Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國 in pinyin: Jiǎng Jīngguó) (April 271, 1910 – January 13, 1988), Kuomintang politician and leader, was the son of Chiang Kai-shek and held numerous posts in the government of the Republic of China (from 1949 on Taiwan). He succeeded his father to power, serving as Premier of the Republic of China from 1972 to 1978 and President of the Republic of China from 1978 until his death in 1988. Under his tenure, the government of the Republic of China, although still authoritarian, became much more open and tolerant of political dissent. Towards the end of his life, Chiang relaxed government controls on the press and speech and put native Taiwanese in positions of power, including his successor Lee Teng-hui who furthered the course of democratic reforms.
Table of contents
The son of Chiang Kai-shek and his first wife Mao Fumei, Chiang Ching-kuo was born in Fenghua, Chekiang and had the nickname of Jinfeng (建豐). He had an adopted brother, Chiang Wei-kuo. Chiang Ching-kuo's nickname was Jinfeng (建豐).
In 1925 he went to Moscow to study communism, which seemed a sensible thing to do at the time because the Kuomintang and Communist Party of China were allied in the First United Front in preparation for the Northern Expedition. In Moscow, the younger Chiang became an enthusiastic student of Communist ideology and adopted the Russian name "Nicolai". His classmates included other children of influential Chinese families, most notably the future Chinese Communist party leader, Deng Xiaoping.
In April 1927, however, Chiang Kai-shek purged the leftists and Communists from the KMT and expelled his Soviet advisors; the Soviet government retaliated by refusing Chiang transit home to China and sending him to work in the Ural Heavy Machinery Plant, a steel factory in Siberia where he met Fenna Epatcheva Vahaleva, a native Russian. They married on March 15 1935, and she would later became known as Chiang Fang-liang. In December of that year, a son, Hsiao-wen (孝文) was born. A daughter, Hsiao-chang (孝章), was born the next year.
The Chiangs were finally were allowed to return to China by Stalin in April 1937 after living in Russia for 12 years. The Communists under Chairman Mao Zedong and the Nationalists still under Chiang's father had signed a ceasefire and formed a Second United Front to counter the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Stalin hoped the Chinese would keep Japan from invading of the Soviet Pacific coast, and he hoped to form an anti-Japanese alliance with the senior Chiang.
Chiang Ching-kuo returned to China with his Russian wife and two children. Chiang Fang-liang would never return to Russia. She was assigned a tutor to learn Chinese and would later flee to Taiwan with her husband. But anti-Communist politics in Taiwan would demand that her existence remain hidden from the public indefinitely. The couple eventually had two more sons, Hsiao-wu (蔣孝武) and Hsiao-yung (蔣孝勇).
Out of his affair with Chang Ya-juo (章亞若), Chiang also had two twin sons in 1941: Chang Hsiao-tz'u and Chang Hsiao-yen. (Note the identical generation name of Hsiao between all sons, legitimate or not.)
Chiang Ching-kuo followed his father and the retreating Nationalist forces to Taiwan after the Nationalists lost control of mainland China to the Communists in the Chinese Civil War. On December 8, 1949 the capital was moved from Nanjing to Taipei. In early morning December 10, 1949, Communist troops laid siege to Chengdu, the last KMT occupied city in mainland China, where Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo directed the defense at the Chengdu Central Military Academy. The aircraft May-ling evacuated them to Taiwan on the same day; they would never return to mainland China.
In 1950, Chiang's father appointed him director of the secret police, better known as the "Blue Shirts", where he remained until 1965. As the director of the Blue Shirts, Chiang orchestrated the controversial court-martial and arrest of General Sun Li-jen in August 1955 for allegedly plotting a coup d'etat against his father. General Sun was a popular Chinese war hero from the Burma Campaign against the Japanese and remained under house arrest until Chiang Ching-kuo's death in 1988. Chiang Ching-kuo's activities as director of the secret police have been widely criticized as heralding an era of human rights abuses in Taiwan, including the mysterious disappearances of both documents and people that seemed to oppose the Nationalist government.
From 1955 to 1960 Chiang administered the construction and completion of the Taiwan's highway system. Chiang's father eleveated him to high office when he was appointed as the ROC Defense Minister in 1965, where he remained until 1969. He was as the nation's Vice Premier between 1969 and 1972, and he was the nation's Premier between 1972 and 1978. In Chiang Kai-shek's final years, he gradually gave more responsibilities to his son. Chiang Kai-shek died in April 1975 and was succeeded to the presidency by Yen Chia-kan while Chiang Ching-kuo succeeded to the leadership of the Kuomintang (opting to take the title "Chairman" rather than the elder Chiang's title of "Director-General"). During Yen Chia-kan's presidency, Chiang ran the government.
Chiang was officially elected President of the Republic of China by the National Assembly after the end of the term of President Yen Chia-kan on May 20, 1978. He was reelected to another term in 1984. At that time, the National Assembly consisted mostly of "thousand year" legislators who had been elected in 1947/8 before the fall of the mainland.
Chiang maintained many of his father's autocratic policies during the early years of his term in office. He continued to rule Taiwan as a military state under martial law, as it had been since the Nationalists re-established its capital on Taiwan, in anticipation of an imminent invasion by the People's Republic of China. For this reason, the United States maintained a permanent military presence on the island to defend its World War II and Cold War ally.
Chiang launched the "Fourteen Major Construction Projects" and "Ten Major Construction Projects and the Twelve New Development Projects" contributing to the "Taiwan miracle." Among his accomplishments were accelerating the process of modernization to give Taiwan a 13% growth rate, $4600 per capita income, and the world's second largest foreign exchange reserves.
However, in December 1978, U.S. President, Jimmy Carter made the shocking announcement that the United States would no longer recognize the ROC as the legitimate government of China. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States would continue to sell weapons to Taiwan. However, the TRA was purposely vague in any promise of defending Taiwan in the event of an invasion. But the United States would now end all official contact with the Chiang's government and withdraw its troops from the island. Carter was so eager to make the announcement that the American ambassador had to wake Chiang up in the middle of the night to inform him of the decision.
In 1987 Chiang ended martial law and allowed family visits to the Mainland China. His administration saw a gradual loosening of political controls and opponents of the Nationalists were no longer forbidden to hold meetings or publish papers. Opposition political parties, though still illegal, were allowed to form. When the Democratic Progressive Party was established in 1986, President Chiang decided against dissolving the group or persecuting its leaders, but its candidates officially ran in elections as independents in the Tangwai movement.
Chiang Ching-huo appointed Taiwan-born Lee Teng-hui as his successor as Chairman of the Nationalist Party and President of the Republic of China, ending his father's hopes for continued dynastic succession. (None of his legitimate children had shown any interest in entering politics.)
Death and legacy
Chiang died of heart failure and hemorrhage in Taipei at the age of 78. Like his father, he was interred "temporarily" in Tahsi Township, Taoyuan County, but in a separate mausoleum. The hope was to have both buried at their birthplace in Fenghua once the mainland was recovered. In January 2004, Chiang Fang-liang asked that both father and son be buried at Wu Chih-shan Military Cemetery in Sijhih, Taipei County. The state funeral ceremony is planned for Spring 2005. Chiang Fang-liang and Soong May-ling had agreed in 1997 that the former leaders be first buried but still be moved to mainland China in the event of reunification.
In contrast to his father Chiang Kai-shek, Chiang Ching-kuo built himself a folksy reputation and remains a generally popular figure among the Taiwanese electorate, particularly those who support Chinese reunification. His memory and image is frequently invoked by the Kuomintang, which is unable to base their electoral campaign on Chiang's successor as President and KMT Chairman Lee Teng-hui because of Lee's stand in support of Taiwan independence. Especially after the 2000 presidential election, the Pan-Blue Coalition has elevated Chiang's status to the point which some critics see as excessive.
Among the Tangwai and later the Pan-Green Coalition, opinions toward Chiang Ching-kuo are more reserved. While long-time supporters of political liberalization do give Chiang Ching-kuo some credit for relaxing authoritarian rule, they point out that Taiwan, particularly in the early years of his rule, was still quite authoritarian, and tend to emphasize the democratization of Taiwan under Chiang Ching-kuo as a result of general internal and external forces rather than his personal actions or characteristics. In particular, critics have argued that Chiang's support of democratization was a direct result of the fall of Ferdinand Marcos.
Under President Chen Shui-bian, pictures of Chiang Ching-kuo and his father have gradually disappeared from public buildings. The AIDC, the ROC's air defense company, has named its Indigenous Defence Fighter the 'Ching Kuo' in his memory.
All of his legitimate children studied abroad and two of his children married in the United States. Only two children remain living: John Chiang is a prominent KMT politician and Chiang Hsiao-chang and her children and grandchildren reside in the U.S.
- Many sources, even Taiwanese official ones, give March 18, 1910 as his birthday, but this actually refers to the traditional Chinese lunar calendar
- ROC Government biography
- Remembering Chiang Ching-kuo
- 1981 GIO video: Hello, Mr. President-Chiang Ching-kuo and His People
|Premier of the Republic of China|
|President of the Republic of China|