In This Article Chiang Kai-shek

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Collections of Visual Sources
  • Journals
  • Historiographical Overviews
  • Biographies
  • Upbringing and Early Career
  • Rise to Power and the “Chinese Revolution”
  • Nanjing Decade
  • Relationship with Japan
  • Second Sino-Japanese War
  • Civil War and “Loss” of the Mainland
  • Chiang Kai-shek on Taiwan
  • Cold War
  • Personality Cult, Commemoration, and Legacy

Chinese Studies Chiang Kai-shek
by
Jeremy E. Taylor
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0119

Introduction

Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi 蔣介石)—also referred to as Chiang Chung-cheng (Jiang Zhongzheng 蔣中正)—is one of the most controversial figures in modern Chinese history. He is also one of the most studied. He has been the focus of a vast array of historiography, biography, hagiography, and demonization. For early critics, Chiang was seen, from his purging of the Communists in 1927, as a “betrayer” of the Chinese Revolution. This assessment is now a point of considerable contention among historians. His creation of a unified yet authoritarian Chinese state during the Nanjing Decade (1927–1937) is also a prominent focus of scholarship, as is his role as China’s leader during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). Earlier assessments often ended their study of Chiang with his defeat by the Communists in the Chinese Civil War and his subsequent flight to Taiwan in 1949. However, more-recent scholarship has explored both the controversies and achievements of the quarter of a century that Chiang spent on Taiwan, and his legacy on that island in the period since 1975. There remain major differences in approaches to the study of Chiang along political, methodological, and national lines, but the deposition of Chiang’s diaries at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, in 2004 has ensured that a steady flow of scholarly reassessments has been published since then. This article focuses almost exclusively on studies of Chiang himself, rather than on studies dealing with immediate members of his family (such as Soong May-ling and Chiang Ching-kuo)—many of which would justify separate entries of their own.

General Overviews

Li 1986 and Huang 1994 provide two very different examples of Chiang studies favored in Taiwan in earlier decades: the former a highly provocative account, the latter a more orthodox historical analysis that provides a sympathetic reading of Chiang. Loh 1966 provides a balanced assessment that is still convincing, despite being superseded by diary-based scholarship in more-recent years (see Historiographical Overviews). Lu 2011, Lu 2012, and Wang 2011 are useful collections of early-21st-century Chinese-language scholarship on Chiang emerging on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, while Yang 2008 is one of the most commonly cited examples of PRC-based scholarship on Chiang emerging since the opening of the Chiang diaries. Yamada and Matsushige 2013 is the most representative collection of early-21st-century Japanese scholarship on Chiang.

  • Huang Renyu 黃仁宇. Cong Dalishi de jiaodu du Jiang Jieshi riji (從大歷史的角度讀蔣介石日記). Taibei: Shibao wenhua chuban qiye youxian gongsi, 1994.

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    Covering the period between Chiang’s time at the Whampoa Military Academy to the Second Sino-Japanese War, Huang (who himself served in Chiang’s armies during the war) uses his well-known “macrohistorical” approach to study the significance of Chiang in Republican Chinese history.

  • Li Ao 李敖. Jiang Jieshi yanjiu (蔣介石研究). Taibei: Tianyuan tushu youxian gongsi, 1986.

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    A deliberately provocative, quasi-scholarly assessment of Chiang by a public intellectual famous for his criticism of the KMT establishment on Taiwan under martial law. Originally banned in Taiwan.

  • Loh, Pichon. “The Politics of Chiang Kai-shek: A Reappraisal.” Journal of Asian Studies 25.3 (1966): 431–451.

    DOI: 10.2307/2052000E-mail Citation »

    Loh wrote this “detached assessment of his [Chiang’s] role in history” (p. 431) at the height of the Cold War, and it remains an important appraisal given that so few similar studies were attempted in this period. Loh presents Chiang as a “man with a compelling sense of public responsibility and an unquenchable thirst for personal power” (p. 451).

  • Lu Fangshang 呂芳上, ed. Jiang Zhongzheng riji yu minguo shi yanjiu (蔣中正日記與民國史研究). 2 vols. Taibei: Shijie datong chuban gongsi, 2011.

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    A representative collection of Chinese-language essays on various aspects of Chiang (and edited by one of the leading scholars in the field), all reflecting the move toward empirical diary-based scholarship occurring in the early 21st century.

  • Lu Fangshang 吕芳上, ed. Jiang Jieshi de richang shenghuo (蒋介石的日常生活). Taibei: Zheng da chubanshe, 2012.

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    This collection originates in a major cross-strait conference on Chiang held in Taipei. Unusually, it covers contributions on the less overtly political aspects of Chiang’s life: his health, habits, and familial relationships, for example.

  • Wang Chaoguang 汪朝光, ed. Jiang Jieshi de renji wangluo (蒋介石的人际网络). Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2011.

    E-mail Citation »

    An important instance of cross-strait scholarly cooperation on Chiang-related scholarship (though tellingly, there were differences in the versions of this collection published in the PRC and, through China Times Publishing, in Taipei). Includes papers by almost all of the leading scholars working on Chiang in the Chinese-speaking world, the focus being Chiang’s personality, morality, and behavior, including the nature of his relationships with those around him.

  • Yamada Tatsuo 山田辰雄 and Matsushige Mitsuhiro 松重充浩, eds. Shō Kaiseki kenkū: seiji, sensō, Nihon (蔣介石研究:政治・戦争・日本). Tokyo: Tōhō shoten, 2013.

    E-mail Citation »

    Edited by two leading Japan-based scholars of Chiang. Provides a thorough overview of the state of the field in the Japanese-speaking academy, with a significant number of contributions to the collection focusing (unsurprisingly) on Chiang’s relationship with Japan.

  • Yang Tianshi 杨天石. Zhaoxun zhenshi de Jiang Jieshi: Jiang Jieshi riji jiedu (找寻真实的蒋介石: 蒋介石日记解读). 2 vols. Hong Kong: Sanlian shudian, 2008.

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    Probably the most representative example of the highly empirical diary-based research on Chiang so common since the turn of the 21st century. Written by one of the PRC’s leading exponents of such scholarship. Yang’s analysis covers almost all periods and aspects of Chiang’s political career between the Northern Expedition and 1949, but lays particular emphasis on issues that are of interest to PRC-based scholars, such as Chiang’s relationship with the Chinese Communists and his role in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

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