Chiang Kai-Sek is one of the major figures who contributed to the formation and established of the modern China. Unlike earlier leaders who were focused on instilling the communist’s ideologies in China, Chiang was more concerned with the introduction of nationalism and conservatism, of which he had opposed the communist ideas. However, his role and position in the China history is the struggle he had in forming a united China. Chiang had the ambition of reforming the country and doing away with communism. Historical exploration has confirmed that in the quest to form a united China, it did not go well with his idea of creating a unified nation. For one, Chiang had to battle the communists who were the opposition government at the time and formed strong opposition against his government. On the other hand, there was the external threat from Japan of which the Sino-Japan war equally meant a major setback to his reform policies and the formation of a united China. Hence, Chiang had a real ambition of forming a nationalist government, but this was impeded or challenged by the communist threats. The implication is that eventually, he lost control of the country and finally had to go to Taiwan in exile and as such, all the hopes of forming a united China were lost.
Chiang Kai-Sek had the ambition of establishing a united China, and this would begin with his joining of the Chinese Nationalist Party in 1918 or the Kuomintang. Although his party had focused on main reforms in China, Chiang’s government had concentrated much on battling the communist ideology in China while the Japanese aggression would equally characterize his reign. However, he made significant efforts towards the unification of China and had to battle Mao Zedong’s communist forces whose victory eventually would spearhead the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. The victory of the Communist party would mean or lead to Chiang running into exile, and forming the KMT government in Taiwan, of which many countries would continue recognizing it as the legitimate government.
Chiang’s ambition of forming a united China began in childhood. During his early years, he had run away from his hometown, after the death of his father, and eventually landed at the provincial army. From this experience, Chiang gained significant military training from the Paoting Military Academy and also gained some experience from Japan. However, his first efforts towards contributing to the formation of united China began in 1911 when Qing or Manchu faced rebellion from the people. China returned to homeland China, from which he would join the struggles and contribute to the overthrow of Manchus, finally leading to the formation of the Chinese Republic. Nonetheless, Chiang’s efforts towards forming a united China began with him joining the Nationalist Party or the Kuomintang (KMT). Under Sun’s support, Chiang established a military academy at Whampoa in 1924. From this, he would begin building the party’s Nationalist army by using methods had observed during his visits to the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, problems with communists would equally arise during this time, especially after Sun’s death when they were admitted into the party.
The joining of the communists’ members into the KMT party led to major clashes with the conservative elements, and as such, Chiang’s battles with the Communists would begin. Chiang had a successful leadership in the KMT party, of which he led the conservatives as Sun’s successor, running his military through campaigns against the local warlords in China’s northern regions. From this, he gained or consolidated control within his parties by using his powers in expelling Communists through the 1927 brutal coup. Come 1928, Chiang formed a new central government and became the head of the state of the Nanking government. Particularly, his expulsion of the Communist from the party was an indication of the move towards forming a different China from the previous communist regimes while the proper or excellent military training was equally useful in Chiang’s quest for establishing a new and different China.
After the successful formation of government at Nanking, Chiang’s ambition for United China would begin with his pursuance of reforms. Hence, he had sought for modest reforms for the Republic, including the concerted changes in education, finance, infrastructure, as well as reviving Confucianism initiated through the New Life Movement campaign. Despite the desire to improve and reform China, Chiang had to battle the external threats, especially the communist threats coming from outside China. Therefore, most of the government’s resources during his time had been focused more on aborting threats of which the government’s energy and attention were redirected towards thwarting the external threats to China’s stability.
The threats from communists emerged because they were forming and operating opposition government from the rural regions as their strongholds. Another threat that challenged the formation of a united China was from Japan when it seized Manchuria. Therefore, Chiang’s problem with the creation of a unified China had been impeded by the fact that he had focused more on the internal communist threat while failing to engage in confrontation with the Japanese. The choice not to engage the Japanese directly had angered most of his supporters, thus, another profound setback in forming a united China. One of the examples of the discontent from his supporters was in 1936 when one of Chiang’ generals locked him as a captive for nearly two weeks and coerced him into agreeing to form an alliance with the communist forces led by Mao Zedong to fight the Japanese.
The invasion of China by Japan was also a threat to the formation of a united China under Chiang’s regime as it sparked Sino-Japanese War. During this period, all of Chiang’s efforts on reforming China had been redirected to fighting Japan, and the war raged on for four good years until the intervention of the allies. The efforts in fighting Japan earned the Republic a significant place in the Big Four power, and this would lead to improved image or reputation for Chiang as he gained a foremost international recognition. Despite the success in the war, trouble was brewing for Chiang as his government was facing endless opposition from the country. The discontent was majorly due to the passive stand Chiang had taken against Japan as well as the increasing conservative policies that had favored landowners while on the other hand, the government’s mercantile interests had mostly alienated the peasants despite forming 90 percent of the country’s population.
The growing discontent of the Chinese people led to a major setback forming a unified China. In 1946, after surrendering to the Japanese, China was on the brink of falling out into a civil war, and this was the battle between Chiang’s KMT and the opposing Communist forces. The battle led to the victory of the communist, 1949 as Mao formed the People’s Republic of China. After the defeat, Chiang fled out of the country with the remaining Nationalist government to settle in Taiwan. He had the backing of the United States, and from this, Chiang used the support to launch an economic modernization in Taiwan. The occupation of Taiwan prompted support from the United States that signed an agreement offering support and defense to Taiwan. As years passed by, many countries had recognized Chiang’s government, despite being in exile and had represented China in the United Nations conferences and conventions until Chiang died.
The successive years were marked by the impacts that Chiang had in the formation of a united China. Although he had been vouching for a conservative China and improving relations with the USA, the relations soon subdued as the Taiwan’s position within the United States relationship was further affected by the improved relationship with the mainland China. Four years after his death, in 1979, the US ended the Taiwanese diplomatic relations and improved or established strong relations with the mainland China or the People’s Republic of China.
In summary, Chiang’s ambition for forming a unified China became a challenging dream because he had to fight both internal and external threats. One of the challenges was with the communist members. However, he had gained recognition by defeating the communists to form the Republic of China and from this, used his exemplary leadership to introduce nationalist ideas. From his predecessors, he hand inherited China when the country needed reforms especially in education, economy and infrastructure. Conversely, Chiang’s downfall began with the passive stand he had taken towards Japan and even the KMT members were not in support of his failure to engage the Japanese in direct confrontation. On the other hand, the Sino-Japanese war weakened his government while raging opposition from the communist and the eventually defeat saw Chiang’s ambition of creating a unified China fade away.
- Fenby, Jonathan. Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the China he lost. Simon and Schuster, 2003.
- Liu, Wennan. “Success and failure as a ruler: Chiang Kai-shek’s life, by Wang Chaoguang, Wang Qisheng, and Jin Yilin.” (2014): 141-143.
- Sutter, Robert. “Hsiao-ting Lin. Accidental State: Chiang Kai-shek, the United States, and the Making of Taiwan.” (2017): 817-818.
- Taylor, Jay. The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the struggle for modern China. Harvard University Press, 2009.