Chiang Kai-shek, a Chinese military and political leader. He dominated the government of China from 1928 to 1948 and was the leader of China's fight against Japan in World War II. After Communists seized all the Chinese mainland in 1949, many governments, including that of the United States, continued to recognize Chiang as the rightful leader of the Chinese people even though his rule was confined to the island of Taiwan.

Chiang Kai-shek was born in Chekiang province. He joined the Kuomintang, or Nationalist, movement at an early age, and fought in the 1911 revolution that overthrew the empire and established the republic. Chiang became a trusted aide of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, leader of the Kuomintang, who sent him as an observer to Russia in 1923. After Dr. Sun's death in 1925, Chiang assumed leadership of the Kuomintang and its military forces. Russian advisers, who had come to China at the invitation of Dr. Sun, helped Chiang train his troops. In 1927 he married Soong Mei-ling, and, following her example, became a Christian.

Helped by the Communists, Chiang managed to subdue most of the local warlords. Then, in 1927, he issued a proclamation denouncing Communism. The following year, he was chosen chairman of a Nationalist government that held at least nominal control over most of China. Armed Communist groups withdrew to the South, forming the nucleus of the Chinese Red Army. Chiang's efforts to subdue the Red Army failed. Supported by much of the local population, it grew stronger.

War With Japan

Though the Japanese seized Manchuria in 1931, Chiang devoted more time to fighting Communists than to resisting the invasion. In 1935 he was kidnaped by Chang Hseuhliang, a warlord called the “Young Marshal,” and persuaded to form an alliance with the Communists to fight the Japanese. A “National Salvation” front was operating when Japan launched a full-scale invasion in 1937.

As generalissimo (commander in chief) of the Chinese forces, Chiang received United States assistance after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. General Joseph W. Stilwell, commander of United States forces in the China-Burma-India theater, was made his chief of staff. Chiang and Stilwell differed on policy, Stilwell advocating more Communist participation in the war and in the government. Chiang caused Stilwell's removal.

In 1943 Chiang met with President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill in Cairo to plan Japan's defeat and Allied postwar policy. With the end of the war in 1945, Chiang was faced with civil war against the Communists. In 1948 he became the first president of China chosen by constitutional means.

Retreat to Taiwan

By the late 1940's Chiang was losing the war against the Communists, in part because of his failure to eliminate corruption in his government. In 1949 he resigned as president and took command of the Nationalist forces. After a series of staggering defeats, he was compelled to retreat to the island of Taiwan. There in 1950 he resumed the presidency, and set up a government supported by United States aid. Chiang announced his determination to reconquer the mainland, but as the years passed such a conquest ceased to be a possibility.

Chiang made Taiwan into a prosperous nation by carrying out extensive land reform and industrialization. However, he allowed the government and economy to be dominated by the Chinese who came over from the mainland in 1949, causing much enmity with the native Chinese. During the last few years of Chiang's rule, his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, as premier actually ran the government.