May 13th, 2009
[Jay Taylor] uncovers a good deal of evidence that suggests [the conventional view of Chiang] is ungenerous and oversimplified. … Judging by his stated goal of challenging assumptions and rounding out the cardboard characterization of Chiang, Mr. Taylor succeeds admirably [,uncovering] a man devoted to reversing a century of humiliation in China. pieces auto
Click here to see the excerpt.
May 11th, 2009
When in 1927 Chiang, and then the Left KMT, purged the Chinese Communist Party (which was preparing its own purge), Joseph Stalin ordered it to launch insurrections across the country, and through Shanghai provided an initial contribution of US$300,000 and 15,000 guns. Such critical aid continued for the next ten years. In 1933-34, Stalin sent the large CCP force in Jiangxi province more than 4 million Mexican silver dollars, a popular hard currency in China at the time. When in October 1934 Mao rode out of the Jiangxi camp onto the Long March, like each of the 25,000 fighters of the First Red Army, he carried a blanket and three days supply of rice. The Communist troops survived on the fourth day and thereafter for the next 12 months and 3,000 miles because they carried with them trunks full of these Mexican silver dollars. They had so many trunks of silver they even buried some.
May 9th, 2009
This enthralling book by Jay Taylor of Harvard University shows that [the] conventional views of both Chiang and the Chinese civil war are caricatures.
Click here to see excerpt.
May 9th, 2009
By the early 1920s, Sun Yat-sen saw Chiang as a stand-out urban insurgent, clandestine operative, tactical military officer in the field, and chief of staff of a multi-divisional unit. Equally important, the young officer from Zejiang province was the quintessential loyalist, but not afraid to disagree with the supreme leader. He was also a thinker, who early on submitted a blueprint for the Northern Expedition and kept abreast of world affairs, studying Russian and reading everything he could find on the new Soviet state. He was not popular among his peers but known to be tenacious, courageous, and apparently honest. It was a great advantage also that he had no base of support or network of influence, or, in the Chinese phrase, guanxi.
May 7th, 2009
Marshaling archival materials made newly available to researchers, including about four decades’ worth of Chiang’s daily diaries and documents from the Soviet era, [Taylor's biography] torpedoes many of that catechism’s cherished tenets.
Click here to see excerpt.
May 6th, 2009
Chiang Kai-shek was a taciturn introvert and a temperamental, humorless, command personality but also a romantic who read Tang poetry, as a young man fell madly in love with a succession of beautiful and expensive prostitutes, in a very unChinese manner, held hands with his wife in public (and before that his concubines), picked flowers for her, cooked fried rice for their picnics, and on emotional moments burst into tears.
May 2nd, 2009
Please come and join a discussion of The Generalissimo at “Politics and Prose” bookstore and coffeehouse on Saturday, May 9, at 1:00 p.m. I would love to see you there.
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Click here for details on the event, and click here to go to the Politics and Prose homepage.
April 28th, 2009
The only US force actually fighting the Japanese inside China was the 10th Air Force, formerly the “Flying Tigers.” But in the spring of 1944 it had only 100 warplanes it could devote to attacking the huge Japanese offensive, “Ichigo,” inside China. (100 fighters were assigned to the campaign in Burma and 200 to defend the B-29 fields in Szechuan, which were targeted only on the Japanese home islands). By comparison, U.S. Air Force in Europe at the end of the war had 17,000 operational aircraft and had lost 18,000. During the war, the Soviet Union received 25,000 US war planes. (With six months to go in the war, the 10th Air Force was up to 900 aircraft for all its missions.)
April 26th, 2009
I have come upon Jay Taylor’s engaging writing only recently when I read his fascinating overview of the world’s two most populous countries, China and India, in his book ‘The Dragon and the Wild Goose’. The refreshingly different view point of this veteran Foreign Service officer presents instead of thinly disguised extrapolations of his own canny wisdom and insights, rather a keenly observing reporter’s overview of the realities of these complex societies with an objectivity that is both pragmatic and prophetic.
And … when I heard of [ Jay Taylor's] recently released ‘The Generalissimo’ … I found another gem of his factually based insights into one of modern history’s most enigmatic political players. Whoever believes they know, or wishes to know, how contemporary China has so explosively come upon the world stage over the last decades, you have to read ‘The Generalissimo’ to get the full understanding of the internecine struggles of the China.
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April 20th, 2009
General Stilwell, who was Chief of Staff to the Supreme Commander of the China Theater, Chiang Kai-shek, twice ordered separate senior American subordinates, who did not know each other, to draft contingency plans to assassinate Chiang. The first occasion came shortly after Stilwell had heard a rumor in Chongqing that Chiang was about to ask his recall. The second time he gave such an order he claimed that “the big boy” (i.e. President Roosevelt) had ordered up the plan. There is no evidence Roosevelt did such a thing but every reason to believe, including Stilwell’s “black book,” that it was not true. In each case when the subordinate officer returned with a plan, Stilwell said it had been decided not to go ahead with it.