Chiang Kaishek, one of China's most famous leaders, gained his victories one at a time,
and tended to lose them in the same fashion. He was often seen as the leader of
anti-Communism, but this is not enough to explain him, considering his influence on China.
He perused a noble cause, making an effort to ensure China be more modernized. In this
sense, he doesn't differ from many other Chinese leaders, but there was something about
this man which evoked loyalty, dependence, and the love of country in the hearts of the
On October 31, 1887, Chiang Kaishek was born into a well-to-do family in the Zhejiang
Province. He began attending private school at the age of 6, where he learned the Chinese
classics. He lost his grandfather when he was 8 years old, and after one year from that he
lost his father as well. He adored his mother all the better for that. In those days,
fatherless families had trouble fitting into society, and were often taken advantage of.
Tolerating anger and suffering, the little Chiang kindled enthusiasm for learning. He
learned many Chinese classics from the age of 10 to 16. And then, when he was 17 years
old, he began attending a modern school. After that, he entered a school at Ningbo, where
he learned current affairs and western law. He also became interested in the revolutionary
acts of Sun Yat-sen, a sparked of interest that would change his life forever.
After traditional schooling, Kaishek completed military training with the Japanese Army.
In 1911 he returned to China and joined the revolution to overthrow the Qing government.
He was active from 1913 to 1916 to overthrow the Qing government, in a sect led by Yuan
Shih-kai. In 1917, when Sun Yat-sen established the Guanzhou government, Chiang served as
his military aide. In 1923 he was sent to the Soviet Union with Sun Yat-sen, where he
learnt military strategy and organization. On his return he was appointed commandant of
the newly established Whampoa Military Academy at Guangzhou. After Sun's death in 1925,
his position among the Kuomintang army started getting stronger. In 1926 he launched the
Northern Expedition, leading the Kuomintang (Nationalist) army into cities including
Shanghai and Nanjing. He followed Sun's policy of cooperation with Communism and accepted
Russian aid. But in 1927 he reversed this policy, starting a civil war between the
Kuomintang and the Communists. By the end of 1927, he served as head of the Nationalist
government and generalissimo of all Chinese Nationalist forces, by which his power became
virtually unlimited. In 1936, a group of soldiers seized him at Xi'an, to force him to
terminate the civil war against the Communists in order to establish a united front
against the encroaching Japanese. He reluctantly accepted. And he was released, and unity
between Kuomintang and Communism was accomplished. But it soon broke down, when in 1940
Chang's best troops clashed against the Communists in the northwest. He eventually moved
his capital to Chongqing because the Japanese army had occupied Nanjing.
As the Sino-Japanese War merged with World War II, Chiang's international prestige
increased. He attended the Cairo Conference in 1943, and talked with Franklin Roosevelt
and Winston Churchill. But allied officers criticized his soon because of his domestic
policy on war.
After the end of World War ll, he failed to achieve a satisfactory settlement with the
Communists, and civil war continued. At the beginning the Nationalist army was superior to
that of Communists. But the communists, who had the local peasants on their side,
counterattacked the Nationalist army. In Taiwan Chiang took firm command and established a
virtual dictatorship. He continued to promise that he would re-conquer the Chinese
mainland and at times landed Kuomintang guerillas on the Chinese coast. But his
international position weakened in 1971, when the United Nations expelled his regime and
accepted the Communists as the sole government of China. On April 5, 1975, he died at a
hospital in Taiwan.
A fatherless childhood had a great impact on his personality. Oppression by the public
left scars on his personality, one of the reasons he was probably so adamant about not
being ruled by foreign powers. Few people were close to his heart, but if anyone, he
treasured his mother, to whose memory he built a school after her death. On one hand he is
said to have been an elegant man, and on the other he is said to have been unrefined, and
even ruthless at times. Such a personality might reflect his checkered life. He could at
one moment be on top of the world and at the next, begging for his life, and willing to
work out a compromise.
He had a strong image as the leader of the anti-Communists, but it is not enough. What he
had been pursuing at first was the modernization of China. He was strongly against China
being under the control of any Western force. And he joined the revolutionary group of Sun
Yat-sen which thought the modernization of China could not be accomplished under the Qing
regime, and felt the threat of China becoming a colony of a foreign power, and he himself
established the Kuomintang. The Kuomintang aimed at preparing the modern army to integrateunite
China and overthrow the warlords. This had a great impact on China, and the aftermath
established organizations in companies and schools. In this way the Kuomintang built the
base. This fact can be said to show how strong an impact his revolutionary theory had on
the Chinese. The Kuomintang produced the overthrow of imperialism, the overthrow of the
warlords, and the corruption of officers as the mainframe of his inner policy. He also
used slogans like "organization of the people's army", "establishment of a
government of integrity" and "indemnify the rights of agricultural and
industrial organizations". In the end, the Kuomintang was not able to accomplish
that, and corruption among the officers increased greatly within the party. But we have to
remember that Chiang sought such a noble ideal and encouraged the people although his
ideals would ultimately fail.