Chiang Kai-shek

(1887—1975) Chinese statesman and general, President of China 1928–31

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Chinese nationalist statesman; president of China (1928–38; 1943–49) and later president of the nationalist Republic of China in Taiwan (Formosa) (1950–75). Although he never succeeded in regaining power over the communist mainland, he did oversee a period of considerable economic growth and prosperity in Taiwan, due largely to its close links with the USA.

Born in Fenghwa, Chekian province, the son of a village merchant, Chiang was educated at the Chinese Imperial Military College and at a staff college in Japan. In 1911, he returned to China to take part in revolutionary activities against the Manchu dynasty. He served as chief of Sun Yat-sen's staff in Canton (1921–22), becoming commander-in-chief of the army of the Chinese Revolutionary National Party (Kuomintang) in south China in 1925. Breaking with the communists in 1927, he established himself as head of a national government at Nanking in 1928.

During the 1930s he sought to maintain control while fighting the Japanese, who occupied Manchuria in 1931. He also had to contend with three rebellions (1930, 1933, and 1936), all of which he crushed. When the Japanese launched a full-scale attack on Chinese strongholds in 1937 he was forced to re-establish his headquarters in Chungking, Szechwan province.

He resigned the presidency in 1938 to devote his energy to military leadership, especially to organizing resistance to the Japanese, but in 1943 was reappointed president. He met both Roosevelt and Churchill during World War II and was declared leader of China; he presided over the Japanese surrender in 1945. Shortly after, civil war broke out again between the Kuomintang and the communists. When Peking fell to the communists in 1949, Chiang fled from the mainland and moved his government to Taiwan, from where he planned an invasion of communist China with the military support of the USA. The invasion never took place, however, and during the 1970s the growing friendship between the USA and the People's Republic of China placed some doubt upon US guarantees of Taiwan's defence. Chiang remained president in Taiwan for twenty-five years, until his death in 1975.

Subjects: Second World War.

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