Chiang Kai-shek was a Chinese military and political leader who led the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) for five decades and was head of state of the Chinese Nationalist government between 1928 and 1949.
Chiang Kai-shek (also known as Jiang Jieshi) was born on 31 October 1887 in Zhejiang, an eastern coastal province of China. His father was a merchant. At the age of 18 he went to military training college in Japan. He returned to China in 1911 to take part in the uprising that overthrew the Qing Dynasty and established a Chinese republic. Chiang became a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (known as the Kuomintang or KMT), founded by Sun Yat-sen.
Supported by Sun Yat-sen, Chiang was appointed commandant of the Whampoa Military Academy in Canton in 1924, where he built up the Nationalist army. After Sun's death in 1925, Chiang became leader of the KMT. He spearheaded the Northern Expedition which reunified most of China under a National Government based in Nanjing. In 1928, he led the suppression of the Chinese Communist Party.
Chiang oversaw a modest programme of reform in China but the government's resources were focused on fighting internal opponents, including the Communists. From 1931, Chiang also had to contend with a Japanese invasion in Manchuria, in the north-east of China.
In 1937, Japan launched a full-scale invasion of China. When the United States came into the war against Japan in 1941, China became one of the Allied Powers. As Chiang's position within China weakened, his status abroad grew and in November 1943 he travelled to Cairo to meet US President Franklin D Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. His wife, Soong Mei-ling, travelled with him and became famous in the west as Madame Chiang.
In 1946, civil war broke out between the KMT and the Communists. In 1949, the Communists were victorious, establishing the People's Republic of China. Chiang and the remaining KMT forces fled to the island of Taiwan. There Chiang established a government in exile which he led for the next 25 years. This government continued to be recognised by many countries as the legitimate government of China, and Taiwan controlled China's seat in the United Nations until the end of Chiang's life. He died on 5 April 1975.