Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek, the son of a wine merchant, was born in Fenghua, China, on 31st October 1887. His father died when he was a child leaving the family in extreme poverty. He was sent to live with relatives but he ran away and joined the provincial army.

Chiang was a good soldier and he was eventually sent to the military academy in Paoting. In 1907 he attended the Military State College in Tokyo. During this period he became a supporter of Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party). During the 1911 revolution Chiang led a regiment that captured Shanghai. After the counter-revolution that followed, Chiang returned to Japan.

With the help of advisers from the Soviet Union the Kuomintang gradually increased its power in China. In 1924 Chiang became head of the Whampoa Military Academy.

Sun Yat-sen died on 12th March 1925. After a struggle with Wang Ching-Wei, Chiang eventually emerged as the leader of the Kuomintang. He now carried out a purge that eliminated the communists from the organization.

In 1926 Chiang commanded the army which aimed to unify China. He defeated the communist army and forced the survivors to make the famous Long March to Shensi in North West China. Chiang eventually established a government in Nanjing. Major financial reforms were carried out and the education system and the road transport were both improved. Chiang also established the New Life Movement in 1934 which reasserted traditional Confucian values to combat communist ideas.

When the Japanese Army invaded the heartland of China in 1937, Chiang was forced to move his capital from Nanking to Chungking. He lost control of the coastal regions and most of the major cities to Japan. In an effort to beat the Japanese he agreed to collaborate with Mao Zedong and his communist army.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Chiang and his government received considerable financial support from the United States. General Joseph Stilwell, head of American Army Forces in China, Burma and India (CBI), disagreed with this policy, arguing that Chiang was an inept leader and was ignorant of the fundamentals of modern warfare. Stilwell was accused of being pro-communist and in October 1944 Stilwell was recalled to the United States and was replaced by General Albert Wedemeyer.

During the Second World War the communist guerrilla forces were well led by Zhu De and Lin Biao. As soon as the Japanese surrendered, Communist forces began a war against the Nationalists. The communists gradually gained control of the country and on 1st October, 1949, Mao Zedong announced the establishment of People's Republic of China.

Chiang and the remnants of his armed forces fled to Formosa (Taiwan). His autobiography, Summing up at Seventy , was published in 1957. Chiang Kai-shek died on 5th April 1975.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Su Kaiming, Modern China (1985)

After setting up his military headquarters at Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi Province, Chiang Kai-shek considered himself strong enough to defy the authority of the revolutionary Nationalist government at Wuhan, which was then dominated by Kuomintang left-wingers (including Mme. Sun Yat-sen) and Communists. In January 1927, he demanded that the government be moved from Wuhan to Nanchang, where he was in complete control. In reply, the central committee of the Kuomintang at Wuhan took away his leading positions in the party, government and army in an attempt to prevent him from seizing all power.

Bankers from Shanghai, politicians representing various warlord governments and the agents of foreign imperialists all converged on Nanchang to offer Chiang their help. In secret talks he was promised a loan of 60,000,000 Chinese dollars if he would break with the Communists and the Soviet Union and suppress the peasants and workers. Chiang quickly agreed.

In the early hours of April 12, 1927, thousands of thugs from the underworld Green Gang came out of the International Settlement disguised as workers to attack the workers' armed militia. Pretending to oppose "internal dissension among the workers", Chiang Kai-shek ordered his troops to disarm the workers and occupy the headquarters of the General Trade Union, where a spurious union composed of underworld figures was immediately set up. Next day the Shanghai workers called a mass rally and demanded the return of their weapons. Unaware that Chiang Kai-shek had turned against the revolution, they went to the General Headquarters of the Northern Expeditionary Army to present their petition, only to be mowed down by machine-gun fire. The blood of hundreds of workers stained the rain-washed streets of Shanghai red.

(2) Qi Wen, China (1979)

In 1923, the Chinese Communist Party decided to establish a revolutionary united front. It helped Sun Yat-sen reorganize the Kuomintang (the old Tong Meng Hui was reorganized into the Kuomintang after the Revolution of 1911). With the formation of the Kuomintang-Communist united front, the Chinese Communist Party mobilized the masses on a broad scale, and the revolutionary situation developed vigorously. It continued to rise after the death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925. Organized and energized by the Party, the revolutionary forces swept away the reactionary forces in Guangdong, and in 1926 the Northern Expeditionary War began. Supported by the masses, the revolutionary army defeated the counter-revolutionary armies of the Northern warlords and occupied central and south China. The worker-peasant movement grew rapidly throughout the country.

Seeing that the warlord regime they supported was tottering in the sweep of the revolutionary tide, the imperialist forces hastily looked for new agents and finally picked Chiang Kai-shek who had worked his way into the position of Commander-in-Chief of the National Revolutionary Army". In April 1927, at a crucial moment in the forward advance of the Northern Expeditionary War, Chiang staged, with the active support of the big bourgeoisie and landlord class, a counterrevolutionary coup d'etat against the Chinese Communist Party and the revolutionary people.

(3) Zhong Wenxian, Mao Zedong (1986)

In 1927, the right wing of the Kuomintang controlled by Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Jingwei betrayed the Kuomintang-Communist anti-imperialist and anti-feudal alliance decided on by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and staged successive counter-revolutionary coups which led to a complete break of Kuomintang-Communist cooperation. On August 7 in Hankou an emergency meeting was called by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. The session put an end to the Right capitulationism of Chen Duxiu and decided on an overall policy of carrying out agrarian revolution and armed resistance against the Kuomintang's campaign of organized slaughter, policies which were designed to save the Chinese revolution at a critical moment. It was at this meeting that Mao Zedong put forward the idea that political power was to be seized with revolutionary armed force. This was of great importance in bringing the. Chinese Communists to a correct understanding of the characteristics and direction of the Chinese revolution. Elected an alternate member on the Central Political Bureau at the meeting, Mao Zedong was then sent back to Hunan by the Party Central Committee. On September 9 he led the Autumn-Harvest Uprising on the Hunan-Jiangxi border. Shortly after, he led the insurgent troops up to the Jinggang Mountains, where he carried out an agrarian revolution and set up China's first rural revolutionary base.

(4) Mao Zedong, interviewed by Edgar Snow in Red Star Over China (1936)

In April the counter-revolutionary movement had begun in Nanjing and Shanghai, and a general massacre of organized workers had taken place under Chiang Kai-shek. The same measures were carried out in Guangzhou. On May 21 the Xu Kexiang Uprising occurred in Hunan. Scores of peasants and workers were killed by the reactionaries. Shortly afterward the 'Left' Kuomintang at Wuhan annulled its agreement with the Communists and 'expelled' them from the Kuomintang and from a Government which quickly ceased to exist.

Many Communist leaders were now ordered by the Party to leave the country, go to Russia or Shanghai or places of safety. I was ordered to go to Sichuan. I persuaded Chen Duxiu to send me to Hunan instead, as secretary of the Provincial Committee, but after ten days he ordered me hastily to return, accusing me of organizing an uprising against Tang Shengzhi, then in command at Wuhan. The affairs of the Party were now in a chaotic state. Nearly everyone was opposed to. Chen Duxiu's leadership and his opportunist line. The collapse of the entente at Wuhan soon afterward brought about his downfall.

(5) Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong (1978)

Reactionaries, including Chiang Kai-shek, often claim that they are for freedom of thought. As everybody knows, that is nonsense, for what freedom is there under Chiang Kai-shek's rule? The people are suffering oppression and exploitation. Only the small handful of reactionary landlords and bureaucrat-capitalists are free - free to exploit, oppress and slaughter the people. In the bourgeois-democratic countries, only the bourgeoisie have freedom of thought, which is denied to the workers and peasants. In our new-democratic country, the people will enjoy full freedom of thought. Aside from reactionary ideology, all other kinds will be allowed to exist. Not only progressive, socialist or communist but also religious ideas may exist. The propagation of reactionary ideas is not allowed, but apart from that, there is freedom of speech, the press, assembly and association. The Communist Party holds that historical materialism is correct and that Mao Zedong Thought is correct. These ideas, of course, should be propagated. But it does not mean that other ideologies are not allowed to exist. We educate people in our ideology, but they are free to choose whether to listen or not, whether to accept or not. This is the only approach that is truly educational and appropriate to leadership - an approach of working together with other people, a co-operative approach.

(6) Anna Louise Strong, An Interview With Chairman Mao Zedong (1960)

In China a condition of formal truce continued between Chiang Kai-shek and the Communist-led forces but it was being frequently violated by Chiang, whose armed assaults against the Communists had continued even during the Anti-Japanese War. America's official position was that China should be unified under Chiang, and that the Communists should give up their separate armies and be legalized as a minority party. A truce had been signed that was known as the Marshall Truce, because General George C. Marshall also signed it and set up in Beijing an "Executive Headquarters," with participation of Chiang and the Chinese Communists under American chairmanship. Its alleged purpose was to settle the armed clashes that arose. For this purpose "truce teams" were set up in almost forty cities of North and Northeast China, connected with Executive Headquarters by American military planes.

Washington's purpose in all this was to gain control of all China through treaties with Chiang Kai-shek. They used the truce to transport Chiang's soldiers by ship and plane into North and Northeast China, to places from which they could most easily attack the Liberated Areas of the North. Their connections by plane to forty Chinese cities were not controlled by any Chinese supervision; they were able to photograph from their planes all China as far as Qiqihar. The purpose of the American reactionaries was not only to gain control of China's wealth, which they hoped to exploit and grow rich on for another fifty years. But also, as revealed by General Wedemeyer, they hoped for military bases in the Northeast and in Xinjiang to use against the U.S.S.R.; they also expected the use of millions of Chinese soldiers as cannon-fodder in this future anti-Soviet war.