Chiang Kai-shek pictured on a 1955 Time magazine cover.

Jay Taylor’s Take on Chiang Kai-shek

Marc Goldberg, Staff Writer

From food to manufacturing goods, China’s omnipresence runs wide throughout the modern world. It may be difficult for the younger generation to envision a pre modern China, but in the early to mid twentieth century,  Chiang Kai-shek imagined a great future for the Chinese.

Jay Taylor, in his book The Generalissimo, describes the life of military and political leader Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang Kai-Shek served the Republic of China from 1927 to 1975, and lead China in a war of resistance against Japanese invasion. During his rule, he fought a decades-long civil war against the Communists, who were led by Mao Zedong, eventually leading to Chiang’s fleeing to Taiwan.    

The novel begins with Kai-shek’s rise to power in the Kuomintang, or KMT, the party that conducted the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty. Taylor also discusses the placement of their leader Sun Yat-sen, and tells of Chiang’s campaign to unite China under the KMT.

The second part of the book tells of Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership during the invasion of China by Japan, just barely fending off the invasion. The final section of the book deals with Chiang’s leadership on Taiwan, laying the foundations of a prosperous democracy and retaining the island’s independence. Taylor concludes by stating that despite losing the civil war, Chiang’s vision of China is what won in the end.

This book was a long (752 pp.) but fascinating read and teaches the reader more than they might learn anywhere else about this fascinating man. The book utilizes an array of newly released information including Chiang’s personal journals. It destroys the traditional caricature of Chiang-Kai Shek, one of an incompetent leader that tolerated corruption, and establishes a new picture that portrays him as a flawed yet competent leader, who had the burden of performing the balancing act of ruling a fractured China while simultaneously fighting off both the Communists and the Japanese. The book is for anyone who enjoys history, especially Chinese history.

This book is the end-all for knowledge of such a complicated, influential, and relatively unknown man.

Title-”The Generalissimo”

Author-Jay Taylor

Publisher-Belknap Press

Page length-752


In the PVHS Library? No

Rating 5/5 worms