Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, ruler of Taiwan, has survived world and civil war and now stands firm against the tide of diplomatic decision.
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, ruler of Taiwan, has survived world and civil war and now stands firm against the tide of diplomatic decision. Soldier and politician, revolutionary and traditionalist, Christian and Confucian, anti-Communist with a Leninist bias, he embodies the crosscurrents and confusion of a watershed in Chinese history.
Chiang was born into a merchant and farmer family in Chekiang province on October 31, 1086. He trained for a military career. For two years -- 1909-11 he served in the Japanese army whose spartan ideals he admired and adopted. He visited the Soviet Union in 1923 to study Soviet institutions -- especially the Red Army. Like many Asian patriots of the time Chiang read Marx and Lenin -- although it never made him tolerant of any efforts to Sovietize his own country.
He joined the Kuomintang -- the revolutionary society founded by Sun Yat-Sen. After Dr. Sun's death he took command of the Kuomintang armies in their drive against the "war lords" who controlled Northern China, who he defeated within three years. He then turned to attack the Communists who had been supporting the revolutionary movement. Despite six major campaigns, he failed to destroy the Communist armies entrenched in their mountain strongholds. At the end of 1936 he was forced to make peace with Communists in the face of the growing threat from Japan. Between 1937 and 1945, Chiang led the Chinese armies against the Japanese. Three more years of Civil War followed and in 1949, with the Communist forces on the point of total victory, a substantial section of the Kuomintang wanted to make peace. Chiang announced early in 1949 that he was willing to hand over his office, but later said this was only temporary. Later that year he was driven, with his supporters, to the island of Taiwan.
Since then he has maintained an army there of about 600,000 and has consistently proclaimed that their main object is the re-conquest of the Chinese mainland 100 miles (160 kilometres) away.
Chiang -- 84 year old -- still exercises absolute powers. For 22 years Taiwan has been dominated at levels, military and civil by one man and his ideas.
But with the United Nations decision to expel Taiwan from the General Assembly and admit China, Chiang's uncompromising stand against Communism could reportedly further isolate the 14 million people he leads. His present six-term of office expires next year. He must then decide whether to step down or stand for re-election in the National Assembly. Whichever step he takes will be watched intently by the huge neighbour which he once ruled for more than twenty years.
SYNOPSIS: Chiang Kai-Shek -- leader of Taiwan and I million Chinese with a weakened diplomatic voice. With his wife as his ambassador, he ruled China for over twenty years.
As a young army officer, Chiang joined the Kuomintang -- the revolutionary society founded by Sun Yat-Sen, who inspired the Republican revolution of 1911.
After Dr. Sun's death in 1925, Chiang Kai-Shek took command of the Kuomintang armies. The following year he launched a massive assault against the independent military commanders known as the "war lords" who controlled the North. Moscow supported him until 1927, when he crushed communist activity in the cities. In 1928, the civil war was over. Chiang headed a new central government at Nanking.
He offered a state cult of Confucian morals to a shattered nation. But he failed in repeated attempts to destroy the Communists in their mountain strongholds.
But by July 1937 Chiang faced full-scale war against Japan. All his energies went into reforming and re-equipping the Chinese army. He steadied the Chinese into orderly retreat, trading space, as he put it, for time.
Chiang's resistance earned him a place in the conference of allied leaders in Cairo, in 1943. He had reached the summit of his international prestige.
Within two years the Japanese were defeated and Chiang's struggle with the Communists flared up again. In 1949, Communist leader Mao Tse-Tung and his troops were in Peking. He was ready to make peace -- but not with Chiang Kai-Shek.
Since then, Chiang has continued to denounce communism from the island of Taiwan -- only 100 miles (160 kilometres) away from the Chinese mainland. Taipei city is prosperous but exists theoretically on a war footing.
Censorship -- controlled by Chiang -- is one of his powers under what are called "temporary provisions during the period of Communist rebellion". But Chiang has made no attempt to curb Taiwan's newspapers bitterly rebuking his own allies.... And in July this year they carried onslaughts against U.S. President Nixon's proposed visit to the People's Republic of China.
But days before his 84th birthday Chiang Kai-Shek was confronted with a decision he had long been fearing. In October the United Nations General Assembly voted to admit Mao Tse-Tung's China and to expel Taiwan. He remains the leader of a nation whose identity he has helped to mould.
Next year his present six-year term of office expires. He must then decide to step down or stand for re-election by the National Assembly. His son and heir apparent, Chiang Ching-Kuo, reportedly holds a less uncompromising view towards Peking.
At a national rally, earlier this month, Chiang spoke of the need to meat the drastic changes in the world with "adaptability". But within 24 hours of the U.N. decision Chiang said he was still prepared to invade the Chinese mainland.