WHEN Chang Hsueh-liang startled the world by imprisoning Chiang Kai-shek at Sian in December 1936, he was so indiscreet as to recount in public a conversation he had had with the Generalissimo only a few weeks before. Chang had ventured to criticize the central government for arresting a number of anti-Japanese intellectuals. The Generalissimo rejoined that the responsibility was his alone. "I am the Government," he said. "My action was that of a revolutionary."
Few would disagree with the accuracy of at least the italicized phrase. For during the past decade Chiang has held in his hands more political and military power than any living Celestial. What is more, his supremacy has never been more unquestioned than in the present hour of China's mortal agony. When last March the Kuomintang Congress named him "Tsung Tsai,"[i] it merely recognized with a title the dictatorial authority which he has long exercised over the party, the government and the army. As the undisputed leader of the most populous nation on earth, he is therefore decidedly worth trying to understand.
Chiang arrived in this world in 1887, at the small village of Chikou near Ningpo, the oldest "treaty port" of China, and not far from Shanghai. His father, a wine merchant and small landlord, had five children by three marriages; Kai-shek was the first son of the third wife. The elder Chiang died when Kai-shek was nine, so that the son grew up almost entirely under his mother's care. Like most "strong men," Chiang attributes to his mother extraordinary qualities of character, and he speaks of her in terms of deepest reverence and gratitude. But it is doubtful if he possesses any such mother-complex as Hitler or Ataturk. "The only one who believed in whatever I had undertaken to do, and did everything to help me, spiritually and materially," he says, "was my mother. As a boy she loved me very dearly, but her love was more than the love of the average mother; she was a
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