From the Prologue
Chiang’s diaries cast
new light on major historical events, including his surprising
rise to leadership of the Kuomintang, his early leftism, his
bloody purge of the Communists in 1927, the repeated warlord
rebellions, his appeasement of the Japanese for five years while
building up his army, his famous 1936 kidnapping in Xi’an, his
united front with the Communists and its breakdown, and his
long, unique relationship with Zhou Enlai. New insights also
emerged into his military strategy at Shanghai and afterward,
his and Stalin’s mutual efforts to involve the other in war with
Japan, his long struggle with General Joseph Stilwell, and his
serious military commitment to the Allied cause after Pearl
Harbor—a steadfastness that was marred by the repeated failure
of the Allies to live up to their commitments to him and his
calculated but unwise reaction to those failings.
Chiang on the gunboat Yong Feng with
Chiang’s time alone with Sun Yat-sen aboard the gunboat Yong Feng was the turning point in his career. Clearly, Sun was more impressed than ever. Chiang had performed well as a tactical military officer in the field, chief of staff in a multidivision unit, urban guerrilla, and clandestine operative involved in two assassinations and other covert assignments. He seemed the quintessential loyalist, but one not afraid to disagree strongly with the supreme leader. Moreover, despite Chiang’s limited education, he was a thinker who kept abreast of world affairs, talking knowingly, for example, about the new society in Russia, and early on submitting a blueprint for the Northern Expedition. He was courageous and apparently honest. It was a great advantage that Chiang had no base of support except one wealthy patron, the diminutive Zhang Renjie. He had a few interesting friends like Dai Jitao and Zhang Qun, but no network of influence or, in the Chinese phrase, guanxi—no conflict of interest or personal source of power that could compromise his total devotion to Sun and the movement. This lack of a power base was to be key to his rise.
Chiang’s marriage promised to be an excellent one in every respect. His wife was an attractive, even beautiful, woman who had been educated in the United States; she was cosmopolitan, articulate, intelligent, and wealthy. During the long, terrible years of resistance against the Japanese, she would convey to the world and to her own people an image of Chinese dignity and bravery. She knew her role and how to play it, including at least superficial and perhaps serious engagement in good works such as the YWCA and efforts to protect child workers. Completely unlike her husband, she did not have an austere, private lifestyle; rather she strove to appear moderately glamorous. She always wore makeup and a traditional qi pao dress with the slit stopping at the knee (albeit without expensive jewelry). Throughout her life, she enjoyed her wealth, about which she had no embarrassment. She had a full-time tailor, who made her a new qi pao every three or four days. She took numerous servants for granted and sometimes traveled with an entourage of sixty or more. Luxury and constant attendance by personal servants, however, do not necessarily ruin prospects for a serious life. Churchill all his life was dressed and undressed by someone else.
Mayling liked Western music and cigarettes, and before her marriage, parties and dancing. She was always a night person, reading and writing until midnight, even as Chiang went to bed early and rose before dawn. She was an avid reader; a student of Chinese—and world—history and politics; and by all accounts, a truly devout Methodist. She was politically determined and often a shrewd behind-the-scenes manipulator, and she passed the test for personal courage on numerous occasions, often joining her husband in camp during his war campaigns, living in tents or railway cars. She was talkative and easygoing, in stark contrast to the stuffy and humorless Chiang, who was shy but emotional, and for a Chinese male wept easily. He tried to change his taciturn image. For some while, perhaps since his mother’s death and as part of his conscious effort to soften his public persona, he had begun to show a more benign public face, often smiling gently throughout interviews and of- ten in photos.
Chiang and Mayling’s life as a couple was an interweaving of profound differences, mutual irritations, a common grand cause, genuine affection, and perhaps passion. When Mayling was twenty-one she wrote to an American woman friend, “There is nothing disgusting about it [sex] if you consider it in conjunction with the other elements that make up love.” This obscure comment on the subject may not reflect an enthusiastic view of sex, but stories that the marriage was purely political and even unconjugal are not believable. Chiang possessed a high libido, but he had always been involved with women intellectually and socially beneath him. The new object of his desire had attributes that he had never encountered in a woman—independence, intellect, and power—and they must have been exhilarating. Mayling called him “Darling,” and, abbreviating the English word, he called her “Da.” He picked flowers for her and held her hand in public, a shocking gesture to most Chinese.
Soong Ch’ing-ling, who disliked Chiang but was close to her sister May- ling, said it became a “love match.” He had a bad temper but so did she. She thought she was much smarter than he and certainly more sophisticated, and his stubbornness and faithfulness to those loyal to him frustrated her. But still she thought he was a great man.
Chiang Returns to Nanking from Xi’an
After his December 1936 Kidnapping
When Zhou reported back from Xi’an, Mao was aghast that Chiang had only given his word that he would halt the civil war. He feared that the hated enemy who only days before had seemed in his grasp was now free to unleash his “rapid and cruel revenge.” Zhou, however, said Chiang would “probably not go back on his word,” explaining—in a probably sarcastic manner—that this was “the vainglory of a self-appointed hero.” Mao then remembered his own previous caricature of Chiang’s naiveté and agreed. Chiang, he said, would again likely play the part of “Ah Q,” the writer Lu Xun’s literary symbol of China’s self-delusion and obscurantism. Mao believed that, like Ah Q, Chiang suffered delusions about both his own virtue and sincerity and that of traditional China, and moreover, that the CCP could take advantage of this ingenuousness. With this image in mind, Mao accepted Zhang Guotao’s suggestion that the Communists act outwardly humble toward the Generalissimo but inwardly vengeful, like Goujian, the prince of the fifth-century BCE state of Yue, who bided his time and “ate bile” until he could achieve complete victory.
Indeed, Chiang had promised nothing publicly and after sending away the previously rebellious divisions could have quickly deployed a massive force to surround the Yan’an base area. But once free of his captors, Chiang never considered the military option. As Zhou foresaw, he carried through with his promises and ended the “bandit suppression campaign.” Moreover, he began to remit 200,000 to 300,000 yuan a month to the Communist forces. Chiang saw evidence of “the treacherous nature” of Mao’s acceptance of his (Chiang’s) leadership of a united front but he continued to treat the CCP as a loyal junior partner. Likewise, he abandoned his efforts to weaken the warlords. He was now focused entirely on the coming war with Japan and he needed national unity and Soviet military aid.
Chiang Warns Stalin
When Chiang heard that Hitler’s disciple Rudolph Hess had landed in England seeking peace between the two countries, he was further convinced that Hitler was on the brink of invading the Soviet Union. On June 18, when Chiang read the translation of a Western news service report of a new German-Turkish Treaty, he immediately and correctly interpreted the item as the final sign that Hitler was covering his flank in preparation for a gargantuan onslaught against Turkey’s neighbor. “There will be no more than a few days before Germany attacks the Soviet Union,” he wrote in his diary. According to Comintern documents, Chiang then urgently called in Zhou Enlai to tell him that the German attack on the USSR would commence on June 21 and he urged that the CCP warn Stalin. On June 22, the Nazi juggernaut—some 2 million men—surged into Russia. Chiang quickly aligned China with the Soviet Union, broke relations with Berlin and Rome, warned Moscow of a possible Japanese attack, proposed a treaty of alliance with the USSR, and encouraged America to support the giant, beleaguered Communist state, which in the long term he greatly feared. This reaction to Hitler’s attack on Communist Russia reflected again the highest priority that Chiang at this time gave to the defeat of Japan.
The stage was now set for a global civil war to be fought without quarter. Grouped on one side were the rational or secular humanist strains of both the Western and Chinese enlightenments—the liberal democratic, the pragmatic authoritarian, and the Jacobean totalitarian. On the other side were the ultranationalism, racism, and absolutism of atavistic fascism.
Chiang gives Stilwell Another Chance
Persuaded by all
these voices and afraid that Marshall and even Roosevelt might
be offended despite what T.V. had been told, Chiang asked his
wife to tell Stilwell that it would not be good for the
general’s reputation to be recalled, but if he could apologize
and change his ways the Generalissimo might forgive him. The two
sisters urged Stilwell to humble himself, to admit that he had
made mistakes, to apologize, and to promise to make amends.
Stilwell reports he hesitated a long time but the women insisted
and he finally agreed.
|How and Why Chiang Lost Manchuria||
Department’s White Paper, issued in 1949, declared that Chiang’s
government “in occupying Manchuria took steps contrary to the
advice of competent United States military observers who were
aware that the Government could not reoccupy Manchuria and
pacify the rest of China.” This claim is one of the most
important unexamined, and incorrect, assumptions of the Chinese
civil war. Wedemeyer did tell Chiang and the Pentagon in
November 1945 that the Nationalists could not win in Manchuria
and probably not in North China, but policymakers in Washington
did not adopt this point of view. In addition, earlier that year
Wedemeyer himself had been optimistic about the Nationalist
Army’s prospects for dealing successfully with the Communists in
the postwar period, including in Manchuria. Beginning with the
negotiations on the Sino-Soviet treaty in the summer of 1945 in
Moscow, the United States had made clear it wanted Chiang to
take a tough stand in asserting Nationalist China’s sovereignty
in Manchuria. After Japan’s surrender, America stood ready to
transport almost a quarter million Nationalist soldiers to the
region for this purpose and it completed the task during the
Marshall Mission. At the beginning of the mission, the firmly,
albeit privately, stated policy objective of Truman and Marshall
was to support Chiang’s takeover of all of Manchuria while
trying to prevent a civil war. To accomplish this goal, the
United States sought to promote a coalition government, but did
not make such a coalition a quid pro quo of U.S. assistance to
Chiang. Marshall at first clearly encouraged Chiang to continue
to try to assert his authority throughout the Northeast.
Marshall’s original peace plan provided for a huge 14–1
advantage in government troop presence in Manchuria, and gave
the Nationalist government the right to deploy its military
anywhere in the region in order to establish its authority.
Marshall even promised to find surplus winter clothing for the
Nationalist troops heading north. As noted earlier, as far back
as mid-November 1945, Chiang had decided tentatively to withdraw
from Manchuria, but positive Soviet moves and Marshall’s initial
steps and statements changed his mind.
|The Chiangs' Three Priorities on Taiwan||
After their departure from Nanking in January, Chiang Kai-shek and his son spent many hours alone discussing how they and the Republic of China could survive. The first priority, they clearly believed, was to consolidate- the government’s hold on Taiwan, which would mean eradicating Communist agents and Taiwanese dissidents. Chiang gave his son broad authority over internal security, intelligence, and paramilitary organizations. While in Gaoxiong, Ching-kuo established a political action committee to coordinate the myriad intelligence and secret police bureaucracies that had crowded onto the island. During the year, internal security men arrested about 10,000 Taiwanese for interrogation and put more than a thousand to death in another horrific example of “killing the chicken to scare the monkey.” Given the absence of any organized, much less violent, underground Taiwanese opposition, these killings were as malicious as those the CCP would soon carry out on the mainland to condition the populace to accept the permanence of the new order. Another key element of internal security among the KMT in Taiwan was enhanced surveillance of all senior Nationalist generals on the island no matter how trusted, including Chen Cheng and Sun Liren.
The Chiangs’ second priority was intensive preparations to resist the in evitable Communist assault, which Chiang estimated would take the PLA at least a year to prepare. The priority given to the defense of Hainan, Zhoushan, Quemoy, and various other offshore islands in Nationalist hands would depend on the feasibility and benefits of trying to hold each one. Military preparations for the defense of Taiwan itself involved not only training but also an intense effort to eliminate the various abuses that had afflicted the Nationalist military for so long. The Chiangs agreed on the immediate centralization of all financial matters in the military, most especially payrolls. In one stroke this change did away with the principal form of graft as well as most “ghost soldiers” on military unit rosters.
The third priority was currency stability. The island’s separate currency since its liberation in 1945 had largely protected it from the tornado of inflation on the mainland. Moreover, the first postwar Chinese provincial government in 1945 had taken over vast land holdings, real estate, and business and financial assets from the Japanese government and Japanese companies and these acquisitions had provided a huge and instant source of revenue for spending and currency support. In October 1948, Wei’s provincial government, unquestionably with Chiang Kai-shek’s approval, had banned the sale or transfer of food and other products from the island to the mainland, further insulating Taiwan’s economy from the tribulations across the Strait. Shortly after his arrival in southern Taiwan, Chiang noted that all the necessary gold and hard currency funds for monetary reform in Taiwan were in place. On June 15, the Taiwan provincial government issued a new currency, the Xin Taibi (New Taiwan Dollar).
In June, the CIA, referring to KMT-administered territory on both the mainland and Taiwan, concluded that Nationalist China was “virtually bankrupt”; the “process of disintegration and fragmentation is so far advanced as to render almost impossible the establishment of a functioning government.” The U.S. consulate in Taipei and the CIA predicted not only economic collapse in Taiwan, but also terrible food and housing shortages, grave health problems, and social chaos, fragmentation, and disintegration. But under the direction of Chen Cheng’s commissioner of finance, C. K. Yen, and the Central Bank’s O. K. Yu (who had opened the vaults in Shanghai), retail prices in Taiwan advanced only 35 percent in March over February— nauseatingly high by most standards but not at all stratospheric in the context of the mainland, where the inflation rate had risen 20 to 50 percent in a single day.
Shortly after the Generalissimo’s arrival in early June, C. K. Yen, a technocrat trained at the American-run St. John’s University in Shanghai, pegged the New Taiwan Dollar to gold, with conversions allowed freely—a remarkable policy for a government supposedly about to “disintegrate.” At Chiang’s insistence in early 1950, the government set a limit on the amount of New Taiwan Dollars that could be converted to gold each month. But for six months there was no limit and the currency gained credibility.
|Chiang's Real Views on the Counterattack||
During the Truman period, Chiang did not press on the Americans his increasingly high-decibel domestic theme of promising an early “counterattack” to recover the mainland. In July 1952, he finally showed his mainland invasion blueprints to the visiting U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral William N. Fechteler, who, after examination back in Washington, declared them “totally impractical.” But Chiang continued talking up the “counterattack” for military and mainlander civilian morale as well as because it was central to his rationale for ruling over the island. He thought “recovery of the mainland”—one way or the other—was destined some day, but he did not expect the “counterattack” in his lifetime. “Realistically,” he wrote, “the restoration of our country is almost impossible in the [foreseeable] future. My confidence in the revolution and restoration of our country, however, has never swayed . . . From now on every plan must be designed for the success of my successors, not for my own success.” He carefully kept this realistic appraisal from the Americans as well as his own people. Likewise, in his mind, the military debacles in Korea and the continuing long-grinding stalemate there confirmed that he had been right in avoiding sending troops by attaching conditions that always made such a deployment appear a long-term possibility at best. When in 1952 Admiral Arthur W. Radford, the new commander of the Pacific Fleet, asked him if 50,000 Nationalist troops would be available, Chiang said he could only agree to one division or about 10,000 troops. The subject was never pursued.
|Ike Proposes a Joint Blockade of China||
The talk of peace
from Peking and of détente from Moscow, as well as the continued
absence of PLA air attacks against Quemoy, quickly deflated the
war scare in the United States. But the trauma of the crisis
made Eisenhower determined to get Chiang off the “infernal”
little islands, as he now called them. In April, he dispatched
Admiral Radford and the diplomat Walter Robertson to Taipei with
a dramatically new plan to solve the problem. In a meeting that
ran on until 11:00 at night with Chiang, Soong Mayling, and
Foreign Minister Yeh, the two envoys explained that President
Eisenhower had categorically decided that the United States
would not help defend Quemoy and Matsu because doing so would
“undoubtedly require nuclear weapons” and would cause
“tremendous” opposition at home and abroad.