Chiang Kai-shek, Generalissimo, 1887-1975

Chiang Kai-shek was the leader of the Kuomintang and Head of State of nationalist China. His country was invaded by the Japanese in 1937 and Chiang moved his headquarters to Hankow and then further inland to Chungking. Although ROOSEVELT wished to aid the Chinese in their war with the Japanese, he was bound by various laws which prevented him from helping warring states unless they could pay for goods supplied. To circumvent this law, Roosevelt did not recognize that a state of war existed in China, and sent supplies to China. Chiang’s main problem in fighting the Japanese was that his own control of the Chinese central government was tenuous. He had been involved in fighting the Chinese Communists prior to the Japanese invasion and his own army’s loyalty was in doubt: commands were divided into war areas and the local Commanders couldbe bought off by the Japanese. Chiang was constantly suspicious of his own Commanders and tried unsuccessfully to direct operations from Chungking, which was too remote.

Chiang’s first direct involvement in the series of wars known as World War II, was in the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942. Chiang appointed STILWELL, his US Chief of Staff, as Commander of the two Chinese armies which he sent to Burma. Stilwell was treated like all Chiang’s subordinates and bypassed over crucial decisions. The antagonism between Chiang and Stilwell dates from this time because Stilwell could not direct operations effectively in Burma and because Chiang felt let down over the ‘volume’ of US aid. Chiang decided to back CHENNAULT and accepted the latter’s view that air power would win the war in China. By maintaining a constant flow of demands for aircraft and supplies, Chiang eventually received Allied agreement to an air offensive in China in 1943. However the strategy did not succeed because it provoked, as Stilwell had pointed out, a counterattack by the Japanese, who overran the US 14th Air Force’s bases in east China. After this disaster the US Joint Chiefs wanted Stilwell appointed Commander of all Chinese troops because he had achieved success in his campaign in northern Burma. However Chiang askad for Stilwell’s dismissal.

Chiang’s main concern was political survival and his Nationalist Armies did not have the strength to fight the Japanese armies in an all-out offensive. The most they could achieve was to keep Japanese troops tied up in China away from the battlefields of the Pacific. For this purpose, Chiang received massive Lend-Lease aid from the USA, aid which did not get used in the fight against the Japanese but in the fight against the Communists. Although Chiang was recognized by the Western powers as the Head of State in China in 1945, his power was declining and soon after World War II ended, civil war in China started again.

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