Chiang - Asia Eur J(2009 7:377384 DOI...

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BOOK REVIEW Jonathan Fenby. Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek and the China he lost US$ 17,95 Albrecht Rothacher Published online: 23 December 2008 # Springer-Verlag 2008 This biography which tells the life and the times of one of the great losers of WWII until his ultimate defeat in 1948/9 is definitely a good read, fast paced and engaging. Fenby as a former editor of the Observer and of the South China Morning Post knows China well. So there are no major gaffes. Yet since he uses almost exclusively secondary English language sources the volume will probably be of little use to professional historians. When he relies on popular historians like Iris Chung or Sterling Seagrave his story tends to turn slightly sensationalist or rehearses US-Chinese war propaganda with the Japanese and their Chinese collaborators at the receiving end. Yet for the rest Chiang s achievements and failures receive a remarkably balanced treatment. This is by no means a small achievement given the continued polarization of views. After all he is probably the world s only generalissimo who lost his major wars and is still subject to a personality cult, as evident in his Memorial in Taipei. Chiang was born in 1887 into a once leading village family of salt dealers in Zhejiang province. After the early death of his father his family fell on hard times. Educated up to middle school already at age 14 he was married to an older village girl. He abandoned this relationship in 1905 when trying in vain to enrol into a Japanese army school. He finally made it after having joined a Chinese army school first. In Japan he subsequently served in a field artillery regiment. Conditions were tough and his performance as a cadet was reported as average (p. 25). More importantly he joined the anti-Manchu circle in Tokyo which was part of Sun Yat-sen s international underground network. In the 1911 Revolution Chiang commanded the storm of the governor s seat in Hangzhou, the capital of his native Zhejiang. With Sun taking over the government he was soon in charge of the revolutionary army brigade in Shanghai which was funded by local merchants (p. 33). As turmoil spread in post revolutionary China Sun was driven from power by General Yuan Shikai. With warlords dominating the Asia Eur J (2009) 7:377 384 DOI 10.1007/s10308-008-0222-y A. Rothacher ( * ) European Commission, Argentinierstrasse 26/10 A-1040, Vienna, Austria e-mail: [email protected]
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North and the Centre in 1916 Sun Yat-sen moved to Canton with Chiang as his military advisor. A few years later in 1922 Sun was forced to flee Canton and with Chiang went to Shanghai where they reorganized the Kuomintang (KMT) in alliance with the Communists, who on instructions from Moscow which saw both as revolutionary movements were asked to cooperate. In 1923 Chiang became Sun s chief of staff. Already in 1922 he was sent to Moscow to procure arms and money from the
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Chiang - Asia Eur J(2009 7:377384 DOI...

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