Chiang Kai-Shek

Chiang, Kai-Shek

In the US, on October 31st , we have a holiday called Halloween, which celebrates monsters. In Taiwan, on the same day, they celebrate the birth of Chiang Kai-Shek.

This guy is not very popular in Taiwan right now. I went to the Government Information Office Web Site, where you can find information about EVERYTHING, and they only made a passing reference to him in the history section. I mean, he was only the President of the Republic of China for over 30 years! Jeez!!!

But, being a military dictator doesn't exactly endear you to the public, apparently. On this island there are those who love him and those who hate him. Very few are indifferent. I guess at the web site, they couldn't agree on what spin to use, so they compromised by more or less ignoring him completely. They don't even include his birthday in the list of National Holidays, which, of course, it is.

I also noticed during the festivities which began this month, that they had replaced his picture which used to decorate the ancient gate near the President's building with a picture of Lee Dung-Hui (the current President).

Chiang was a general in the army of Imperial China. During the revolution by Sun Yat-Sen, he threw his support behind the revolutionaries, thereby lending some expediency to that revolution. Some say he was an opportunist. I really don't know.

I've also heard that he was a communist (originally). Well, if that's true, he certainly learned the error of his ways. During the communist revolution, after World War II, he resigned the presidency, hoping to pacify the rebels who were opposed to his rule. It didn't work.

And so, he brought the army, a bunch of other people and the contents of Bejing's National Palace Museum to Taiwan. Because of the continued threat of communist subversion or in order to more easily subjugate the local population (take your pick), he ruled under Marshall Law.

One of the things Chiang did while he was here that deeply offended the local gentry, was instituting land reform. He allowed the peasant farmers to buy the land they had been working (with loans from the gov't). Of course, at the same time, he forced the landowners to sell. This provoked a resentment which continues to this day.

Chiang also is at least partly responsible for the economic miracle which happened here. Again, through gov't assistance, they encouraged the development of small family owned, export-oriented, labor intensive industries which have grown into the high-tech firms we have today.

They say his tenure was tainted by gangster ties and government corruption. A recent book by his former bodyguards disputes this. They say he was a good guy. As far as gov't corruption is concerned, show me a country that's clean…

Anyway, I thought it was important for there to be SOME info about the man on the web. I had a hell of a time just finding the picture.


Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial in Taipei, Taiwan (2 views)


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