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At 57, Chiang Kai-shek stood at one of the pinnacles of his own and his nation's history. For a strong, free and united China, this Chekiang salt merchant's son had cut off his teen-age pigtail, the symbol of subservience to the Manchus, and joined the revolutionary ranks under Sun Yatsen. For the cause, he had studied the trade of war in Tokyo's Shinbo Gokyo (Military Academy). He had led the ragged, dare-to-die band of republicans who won Hangchow, first city taken in the seminal revolution of 1911.
In 1923, after a few months studying Red Army organization in Moscow, he had organized the Whampoa Military Academy at Canton. Then, with his cadets and Russian advisers, he had marched north, a hard-drinking, hard-driving young General with a golden ring in his ear lobe and destiny upon his shoulders. As the war lords toppled or joined his ranks, the China of his dream began to emerge.
He broke with the Communists and with his Russian mentors, sought internal unity with the sword. From 1928 to 1936 China made extraordinary progress, both moral and material. These were the years when the beautiful Madame Chiang, symbol and leader of the New Life Movement, gave enthusiastic leadership to every good cause. But Japan could not tolerate a resurgent China and struck.
With what he had, the Generalissimo fought back. He made peace with the Communists, traded space for time, spurned the enemy's offers of a favorable peace, waited through blockade, inflation, economic paralysis, the corrosion of unrelieved struggle and near-despair for the Allies to range themselves at his side.
Tasks of Peace. Now, at long last, Chiang's steadfastness and statesmanship had been vindicated. As the war ended, the great fact was clear: the Generalissimo had justified those who had long held that his Government was firmly embedded in popular support, and that given peace it could establish an effective administration in China.
After eight years of war, the challenges of peace were many and stern. China was not yet strong; China was not yet united. But on every hand China showed a greater measure of strength and unity than most of the outside world had been willing to believe.
Many of the bumptious propaganda claims of the Chinese Communists had melted in the face of facts. At week's end it was a fact that the Communists had not taken one major city not even in the Yellow River basin or the Shantung Pen insula, which they had so long claimed as their particular lairs. It was a fact that the Central Government had begun the occupation of Nanking, Canton, Hankow, Shanghai.
The Generalissimo's troops had also moved into such inland railway hubs as Loyang and Taiyuan, both in the heart of what the Communists claimed as their own territory. The Japanese garrison in Peiping, key to North China, warned the Communists that "we Japanese are sur rendering to Chiang Kai-shek and not to you." The Generalissimo had well-laid plans to send crack U.S. -trained China troops into the north, with the help of U.S. air transport, once the Japanese surrender was formally signed. Whatever military teeth the Communists once had, they seemed to have been drawn when Moscow withdrew its support.