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Subject: The Final Triumph of Chiang Kai-shek (WaPo book review on Peanut's rehabilitation)
Zhang Fei    5/5/2009 8:11:28 PM
I've never figured why so many demonized the guy as some kind of incompetent when he lost the cream of his armies (millions of dead) battling the Japanese during the Sino Japanese War, even as the communists talked a good game while sitting that war out. (Quote) Chiang Kai-shek ranks as one of the most despised leaders of the 20th century. Famously derided as "Peanut" and "General Cash-My-Check," the leader of China's Nationalist government bedeviled the Allied war effort in World War II with his lackluster defense of his country. His corrupt and brutal regime squandered billions of dollars in American aid and drove the Chinese into the arms of the communists. He died in exile a deluded despot, relegated to a footnote in modern Chinese history. Or so the conventional story goes. Now, however, Jay Taylor's new biography, "The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China," challenges the catechism on which generations of Americans have been weaned. Marshaling archival materials made newly available to researchers, including about four decades' worth of Chiang's daily diaries and documents from the Soviet era, it torpedoes many of that catechism's cherished tenets. This is an important, controversial book. Taylor, who was a U.S. Foreign Service officer in Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution, argues that, far from being incompetent, Chiang was a farsighted, disciplined and canny strategist who repeatedly predicted major geopolitical events and made the most of the weak hand he was usually dealt by allies and enemies. His five decades of participation, at the highest levels, in world-changing events may be unsurpassed in the 20th century. For all his flaws as a political leader, Chiang laid the foundation not only for Taiwan's prosperity, but also for its transformation into the only democracy in the Chinese-speaking world, and one of the few in Asia. "The Generalissimo" is especially timely appearing as it does during a period of flux and promise in the delicate dance between Taiwan and China. A new closeness is apparently taking hold: trade agreements are being signed, direct flights are being established and Chinese tourists are flocking to the island. There's even talk of a peace treaty. So the book naturally raises the question: Whose vision of China's future is really winning? Is it Chiang's dream of a more free-wheeling nation, or the image of a revolutionary utopia championed by his communist nemesis, Mao Zedong? Taylor reveals intriguing details, such as Chiang's decades-long secret communications, after his 1949 defeat, with Mao's No. 2, Zhou Enlai. He describes Mao receiving instructions and trunks full of Mexican silver dollars from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin -- without which, Taylor argues, the fabled Long March probably would have been impossible. He debunks the view that Chiang's entire military record was one of abject failure and sheds fresh light on Chiang's ties to the United States during the Cold War conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Chiang strenuously warned President Lyndon B. Johnson against being drawn into the latter war. And Taylor adds depth and detail to the saga of the 1970s U.S.-China détente and Washington's eventual recognition of Beijing, describing how Chiang concealed his bitter loathing of President Richard Nixon. Chiang emerges as a flesh-and-blood man rather than the buffoonish cardboard-cutout figure he has generally been portrayed as. China's nationalist leader is revealed as a tormented soul, as prone to bursting into tears as into angry tirades, who through force of will conquered his own demons to -- as he saw it -- lead his people out of colonial oppression and moral decay to forge a strong, unified nation. Born the son of a village salt merchant and raised by his widowed mother, Chiang Kai-shek rose to rule the world's most populous country. After revered revolutionary Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, Chiang seized power. In 1927, he launched a bloody purge of the Chinese Communist Party, which had been cooperating with Sun's Nationalist Party, touching off decades of civil conflict. Soon after, he married Sun's sister-in-law, Mayling Soong, the youngest daughter of a wealthy and powerful Shanghai family and a formidable figure in her own right. In the 1930s, he tried to hold Japan's armies at bay while battling the communists -- until 1937, when full-scale war erupted with Japan, and he joined forces with Mao. After Pearl Harbor -- Chiang had long predicted that Japan would target the United States -- he joined the Allies. As World War II ended, he resumed fighting the communists. After his defeat, he retreated to the island of Taiwan, then called Formosa. Over the next quarter-century in exile, Chiang ruled despotically while playing a key role as the United States' closest Cold War ally in the Pacific. His son, Chiang Ching-kuo (whom
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Zhang Fei       5/5/2009 8:15:31 PM

Mao's order to all party members of CCP:

? The aim is to develop the military power of the CCP, in order to stage a coup d'état. This main directive is to be strictly followed: "10% of energy on anti-Japanese, 20% of energy muddering along, 70% of energy is used to develop(political and military power). Anybody, any groups are not to oppose this paramount directive. ?

Another famous directive from Mao:

? Some people insisted, to show that we do love our nation, we should be more anti-Japanese, but then the nation belongs to Chiang Kai-sak, we communists, our mother-land is Soviet Union, the common mother-land of the world's communists. The aim of we communists, is to allow the Japanese to occupy more land, then a power triangle will be formed, which consisted of Chiang, Japanese and us, which is the ideal situation, the worst come to the worst, if ever Japanese occupy the whole of China, we would then still be able to fight back, with the help of the Soviet Union. ?

In 1972, when PRC and Japan established former diplomatic relationship, Mao Zedong met the then Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei, and said:

? Don't have to say sorry, you had contributed towards China, why? Because had Imperial Japan did not start the war of invasion, how could we communist became mighty powerful? How could we stage the coup d'état ? How could we defeat Chiang Kai Sak? How are we going to pay back you guys? No, we do not want your war reparations! (Translated from Tanaka Kakuei Biography, original in Japanese.)
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Zhang Fei       10/30/2009 9:45:36 PM
Arthur Waldron's book review:
<blockquote>Now at last we have a good biography of Chiang Kai-shek, one of the most important figures in modern China, but also one of the least understood and most regularly caricatured. Chiang unified his country with the Northern Expedition of 1925-29 and presided over the ?Nanking decade,? a period of economic and institutional development as well as considerable freedom that was cut short by the Japanese invasion of 1937. Against that onslaught, Chiang led an indomitable resistance that was arguably China?s finest twentieth century hour, but when the struggle was completed, he gambled on an offensive war to destroy his Communist rivals for power, and lost almost everything. He retreated to Taiwan, which he ruled with an iron hand until his death in 1975, aged 87.

Chiang inspired powerful loyalty among his closest Chinese followers and had Western friends as well, not the least of whom was Henry Luce, publisher of Time magazine, but a negative tone dominated much of the commentary both during his life and subsequently in scholarship. As long as Communist victory was seen as the only real solution to China?s ills—as it was by powerful voices in politics, the media, and scholarship, from the 1930s to the mid-1970s—the anti-Communist Chiang could not but be viewed as an obstacle who, by exercising power himself, prevented its exercise by others who would do better and who, by trying to build China as he saw fit, prevented its optimal reconstruction by the Communists, whom he thwarted until 1950.

Now that the world has seen the true cost of Chinese communism, however, Chiang and the China over which he ruled has proven more and more difficult to dismiss. A general re-evaluation of pre-Communist China has been under way in China itself for a good two decades, with opinions becoming more positive. For evidence, one needs only to consider the official celebratory film for the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the People?s Republic, Jianguo Daye with its sympathetically acted Chiang Kai-shek and attractive Kuomintang officers and officials, very unlike the sinister representations that were once the standard in the PRC.

Jay Taylor is a former China desk officer in the U.S. State Department now affiliated with Harvard, and an author of several other books already, including an excellent biography of Chiang Ching-kuo, the only son of Chiang Kai-shek. The Generalissimo—as Chiang was known to foreigners, but not to Chinese—draws on several sets of sources for its massive documentation. One is Chiang?s own diary, which provides a firm chronological and factual framework lacking in previous works; another is material from the archives of the Soviet Union and the Comintern, which makes clear just how critical Moscow was to the vicissitudes of Chiang?s career; a third is memoirs and interviews with both Chinese and Americans that have enabled Taylor to pierce the conventional historiography with a far more plausible account.

The negative picture of Chiang can to a certain extent be traced back to one man, the American General Joseph W. Stilwell, whom Roosevelt sent to advise Chiang, and who soon came to despise him. Stilwell, not called ?Vinegar Joe? for nothing, referred to China?s leader as ?the peanut? and found him intellectually lacking, an incompetent national leader and a defeatist when it came to Japan. Taylor shows, however, that Stilwell was himself the poor strategist: for example, now that we have all the documentation, it is clear that the American four star gravely under-estimated the Japanese in Burma (Myanmar), throwing away tens of thousands of troops in the ill-judged and failed Myitkina offensive. Chiang?s inclination to hold to the defensive was clearly prudent and would have been a better course of action. Yet to the end of his career (he was recalled in autumn 1944 and died in 1946) Stilwell had only bad things to say about his Chinese fellow-soldier—and he was not shy about saying them, for example in an influential wartime interview with Brooks Atkinson of The New Yorker. Later, the Stilwell grievances provided the fundamental orientation for another influential publication, Barbara Tuchman?s Stilwell and the American Experience in China in 1970.

A second wellspring of anti-Chiang sentiment was the unhappy American attempt, led by General George C. Marshall, to bring internal peace to post-War China by creating a coalition government between Chiang?s Nationalists and Mao Zedong?s Communists—which foundered for many reasons, one of which was that, as Taylor points out, Marshall had great leverage over Chiang, who depended upon the United States for support, but none whatsoever over the Com
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