The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China / Edition 2

The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China / Edition 2

3.0 1
by Jay Taylor
     
 

ISBN-10: 0674060490

ISBN-13: 9780674060494

Pub. Date: 04/01/2011

Publisher: Harvard

One of the most momentous stories of the last century is China’s rise from a self-satisfied, anti-modern, decaying society into a global power that promises to one day rival the United States. Chiang Kai-shek, an autocratic, larger-than-life figure, dominates this story. A modernist as well as a neo-Confucianist, Chiang was a man of war who led the most

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Overview

One of the most momentous stories of the last century is China’s rise from a self-satisfied, anti-modern, decaying society into a global power that promises to one day rival the United States. Chiang Kai-shek, an autocratic, larger-than-life figure, dominates this story. A modernist as well as a neo-Confucianist, Chiang was a man of war who led the most ancient and populous country in the world through a quarter century of bloody revolutions, civil conflict, and wars of resistance against Japanese aggression.

In 1949, when he was defeated by Mao Zedong—his archrival for leadership of China—he fled to Taiwan, where he ruled for another twenty-five years. Playing a key role in the cold war with China, Chiang suppressed opposition with his “white terror,” controlled inflation and corruption, carried out land reform, and raised personal income, health, and educational levels on the island. Consciously or not, he set the stage for Taiwan’s evolution of a Chinese model of democratic modernization.

Drawing heavily on Chinese sources including Chiang’s diaries, The Generalissimo provides the most lively, sweeping, and objective biography yet of a man whose length of uninterrupted, active engagement at the highest levels in the march of history is excelled by few, if any, in modern history. Jay Taylor shows a man who was exceedingly ruthless and temperamental but who was also courageous and conscientious in matters of state. Revealing fascinating aspects of Chiang’s life, Taylor provides penetrating insight into the dynamics of the past that lie behind the struggle for modernity of mainland China and its relationship with Taiwan.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674060494
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
04/01/2011
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
752
Sales rank:
374,286
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

Table of Contents

  • List of Maps
  • Acknowledgments
  • Note on Romanization
  • Prologue
  • I. Revolution

    • 1. A Neo-Confucian Youth
    • 2. The Northern Expedition and Civil War
    • 3. The Nanking Decade


  • II. War of Resistance

    • 1. The Long War Begins
    • 2. Chiang and His American Allies
    • 3. The China Theater
    • 4. Yalta, Manchuria, and Postwar Strategy


  • III. Civil War

    • 1. Chimera of Victory
    • 2. The Great Failure


  • IV. The Island

    • 1. Streams in the Desert
    • 2. Managing the Protector
    • 3. Shifting Dynamics
    • 4. Nixon and the Last Years


  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Index

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The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Gerrit-van-der-Wees More than 1 year ago
Book Review The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for modern China By Jay Taylor, reviewed by Gerrit van der Wees Taylor did an incredible amount of research to produce this biography of Chiang Kai-shek. He presents a compelling account of the Generalissimo’s life and times, and adds many insights into events and developments, both during Chiang’s rise to power in the 1910s and 1920s, during the long Civil War with the Communists, and during his repressive rule in Taiwan from the end of World War II until his death in 1975. Taylor portrays Chiang as a more benign human being, with both strong and weak points. He describes times when Chiang, as China’s president and top commander of China’s military forces, had keen insights in what was going to happen, and other times when he utterly failed to make the right decisions. Taylor also touches extensively on Chiang’s personal weaknesses, his womanizing, his failure to control the rampant corruption in the Kuomintang – which continues to this day – and most importantly, his total ruthlessness against anyone or any group which seemed to challenge his control of the political and military establishment. Whether he succeeds in presenting a convincingly more benign portrait of Chiang Kai-shek remains to be seen. Certainly in the area of military strategy and tactics, Taylor presents evidence that Chiang saw matters more clearly than some of his US counterparts: in 1941 he counseled General Joseph Stilwell against an offensive against the Japanese forces in Burma, and advocated a defensive approach. However, Stillwell underestimated the size and strength of the Japanese, went on the offense … and badly lost, prompting his well-documented escape march through the jungles of Burma. Taylor describes in great detail the endless intrigues and maneuvering by Chiang and his wife Soong Mei-ling, in particular their quest to squeeze more financial and military assistance out of President Roosevelt for the beleaguered but corrupt Chinese Nationalists. He also describes at length the perpetual tug-of-war between Chiang Kai-shek and US General Joe Stilwell over strategy and tactics in the war against Japan. Interestingly, based on documents, Taylor – more often than not – comes down on the side of Chiang, blaming much of the tension on the stubbornness of Stilwell. Taylor also goes into significant detail in describing Chiang’s repressive rule in Taiwan after the end of World War II, including a fair account of the “February 28th” Massacre in 1947, when Chiang sent troops from China to Taiwan to put down protests by the native Taiwanese against the corruption of the arriving Chinese mainlanders, leading to a massacre of some 28,000 people, many of them students, professionals and leading political members of the Taiwanese community. For the next four decades the Taiwanese were prohibited from even mentioning “228”, and it wasn’t until the democratization of the late 1980s that it was possible to talk about it. Where we would strongly disagree with Taylor is his assertion that Chiang’s rule in Taiwan laid the foundation for Taiwan’s prosperity and “set the stage for Taiwan’s development of a vigorous democracy.” This is simply not the case. It can actually be argued that without the presence of the Chiang regime, Taiwan would have fared much better, both in terms of economic development as well as the transition to democracy: following World War II, Taiwan had — due to the Japanese colonial period — a much better infrastructure than China ever had, and would have prospered better if Chiang had not been there to perpetuate his wasteful “recover the mainland” line. On the issue of democracy: Chiang gave only lip-service to this idea in order to maintain his ties with the successive US governments, but in the meantime continued a repressive one-party dictatorship for several decades. In fact, Taiwan’s momentous transition to democracy in the 1980s was driven by the grassroots, native Taiwanese, democracy movement and came about in spite of vigorous opposition from the ruling Kuomintang. Sadly, at the present time, the successors of this same Kuomintang are – again — disregarding basic democratic principles, and are causing an erosion of Taiwan’s hardwon human rights, democracy and press freedom in an apparent attempt to drive Taiwan closer to their old archenemies of the CCP. A final note: one point that stands out throughout Taylor’s narrative is the lack of understanding among US policy makers of the forces at work, both in the 1930s and ’40s with the crucial role played by Moscow behind the scenes, and again in the early 1970s, when Chou En-lai kept Chiang Kai-shek informed of what the Americans were doing behind his back. At the present critical juncture in cross-strait relations, is US policy similarly misinformed and misguided in face of the unprecedented collaboration of KMT and CCP in undermining Taiwan’s international position and future as a free and democratic nation?