other historians argue that Chiang's ideology differed from right-wing dictators of the 20th century, and that he did not espouse the ideology of fascism. They argue that Chiang made genuine efforts to improve mainland China and Taiwan's economic and social conditions, such as land reform. Chiang is also credited with transforming China from a semi-colony of various imperialist powers to an independent country by amending the unequal treaties signed by previous governments, as well as moving various Chinese national treasures and traditional Chinese artworks to the National Palace Museum in Taipei during the 1949 retreat.


Like many other Chinese historical figures, Chiang used several names throughout his life. The name inscribed in the genealogical records of his family is Chiang Chou-t‘ai (Chinese: 蔣周泰; pinyin: Jiǎng Zhōutài; Wade–Giles: Chiang3 Chou1-t‘ai4). This so-called "register name" (譜名) is the one by which his extended relatives knew him, and the one he used in formal occasions, such as when he was married. In deference to tradition, family members did not use the register name in conversation with people outside of the family. The concept of a "real" or original name is/was not as clear-cut in China as it is in the Western world. In honor of tradition, Chinese families waited a number of years before officially naming their children. In the meantime, they used a "milk name" (乳名), given to the infant shortly after his birth and known only to the close family. So the name that Chiang received at birth was Chiang Jui-yüan[3] (Chinese: 蔣瑞元; pinyin: Jiǎng Ruìyuán).

In 1903, the 16-year-old Chiang went to Ningbo as a student, and chose a "school name" (學名). This was the formal name of a person, used by older people to address him, and the one he would use the most in the first decades of his life (as a person grew older, younger generations would use one of the courtesy names instead). Colloquially, the school name is called "big name" (大名), whereas the "milk name" is known as the "small name" (小名). The school name that Chiang chose for himself was Zhiqing (Chinese: 志清; Wade–Giles: Chih-ch‘ing, which means "purity of aspirations"). For the next fifteen years or so, Chiang was known as Jiang Zhiqing (Wade–Giles: Chiang Chi-ch‘ing). This is the name by which Sun Yat-sen knew him when Chiang joined the republicans in Guangdong in the 1910s.

In 1912, when Chiang was in Japan, he started to use the name Chiang Kai-shek (Chinese: 蔣介石; pinyin: Jiǎng Jièshí; Wade–Giles: Chiang3 Chieh4-shih2) as a pen name for the articles that he published in a Chinese magazine he founded: Voice of the Army (軍聲). Jieshi is the pinyin romanization of this name, based on Standard Chinese, but the most recognized romanized rendering is Kai-shek which is in Cantonese[3] romanization. Because the Republic of China was based in Canton (a Cantonese-speaking area, now known as Guangdong), Chiang (who never spoke Cantonese but was a native Wu speaker) became known by Westerners under the Cantonese romanization of his courtesy name, while the family name as known in English seems to be the Mandarin pronunciation of his Chinese family name, transliterated in Wade–Giles.

"Kai-shek"/"Jieshi" soon became Chiang's courtesy name (). Some think the name was chosen from the classic Chinese book the I Ching; "介于石"; '[he who is] firm as a rock"', is the beginning of line 2 of Hexagram 16, "". Others note that the first character of his courtesy name is also the first character of the courtesy name of his brother and other male relatives on the same generational line, while the second character of his courtesy name shi (—meaning "stone") suggests the second character of his "register name" tai (—the famous Mount Tai). Courtesy names in China often bore a connection with the personal name of the person. As the courtesy name is the name used by people of the same generation to address the person, Chiang soon became known under this new name.

Sometime in 1917 or 1918, as Chiang became close to Sun Yat-sen, he changed his name from Jiang Zhiqing to Jiang Zhongzheng (Chinese: 蔣中正; pinyin: Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng).[citation needed] By adopting the name Chung-cheng, he was choosing a name very similar to the name of Sun Yat-sen, who is known among Chinese as Zhongshan (中山—meaning "central mountain"), thus establishing a link between the two. The meaning of uprightness, rectitude, or orthodoxy, implied by his name, also positioned him as the legitimate heir of Sun Yat-sen and his ideas. It was readily accepted by members of the Kuomintang, and is the name under which Chiang is still commonly known in Taiwan. Often the name is shortened to "Chung-cheng" only. Many public places in Taiwan are named Chungcheng after Chiang. For many years passengers arriving at the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport were greeted by signs in Chinese welcoming them to the "Chung Cheng International Airport". Similarly, the monument erected to Chiang's memory in Taipei, known in English as Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, was named "Chung Cheng Memorial Hall" in Chinese. In Singapore, Chung Cheng High School was named after him.

His name is also written in Taiwan as "The Late President Honorable Chiang" (先總統 蔣公), where the one-character-wide space in front of his name known as Nuo tai shows respect. He is often called Honorable Chiang.

In this context, his surname "Chiang" in this article is spelled using the Wade–Giles system of transliteration for Standard Chinese as opposed to Hanyu Pinyin[4] though the latter was adopted by the Republic of China government in 2009 as its official romanization.

Early life[edit]

Chiang was born on 31 October 1887, in Xikou, a town in Fenghua, Zhejiang, China,[5] about 30 kilometers (19 mi) west of central Ningbo. He was born into a family of Wu Chinese-speaking people with their ancestral home—a concept important in Chinese society—in Heqiao [zh], a town in Yixing, Jiangsu, about 38 km (24 mi) southwest of central Wuxi and 10 km (6.2 mi) from the shores of Lake Tai. He was the third child and second son of his father Chiang Chao-Tsung [zh] (also Chiang Su-an;[6] 1842–1895;[7] 蔣肇聰) and the first child of his father's third[3] wife Wang Tsai-yu [zh] (1863–1921;[6] 王采玉) who were members of a prosperous family of salt merchants. Chiang's father died when he was eight, and he wrote of his mother as the "embodiment of Confucian virtues". The young Chiang was inspired throughout his youth by the realization that the reputation of an honored family rested upon his shoulders. He was a naughty child.[8] At a young age he was interested in the military.[9] As he grew older, Chiang became more aware of the issues that surrounded him and in his speech to the Kuomintang in 1945 said:

As you all know I was an orphan boy in a poor family. Deprived of any protection after the death of her husband, my mother was exposed to the most ruthless exploitation by neighbouring ruffians and the local gentry. The efforts she made in fighting against the intrigues of these family intruders certainly endowed her child, brought up in such an environment, with an indomitable spirit to fight for justice. I felt throughout my childhood that my mother and I were fighting a helpless lone war. We were alone in a desert, with no available or possible assistance could we look forward to. But our determination was never shaken, nor was hope abandoned.[10]

In early 1906, Chiang cut off his queue, the required hairstyle of men during the Qing dynasty, and had it sent home from school, shocking the people in his hometown.[11]

Education in Japan[edit]

Chiang in 1907

Chiang grew up at a time in which military defeats, natural disasters, famines, revolts, unequal treaties and civil wars had left the Manchu-dominated Qing dynasty unstable and in debt. Successive demands of the Western powers and Japan since the Opium War had left China owing millions of taels of silver. During his first visit to Japan to pursue a military career from April 1906 to later that year, he describes himself as having strong nationalistic feelings with a desire, among other things, to 'expel the Manchu Qing and to restore China'.[12] In a 1969 speech, Chiang related a story about his boat trip to Japan at nineteen years old. Another passenger on the ship, a Chinese fellow student who was in the habit of spitting on the floor, was chided by a Chinese sailor who said that Japanese people did not spit on the floor, but instead would spit into a handkerchief. Chiang used the story as an example of how the common man in 1969 Taiwan had not developed the spirit of public sanitation that Japan had.[13] Chiang decided to pursue a military career. He began his military training at the Baoding Military Academy in 1906, the same year Japan left its bimetallic currency standard, devaluing the Japanese yen. He left for Tokyo Shinbu Gakko, a preparatory school for the Imperial Japanese Army Academy intended for Chinese students, in 1907. There, he came under the influence of compatriots to support the revolutionary movement to overthrow the Manchu-dominated Qing dynasty and to set up a Han-dominated Chinese republic. He befriended Chen Qimei, and in 1908 Chen brought Chiang into the Tongmenghui, an important revolutionary brotherhood of the era. Finishing his military schooling at Tokyo Shinbu Gakko, Chiang served in the Imperial Japanese Army from 1909 to 1911.

Returning to China[edit]

After learning of the Wuchang uprising, Chiang returned to China in 1911, intending to fight as an artillery officer. He served in the revolutionary forces, leading a regiment in Shanghai under his friend and mentor Chen Qimei, as one of Chen's chief lieutenants.[14] In early 1912 a dispute arose between Chen and Tao Chengzhang, an influential member of the Revolutionary Alliance who opposed both Sun Yat-sen and Chen. Tao sought to avoid escalating the quarrel by hiding in a hospital, but Chiang discovered him there. Chen dispatched assassins. Chiang may not have taken part in the assassination, but would later assume responsibility to help Chen avoid trouble. Chen valued Chiang despite Chiang's already legendary temper, regarding such bellicosity as useful in a military leader.[15]

Chiang's friendship with Chen Qimei signaled an association with Shanghai's criminal syndicate (the Green Gang headed by Du Yuesheng and Huang Jinrong). During Chiang's time in Shanghai, the Shanghai International Settlement police observed him and eventually charged him with various felonies. These charges never resulted in a trial, and Chiang was never jailed.[16]

Chiang became a founding member of the Nationalist Party (a forerunner of the KMT) after the success (February 1912) of the 1911 Revolution. After the takeover of the Republican government by Yuan Shikai and the failed Second Revolution in 1913, Chiang, like his KMT comrades, divided his time between exile in Japan and the havens of the Shanghai International Settlement. In Shanghai, Chiang cultivated ties with the city's underworld gangs, which were dominated by the notorious Green Gang and its leader Du Yuesheng. On 18 May 1916 agents of Yuan Shikai assassinated Chen Qimei. Chiang then succeeded Chen as leader of the Chinese Revolutionary Party in Shanghai. Sun Yat-sen's political career reached its lowest point during this time—most of his old Revolutionary Alliance comrades refused to join him in the exiled Chinese Revolutionary Party.[17]

Establishing the Kuomintang's position[edit]

In 1917, Sun Yat-sen moved his base of operations to Canton (now known as Guangzhou), where Chiang joined him in 1918. At this time Sun remained largely sidelined; without arms or money, he was soon expelled from the city and exiled again to Shanghai, only to return to Guangdong with mercenary help in 1920. After his return, a rift developed between Sun, who sought to militarily unify China under the KMT, and Guangdong Governor Chen Jiongming, who wanted to implement a federalist system with Guangdong as a model province. On 16 June 1922 Ye Ju, a general of Chen's whom Sun had attempted to exile, led an assault on Guangdong's Presidential Palace.[18] Sun had already fled to the naval yard[19] and boarded the SS Haiqi,[20] but his wife narrowly evaded shelling and rifle-fire as she fled.[21] They met on the SS Yongfeng, where Chiang joined them as soon as he could return from Shanghai, where he was ritually mourning his mother's death.[22] For about 50 days, Chiang stayed with Sun, protecting and caring for him and earning his lasting trust. They abandoned their attacks on Chen on 9 August, taking a British ship to Hong Kong and traveling to Shanghai by steamer.[22]

Sun Yat-sen and Chiang at the 1924 opening ceremonies for the Soviet-funded Whampoa Military Academy
Chiang in the early 1920s

Sun regained control of Guangdong in early 1923, again with the help of mercenaries from Yunnan and of the Comintern. Undertaking a reform of the KMT, he established a revolutionary government aimed at unifying China under the KMT. That same year Sun sent Chiang to Moscow, where he spent three months studying the Soviet political and military system. There Chiang met Leon Trotsky and other Soviet leaders, but quickly came to the conclusion that the Russian model of government was not suitable for China. Chiang later sent his eldest son, Chiang Ching-Kuo, to study in Russia. After his father's split from the First United Front in 1927, Ching-Kuo was retained there, as a hostage until 1937. Chiang wrote in his diary, "It is not worth it to sacrifice the interest of the country for the sake of my son."[23][24]

When Chiang returned in 1924 Sun appointed him Commandant of the Whampoa Military Academy. Chiang resigned after one month in disagreement with Sun's close cooperation with the Comintern, but returned at Sun's demand, and accepted Zhou Enlai as his political commissar. The early years at Whampoa allowed Chiang to cultivate a cadre of young officers loyal to both the KMT and himself.

Throughout his rise to power, Chiang also benefited from membership within the nationalist Tiandihui fraternity, to which Sun Yat-sen also belonged, and which remained a source of support during his leadership of the Kuomintang.[25]

Rising power[edit]

Chiang (right) together with Wang Jingwei (left), 1926

Sun Yat-sen died on 12 March 1925,[26] creating a power vacuum in the Kuomintang. A contest ensued among Wang Jingwei, Liao Zhongkai, and Hu Hanmin. In August, Liao was assassinated and Hu was arrested for his connections to the murderers. Wang Jingwei, who had succeeded Sun as chairman of the Guangdong regime, seemed ascendant but was forced into exile by Chiang following the Canton Coup. The SS Yongfeng, renamed the Zhongshan in Sun's honour, had appeared off Changzhou,[27] the location of the Whampoa Academy, on apparently-falsified orders[28] and amid a series of unusual phone calls trying to ascertain Chiang's location.[29] He initially considered fleeing Guangdong and even booked passage on a Japanese steamer but then decided to use his military connections to declare martial law on 20 March 1926 and to crack down on Communist and Soviet influence over the National Revolutionary Army, the military academy, and the party.[28] The right wing of the party supported him, and Joseph Stalin, anxious to maintain Soviet influence in the area, had his lieutenants agree to Chiang's demands[30] on a reduced Communist presence in the KMT leadership in exchange for certain other concessions.[28] The rapid replacement of leadership enabled Chiang to effectively end civilian oversight of the military after 15 May, though his authority was somewhat limited[30] by the army's own regional composition and divided loyalties.

On 5 June 1926, he was named commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army [NRA] [31] and, on 27 July, he finally launched Sun's long-delayed Northern Expedition, aimed at conquering the northern warlords and bringing China together under the KMT.

The NRA branched into three divisions: to the west was the returned Wang Jingwei, who led a column to take Wuhan; Bai Chongxi's column went east to take Shanghai; Chiang himself led in the middle route, planning to take Nanjing before pressing ahead to capture Beijing. However, in January 1927, Wang Jingwei and his KMT leftist allies took the city of Wuhan amid much popular mobilization and fanfare. Allied with a number of Chinese Communists and advised by Soviet agent Mikhail Borodin, Wang declared the national government as having moved to Wuhan.

In 1927, when he was setting up the Nationalist government in Nanjing, he was preoccupied with "the elevation of our leader Dr. Sun Yat-sen to the rank of 'Father of our Chinese Republic'. Dr. Sun worked for 40 years to lead our people in the Nationalist cause, and we cannot allow any other personality to usurp this honored position". He asked Chen Guofu to purchase a photograph that had been taken in Japan c. 1895 or 1898. It showed members of the Revive China Society with Yeung Ku-wan as president, in the place of honor, and Sun, as secretary, on the back row, along with members of the Japanese Chapter of the Revive China Society. When told that it was not for sale, Chiang offered a million dollars to recover the photo and its negative, "The party must have this picture and the negative at any price. They must be destroyed as soon as possible. It would be embarrassing to have our Father of the Chinese Republic shown in a subordinate position".[32]

On 12 April 1927, Chiang carried out a purge of thousands of suspected Communists and dissidents in Shanghai, and began large-scale massacres across the country collectively known as the "White Terror". During April, more than 12,000 people were killed in Shanghai. The killings drove most Communists from urban cities and into the rural countryside, where the KMT was less powerful.[33] In the year after April 1927, over 300,000 people died across China in the anti-communist suppression campaigns, executed by the KMT. One of the most famous quotes from Chiang (during that time) was, that he would rather mistakenly kill 1,000 innocent people, than allow one Communist to escape.[34] Some estimates claim the White Terror in China took millions of lives, most of them in rural areas. No concrete number can be verified.[35] Chiang allowed Soviet agent and advisor Mikhail Borodin and Soviet general Vasily Blücher (Galens) to "escape" to safety after the purge.[36]

The NRA formed by the KMT swept through southern and central China until it was checked in Shandong, where confrontations with the Japanese garrison escalated into armed conflict. The conflicts were collectively known as the Jinan incident of 1928.

Now with an established national government in Nanjing, and supported by conservative allies including Hu Hanmin, Chiang's expulsion of the Communists and their Soviet advisers led to the beginning of the Chinese Civil War. Wang Jingwei's National Government was weak militarily, and was soon ended by Chiang with the support of a local warlord (Li Zongren of Guangxi). Eventually, Wang and his leftist party surrendered to Chiang and joined him in Nanjing. However, the cracks between Chiang and Hu's traditionally Right-Wing KMT faction, the Western Hills Group, began to show soon after the cleansing against the communists, and Chiang later imprisoned Hu.

Though Chiang had consolidated the power of the KMT in Nanjing, it was still necessary to capture Beijing to claim the legitimacy needed for international recognition. Beijing was taken in June 1928, from an alliance of the warlords Feng Yuxiang and Yan Xishan. Yan Xishan moved in and captured Beiping on behalf of his new allegiance after the death of Zhang Zuolin in 1928. His successor, Zhang Xueliang, accepted the authority of the KMT leadership, and the Northern Expedition officially concluded, completing Chiang's nominal unification of China and ending the Warlord Era.

After the Northern Expedition ended in 1928, Yan, Feng, Li Zongren and Zhang Fakui broke off relations with Chiang shortly after a demilitarization conference in 1929, and together they formed an anti-Chiang coalition to openly challenge the legitimacy of the Nanjing government. In the Central Plains War, they were defeated.

Chiang made great efforts to gain recognition as the official successor of Sun Yat-sen. In a pairing of great political significance, Chiang was Sun's brother-in-law. He had married Soong Mei-ling, the younger sister of Soong Ching-ling, Sun's widow, on 1 December 1927. Originally rebuffed in the early 1920s, Chiang managed to ingratiate himself to some degree with Soong Mei-ling's mother by first divorcing his wife and concubines and promising to sincerely study the precepts of Christianity. He read the copy of the Bible that May-ling had given him twice before making up his mind to become a Christian, and three years after his marriage he was baptized in the Soong's Methodist church. Although some observers felt that he adopted Christianity as a political move, studies of his recently opened diaries suggest that his faith was strong and sincere and that he felt that Christianity reinforced Confucian moral teachings.[37]

Upon reaching Beijing, Chiang paid homage to Sun Yat-sen and had his body moved to the new capital of Nanjing to be enshrined in a mausoleum, the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum.

Chiang and Feng Yuxiang in 1928

In the West and in the Soviet Union, Chiang Kai-shek was known as the "Red General".[38] Movie theaters in the Soviet Union showed newsreels and clips of Chiang. At Moscow, Sun Yat-sen University portraits of Chiang were hung on the walls; and, in the Soviet May Day parades that year, Chiang's portrait was to be carried along with the portraits of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and other Communist leaders.[39] The United States consulate and other Westerners in Shanghai were concerned about the approach of "Red General" Chiang as his army was seizing control of large areas of the country in the Northern Expedition.[40][41]


Chiang during a visit to an air force base in 1945

Having gained control of China, Chiang's party remained surrounded by defeated warlords who remained relatively autonomous within their own regions. On 10 October 1928, Chiang was named director of the State Council, the equivalent to President of the country, in addition to his other titles.[42] As with his predecessor Sun Yat-sen, the Western media dubbed him "generalissimo".[31]

According to Sun Yat-sen's plans, the KMT was to rebuild China in three steps: military rule, political tutelage, and constitutional rule. The ultimate goal of the KMT revolution was democracy, which was not considered to be feasible in China's fragmented state. Since the KMT had completed the first step of revolution through seizure of power in 1928, Chiang's rule thus began a period of what his party considered to be "political tutelage" in Sun Yat-sen's name. During this so-called Republican Era, many features of a modern, functional Chinese state emerged and developed.

From 1928 to 1937, known as the Nanjing decade, various aspects of foreign imperialism, concessions and privileges in China were moderated by diplomacy.[43] The government acted to modernize the legal and penal systems and attempted to stabilize prices, amortize debts, reform the banking and currency systems, build railroads and highways, improve public health facilities, legislate against traffic in narcotics, and augment industrial and agricultural production. Efforts were made to improve education standards, and the national academy of sciences, Academia Sinica, was founded.[44] In an effort to unify Chinese society, the New Life Movement was launched to encourage Confucian moral values and personal discipline. Guoyu ("national language") was promoted as the official language, and the establishment of communications facilities (including radio) was used to encourage a sense of Chinese nationalism in a way that had not been possible when the nation lacked an effective central government. Under that context, the Chinese Rural Reconstruction Movement was implemented by some social activists who graduated as professors of the United States with tangible but limited progress in modernizing the tax, infrastructural, economic, cultural, and educational equipment and the mechanisms of rural regions. The social activists actively co-ordinated with the local governments in the towns and villages since the early 1930s. However, the policy was subsequently neglected and canceled by Chiang's government because of rampant wars and the lack of resources after the Japanese War and the civil war.[45][46]

Despite being a conservative, Chiang supported modernization policies such as scientific advancement, universal education, and women's rights. The Kuomintang supported women's suffrage and education and the abolition of polygamy and foot binding. Under Chiang's leadership, the Republic of China government also enacted a women's quota in the parliament, with reserved seats for women. During the Nanjing Decade, average Chinese citizens received education that they had been denied by the dynasties. That increased the literacy rate across China and also promoted the ideals of Tridemism of democracy, republicanism, science, constitutionalism, and Chinese nationalism based on the Dang Guo of the KMT.[47][48][49][50][51]

Any successes that the Nationalists achieved, however, were met with constant political and military upheavals. Many of the urban areas were now under the control of the KMT, but much of the countryside remained under the influence of weakened-but -undefeated warlords, landlords, and Communists. Chiang often resolved issues of warlord obstinacy through military action, but such action was costly in terms of men and material. The Central Plains War alone nearly bankrupted the Nationalist government and caused almost 250,000 casualties on both sides. In 1931, Hu Hanmin, an old supporter of Chiang, publicly voiced a popular concern that Chiang's position as both premier and president flew in the face of the democratic ideals of the Nationalist government. Chiang had Hu put under house arrest, but Hu was released after national condemnation. Hu then left Nanjing and supported a rival government in Canton. The split resulted in a military conflict between Hu's Guangdong government and Chiang's Nationalist government.

Chiang and Soong on the cover of Time magazine, 26 October 1931

Throughout his rule, complete eradication of the Communists remained Chiang's dream. After he had assembled his forces in Jiangxi, Chiang led his armies against the newly established Chinese Soviet Republic. With help from foreign military advisers such as Max Bauer and Alexander von Falkenhausen, Chiang's Fifth Campaign finally surrounded the Chinese Red Army in 1934.[52] The Communists, tipped off that a Nationalist offensive was imminent, retreated in the Long March during which Mao rose from a mere military official to the most influential leader of the Chinese Communist Party.

Some academics and historians have classified Chiang's rule as fascist.[53][54][55] The New Life Movement, initiated by Chiang, was based upon Confucianism mixed with Christianity, nationalism, and authoritarianism that have some similarities to fascism. Frederic Wakeman argued that the New Life Movement was "Confucian fascism."[56] Chiang also sponsored the creation of the Blue Shirts Society, in conscious imitation of the Blackshirts in the Italian Fascist Party[57] and the Sturmabteilung of the Nazi Party.[58] Its ideology was to expel foreign (Japanese and Western) imperialists from China and to crush communism.[59] Close ties with Nazi Germany also gave the Nationalist government access to German military and economic assistance during the mid-1930s.[60]: 64  In a 1935 speech, Chiang stated that "fascism is what China now most needs" and described fascism as the stimulant for a declining society.[60]: 64  Mao once derogatorily compared Chiang to Adolf Hitler, referring to him as the "Führer of China."[61] Sino-German relations rapidly deteriorated as Germany grew closer to Japan and almost completely broke down when Japan launched a full-scale invasion of China in 1937, which Germany failed to mediate. However, China did not declare war on Germany, Italy, or even Japan until after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.[62]

Chinese Communists and many conservative anti-communist writers have argued that Chiang was pro-capitalist based on the alliance thesis (the alliance between Chiang and the capitalists to purge the communist and the leftist elements in Shanghai, as well as in the resulting civil war). However, Chiang also antagonized the capitalists of Shanghai by often attacking them and confiscating their capital and assets for government use even while he denounced and fought against communists. Critics have called that "bureaucratic capitalism."[63][64] Historian Parks M. Coble argues that the phrase "bureaucratic capitalism" is too simplistic to adequately characterize this phenomenon. Instead, he says, the regime weakened all social forces so that the government could pursue policies without being responsible nor responsive to any outside political groups. By defeating any potential challenge to its power, government officials could amass sizable fortunes. With that motive, Chiang cracked down pro-communist worker and peasant organizations, as well as rich Shanghai capitalists. Chiang also continued the anti-capitalist rhetoric of Sun Yat-sen and directed the Kuomintang media to attack the capitalists and capitalism openly. He supported government-controlled industries instead. Coble says that the rhetoric had no impact on governmental policy and that its use was to prevent the capitalists from claiming legitimacy within the party or society and to control them and their wealth.[64]

Authority within the Nationalist government ultimately lay with Chiang.[65]: 43  All major policy changes on military, diplomatic, or economic issues required his approval.[65]: 156  According to historian Odd Arne Westad, "no other leader within the [KMT] had the authority to force through even the simplest decisions.[65]: 156  The practical power of high-ranking officials like ministers or the head of the Executive Yuan was more closely tied to their relationship with Chiang than with the formal authority of their position.[65]: 43  Chiang created multiple layers of power in his administration which he sometimes played off against each other to prevent individuals or cliques from gathering power that could oppose his authority.[65]: 93–94 

Contrary to the critique that Chiang was highly corrupt, he was not involved in corruption himself.[66] However his wife, Soong Mei-ling, ignored her family's involvement in corruption.[67] The Soong family embezzled $20 million in the course of the 1930s and the 1940s when the Nationalist government's revenues were less than $30 million per year.[68]: 40  The Soong family's eldest son, T.V. Soong, was the Chinese premier and finance minister, and the eldest daughter, Soong Ai-ling, was the wife of Kung Hsiang-hsi, the wealthiest man in China. The second daughter, Soong Ching-ling, was the wife of Sun Yat-sen, China's founding father. The youngest daughter, Soong Mei-ling, married Chiang in 1927, and following the marriage, both families became intimately connected, which created the "Soong dynasty" and the "Four Families." However, Soong was also credited for her campaign for women's rights in China, including her attempts to improve the education, culture, and social benefits of Chinese women.[67] Critics have said that the "Four Families" monopolized the regime and looted it.[63] The US sent considerable aid to the Nationalist government but soon realized the widespread corruption. Military supplies that were sent appeared on the black market. Significant sums of money that had been transmitted through T. V. Soong, China's finance minister, soon disappeared. President Truman famously referred to the Nationalist leaders, "They're thieves, every damn one of them." He also said, "They stole $750 million out of the billions that we sent to Chiang. They stole it, and it's invested in real estate down in São Paolo and some right here in New York."[69][70] Soong Mei-ling and Soong Ai-ling lived luxurious lifestyles and held millions in property, clothes, art, and jewelry.[71] Soong Ai-ling and Soong Mei-ling were also the two richest women in China.[72] Despite living a luxurious life for almost her entire life, Soong Mei-ling left only a $120,000 inheritance, and the reason is that according to her niece, that she donated most of her wealth when she was still alive.[73] Chiang, requiring support, tolerated corruption with people in his inner circles, as well as high-ranking nationalist officials, but not of lower-ranking officers. In 1934, he ordered seven military officers who embezzled state property to be shot. In another case, several division commanders pleaded with Chiang to pardon a criminal officer, but as soon as the division commanders had left, Chiang ordered him shot.[66] The deputy editor and chief reporter at the Central Daily News, Lu Keng, made headline international news by exposing the corruption of two senior officials, Kong Xiangxi (H. H. Kung) and T.V. Soong. Chiang then ordered a thorough investigation of the Central Daily News to find the source. However, Lu, risked execution by refusing to comply and protecting his journalists. Chiang wanting to avoid an international response and so jailed Lu instead.[74][75] Chiang realized the widespread problems that corruption was creating and so he undertook several anti-corruption campaigns before and after World War II with varying success. Before the war, both campaigns, the Nanjing Decade Cleanup of 1927–1930 and the Wartime Reform Movement of 1944–1947, failed. After the World War II and the Civil War, both campaigns, the Kuomintang Reconstruction of 1950–1952 and the Governmental Rejuvenation of 1969–1973, succeeded.[76]

Chiang, who viewed all of the foreign great powers with suspicion, wrote in a letter that they "all have it in their minds to promote the interests of their own respective countries at the cost of other nations" and saw it as hypocritical for any of them to condemn one another's foreign policy.[77][78] He used diplomatic persuasion on the United States, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union to regain lost Chinese territories, as he viewed all foreign powers as imperialists that were attempting to exploit China.[79]

First phase of Chinese Civil War[edit]

Nationalist government of Nanjing, which nominally ruled over all of China in 1930s

During April 1931, Chiang Kai-shek attended a national leadership conference in Nanjing with Zhang Xueliang and General Ma Fuxiang during which Chiang and Zhang dauntlessly upheld that Manchuria was part of China in the face of the Japanese invasion.[80] After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Chiang resigned as Chairman of the National Government. He returned shortly afterward and adopted the slogan "first internal pacification, then external resistance." However, his policy of avoiding a frontal war against Japan and prioritizing anti-communist suppression was widely unpopular and provoked nationwide protests.[81] In 1932, while Chiang was seeking first to defeat the Communists, Japan launched an advance on Shanghai and bombarded Nanjing. That disrupted Chiang's offensives against the Communists for a time, but it was the northern factions of Hu Hanmin's Guangdong government (notably the 19th Route Army) that primarily led the offensive against the Japanese during the skirmish. Brought into the NRA immediately after the battle, the 19th Route Army's career under Chiang would be cut short by being disbanded for demonstrating socialist tendencies. [citation needed]

In December 1936, Chiang flew to Xi'an to co-ordinate a major assault on the Red Army and the CPC, which had retreated into Yan'an. However, Chiang's allied commander Zhang Xueliang, whose forces were used in his attack and whose homeland of Manchuria had been recently invaded by the Japanese, did not support the attack on the Communists. On 12 December, Zhang and several other Nationalist generals, headed by Yang Hucheng of Shaanxi kidnapped Chiang for two weeks in what is known as the Xi'an Incident. They forced Chiang into making a "Second United Front" with the Communists against Japan. After releasing Chiang and returning to Nanjing with him, Zhang was placed under house arrest, and the generals who had assisted him were executed. The Second United Front had a commitment by Chiang that was nominal at best and was all but dissolved in 1941.

Second Sino-Japanese War[edit]

After the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, The Young Companion featured Chiang on its cover.

The Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in July 1937, and in August, Chiang sent 600,000 of his best-trained and equipped soldiers to defend Shanghai. With over 200,000 Chinese casualties, Chiang lost the political cream of his Whampoa-trained officers. Although Chiang lost militarily, the battle dispelled Japan's claims that it could conquer China in three months and also demonstrated to the Western powers that the Chinese would continue the fight. By December, the capital city of Nanjing had fallen to the Japanese resulting in the Nanjing Massacre. Chiang moved the government inland first to Wuhan and later to Chongqing.

Having lost most of China's economic and industrial centers, Chiang withdrew into the hinterlands, stretched the Japanese supply lines, and bogged down Japanese soldiers in the vast Chinese interior. As part of a policy of protracted resistance, Chiang authorized the use of scorched-earth tactics, which resulted in many civilian deaths. During the Nationalists' retreat from Zhengzhou, the dams around the city were deliberately destroyed by the National Revolutionary Army to delay the Japanese advance, and the subsequent 1938 Yellow River flood killed 800,000[82] to one million people.[68]: 40  Four million Chinese were left homeless.[68]: 40  Chiang and the KMT were slow to provide disaster relief.[68]: 40 

After heavy fighting, the Japanese occupied Wuhan in the fall of 1938, and the Nationalists retreated farther inland to Chongqing. En route to Chongqing, the Nationalist Army intentionally started the Changsha Fire as a part of its scorched-earth policy. The fire destroyed much of the city, killed 20,000 civilians, and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. An organizational error (it was claimed) caused the fire to be started without any warning to the residents of the city. The Nationalists eventually blamed three local commanders for the fire and executed them. Newspapers across China blamed the fire on (non-KMT) arsonists, but the blaze contributed to a nationwide loss of support for the KMT.[83]

In 1939, the Muslim leaders Isa Yusuf Alptekin and Ma Fuliang were sent by Chiang to several Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Turkey, and Syria, to gain support for the war against Japan and to express his support for Muslims.[84]

The Japanese, controlling the puppet state of Manchukuo and much of China's eastern seaboard, appointed Wang Jingwei as a puppet ruler of the occupied Chinese territories around Nanjing. Wang named himself President of the Executive Yuan and chairman, and he led a surprisingly large minority of anti-Chiang and anti-Communist Chinese against his old comrades. He died in 1944, a year before the end of World War II.

The Hui Xidaotang sect pledged allegiance to the Kuomintang after the party's rise to power, and Hui general Bai Chongxi acquainted Chiang with the Xidaotang Juaozhu Ma Mingren in 1941 in Chongqing.[85]

In 1942 Chiang went on tour in northwestern China in Xinjiang, Gansu, Ningxia, Shaanxi, and Qinghai, where he met the Muslim Generals Ma Buqing and Ma Bufang.[86] He also met the Muslim Generals Ma Hongbin and Ma Hongkui separately.

Chiang with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in Cairo, Egypt, in November 1943

A border crisis erupted with Tibet in 1942. Under orders from Chiang, Ma Bufang repaired Yushu Airport to prevent Tibetan separatists from seeking independence.[87] Chiang also ordered Ma Bufang to put his Muslim soldiers on alert for an invasion of Tibet in 1942.[88] Ma Bufang complied and moved several thousand troops to the Tibetan border.[89] Chiang also threatened the Tibetans with aerial bombardment if they worked with the Japanese. Ma Bufang attacked the Tibetan Buddhist Tsang monastery in 1941.[90] He also constantly attacked the Labrang Monastery.[91]

After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the opening of the Pacific War, China became one of the Allies. During and after World War II, Chiang and his American-educated wife, Soong Mei-ling, known in the United States as "Madame Chiang", held the support of the American China Lobby, which saw in them the hope of a Christian and democratic China. Chiang was even named the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in the China war zone. He was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1942.[92]

General Joseph Stilwell, an American military advisor to Chiang during World War II, strongly criticized Chiang and his generals for what Stilwell saw as their incompetence and corruption.[93] In 1944, the United States Army Air Corps commenced Operation Matterhorn to bomb Japan's steel industry from bases to be constructed in mainland China. That was meant to fulfill US President Franklin D. Roosevelt's promise to Chiang to begin bombing operations against Japan by November 1944. However, Chiang's subordinates refused to take air base construction seriously until enough capital had been delivered to permit embezzlement on a massive scale. Stilwell estimated that at least half of the $100 million spent on construction of air bases was embezzled by Nationalist party officials.[94]

The poor performance of Nationalist forces during the Japanese Ichigo campaign contributed to the view that Chiang was incompetent.[65]: 3  Their poor performance irreparably damaged Chiang and the Nationalists in the view of the Roosevelt administration.[60]: 75  Chiang argued that the United States, and Stillwell in particular, were at fault for the failure because they had moved too many Chinese troops into the Burma campaign.[65]: 3 

After the Japanese surrender, Chiang had to rely on the assistance of the United States in order to transport his troops to regain control of occupied areas.[65]: 3  Non-Chinese found the behavior of these troops and accompanying officials as undercutting Nationalist legitimacy, as Nationalist forces engaged in a "botched liberation" characterized by corruption, looting, and inefficiency.[65]: 3 

Chiang tried to balance the influence of the Soviets and the Americans in China during the war. He first told the Americans that they would be welcome in talks between the Soviet Union and China and then secretly told the Soviets that the Americans were unimportant and that their opinions would not be considered. Chiang also used American support and military power in China against Soviet ambitions to dominate the talks. That stopped the Soviets from taking full advantage of the situation in China by the threat of American military action against them.[95]

Chiang's Nationalist government made laws on abortion in China more restrictive during the Second Sino-Japanese War.[96] In 1945, Chiang adopted a eugenic population policy that was intended to promote hybrid vigor by encouraging intermarriage between whites and Chinese to combine European fair skin with superior Chinese intelligence.[96] Although adopted, the policy was never successfully implemented.[96]

French Indochina[edit]

President Roosevelt, through General Stilwell, privately made it clear that he preferred for the French not to reacquire French Indochina (now Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) after the war was over. Roosevelt offered Chiang control of all of Indochina. It was said that Chiang replied in English, "Under no circumstances!"[97]

After the war, 200,000 Chinese troops under General Lu Han were sent by Chiang to northern Indochina (north of the 16th parallel) to accept the surrender of Japanese occupying forces there, and the Chinese forces remained in Indochina until 1946, when the French returned.[98][99] The Chinese used the VNQDD, the Vietnamese branch of the Kuomintang, to increase their influence in Indochina and to put pressure on their opponents.[100] Chiang threatened the French with war in response to maneuvering by the French and Ho Chi Minh's forces against each other and forced them to come to a peace agreement. In February 1946, he also forced the French to surrender all of their concessions in China and to renounce their extraterritorial privileges in exchange for the Chinese withdrawing from northern Indochina and allowing French troops to reoccupy the region. After France's agreement to those demands, 20,000 French soldiers landed in Haiphong, North Vietnam, on March 6, 1946, under the leadership of general Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, followed by the withdrawal of Chinese troops which began in March 1946.[101][102][103][104]


According to Republic of China's notes of a dinner meeting during the Cairo Conference in 1943, Roosevelt asked Chiang whether China desired the Ryukyu Islands as territories restored from Japan. Chiang said he would be agreeable to joint occupation and administration by China and the United States.[105]

Second phase of Chinese Civil War[edit]

Treatment and use of Japanese soldiers[edit]

Chiang, Soong Mei-ling, and US Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell in Burma, April 1942

Because of Chiang's focus on his communist opponents, he allowed some Japanese forces and forces from the Japanese puppet regimes to remain on duty in occupied areas in an effort to prevent the communists from accepting their surrender.[65]: 3 

American troops and weapons soon bolstered the Nationalist forces, which allowed them to reclaim the cities. The countryside, however, remained largely under Communist control. Chiang implemented his war-time phrase "repay evil with good" and made a huge effort to protect elements of the Japanese invading army.[106] In 1949, a Nationalist court acquitted General Okamura Yasuji, the chief commander of Japanese forces in China, of alleged war crimes,[106] retaining him as an advisor.[107] Nationalist China repeatedly intervened to protect Okamura from repeated American requests to testify at the Tokyo war crimes trial.[106]

Many top Nationalist generals, including Chiang, had studied and trained in Japan before the Nationalists had returned to the mainland in the 1920s and maintained close personal friendships with top Japanese officers. The Japanese general in charge of all forces in China, General Okamura had personally trained officers who later became generals in Chiang's staff. Reportedly, Chiang seriously considered accepting this offer but declined only because he knew that the United States would certainly be outraged by the gesture. Even so, armed Japanese troops remained in China well into 1947, with some non-commissioned officers finding their way into the Nationalist officer corps.[108] The Japanese in China came to regard Chiang as a magnanimous figure to whom many of them owed their lives and livelihoods; that fact was attested by both Nationalist and Communist sources.[109]

Conditions during Chinese Civil War[edit]

Chiang and Mao in 1945

Chiang did not de-mobilize his troops after the defeat of the Japanese, instead remaining on a war footing to prepare for the resumption of civil war against the Communists.[65]: 85  This further strained the economy of Nationalist era China, worsening deficits.[65]: 84–85  A significant body of evidence suggests that much of the Nationalist military budget in this period was wasted.[65]: 86  One factor in military budget waste included that troop counts were inflated above actual head counts and that officers embezzled the salaries of the non-existent soldiers.[65]: 86  Another was the power of military commanders over local branches of the Bank of China, which they could require to provide currency outside of the normal budget process.[65]: 86–87 

Although Chiang had achieved status abroad as a world leader, his government deteriorated as the result of corruption and hyperinflation. In his diary in June 1948, Chiang wrote that the KMT had failed not because of external enemies but because of rot from within.[110] The war had severely weakened the Nationalists, and the Communists were strengthened by their popular land reform policies[111][112] and by a rural population that supported and trusted them. The Nationalists initially had superiority in arms and men, but their lack of popularity, infiltration by Communist agents, low morale, and disorganization soon allowed the Communists to gain the upper hand in the civil war.

After World War II, the United States encouraged peace talks between Chiang and the Communist leader, Mao Zedong, in Chongqing. Concerns about widespread and well-documented corruption in Chiang's government throughout his rule made the US government limit aid to Chiang for much of the period of 1946 to 1948 despite the fighting against Mao's Red Army. Alleged infiltration of the US government by CCP agents may have also played a role in the suspension of American aid.[113]

Chiang's right-hand man, the secret police chief Dai Li, was anti-American and anti-Communist and a self-declared fascist.[114] Dai ordered Kuomintang agents to spy on American officers.[115] Earlier, Dai had been involved with the Blue Shirts Society, a fascist-inspired paramilitary group within the Kuomintang that wanted to expel Western and Japanese imperialists, crush the Communists, and eliminate feudalism.[116] Dai Li died in a plane crash, which some suspect to be an assassination orchestrated by Chiang;[117] however, the assassination was also rumoured to have been arranged by the American Office of Strategic Services because of Dai's anti-Americanism and since it happened on an American plane.[118]

Conflict with Li Zongren[edit]

A new constitution was promulgated in 1947, and Chiang was elected by the National Assembly as the first President of the Republic of China on 20 May 1948. That marked the beginning of what was termed the "democratic constitutional government" period by the KMT political orthodoxy, but the Communists refused to recognize the new Constitution, and its government as legitimate. Chiang resigned as president on 21 January 1949, as Nationalist forces suffered terrible losses and defections to the Communists. After Chiang's resignation, vice-president Li Zongren became China's acting president.[119]

Shortly after Chiang's resignation, the Communists halted their advances and attempted to negotiate the Nationalists' virtual surrender. Li tried to negotiate milder terms to end the civil war but had no success. When it became clear that Li was unlikely to accept Mao's terms, the Communists issued an ultimatum in April 1949 that warned that they would resume their attacks if Li did not agree within five days. Li refused.[120]

Li's attempts to carry out his policies faced varying degrees of opposition from Chiang's supporters and were generally unsuccessful. Taylor has noted that Chiang had a superstitious belief in holding Manchuria. After the Nationalist military defeat in the province, Chiang lost faith in winning the war and started to prepare for the retreat to Taiwan. Chiang especially antagonized Li by taking possession of and moving to Taiwan US$200 million of gold and US dollars that belonged to the central government. Li desperately needed them to cover the government's soaring expenses. When the Communists captured the Nationalist capital of Nanjing in April 1949, Li refused to accompany the central government as it fled to Guangdong and instead expressed his dissatisfaction with Chiang by retiring to Guangxi.[121]

Chiang with South Korean President Syngman Rhee in 1949

The former warlord Yan Xishan, who had fled to Nanjing only one month earlier, quickly insinuated himself within the Li-Chiang rivalry and attempted to have Li and Chiang reconcile their differences in the effort to resist the Communists. At Chiang's request, Yan visited Li to convince Li not to withdraw from public life. Yan broke down in tears while he talked of the loss of his home province of Shanxi to the Communists, and he warned Li that the Nationalist cause was doomed unless Li went to Guangdong. Li agreed to return if Chiang surrendered most of the gold and US dollars in his possession that belonged to the central government, and Chiang stopped overriding Li's authority. After Yan communicated those demands and Chiang agreed to comply with them, Li departed for Guangdong.[121]

In Guangdong, Li attempted to create a new government composed of both supporters and opponents of Chiang. Li's first choice of premier was Chu Cheng, a veteran member of the Kuomintang who had been virtually driven into exile for his strong opposition to Chiang. After the Legislative Yuan jas rejected Chu, Li was obliged to choose Yan Xishan instead. By then, Yan was well known for his adaptability, and Chiang welcomed his appointment.[121]

The conflict between Chiang and Li persisted. Although he had agreed to do so as a prerequisite of Li's return, Chiang refused to surrender more than a fraction of the wealth that he had sent to Taiwan. Without being backed by gold or foreign currency, the money that was issued by Li and Yan quickly declined in value until it became virtually worthless.[122] Although he did not hold a formal executive position in the government, Chiang continued to issue orders to the army, and many officers continued to obey Chiang, rather than Li. The inability of Li to co-ordinate KMT military forces led him to put into effect a plan of defense that he had contemplated in 1948. Instead of attempting to defend all of southern China, Li ordered what remained of the Nationalist armies to withdraw to Guangxi and Guangdong. He hoped that he could concentrate all available defenses on the smaller area, which would be more easily defensible. The object of Li's strategy was to maintain a foothold on the Chinese mainland in the hope that the United States would eventually be compelled to enter the war in China on the Nationalist side.[122]

Final Communist advance[edit]

Map of the Chinese Civil War (1946–1950)

Chiang opposed Li's plan of defense because it would have placed most of the troops who were still loyal to Chiang under the control of Li and Chiang's other opponents in the central government. To overcome Chiang's intransigence Li began ousting Chiang's supporters within the central government. Yan Xishan continued in his attempts to work with both sides, which created the impression among Li's supporters that he was a stooge of Chiang, and those who supported Chiang began to bitterly resent Yan for his willingness to work with Li. Because of the rivalry between Chiang and Li, Chiang refused to allow Nationalist troops loyal to him to aid in the defense of Guangxi and Canton. That let Communist forces occupy Canton in October 1949.[123]

After Canton fell to the Communists, Chiang relocated the government to Chongqing, and Li effectively surrendered his powers and flew to New York for treatment of his chronic duodenum illness at the Hospital of Columbia University. Li visited President Truman, and denounced Chiang as a dictator and an usurper. Li vowed that he would "return to crush" Chiang once he returned to China. Li remained in exile and did not return to Taiwan.[124]

In the early morning of 10 December 1949, Communist troops laid siege to Chengdu, the last KMT-controlled city in mainland China, where Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo directed the defense at the Chengtu Central Military Academy. Flying out of Chengdu Fenghuangshan Airport, father and son were evacuated to Taiwan via Guangdong on the aircraft May-ling and arrived the same day. Chiang Kai-shek would never return to the mainland.[125]

Historian Odd Arne Westad says the Communists won the Civil War because they made fewer military mistakes than Chiang had. Also, his search for a powerful centralized government made Chiang antagonize too many interest groups in China. Furthermore, his party was weakened by the war against Japan. Meanwhile, the Communists told different groups, such as peasants, exactly what they wanted to hear and cloaked themselves in the cover of Chinese nationalism.[126][need quotation to verify]

Chiang did not reassume the presidency until 1 March 1950. In January 1952, Chiang commanded the Control Yuan, now in Taiwan, to impeach Li in the "Case of Li Zongren's Failure to carry out Duties due to Illegal Conduct" (李宗仁違法失職案). Chiang relieved Li of the position as vice-president of the National Assembly in March 1954.

In Taiwan[edit]

Preparations to retake the mainland[edit]

Chiang moved the government to Taipei, Taiwan, where he resumed his duties as president on 1 March 1950.[127] Chiang was re-elected by the National Assembly to be the President of the Republic of China on 20 May 1954, and again in 1960, 1966, and 1972. He continued to claim sovereignty over all of China, including the territories held by his government and the People's Republic, as well as territory the latter ceded to foreign governments, such as Tuva and Outer Mongolia. In the context of the Cold War, most of the Western world recognized that position, and the ROC represented China in the United Nations and other international organizations until the 1970s.

Chiang with Japanese politician Nobusuke Kishi, in 1957

During his presidency on Taiwan, Chiang continued making preparations to take back mainland China. He developed the JROTC army to prepare for an invasion of the mainland and to defend Taiwan in case of an attack by the Communist forces. He also financed armed groups in mainland China, such as Muslim soldiers of the ROC Army who had been left in Yunnan under Li Mi and continued to fight. It was not until the 1980s that those troops were finally airlifted to Taiwan.[128] He promoted the Uyghur Yulbars Khan to governor during the Islamic insurgency on the mainland for resisting the Communists even though the government had already evacuated to Taiwan.[129] He planned an invasion of the mainland in 1962.[130] In the 1950s, Chiang's airplanes dropped supplies to Kuomintang Muslim insurgents in Qinghai, in the traditional Tibetan area of Amdo.[131]

Regime in Taiwan[edit]

Despite an ostensibly democratic constitution, the government under Chiang was a de facto one-party state, consisting almost completely of mainlanders; the "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion" greatly enhanced the executive's powers, and the goal of retaking mainland China allowed the KMT to maintain a monopoly on power and to prohibit real parliamentary opposition. The government's official line for the martial law provisions stemmed from the claim that emergency provisions were necessary since the Communists and the Nationalists were still in a state of war. Seeking to promote Chinese nationalism, Chiang's government actively ignored and suppressed local cultural expression and even forbade the use of local languages in mass media broadcasts or during class sessions. As a result of Taiwan's anti-government uprising in 1947, known as the February 28 incident, the KMT-led political repression resulted in the death or the disappearance of up to 30,000 Taiwanese intellectuals, activists, and people suspected of opposition to the KMT.[132]

The first decades after the Nationalists had moved the seat of government to the province of Taiwan are associated with the organized effort to resist Communism, which was known as the "White Terror"; about 140,000 Taiwanese were imprisoned for their real or perceived opposition to the Kuomintang.[133] Most of those prosecuted were labeled by the Kuomintang as "bandit spies" (匪諜), meaning spies for Chinese Communists, and punished as such or "Taiwanese Separatists" (台獨分子).[134]

Under the pretext that new elections could not be held in Communist-occupied constituencies, the National Assembly, Legislative Yuan, and Control Yuan members held their posts indefinitely. The Temporary Provisions also allowed Chiang to remain as president beyond the two-term limit in the Constitution. He was re-elected by the National Assembly as president four times: in 1954, 1960, 1966, and 1972.[135]

Chiang presiding over the 1966 Double Ten celebrations

Believing that corruption and the lack of morals were key reasons that the KMT had lost mainland China to the Communists, Chiang attempted to purge corruption by dismissing members of the KMT who were accused of graft. Some major figures in the previous mainland Chinese government, such as Chiang's brothers-in-law H. H. Kung and T.V. Soong, exiled themselves to the United States. Although politically authoritarian and, to some extent, dominated by government-owned industries, Chiang's new Taiwanese state also encouraged economic development, especially in the export sector. A popular sweeping Land Reform Act, as well as American foreign aid during the 1950s, laid the foundation for Taiwan's economic success to become one of the Four Asian Tigers. After retreating to Taiwan, Chiang learned from his mistakes and failures in the mainland and blamed them for failing to pursue Sun Yat-sen's ideals of Tridemism and welfarism. Chiang's land reform more than doubled the land ownership of Taiwanese farmers. It removed the rent burdens on them, with former landowners using the government compensation to become the new capitalist class. He promoted a mixed economy of state and private ownership with economic planning. Chiang also promoted a nine-year free education and the importance of science in Taiwanese education and values. Those measures generated great success, with consistent and strong growth and the stabilization of inflation.[136]

After the government of the Republic of China had moved to Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek's economic policy turned towards to economic liberalism and used Sho-Chieh Tsiang and other liberal economists to promote economic liberalization reforms in Taiwan.[137]

However, Taylor has noted that the developmental model of Chiangism in Taiwan still had elements of socialism, and the Gini index of Taiwan was around 0.28 by the 1970s, which was lower than the relatively-egalitarian West Germany. ROC (Taiwan) was one of the most equal countries in the pro-western bloc. Those in the lower 40% of income doubled their share to 22% of the total income, with the upper 20% shrinking their share from 61% to 39%, from the time of Japanese rule.[112] The Chiangist economic model can be seen as a form of dirigisme, with the state playing a crucial role in directing the market economy. Small businesses and state-owned enterprises in Taiwan flourished under the economic model, but the economy did not see the emergence of corporate monopolies, unlike in most other major capitalist countries.

After the democratization of Taiwan, it began to slowly drift away from the Chiangist economic policy to embrace a more free market system, as part of the economic globalization process under the context of neoliberalism.[138]

Chiang had the personal power to review the rulings of all military tribunals, which during the martial law period tried civilians as well. In 1950, Lin Pang-chun and two other men were arrested on charges of financial crimes and sentenced to 3–10 years in prison. Chiang reviewed the sentences of all three and ordered them executed instead. In 1954, the Changhua monk Kao Chih-te and two others were sentenced to 12 years in prison for providing aid to accused communists. Chiang sentenced them to death after he had reviewed the case. That control over the decision of military tribunals violated the ROC constitution.[139]

After Chiang's death, the next president, his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, and Chiang Ching-kuo's successor, Lee Teng-hui, a native Taiwanese, would in the 1980s and 1990s increase native Taiwanese representation in the government and loosen the many authoritarian controls of the early era of ROC control in Taiwan, paving way for the democratization process.[140]

Relations with Japan[edit]

In 1971, the former Australian opposition leader Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister in 1972, and swiftly relocated the Australian mission from Taipei to Beijing, visited Japan. After meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato Whitlam observed that the reason that Japan was hesitant to withdraw recognition from the Nationalist government was "the presence of a treaty between the Japanese government and that of Chiang Kai-shek." Sato explained that the continued recognition of Japan towards the Nationalist government was largely because of the personal relationship that various members of the Japanese government felt towards Chiang. This relationship was rooted largely in the generous and lenient treatment of Japanese prisoners-of-war by the Nationalist government in the years immediately after the Japanese surrender in 1945, and was felt especially strongly as a bond of personal obligation by the most senior members who were in power.[141]

Although Japan recognized the People's Republic in 1972, shortly after Kakuei Tanaka had succeeded Sato as Prime Minister of Japan, the memory of the relationship was strong enough to be reported by The New York Times (15 April 1978) as a significant factor inhibiting trade between Japan and the mainland. There is speculation that a clash between Communist forces and a Japanese warship in 1978 was caused by Chinese anger by Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda attending Chiang's funeral. Historically, Japan's attempts to normalize its relationship with the People's Republic were met with accusations of ingratitude in Taiwan.[141]

Relations with United States[edit]

Chiang with US President Dwight D. Eisenhower in June 1960

Chiang was suspicious that covert operatives of the United States were plotting a coup against him.

In 1950, Chiang Ching-kuo became director of the secret police (Bureau of Investigation and Statistics), which he remained until 1965. Chiang Kai-shek was also suspicious of politicians who were overly friendly to the United States and considered them his enemies. In 1953, seven days after surviving an assassination attempt, Wu Kuo-chen lost his position as governor of Taiwan Province to Chiang Ching-kuo. After fleeing to United States the same year, Wu became a vocal critic of Chiang's family and government.[142]

Chiang Ching-kuo, who had been educated in the Soviet Union, initiated Soviet-style military organization in the Republic of China Armed Forces. He reorganized and Sovietized the political officer corps and propagated Kuomintang ideology throughout the military. Sun Li-jen, who had been educated at the American Virginia Military Institute, opposed those practices.[143]

Chiang Ching-kuo orchestrated the controversial court-martial and arrest of General Sun Li-jen in August 1955 for plotting a coup d'état with the CIA against his father, Chiang Kai-shek, and the Kuomintang. The CIA allegedly wanted to help Sun take control of Taiwan and declare its independence.[142][144]


The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a famous monument, landmark, and tourist attraction in Taipei, Taiwan.

In 1975, 26 years after Chiang had come to Taiwan, he died in Taipei at the age of 87.[145][146] He had suffered a heart attack and pneumonia in the foregoing months, and died from kidney failure aggravated by advanced heart failure on 5 April. Chiang's funeral was held on 16 April.[147]

A month of mourning was declared. The Chinese music composer Hwang Yau-tai wrote the "Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Song." In mainland China, however, Chiang's death was met with little apparent mourning, and Communist state-run newspapers gave the brief headline "Chiang Kai-shek Has Died". Chiang's body was put in a copper coffin and temporarily interred at his favorite residence in Cihu, Daxi, Taoyuan. His funeral was attended by dignitaries from many nations, including US Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil, and two former Japanese prime ministers: Nobusuke Kishi and Eisaku Sato. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Day [zh] (蔣公逝世紀念日 [zh]) was established on 5 April. The memorial day was disestablished in 2007.

The response by Japanese media was swift and shaped by a cult of personality around Chiang Kai-shek. Japanese conservatives had long promoted to counter the China policy and the historical narratives of their leftist pro-PRC opponents. The nationalist leader of Taiwan had been trained in Japanese military schools and shared a particular fondness for the Japanese Empire.[148]

When his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, died in 1988, he was entombed in a separate mausoleum in nearby Touliao. The hope was to have both of them buried at their birthplace in Fenghua when that would be possible. In 2004, Chiang Fang-liang, the widow of Chiang Ching-kuo, asked for both father and son to be buried at Wuzhi Mountain Military Cemetery in Xizhi, Taipei County (now New Taipei City). Chiang's ultimate funeral ceremony became a political battle between the wishes of the state and those of his family.

Chiang was succeeded as president by Vice President Yen Chia-kan and as Kuomintang party ruler by his son Chiang Ching-kuo, who retired Chiang Kai-shek's title of Director-General and instead assumed the position of chairman. Yen's presidency was interim; Chiang Ching-kuo, who was the Premier, became president after the end of Yen's term three years later.

Cult of personality[edit]

Chiang's portrait in Tiananmen Rostrum
Chinese propaganda poster proclaiming "Long Live the President"

Chiang's portrait hung over Tiananmen Square until 1949, when it was replaced with Mao's portrait.[149] Portraits of Chiang were common in private homes and in public on the streets.[150][151][152] After his death, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Song was written in 1988 to commemorate Chiang Kai-shek. In Cihu, there are several statues of Chiang Kai-shek.

A Chinese stamp with Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang was popular among many people and dressed in plain, simple clothes, unlike contemporary Chinese warlords who dressed extravagantly.[153]

Quotes from the Quran and hadith were used by Muslims in the Kuomintang-controlled Muslim publication, the Yuehua, to justify Chiang Kai-shek's rule over China.[154] When the Muslim general and warlord Ma Lin was interviewed, he was described as having "high admiration for and unwavering loyalty to Chiang Kai-shek".[155]


Chiang Kai-shek and Winston Churchill heads, with Nationalist China flag and Union Jack

The Kuomintang used traditional Chinese religious ceremonies, and promulgated martyrdom. Kuomintang ideology subserved and promulgated the view that the souls of Party martyrs who died fighting for the Kuomintang, the revolution, and the party founder Sun Yat-sen were sent to heaven. Chiang Kai-shek believed that these martyrs witnessed events on Earth from heaven after their deaths.[156][157][158][159]

Unlike Sun's original Tridemist ideology that was heavily influenced by Western enlightenment theorists such as Henry George, Abraham Lincoln, Bertrand Russell, and John Stuart Mill,[160] the traditional Chinese Confucian influence on Chiang's ideology is much stronger. Chiang rejected the Western progressive ideologies of individualism, liberalism, and the cultural aspects of Marxism. Therefore, Chiang is generally more culturally and socially conservative than Sun Yat-sen. Jay Taylor has described Chiang Kai-shek as a revolutionary nationalist and a "left-leaning Confucian-Jacobinist".

When the Northern Expedition was complete, Kuomintang Generals led by Chiang Kai-shek paid tribute to Sun's soul in heaven with a sacrificial ceremony at the Xiangshan Temple in Beijing in July 1928. Among the Kuomintang Generals present were the Muslim Generals Bai Chongxi and Ma Fuxiang.[161]

Chiang Kai-shek considered both Han Chinese and all ethnic minorities of China, the Five Races Under One Union, as descendants of the Yellow Emperor, the mythical founder of the Chinese nation, and belonging to the Chinese Nation Zhonghua Minzu. He introduced this into Kuomintang ideology which was propagated into the educational system of the Republic of China.[162][163][164]

Chiang, as a Chinese nationalist and a Confucian, was against the iconoclasm of the May Fourth Movement. Motivated by his sense of nationalism, he viewed some Western ideas as foreign and believed that the great introduction of Western ideas and literature, which the May Fourth Movement promoted, was not beneficial to China. He and Sun criticized the May Fourth intellectuals as corrupting the morals of China's youth.[165]

Chiang Kai-shek once said:

If when I die, I am still a dictator, I will certainly go down into the oblivion of all dictators. If, on the other hand, I succeed in establishing a truly stable foundation for a democratic government, I will live forever in every home in China.[166]

Contemporary perception[edit]

Statue of Chiang Kai-shek in Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan

Chiang's legacy has been subjected to heated debates. For some, Chiang was a national hero who led the victorious Northern Expedition against the Beiyang warlords in 1927 and helped achieve Chinese unification. His initial image as the leader of China against Japan's invasion, both before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor, led him to be featured on the cover of Time magazine ten times. Even though China received little American aid compared to Britain and the Soviet Union, it did not fold, as Chiang called on his countrymen to fight to the "bitter end" until their ultimate victory against Japan in 1945.[167]

Some also see him as a champion of anti-communism, being a key figure during the formative years of the World Anti-Communist League. During the subsequent Cold War, he was seen as the leader who led Free China and the bulwark against a possible communist invasion. However, historian Rudolph Rummel documented that the Nationalist government under Chiang led to millions of excess deaths from calamities such as its persecution against actual or perceived communists and its conscription of soldiers, confiscation of food, and flooding of downstream regions of the Yellow River during the Second Sino-Japanese War.[168] His government was also accused of being corrupt and allying with known criminals such as Du Yuesheng for political and financial gains, and his critics often accuse him of fascism.[54] In Taiwan, he ruled throughout a period of martial law. Some opponents charge that Chiang's efforts in developing the island were mostly to turn it into a strong base from which to recover mainland China and that he had little regard for the Taiwanese people.

Unlike Chiang's son Chiang Ching-kuo, who is respected across the political spectrum, Chiang Kai-shek's image is perceived rather negatively in Taiwan. He was rated the lowest in two opinion polls about the perception of former presidents.[169][170] His popularity in Taiwan is divided along political lines, enjoying better support in the Kuomintang (KMT) while being widely unpopular among Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) voters and those who blame him for the thousands killed during the February 28 Incident and criticise his dictatorial rule.[171]

In contrast, his image has partially improved in mainland China. He had been portrayed as a villain and a "bourgeoisie reactionary lackey" who fought against the "liberation" of China by the communists, but since the 2000s, the media and popular culture have depicted him in a less negative manner.[172][173] For example, many praised the 2009 movie sponsored by the Chinese Communist Party, The Founding of a Republic, for moving away from casting Chiang as 'evil' versus Mao and emphasizing instead that the contingencies of war led the communists to victory.[174] In the context of the Second Sino-Japanese War, aspects of Chiang's trip to India, or meeting with Roosevelt and Churchill in Cairo can be viewed positively.[65]: 4  The shift also takes into account Chiang's commitment to a unified China and his stance against Taiwanese separatism.[175] Chiang's ancestral home in Fenghua, Zhejiang, has become a museum and tourist attraction.[176] Historian Rana Mitter notes that the displays inside were very positive about Chiang's role during the Second Sino-Japanese War.[173][177]

Mitter further observed that, ironically, today's China is closer to Chiang's vision than to Mao's and wrote, "One can imagine Chiang Kai-shek's ghost wandering round China today nodding in approval, while Mao's ghost follows behind him, moaning at the destruction of his vision".[178][179] Liang Shuming opined that Chiang Kai-shek's "greatest contribution was to make the CCP successful. If he had been a bit more trustworthy, if his character was somewhat better, the CCP would have been unable to beat him".[180] Some Chinese historians argue that the main determinants for Chiang's defeat were not corruption or the lack of US support, but his decision to start the civil war with 70% of government expenditures in the military, his overestimation of the Nationalist forces equipped with US arms, and the loss of popularity and morales of his soldiers.[181] Other historians argue that his failure was largely caused by external factors outside of Chiang's control. They include the refusal of the Truman administration to support Chiang by withdrawing aid, the foisting of an arms embargo by George C. Marshall, the failed pursuit of a détente between the nationalists and the communists, the American push for a coalition government with the CCP, and the USSR's consistent aid and support for the CCP during the civil war.[112][182][183][184]

In the United States and Europe, Chiang was often perceived negatively as the one who lost China to the communists. His persistent demands for United States support and funding also prompted jokes from American officials that Chiang's name was actually General "Cash-My-Check".[65]: 33  He has also been criticized for his poor military skills, such as issuing unrealistic orders and persistently attempting to fight unwinnable battles, leading to the loss of his best troops.[185] In recent years, Chiang's image has been somewhat rehabilitated, and he has been increasingly perceived as a man overwhelmed by the events in China, having to fight the communists, Japanese, and provincial warlords simultaneously while trying to reconstruct and unify the country. His sincere, albeit often unsuccessful attempts to build a more powerful and modern nation have been noted by scholars such as Jonathan Fenby, Rana Mitter, and biographer Jay Taylor.[186]



In 1901, in an arranged marriage at age 14,[187] Chiang was married to Mao Fumei, an illiterate villager five years his senior.[188] While married to Mao, Chiang adopted two concubines (concubinage was still a common practice for well-to-do, non-Christian males in China): he took Yao Yecheng (姚冶誠, 1887–1966) as concubine in late 1912[189] and married Chen Jieru (1906–1971)[190] in December 1921. While he was still living in Shanghai, Chiang and Yao adopted a son, Wei-kuo. Chen adopted a daughter in 1924, named Yaoguang, who later adopted her mother's surname. Chen's autobiography refuted the idea that she was a concubine.[191] Chen claiming that, by the time she married Chiang, he had already divorced Yao, and that Chen was therefore his wife. Chiang and Mao had a son, Ching-kuo.

According to the memoirs of Chen Jieru, Chiang's second wife, she contracted gonorrhea from Chiang soon after their marriage. He told her that he acquired this disease after separating from his first wife and living with his concubine Yao Yecheng, as well as with many other women he consorted with. His doctor explained to her that Chiang had sex with her before completing his treatment for the disease. As a result, both Chiang and Chen Jieru believed that they had become sterile; however, a purported miscarriage by Soong Mei-ling in August 1928 would, if it actually occurred, cast serious doubt on whether this was true.[40][192]

Family tree[edit]

Duke of Zhou

The Xikou Chiangs were descended from Chiang Shih-chieh, who during the 1600s moved there from Fenghua district, and whose ancestors in turn came to southeastern China's Zhejiang (Chekiang) province after moving out of Northern China in the 13th century CE. The 12th century BCE Duke of Zhou's (Duke of Chou) third son was the ancestors of the Chiangs.[193][194][195][196][197]

His great-grandfather was Chiang Qi-zeng, his grandfather was Chiang Si-qian, his uncle was Chiang Zhao-hai, and his father was Chiang Zhao-cong.[198][199]

Family of Chiang Kai-shek
Soong May‑ling
Mao Fumei
Chiang Kai‑shek
Yao Yecheng
Chen Jieru
Faina Chiang Fang‑liang
Chiang Ching-kuo
Chang Ya‑juo
Shih Chin‑i
Chiang Wei‑kuo
Chiu Ju‑hsüeh
Chen Yao‑kuang
Alan Chiang Hsiao‑wen
Amy Chiang Hsiao‑chang
Alex Chiang Hsiao‑wu
Eddie Chiang Hsiao‑yung
Winston Chang Hsiao‑tzu
John Chiang Hsiao‑yen
Chiang Hsiao‑kang
Nancy Xu Nai‑jin
Yu Yang‑ho
Wang Zhang‑shi
Michelle Tsai Hui‑mei
Elizabeth Fang Chi‑yi
Chao Chung‑te
Helen Huang Mei‑lun
Wang Yi‑hui
Theodore Yu Tsu‑sheng
Chang Ching‑sung
Chang Yo‑chu
Vivian Chiang Hui‑lan
Chiang Hui‑yün
Chiang Wan‑an
Chiang Yo‑mei
Alexandra Chiang Yo‑lan
Johnathan Chiang Yo‑sung
Demos Chiang Yo‑bo
Edward Chiang Yo‑chang
Andrew Chiang Yo‑ching
Chiang Yo‑chüan
Chiang Yo‑chieh
  • Dashed lines represent marriages
  • Dotted lines represent extra-marital relationships and adoptions
  • Solid lines represent descendants

Religion and relationships with religious communities[edit]

Chiang personally dealt extensively with religions, power figures, and factions in China during his regime.

Religious views[edit]

Chiang Kai-shek was born and raised as a Buddhist, but became a Methodist upon his marriage to his fourth wife, Soong Mei-ling. It was previously believed that this was a political move,[200] but further studies of his personal diaries suggest that his faith was sincere.[37]

Relationship with Muslims[edit]

Chiang Kai-shek with the Muslim General Ma Fushou

Chiang developed relationships with other generals. Chiang became a sworn brother of the Chinese Muslim general Ma Fuxiang and appointed him to high ranking positions. Chiang addressed Ma Fuxiang's son Ma Hongkui as Shao Yun Shixiong[201] Ma Fuxiang attended national leadership conferences with Chiang during battles against Japan.[202] Ma Hongkui was eventually scapegoated for the failure of the Ningxia Campaign against the Communists, so he moved to the US instead of remaining in Taiwan with Chiang.

When Chiang became President of China after the Northern Expedition, he carved out Ningxia and Qinghai out of Gansu province, and appointed Muslim generals as military governors of all three provinces: Ma Hongkui, Ma Hongbin, and Ma Qi. The three Muslim governors, known as Xibei San Ma (lit. "the three Mas of the Northwest"), controlled armies composed entirely of Muslims. Chiang called on the three and their subordinates to wage war against the Soviet peoples, Tibetans, Communists, and the Japanese. Chiang continued to appoint Muslims as governors of the three provinces, including Ma Lin and Ma Fushou. Chiang's appointments, the first time that Muslims had been appointed as governors of Gansu, increased the prestige of Muslim officials in northwestern China. The armies raised by this "Ma Clique", most notably their Muslim cavalry, were incorporated into the KMT army. Chiang appointed Hui general Bai Chongxi as the Minister of National Defence of the Republic of China, which controlled the ROC military.

Chiang also supported the Muslim General Ma Zhongying, whom he had trained at Whampoa Military Academy during the Kumul Rebellion, in a jihad against Jin Shuren, Sheng Shicai, and the Soviet Union during the Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang. Chiang designated Ma's Muslim army as the 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army) and gave his troops KMT flags and uniforms. Chiang then supported Muslim General Ma Hushan against Sheng and the Soviet Union in the Xinjiang War (1937). All Muslim generals commissioned by Chiang in the National Revolutionary Army swore allegiance to him. Several, like Ma Shaowu and Ma Hushan were loyal to Chiang and Kuomintang hardliners.

The Ili Rebellion and Pei-ta-shan Incident plagued relations with the Soviet Union during Chiang's rule and caused trouble with the Uyghurs. During the Ili Rebellion and Peitashan incident, Chiang deployed Hui troops against Uyghur mobs in Turfan, and against Soviet Russian and Mongols at Peitashan.

During Chiang's rule, attacks on foreigners and ethnic minorities by the allied warlords of the Nationalist government such as the Ma Clique flared up in several incidents. One of these was the Battle of Kashgar where a Muslim army loyal to the Kuomintang massacred 4,500 Uyghurs, and killed several Britons at the British consulate in Kashgar.[203]

Hu Songshan, a Muslim Imam, backed Chiang Kai-shek's regime and gave prayers for his government. ROC flags were saluted by Muslims in Ningxia during prayer along with exhortations to nationalism during Chiang's rule. Chiang sent Muslim students abroad to study at places like Al-Azhar University and Muslim schools throughout China that taught loyalty to his regime.

The Yuehua, a Chinese Muslim publication, quoted the Quran and hadith to justify submitting to Chiang Kai-shek as the leader of China, and as justification for Jihad in the war against Japan.[204]

The Yihewani (Ikhwan al Muslimun a.k.a. Muslim brotherhood) was the predominant Muslim sect backed by the Chiang government during Chiang's regime. Other Muslim sects, like the Xidaotang and Sufi brotherhoods like Jahriyya and Khuffiya were also supported by his regime. The Chinese Muslim Association, a pro-Kuomintang and anti-Communist organization, was set up by Muslims working in his regime. Salafists attempted to gain a foothold in China during his regime, but the Yihewani and Hanafi Sunni Gedimu denounced the Salafis as radicals, engaged in fights against them, and declared them heretics, forcing the Salafis to form a separate sect.[205][206][207][208] Ma Ching-chiang, a Muslim General, served as an advisor to Chiang Kai-shek. Ma Buqing was another Muslim General who fled to Taiwan along with Chiang. His government donated money to build the Taipei Grand Mosque on Taiwan.[209]

Relationship with Buddhists and Christians[edit]

Chiang had uneasy relations with the Tibetans. He fought against them in the Sino-Tibetan War, and he supported the Muslim General Ma Bufang in his war against Tibetan rebels in Qinghai. Chiang ordered Ma Bufang to prepare his Islamic army to invade Tibet several times, to deter Tibetan independence, and threatened the Tibetans with aerial bombardment. Ma Bufang attacked the Tibetan Buddhist Tsang monastery in 1941.[90] After the war, Chiang appointed Ma Bufang as ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Chiang incorporated Methodist values into the New Life Movement under the influence of his wife. Dancing and Western music were discouraged. In one incident, several youths splashed acid on people wearing Western clothing, although Chiang was not directly responsible for these incidents. Despite being a Methodist, he made reference to the Buddha in his diary, and encouraged the establishment of a Buddhist political party under Master Taixu.

According to Jehovah's Witnesses' magazine The Watchtower, some of their members travelled to Chongqing and spoke to him personally while distributing their literature there during World War II.[210]


Chiang Kai-shek as Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim
Chiang Kai-shek with his decorations, 10 October 1943
Republic of China national honours
Foreign honours

Selected writings[edit]

  • Chiang, May-ling Soong; Chiang, Kai- (1937). General Chiang Kai-shek; the Account of the Fortnight in Sian When the Fate of China Hung in the Balance. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran. Includes foreword, by J. Leighton Stuart.--What China has faced, by Mme. Chiang Kai-shek.--Sian: a coup d'e´tat, by Mme. Chiang Kai-shek.--A fortnight in Sian: extracts from a diary, by Chiang Kai-shek.--The Generalissimo's admonition to Chiang Hsueh-liang (sic: i.e. Zhang Xueliang) and Yang Hu-chen (sic: i.e. Yang Hucheng) prior to his departure from Sian.--Names of Chinese persons and places mentioned in the story and diary.
  • ———— (1947). China's Destiny. Translated by Wang Chung-hui. New York: The Macmillan Company. Authorized translation of 中国之命运 (Zhongguo zhi mingyun) (1943). . Introduction by Lin Yutang.
  • ———— (1947). Chiang Kai-Shek: China's Destiny and Chinese Economic Theory. New York: Roy.. Unauthorized translation of 中国之命运 (Zhongguo zhi mingyun) (1943) by Philip Jaffe, with his notes and extensive critical commentary.
  • The Collected Wartime Messages Of Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek at Netarchive
  • ——— (1957). Soviet Russia in China; a Summing-up at Seventy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy.
  • —, Works at Internet Archive HERE

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See §Names for more


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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the National Government of China
Succeeded by
Preceded by Premier of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
New title Chairman of the National Military Council
Succeeded byas Ministerof National Defense
Preceded by Premier of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Preceded by
H. H. Kung
Premier of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
T. V. Soong
Preceded by Chairman of the National Government of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Preceded by
T. V. Soong
Premier of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Preceded by
as Chairman of the National Government of China
President of the Republic of China
Li Zongren (Acting)
21 January 1949 to 1 March 1950
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang
Succeeded by
as Director General of the Kuomintang
Preceded by
as Chairman of the Kuomintang
Director-General of the Kuomintang
Succeeded byas Chairman of the Kuomintang
Military offices
New title Commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army
Office abolished
Academic offices
New title Commandant of the Whampoa Military Academy
Succeeded by