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Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the China He Lost

af Jonathan Fenby

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1973135,817 (3.65)11
Chiang Kai-shek was the man who lost China to the Communists. As leader of the nationalist movement, the Kuomintang, Chiang established himself as head of the government in Nanking in 1928. Yet although he laid claim to power throughout the 1930s and was the only Chinese figure of sufficient stature to attend a conference with Churchill and Roosevelt during the Second World War, his desire for unity was always thwarted by threats on two fronts. Between them, the Japanese and the Communists succeeded in undermining Chiang's power-plays, and after Hiroshima it was Mao Zedong who ended up victorious. Brilliantly re-creating pre-Communist China in all its colour, danger and complexity, Jonathan Fenby's magisterial survey of this brave but unfulfilled life is destined to become the definitive account in the English language.… (mere)
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Fenby's biography of Chiang Kai-Shek, the Generalissimo of the Republic of China and leader of the Kuomintang during the Second World War and its aftermath, is satisfactory as a biography but albeit an incomplete one.

Fenby narrates the pre-war and wartime career and life of Chiang, from the Northern Expedition, the Nanjing Decade, and the Anti-Japanese War up until the eventual defeat of the KMT during the Civil War and the mass exodus to Taiwan.

Readable and well-researched (though often Fenby relies too much on single sources and does not take advantage of Chiang's personal archives), the main flaw in this biography is that Chiang's post-war career on Taiwan is not covered. Furthermore, the overall perception of Chiang given by Fenby is overwhelmingly negative: he alone must bear the blame, it seems, for his defeat while receiving little credit for his victories.

Nevertheless, this is an acceptable introduction to the Generalissimo but an introduction nonetheless. For a revisionist biography of Chiang, one should read [b:The Generalissimo|117230|Chiang Kai Shek China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost|Jonathan Fenby|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348256213s/117230.jpg|112894] by [a:Jay Taylor|529277|Jay Taylor|http://www.goodreads.com/assets/nophoto/nophoto-M-50x66-e07624dc012f2cce49c7d9aa6500c6c0.jpg] since it benefits from Chiang's personal archives and diaries to give a more nuanced viewpoint on this most controversial figure in Chinese modern history. ( )
  xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
Clunky, chunky, train of facts about war lord fights. They all seem alike. I like analysis or stories--not fact lists. I like Taylor's "Generalissimo" much better. ( )
  kerns222 | Jun 26, 2011 |
I was on the verge of setting this book aside, due to its sometimes lurid flavor with relatively little solid documentation, but Jonathan Spence's review in the "New York Times" made me continue, and I'm glad I did. While specialists will already be familiar with most of the materials that Fenby used in his life and times of the Generalissimo, this seems to be about as good a biography that one is going to get under the current circumstances; the prime virtue being that sufficient time has passed to allow a little perspective on the man's virtues, vices and achievements.

Considering that Chiang is usually regarded as one of the great losers of the 20th century, Fenby does credit him with one salient achievement; holding together a form of China that could at least play a limited role in the world, even if that China was tainted by too much expediency and denied sufficient time to become coherent. If this seems like damning with faint praise, Fenby suggests that one consider the counterfactual of a fragmented China exploited by Japan to achieve strategic depth, and in alliance with Nazi Germany against Soviet Russia. Fenby's epitat for Chiang could be that he "...condemned himself to be a prisoner of his context instead of rising about it."

As for the writing itself, the tone and style are journalistic as opposed to scholarly, and if one wants to mark down Fenby for anything it's that he never skips the opportunity to trot out a juicy anecdote for its own sake, though he is forthright about the limitations of his material. At least you won't be bored. ( )
1 stem Shrike58 | Jul 19, 2008 |
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Chiang Kai-shek was the man who lost China to the Communists. As leader of the nationalist movement, the Kuomintang, Chiang established himself as head of the government in Nanking in 1928. Yet although he laid claim to power throughout the 1930s and was the only Chinese figure of sufficient stature to attend a conference with Churchill and Roosevelt during the Second World War, his desire for unity was always thwarted by threats on two fronts. Between them, the Japanese and the Communists succeeded in undermining Chiang's power-plays, and after Hiroshima it was Mao Zedong who ended up victorious. Brilliantly re-creating pre-Communist China in all its colour, danger and complexity, Jonathan Fenby's magisterial survey of this brave but unfulfilled life is destined to become the definitive account in the English language.

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