In The Generalissimo, Jay Taylor refutes the popular belief that Chiang Kai-shek was an incompetent tyrant and instead portrays him as a sympathetic figure who lost China due to circumstances that were largely out of his control. Taylor’s use of Chiang’s personal diaries compels the reader to sympathize with Chiang and downplays some of the atrocities that took place under his regime. Numerous comparisons between Chiang and other dictators, such as Mao Zedong, also help to contextualize his actions and portray him as less brutal than other leaders. In The Generalissimo, Taylor also focuses on Chiang’s achievements, highlighting his struggle to unify the country, defend against external threats and gain the support of superpowers through cunning political manoeuvres.
Chiang Kai-shek’s personality and leadership style significantly affected society in the places he controlled during the wartime period. His Neo-Confucian background shaped his hierarchical view of society, in which he saw himself as the right man to lead the country. He valued personal loyalty above all else, thus he tolerated corruption amongst his peers. His military education in Japan gave him the background for militarizing and mobilizing society. He tried to instil a nationalist mentality of a strong and united China. He also had a flexible ideology, so he kept the KMT a Leninist organization, even though he loathed communism. His stubbornness allowed him to make decisions that could cause massive human suffering, like the flooding of the Yellow River during the war against Japan.
Calvin Cheng, Connor Hasegawa, Jeffrey Wong, Daisy Tong