Chiang Kai-shek, his 80-year-old house
China's Communist authorities restored an 80-year-old House known as "May-ling Palace", once used by Chiang Kai-shek located in Nanjing city formerly China's capital under the Nationalist party. The political party also known as the Kuomintang established China as a Republic in 1911, ruled China from 1928 to 1947 until defeated by the Communists.
The House was used by Chiang and his wife Soong May-ling before they fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of China's brutal civil war. The building which was kept as a state guesthouse for decades, and closed to the public, is now thrown open after a year-long renovation completed in October, 2013.
The house has Chinese features, such as the curved roof, but the interior is Western in style, reflecting Soong May-ling's education in the United States. Soong May-ling was the youngest of the three Soong sisters. Known as the “Trinity of China”, Soong sisters were married to the three most powerful persons of China and all of them - Chiang-Kai-shek, Dr. Sun-Yat-Sen and T. V. Soong - were Presidents of China at one time or other. All the three sisters played a major role in influencing their husbands, which, along with their own positions of power, ultimately changed the course of Chinese history.
The former First Lady, May-ling’s achievements are on display in the house as an exhibition which praises her for building support for China in its fight against Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, and her charitable causes. Since opening in October, tens of thousands have seen the house but it has proved especially popular with the elderly, some of them old enough to remember Chiang's time. Chiang Kai-shek, born on October 31, 1887 in Xikou and died on April 5, 1975 in Taiwan, was a 20th-century Chinese political and military leader. An influential member of the Kuomintang and a close ally of Dr Sun Yat-sen, Chiang took Sun's place as its leader when Sun died in 1925.
He served as Chairman of the National Military Council of the Nationalist government of the Republic of China from 1928 to 1948. Unlike his predecessor Sun Yat-sen, Chiang was not able to maintain good relations with the Chinese Communist Party. A major split between the Nationalists and Communists occurred in 1927. Nationalists fought a nation-wide civil war against the Communists.
The Communist Party defeated the Nationalists in 1949. Chiang's government and army retreated to Taiwan. Chiang ruled the island as President of the Republic of China and General of the Kuomintang until his death in 1975. He ruled mainland China for 22 years, and Taiwan for 30 years. Chiang in his youth decided to pursue a military career. He served in the Imperial Japanese Army from 1909 to 1911.
Returning to China in 1911 Chiang became a founding member of the Kuomintang and joined Sun Yat-sen in 1918. Slowly Chiang gained the trust of Sun Yat-sen. He was appointed Commandant of the Military Academy in 1924. When Sun Yat-sen died on March 12, 1925 Chiang took his place soon. He married Soong May-ling, the younger sister of Soong Ching-ling, Sun's widow, on December 1, 1927 after divorcing his first wife. In the West and in the Soviet Union, Chiang Kai-shek was known as the "Red General".
At Moscow, in one of the Soviet May Day Parades, Chiang's portrait was carried along with the portraits of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and other socialist leaders. In 1927 Chiang began large-scale massacres across the country on communists known as the "White Terror". On October 10, 1928, Chiang was named director of the State Council, the equivalent to President of the country, in addition to his other titles.
Throughout his rule, complete eradication of the Communists remained Chiang's dream. He finally surrounded the Chinese Red Army in 1934. The Communists successfully retreated in the Long March, during which Mao Tse-tung rose from a mere military official to the most influential leader of the Communist Party of China.
After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Chiang resigned as Chairman of the National Government. Chiang did not like the Americans and was suspicious of their motives and viewed it as pursuing imperialist motives in China. Chiang did not want to be subordinate to either the United States or the Soviet Union but jockeyed for room between the two and wanted to get the most out of the Soviet Union and the Americans without taking sides.
He predicted that war would come between the two and that they would both seek China's alliance, which he would use to China's advantage. Chiang played off the Soviets and Americans against each other during the World War II. After the war, the United States encouraged peace talks between Chiang and Communist leader Mao Tse-tung and also limited aid to Chiang for fighting against the People's Liberation Army led by Mao.
Communists slowly gained an upper hand in the civil war. A new Constitution was promulgated in 1947, and Chiang was formally elected by the National Assembly as the first term President of the Republic of China on May 20, 1948. The Communists refused to recognize the new Constitution and its government. Chiang resigned as President on January 21, 1949, as Kuomintang forces suffered bitter losses and defections to the Communists.
After Chiang's resignation the vice-president of the Republic of China, Li Zongren became China's president. Shortly after Chiang's resignation the Communists attempted to negotiate with Li to end the civil war, but without success. Communists captured the Nationalist capital of Nanjing in April 1949. Although he did not hold a formal executive position in the government, Chiang continued to issue orders to the army, and many officers continued to obey Chiang rather than Li. Meanwhile communist forces occupied Guangdong from where Li was operating in October 1949.
After Guangdong fell to the Communists, Chiang relocated the government to Chongqing, while Li effectively surrendered his powers and flew to New York for treatment. In the early morning of December 10, 1949, Communist troops laid siege to Chengdu, the last Kuomintang controlled city in mainland China. Chiang Kai-shek sang the Republic of China National Anthem while leaving to the airfield.
Chiang Kai-shek never returned to the mainland. Chiang moved the government to Taipei, Taiwan, where he formally resumed duties as President of the Republic of China on March 1, 1950. Chiang was reelected as the President of the Republic of China on May 20, 1954, and again in 1960, 1966, and 1972.
He continued to claim sovereignty over all of China, including the territories held by his government. In the context of the Cold War, most of the Western world recognized his position and the Republic of China represented China in the United Nations and other international organisations until the 1970s.
During his presidency in Taiwan, Chiang continued to prepare to take back mainland China. He planned an invasion of the mainland in 1962. Despite the democratic Constitution, the government under Chiang was a one-party state. Chiang was succeeded as President by Vice President Yen Chia-kan and as Kuomintang party leader by his son Chiang Ching-kuo.