It is now 21 years since Chiang Kai-Shek and his a Nationalist supporters lost their last foothold on the Chinese mainland and re-entrenched on the fortress island of Taiwan.
It is now 21 years since Chiang Kai-Shek and his a Nationalist supporters lost their last foothold on the Chinese mainland and re-entrenched on the fortress island of Taiwan. Though now approaching his 83rd birthday, the Generalissimo still cherishes the conviction that the forces of his 14 million Taiwanese will return to the mainland, renewing the struggle against the 600 million population of the Chinese People's Republic.
So the propaganda war continues. But in the volatile political atmosphere of South-East Asia, where the two Korean and Vietnam states have been engulfed in bitter conflicts, the Chinese people have passed the last two decades in relative peace -- compared with the previous 20 years of almost continuous warfare. It was during that period of turmoil that Chiang Kai-Shek first emerged as a major figure in 20th century history.
Chiang was born in Chekiang province on October 31, 1986. and trained for a military career. As a young army officer, he joined the Kuomintang - the revolutionary society established by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, who inspired the foundation of the Chinese Republic in 1911.
When Dr. Sun died in 1925, Chiang took command of the Kuomintang armies, leading the campaign against the war Lords, traditional rulers of Northern China, and capturing Shanghai, Nanking and finally Peking.
In 1927, Chiang married Soong Mei-Lei, the beautiful sister-in-law of Sun Yat-Sen. Converted to Christianity, the religion of his wife, Chiang launched a major campaign for the moral regeneration of his officers.
At the same time, he took a more fateful step. he reversed his earlier policy of co-operating with the communists, and began his long and continuing crusade against Communism.
Civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communists continued until the end of 1936. Then Chiang was kidnapped by one of his own marshals and forced to make peace with the Communists, so that the two sided could present a united front to oppose the growing threat form Japan.
For eight years, from 1937 to 1945, Ghiang led the combined armies in the war against the Japanese. As the conflict expanded into the Second World War, Chiang took his place as one of the major Allied leaders, attending the Cairo conference with President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Another Precedent was created as Chiang began to reap the benefit of massive American aid for his war effort.
With the Japanese defeated, civil war broke out again. By 1949, the Communists under Mao-Tse-Tung had prevailed, and Chiang and his supporters were driven to their last refuge on the island of Taiwan.
Chiang's initial hopes of returning to the offensive were dashed when the United States refused to lend its support to an assault on the mainland. But the Americans have contributed substantially to the defence of Taiwan.
During the Korean war, President Truman ordered the U.S. Seventh Fleet to patrol the straits separating Taiwan from the mainland, thus preventing invasion from either side. Five years later, Chiang concluded a mutual defence treaty with the Americans, receiving substantial financial and military aid -- including supplies of anti-aircraft missiles.
The uneasy status quo survived a major crisis in 1958, when Chiang's forces on the offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu came under heavy artillery fire from the mainland. After two months, the bombardment ceased -- though it has been subsequently renewed from time to time.
The tensions, however, remain. Chiang has frequently proclaimed his ultimate intention of "liberating" the mainland. Only last month, he called on the people of Taiwan to strive to launch a "counter attack" on the Chinese People's Republic at an early date. And when the World Anti-Communist league chose Taiwan for the venue of its first conference in 1967, Chiang Kai-Shek was, almost inevitably, among the most eloquent and vehement speakers.