CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
Nos. 30/31, June/September 2012


On Chiang Kai-shek | China Heritage Quarterly

On Chiang Kai-shek

China's National Hero

The China Critic

This Editorial appeared in The China Critic, XV:6 (5 November 1936): 128-129.—The Editor

This special number of The Critic is dedicated to General Chiang Kai-shek on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday. We are happy to join the whole nation in paying our tribute to a man, whom we regard as probably the greatest political and military leader that this country has ever produced.

There is a very pointed saying by the late American philosopher, William James, in his essay entitled 'Great Man and Their Environment', to quote: 'The mutations of society, then, from generation to generation, are in the main due directly or indirectly to the acts or the example of individuals whose genius was so adapted to the receptivities of the moment, or whose accidental position of authority was so critical that they become ferments, initiators of movements, or setters of precedents or fashion.' In making this statement, James was thinking primarily of the influence of great men upon Western history men, in other words, such as Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon and Peter the Great of Russia. However, it is not difficult to see that what he said could just as well be applied to the conditions of this country—one could say, for instance, that the social and political changes which have taken place here during the past ten years are all due to the influence of 'the acts or the example' of one man, namely, General Chiang Kai-shek.

Fig.1 Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek

Someday, a full-length and definitive biography of General Chiang Kai-shek will undoubtedly be written. But from the statement issued by the general on his birthday last Saturday which is a sort of autobiography (see 'Official Documents' elsewhere in this issue) and from other sources, the following facts about his life may be gathered. General Chiang was born in Fenghua, a little village in Ningpo, in 1886. His family was fairly well-to-do, but after the death of his father, which occurred when the future president of the Executive Yuan was only a boy, his family had 'to undergo all sorts of difficulties and tribulations'. Fortunately, General Chiang's mother was a very strong-charactered woman, and it was entirely through her efforts that the family was saved from ruin. She took proper care of her child; she loved him, yet her love was not the love of an average mother, for she never failed to be severe with him when he was unusually mischievous.

The first turning point in the life of General Chiang occurred in the year 1905, when he was only nineteen years old. In that year, he was sent up North by the Chekiang provincial authorities to be trained as a military officer in the Paoting Military Academy. Upon graduation, he decided to go abroad to complete his military education; and though at first, many of his kinsmen and neighbors strongly advised his mother not to let him go, yet in the end, they were all convinced by her that the young man should be allowed to have his ambition fulfilled. Accordingly, General Chiang went to Japan and enrolled at the Tokio Military Academy, where he remained for four years and completed his course with distinction.

In 1911, when the revolution broke out, General Chiang hurried back to China and joined the revolutionary army. He served as commander of a brigade, and participated in the capture of Shanghai from the Manchu forces. In 1913, when the Second Revolution broke out, he again became active, and joined Dr Sun Yat-sen. The revolution, however, failed, so from that time on until 1923, he lived in retirement from military life.

The year 1923 was the second turning point in his life. He went to Canton, and presently was appointed president of Whampoa Academy by Dr Sun Yat-sen. When Chen Chiung-ming rebelled against Dr Sun, General Chiang was put in charge of the punitive expedition, and by quick and bold actions, the rebel forces were soon reduced into submission, and Dr Sun was thus shown to be correct in his judgment.

Then came 1926, the year which marked the third turning point in General Chiang's life. In July of that year he was appointed Commander of the National Revolutionary Force to launch the Northern Expedition. In rapid succession, he took Hunan, Hupeh, Kiangsi, Chekiang and Fukien, and by the end of 1928, the whole country was united under the Kuomintang rule.

Such then is the story of General Chiang's phenomenal rise to fame and power. Now, let us pass in review of some of his prominent achievements, since the establishment of the National Government at Nanking. To begin with, we must credit General Chiang with having sponsored the New Life Movement, which has in a few years won wide popularity. To quote the general's words: 'The aim of the New Life Movement is the social regeneration of China. It is to this end that the people's thoughts are now being directed to the ancient virtues of the nation for guidance, namely etiquette, justice, integrity and conscientiousness.'

In the second place, we must also praise General Chiang for having initiated the People's Economic Reconstruction Movement. General Chiang realized that unless the fundamental problem of the people's livelihood is satisfactorily solved, it would be impossible for this country to stand on her feet and to resist foreign aggression. This movement was launched only a short while ago, yet we are gratified to note that it is already bearing fruit. The communication facilities in this country have been greatly improved, the financial situation has become stabilized, while the people are already enjoying a good measure of economic well-being and security. And it is indeed no exaggeration to say that for all these General Chiang is to be thanked.

Thirdly, we must thank General Chiang also for his successful campaign against the communists. The statesman-like manner in which he brought about the solution of the Liang-Kwang problem, again, is worthy of our praise and admiration. And on the occasion of his birthday, let us wish him the greatest happiness and also hope that he may continue to give his service to the country for many years to come.