Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek (October 31, 1887 – April 5, 1975) was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiang Jièshí or Jiang Zhongzhèng in Mandarin.

Chiang was an influential member of the Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang (KMT), and was a close ally of Sun Yat-sen. He became the Commandant of the Kuomintang's Whampoa Military Academy, and took Sun's place as leader of the KMT when Sun died in 1925. In 1926, Chiang led the Northern Expedition to unify the country, becoming China's nominal leader. He served as Chairman of the National Military Council of the Nationalist government of the Republic of China (ROC) from 1928 to 1948. Chiang led China in the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which the Nationalist government's power severely weakened, but his prominence grew. Unlike Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek was socially conservative, promoting traditional Chinese culture in the New Life Movement and rejecting western democracy and the nationalist democratic socialism that Sun Yet-sen and some other members of the KMT embraced in favor of a nationalist authoritarian government.

Chiang's predecessor, Sun Yat-sen, was well-liked and respected by the Communists, but after Sun's death Chiang was not able to maintain good relations with the Communists. A major split between the Nationalists and and Communists occurred in 1927; and, under Chiang's leadership, the Nationalists fought a nation-wide civil war against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). After Japan invaded China in 1937, Chiang agreed to a temporary truce with the CCP. Despite some early cooperative military successes against Japan, by the time that the Japanese surrendered in 1945 neither the CCP nor the KMT trusted each other or were actively cooperating. After American-sponsored attempts to negotiate a coalition government failed in 1946, the Chinese Civil War resumed. The CCP defeated the Nationalists in 1949, forcing Chiang's government to retreat to Taiwan, where Chiang imposed martial law and persecuted people critical of his rule in a period known as the "White Terror". After evacuating to Taiwan, Chiang's government continued to declare its intention to retake mainland China. Chiang ruled the island securely as the self-appointed President of the Republic of China and Director-General of the Kuomintang until his death in 1975.

Early life
Childhood : Chiang was born in Xikou, a town approximately 30 kilometers southwest of downtown Ningbo, in Fenghua, Ningbo, Zhejiang. However, his ancestral home, a concept important in Chinese society, was the town of Heqiao in Yixing, Wuxi, Jiangsu (approximately 38 km (24 mi) southwest of downtown Wuxi, and 10 km (6.2 mi) from the shores of Lake Tai). Chiang's father, Jiang Zhaocong, and mother, Wang Caiyu, were members of an upper-middle to upper class family of salt merchants. Chiang's father died when he was only eight years of age, and he wrote of his mother as the "embodiment of Confucian virtues."

Chiang grew up in a time period in which military defeats and civil wars among warlords had left China destabilized and in debt, and he decided to pursue a military career. He began his military education at the Baoding Military Academy, in 1906. He then left for the Tokyo Shinbu Gakko, an Imperial Japanese Army Academy Preparatory School for Chinese students, in 1907. There he was influenced by his compatriots to support the revolutionary movement to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and to set up a Chinese republic. He befriended fellow Zhejiang native Chen Qimei, and, in 1908, Chen brought Chiang into the Tongmenghui, a precursor of the Kuomintang (KMT) organization. Chiang served in the Imperial Japanese Army from 1909 to 1911.

Return to China : Returning to China in 1911 after learning of the outbreak of the Wuchang Uprising, Chiang intended 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. According to various sources, Chiang's first personal act of violence occurred around this time, when he either instigated or performed the assassination of a dissident member of the Revolutionary Alliance who opposed both Sun Yat-sen and Chen Qimei. The Xinhai Revolution ultimately succeeded with the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, and Chiang became a founding member of the KMT.

After the takeover of the Republican government by Yuan Shikai and the failed Second Revolution in 1913, Chiang, like his KMT comrades, divided time between exile in Japan and the havens of the Shanghai International Settlement. In Shanghai, Chiang cultivated ties with the city's underworld gangs, dominated by the notorious Green Gang and its leader Du Yuesheng. On February 15, 1912, several KMT members, including Chiang, murdered Tao Chengzhang, the leader of the Restoration Society, in a Shanghai French Concession hospital.

On May 18, 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 career was at its lowest point then, with most of his old Revolutionary Alliance comrades refusing to join him in the exiled Chinese Revolutionary Party.

In 1975, 26 years after Chiang came to Taiwan, he died in Taipei at the age of 87. He had suffered a major heart attack and pneumonia in the months before and died from renal failure aggravated with advanced cardiac malfunction at 23:50 on April 5.

A month of mourning was declared. 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, Dasi, Taoyuan. 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 buried at their birthplace in Fenghua if and when it was possible. In 2004, Chiang Fang-liang, the widow of Chiang Ching-kuo, asked that both father and son 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 the wishes of his family.

Chiang was succeeded as President by Vice President Yen Chia-kan and as Kuomintang party leader 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 Yen's term ended three years later.

Cult of personality
Chiang's portrait hung over the gate of the Forbidden City before Mao's portrait was set up in its place. People also put portraits of Chiang in their homes and in public on the streets. Until recently, it was a widespread practice for Taiwanese people to hang portraits of Chiang in their homes.

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

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.

When the Muslim General and Warlord Ma Lin was interviewed, Ma Lin was described as having "high admiration and unwavering loyalty to Chiang Kai-shek".

The Kuomintang used traditional Chinese religious ceremonies, and promoted Martyrdom in Chinese culture. Kuomintang ideology promoted the view that the souls of Party martyrs who died fighting for the Kuomintang, the revolution, and the party founder Dr. Sun Yatsen were sent to heaven. Chiang Kai-shek believed that these martyrs witnessed events on earth from heaven.

When the Northern Expedition was complete, Kuomintang Generals led by Chiang Kai-shek paid tribute to Dr. 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.

Chiang Kai-shek considered both the Han Chinese and all the minority peoples of China, the Five Races Under One Union, as descedants of Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor and semi mythical founder of the Chinese nation, and belonging to the Chinese Nation Zhonghua Minzu and he introduced this into Kuomintang ideology, which was propagated into the educational system of the Republic of China.

Contemporary public perception
Chiang's legacy has been target of heated debates because of the different views held about him. For some, Chiang was a national hero who led the victorious Northern Expedition against the Beiyang Warlords in 1927, achieving Chinese unification, and who subsequently led China to ultimate victory against Japan in 1945. Some blamed him for not doing enough against the Japanese forces in the lead-up to, and during, the Second Sino-Japanese War, preferring to withhold his armies for the fight against the Communists, or merely waiting and hoping that the United States would get involved. 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 Cold War, he was also seen as the leader who led Free China and the bulwark against a possible Communist invasion. However, Chiang presided over purges, political authoritarianism, and graft during his tenure in mainland China, and ruled throughout a period of imposed martial law. His governments were accused of being corrupt even before he even took power in 1928. He also allied with known criminals like Du Yuesheng for political and financial gains. Some opponents charge that Chiang's efforts in developing Taiwan were mostly to make the island a strong base from which to one day return to mainland China, and that Chiang had little regard for the long-term prosperity and well-being of the Taiwanese people.

Today, Chiang's popularity in Taiwan is divided along political lines, enjoying greater support among Kuomintang supporters. He is generally unpopular among Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) voters and supporters. In sharp contrast to his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, and to Sun Yat-sen, his memory is rarely invoked by current political parties, including the Kuomintang.

In the United States and Europe, Chiang was often perceived negatively as the one who lost China to the Communists. His constant demands for Western support and funding also earned him the nickname of "General Cash-My-Check". In the West he has been criticized for his poor military skills. He had a record of issuing unrealistic orders and persistently attempting to fight unwinnable battles, leading to the loss of his best troops.

In recent years, there has been an attempt to find a more moderate interpretation of Chiang. Chiang is now increasingly perceived as a man simply overwhelmed by the events in China, having to fight simultaneously Communists, Japanese and provincial warlords while having to reconstruct and unify the country. His sincere, albeit often unsuccessful attempts to build a more powerful nation have been noted by scholars such as Jonathan Fenby and Rana Mitter. Mitter has observed that, ironically, today's China is closer to Chiang's vision than to Mao Zedong's. He argues that the Communists, since the 1980s, have essentially created the state envisioned by Chiang in the 1930s. Mitter concludes by writing that "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". 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".

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