Chiang Kai-shek was born in 1887 and died in 1975. Chiang Kai-shek was the natural successor to Sun Yat-sen and, alongside Mao, he was to play a fundamental role in China’s history in the Twentieth Century.
Chiang in 1930
In later years and once he was the leader of the Guomindang, Chiang tended to favour those who had worked at Whampoa and appointed them to important jobs within the Guomindang.
When Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, there was a power struggle for his successor. Chiang had two advantages over his rivals. First, he was seen by most as the leader of the Guomindang army which was considered a loyal and disciplined army likely to fight for Chiang. Second, he was in a politically central position in China.
In 1926, Chiang consolidated his position in the Guomindang by successfully embarking on a campaign against the warlords. By June 1928, he had control of Canton, Beijing and Nanking – three of the most important cities in China. He was also the party’s chairman and commander-in-chief of the army.
In September 1928, the Organic Law gave Chiang what amounted to dictatorial powers over China. Chiang was appointed president but his hold over the whole nation was never secure simply because of the vast size of the country and the fact that his army could not be in all parts of the nation at all times. This is why the Communists selected Yanan as a safe place at the end of the Long March. The Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and their eventual attack on China in 1937 also lead to vast areas of China not being under Chiang’s control.
These dissident officers were in contact with the Chinese communists and it was the communists who persuaded these officers to release Chiang after 13 days in captivity. Chiang had to agree to end his military campaign against the communists and to use his military resources against the Japanese. A united front against the Japanese made for a more deadly foe and as a result the Japanese launched a full-scale invasion against Chiang’s strongest military bases in July 1937. Such was their success, that Chiang had to move his capital to Chungking.
The outcome of the civil war was not necessarily a forgone conclusion but the more victories the Communists achieved, the more defection took place in the Guomindang’s army. Also corruption in Chiang’s army was rife and it suffered accordingly.
Chiang expected help from his ‘friends’ in America. This never materialised simply because President Truman had been advised that Chiang’s cause was a lost one and that the Chinese Communists would win the civil war. In January 1949, Beijing fell to the Communists and Chiang resigned as president of China. His followers left for Taiwan (Formosa) and on march 1st 1950, Chiang resumed his presidency of the Chinese Republic. Chiang remained president of the Chinese Republic until his death in 1975. The island became very influenced by America and was a base to America’s huge Pacific naval fleet. Chiang never gave up hope that America would provide the military help that he needed to re-take mainland Communist China. This never came but he did lead an island that was very prosperous when compared to mainland China. Close links with Japan and America ensured that Chiang’s Formosa remained free from an attack from the communists in China.