Chiang Kai-Shek is a Chinese political leader best remembered for being China's national leader during the brutal Japan-China war that began in 1937. He led the Guomindang army before becoming the Republic of China's leader in 1928. His government fled to Taiwan in 1949, but he continued to serve as president from 1950 until his death in 1975.
Born 31 October 1887, in Xikou, Zhejiang Province, China, Chiang was raised in a home that was struggling financially, but with his ancestral ties connected to Hequiao in Jiangsu Province, he was socially considered to have upper class ancestry. His father, Chiang Zhaocong, died when Chiang was just three years old. After a Japanese military education, he spent a few years in the Japanese Imperial Army. He was wed to Mao Fumei in an arranged marriage that produced a son and a daughter.
Chiang Kai-Shek proved his leadership potential successfully in the Guomindang army. He was so respected for his military abilities, that he surpassed many other qualified candidates to be selected to replace Sun Yat-Sen as the leader of the Guomindang after Sun Yat-Sen died in 1925. Chiang became the national leader of the Republic of China (ROC) in 1928. The Chinese Civil war had started in 1927, the year before he took office, and Chiang wanted to eliminate the communists.
Much of Chiang's leadership over China was ineffective because he couldn't control the country enough to keep it secure from Japanese invaders. In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria, and in 1937, it executed the attack that led to the Japan-China war. Chiang's Guomindang army was not prepared to resist the Japanese and soon China lost its capital city, Nanjing/Nanking. Later referred to as "The Rape of Nanking" and "The Nanking Massacre," the Japanese army stormed the city and raped and killed large numbers of Chinese people with mass firing squads. The estimated number of victims vary, but many historians believe that about 300,000 or more Chinese people died during the raid.
Despite the terrible results of the Japan-China war, Chiang Kai-Shek was credited with using strategy to get Western military support for China, even though this lengthened the war. By the time of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, China was an Allied Power along with Great Britain, Russia, and the United States. Once the war ended, however, the Chinese Civil War flared up again, with the communist forces eventually forcing Chiang and his allies out. He relocated to Taiwan and resumed his presidency, with plans to retake the mainland. That never took place, however, and Chiang died in Taipei in 1975 at the age of 87 due to kidney failure.