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Chiang Kai-shek

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Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石 pinyin: Jiǎng Jièshí) (October 31, 1887- April 5, 1975), also known as Chiang Chung-cheng and in short by the Americans as "Gimo", was the leader of the Kuomintang (KMT) (or Nationalist Party of China). He was President of the Republic of China from 1947 until his death.

A disciple and brother-in-law of Sun Yat-sen, Chiang and his wife Soong May-ling held the unwavering support of the United States China Lobby[?] during and after World War II which saw in them the hope of a Christian and democratic China. Chiang Kai-shek's policies were far from Christian or democratic, but this remained unknown to the US public due to strong state-imposed censorship in China and self-imposed censorship in the US during the war years and after. The US supported Chiang Kai-shek against the Japanese invaders in WWII and afterwards against the Communist Party of China Red Army led by Mao Zedong in the civil war for control of China.

Chiang's political manuevering gave him control of the Kuomingtang upon the death of its founder Sun Yat-Sen in 1925, becoming Commander-in-Chief of the National Revolutionary Forces. In July 1926, Chiang launched the successful Northern Expedition, a military campaign to defeat the warlords controlling northern China and unify the country under the KMT. Chiang Kai-Shek gained nominal control of China, but his party was "too weak to lead and too strong to overthrow".

In January 1927, allied with the Chinese Communists and Soviet Agent Michael Borodin, KMT leftists moved the civilian government from Guangzhou to Wuhan in central China. After conquering Shanghai and Nanjing in March, Chiang decided to break with the leftists. On April 12 Chiang began a swift and brutal attack on thousands of suspected Communists in the area he controlled. He then established his own KMT government in Nanjing, supported by his conservatives allies. The communists and other leftists were purged from the KMT.

In 1928, having consolidated power, Chiang was named "Chairman of the National Government," a post he held until 1932 and later from 1943 until a new Constitution was passed in 1947. Under the new Constitution, he was elected by the National Assembly to be President.

Chiang's strategy during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) (a theatre of World War II) opposed the strategies of both Mao Zedong and the United States. The US regarded Chiang as an important ally able to help shorten the war by engaging the Japanese occupiers in China. Chiang, in contrast, used powerful associates such as H. H. Kung in Hong Kong to build the ROC army for certain conflict with the communist forces after the end of WWII. This fact was not understood well in the US. The US liaison officer, General Joseph Stilwell, correctly apprehended Chiang's strategy was to accumulate munitions for future civil war rather than fight the Japanese, but Stilwell was unable to convince Roosevelt of this and precious Lend-Lease armaments continued to be allocated to the Kuomintang.

Chiang resigned as President (where Vice President Li Tsung-jen[?] became Acting President) on January 21, 1949 as KMT forces suffered massive losses against the communists in the Chinese Civil War. After the communists overran the mainland, Chiang moved his government to Taipei, Taiwan where he resumed his duties as president on March 1, 1950. Chiang was reelected President of the ROC on May 20, 1954 and later on in 1960, 1966, and 1972. In this position he continued to claim sovereignty over all of China.

Chiang died in Taipei in 1975 and was succeeded as President by Vice-President Yen Chia-jin. However, real power passed to his son Chiang Ching-Kuo who was Premier and became President after Yen's term ended three years later.

Chiang Kai-Shek remains a largely unpopular figure on Taiwan because of his authoritarian rule of the island. Since the 1990s, his picture has tended to disappear from public buildings, coins, and money, and in sharp contrast to Sun Yat-Sen and his son Chiang Ching-Kuo, his memory is rarely invoked by current political parties, including the Kuomintang.

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