Chiang Kai-shek (October 31, 1887 – April 5, 1975) was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Ji?ng Jièshí or Ji?ng Zh?ngzhèng in Mandarin.
Chiang was an influential member of the Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang (KMT), and was a close ally of Sun Yat-sen. He became the Commandant of the Kuomintang's Whampoa Military Academy, and took Sun's place as leader of the KMT when Sun died in 1925. In 1926, Chiang led the Northern Expedition to unify the country, becoming China's nominal leader. He served as Chairman of the National Military Council of the Nationalist government of the Republic of China (ROC) from 1928 to 1948. Chiang led China in the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which the Nationalist government's power severely weakened, but his prominence grew.
Chiang's Nationalists were engaged in a long standing civil war with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). After the Japanese surrender in 1945, he attempted to eradicate the CCP. Ultimately, bolstered by support from Soviet Russia, the CCP defeated Chiang, forcing the Nationalist government to retreat to Taiwan, where martial law continued whilst still trying to take back mainland China.
Feelings towards Chiang are mixed in Taiwan. While some still view him as a hero, others view him with disdain; subsequently, hundreds of Chiang's statues have been dismantled all over the island.
In mainland China, there has been an attempt to find a more moderate interpretation of Chiang in recent years. Chiang is now increasingly perceived as a man simply overwhelmed by the events in China, having to fight simultaneously Communists, Japanese and provincial warlords while having to reconstruct and unify the country.
The following pictures were part of the group of portraits taken by American magazine Life during 1940s to 1960s in mainland China and in Taiwan.