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On Chiang Kai-Shek’s position on resisting Japan : an analysis of "Domestic stability takes precedence over resisting foreign invasion" policy, 1928-1936 Chu, Shao-Kang

Abstract

To the Republic of China, the decade between 192 8 and 1937 was the best and the worst of times. Best because warlordism that had disrupted the nation came to an end in 1928 as a result of the Northern Expedition. With the Republic unified under the National Government in Nanjing, the country embarked on reconstruction. Worst because China in the mean time had to deal with internal strifes, stirred up by the regionalist militarists and the Communists, and Japanese aggression. Caught between two evils which were domestic and external enemies, Chiang Kai-shek turned to China's past for guidance. In Chinese history and ancient writings, Chiang found precedents which convinced him that before Republican China could resist the Japanese invasion, the country had to achieve internal stability in order to strengthen itself. Hence Chiang's famous catchphrase "domestic stability takes precedence over resisting foreign invasion" (rangwai bixian annei). Influences from China's past taught Chiang that before China was militarily and socially strengthened, it had to appease the invaders to avoid war. Last but not least, past influences prompted Chiang to go after the regional militarists and the Communists who he considered were disrupting the nation and distracting his war effort. In addition to past influences, contemporary affairs of state weighed heavily on Chiang Kai-shek as well. According to a 1934 confidential Kuomintang document, national defense was greatly compromised by financial straits, poor transportation network, gasoline shortage, and low morale among others. The inadequacy in national defense reinforced Chiang's determination to avoid war. The fact that Chiang Kai-shek tried to annihilate the Communists while making concessions to Japan gave rise to the conventional wisdom which holds that the Chinese Communist Party was Nanjing's foremost enemy, not Japan. In fact, this thesis shows that the opposite was true. Historians have yet to reach a unanimous verdict of the wisdom of "rangwai bixian annei." From the historical perspective, however, the policy of putting the house in order before resisting foreign invasion is a long-established Chinese practice. In pursuing this policy, Chiang Kai-shek was going with the historical tide.

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