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Chiang Ching-kuo

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Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國 in pinyin: Jiǎng Jīngguˇ) (March 18, 1910 - January 13, 1988) was the President of the Republic of China on Taiwan from 1978 until his death in 1988.

Chiang was the son of Chiang Kai-shek and under his tenure, the government of the Republic of China on Taiwan, although still authoritarian, became much more open and tolerant of political dissent.

In 1925 he went to Moscow to study communism, which he embraced avidly, and became classmates with Deng Xiaoping. Shortly afterwards his father took anti-Communist appraoches within the Nationalist party (Kuomintang), the Soviet government in return sent Chiang Ching-kuo to virtual exile and later to work in a steel factory in Siberia where he met and married his first wife. He was finally allowed to return to China in 1937. In 1949 he followed his father to Taiwan after the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War and became the director of secret police (or "blue shirts") in 1950 and served until 1965. One of the highest profile victims of Chiang's blue shirts was General Sun Li-ren, a VMI trained military man who fought along side American General Joseph Stilwell. Sun's popularity and loyalty with his troops made him a rival to Chiang Kai-shek and was placed in house arrest until the end of martial law. Chiang Ching-kuo's activities as director of the secret police have been widely criticized as heralding an era of human rights abuses and disappearances of both incriminating documents and people.

From 1955-1960 he worked on building a cross-island highway. He was Defense Minister from 1965 until 1969 when he became vice-premier. In 1972 he was appointed Premier of the Republic of China[?], which he served until 1978. His father died in April 1975, and he succeeded him to power, becoming president after Yen Chia-kan's term ended in 1978. He was reelected by the National Assembly to another term in 1984.

In 1987 Chiang ended martial law and allowed family visits to the Mainland China. His administration saw a gradual loosening of political controls, with opposition political parties being unofficially permitted and press restrictions laxed. Chiang launched the "Fourteen Major Construction Projects" and "Ten Major Construction Projects and the Twelve New Development Projects" contributing to the so-called "Taiwan miracle." Many of the projects associated with Chiang were extensions of Japanese infrastructure projects from the 1930's. Among his accomplishments were accelerating the process of modernization to give Taiwan a 13% growth rate, $4600 per capita income, and the world's second largest exchange reserves.

In contrast to his father Chiang Kai-shek, Chiang Ching-kuo built himself a folksy reputation and remains a generally popular figure among the Taiwanese electorate, particularly those who support Chinese reunification. His memory and image is frequently invoked by the Kuomintang, which is unable to base their electoral campaign on Chiang's successor as President and KMT Chairman Lee Teng-hui because of his stand in support of Taiwan independence. Among supporters of Taiwan independence, opinions toward Chiang Ching-kuo are more neutral, but generally not hostile. While supporters of Taiwan independence do give Chiang Ching-kuo some credit for relaxing authoritarian rule, they point out that Taiwan particular in the early years of his rule was still quite authoritarian and tend to emphasize the democraticization of Taiwan under Chiang Ching-kuo as a result of general social forces rather than due to his personal actions.

Chiang died of heart failure and hemorrhage in Taipei at the age of 78.

Under President Chen Shui-bian, pictures of Chiang Ching-kuo and his father have gradually disappeared from public buildings.

See also: Politics of Taiwan

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