- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the China He Lost Paperback – 7 Mar 2005
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
'A magisterial account of the brave and unfulfilled life of the man who lost China to Communism' -- HISTORY TODAY
'Fenby has a gripping story, and tells it with great verve and insight' -- SPECTATOR
'Highly readable ... It is an epic tale and Fenby tells it with panache' -- SUNDAY TIMES
Astute, unusually well-written . . . the author rises fully to placing the Generalissimos political career into long-term perspective -- WALL STREET JOURNAL
Excellent biography . . . highly readable . . . Mr Fenby gives full range to an amazing cast of grotesques -- The ECONOMIST
Chiang Kai-shek was the man who lost China to the Communists. As leader of the nationalist movement, the Kuomintang, Chiang established himself as head of the government in Nanking in 1928. Yet although he laid claim to power throughout the 1930s and was the only Chinese figure of sufficient stature to attend a conference with Churchill and Roosevelt during the Second World War, his desire for unity was always thwarted by threats on two fronts. Between them, the Japanese and the Communists succeeded in undermining Chiang's power-plays, and after Hiroshima it was Mao Zedong who ended up victorious. Brilliantly re-creating pre-Communist China in all its colour, danger and complexity, Jonathan Fenby's magisterial survey of this brave but unfulfilled life is destined to become the definitive account in the English language.See all Product description
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This book generally follows a linear narrative into Chiang's life, except for the first chapter, where Chiang was captured by some of his own troops, led by one of the former Warlords and forced to cancel the planned attack against the Communists and focus on the Japanese instead (a truly pivotal moment indeed, who knows where we would be if the Communists had been defeated then). We get information about all the major palyers during this period and insights into Chiang's life, sparing no details and not hiding any aspect of Chiang 9his time in Shanghai was very enlightening)
The only real complaint that I had was that the final struggle with the Communists was rushed and Chiang's life in Taiwan was not covered at all really. Otherwise this is an excellent biography and look at this most interesting time of CHina
The sub title of the book "And the China he lost" is the key - Fenby uses the life of CSK from humble beginnings to show that while he may have had a major impact in uniting post Manchu China, he consistently by personal failings and lack of realism to see himself as other than the divine national leader of China whose word was law and to delegate power, left it open to the eventual communist takeover under Mao, a man who operated a similar autocratic approach but was pragmatic enough to create the rural revolution needed.
The first half of Fenby's book is about CSK's success at overcoming the various regional warlords whose feudal approach to local power and unwillingness to accept central government reads like England in the Middle Ages. However while this may count as CSK's great success it also showed many of the issues to come. CSK's military prowess was based on a mix of foreign military advisers (first Russian then German) and the use of bribery rather than personal military skills to often win victories. While making certain initial military reforms, CSK was unable to accept the wider need to invest in a high quality army relying on size and loyalty rather than skill and focus.
Having formed a loose regional federation, CSK then failed to seize the initiative to introduce much needed rural reform and instead aligned himself by marriage with corrupt urban wealthy families and launched a series of vicious attacks on the infant Communist party. His near success in eradicating the Communists was devastated by the Japanese invasion of China and the continual loss at great cost in lives of large and important areas of China to Japanese rule.
Even when presented with the golden opportunity of USA support post Pearl Harbour the opportunities were spurned due largely to CSK's nationalist attitude and lack of pragmatism and reality as to what was happening in China plus endless arguing with his US advisers who he saw threatening his authority. His endless meddling in military matters by issuing numerous orders when he was far from the front or executing a sound strategy plus the increasing corruption of his close followers meant that the Japanese were not pushed back and the Communists were able to survive and prosper.
With the end of WWII, CSK again took a gamble in the hope of playing off Russia and USA influences under the Cold War to survive but underestimated their lack of support based on his WWII performance - once his armies had to face down the communists his poor military skills became clear and the end was quick. Consistent to the end he ensured a retreat to exile in
Formosa with troops and gold leaving China to its fate but only after wreaking his final vengeance in murdering Chinese allies who he felt had betrayed him.
One finishes the book clear that while CSK may have had a major impact on China it came at a great cost and with little real chance of long term success given his inability to react correctly to changes in Chinese society and economy and foreign forces.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
A riddle wrapped inside an enigma, was how Churchill described Russia. He may well have been describing Chiang Kai Shek.Read more