Updated: Aug 16, 2022
Chiang Kai-shek (31 October 1887 – 5 April 1975), also known as Chiang Chung-cheng, Chiang Chieh-shih, Cheung Kai-shek, Jiang Zhongzheng, and Jiang Jieshi, was a Chinese Nationalist politician, revolutionary and military leader, who served as the leader of the Republic of China (ROC) from 1928 to until his death in 1975. From 1928 until 1949 he served as leader of the ROC in mainland China, and from 1949 until 1975, as leader of the ROC in Taiwan.
Born in Chekiang (Zhejiang) Province, Chiang was a member of the Kuomintang (KMT), and a lieutenant of Sun Yat-sen in the revolution to overthrow the Beiyang government and reunify China. With help from the Soviets and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chiang organized the military for Sun's Canton Nationalist Government and headed the Whampoa Military Academy. Commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army (from which he came to be known as a Generalissimo), he led the Northern Expedition from 1926 to 1928, before defeating a coalition of warlords and nominally reunifying China under a new Nationalist government. Midway through the Northern Expedition, the KMT–CCP alliance broke down and Chiang massacred communists inside the party, triggering a civil war with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), which he eventually lost in 1949.
As the leader of the Republic of China in the Nanjing decade, Chiang sought to strike a difficult balance between modernizing China, while also devoting resources to defending the nation against the CCP, warlords, and the impending Japanese threat. Trying to avoid a war with Japan while hostilities with the CCP continued, he was kidnapped in the Xi'an Incident, and obliged to form an Anti-Japanese United Front with the CCP. Following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, he mobilized China for the Second Sino-Japanese War. For eight years, he led the war of resistance against a vastly superior enemy, mostly from the wartime capital Chongqing. As the leader of a major Allied power, Chiang met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Cairo Conference to discuss terms for the Japanese surrender. When the Second World War ended, the Civil War with the communists (by then led by Mao Zedong) resumed. Chiang's nationalists were mostly defeated in a few decisive battles in 1948.