Between Friend and Foe: Chiang Kai-shek vs Japan and Communist China

5 November 2018

In his talk Professor Huang Tzu-Chin introduced the multifaceted interactions between Chiang, the Japanese, and the CCP, before and after 1945. Introducing the audience to the rich background of Chiang’s formative years living in Japan and interacting with the Japanese, Professor Huang painted a vivid picture of just how deeply Chiang was influenced by his sojourn and study. Providing a nuanced interpretation of such pivotal events in the history of Japanese encroachment in China such as the Manchurian (or Mukden) Incident in 1931, Huang pointed out that Chiang’s well-known reluctance to confront the Japanese at this point was not unique and in fact shared by the autonomous governments in Northeastern China. At the same time, it was clear that from 1933 Chiang prioritized fighting the CCP over confronting the Japanese, and it was only the Xian Incident of 1936 that brought about the united front between the KMT and CCP. Naturally this was an alliance that was forced upon Chiang, and reading from his diary entry on the day of the Japanese surrender in China (9/9/1945), it is clear he found little joy in the occasion and was primarily concerned about the coming confrontation with the CCP. In terms of his attitudes toward the Japanese after 1945, Chiang was keen to influence the Americans in favor of maintaining the Japanese imperial system and not putting the emperor on trial. By finally bringing to the fore Chiang’s vision after 1945 for a strong and unified Japan that could serve as an ally in the coming international anti-communist struggle, the arc of Professor Huang’s lecture provided us with a fascinating outline of the pre- and postwar continuity in Chiang’s ideas about the Japanese and the CCP.