Chiang Kai-Shek (1887-1975), was the de facto leader of the Republic of China from 1948-49 on the mainland, then from 1949 until his death in 1975 in Taiwan.
Chiang served under Sun Yat Sen in the early years of the overthrow of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty. As a military officer he helped to crush opposition and usher in what Sun wanted in a “Western style constitutional republic.” However, for decades his brutal actions looked nothing like the actions of any sort of freedom-loving, freedom-preserving government that we see in Western Europe or North America.
He headed up the “northern expedition” in 1926-28 to wipe out various warlords who had tried to fill the vacuum after the collapse of the imperial Chinese government in 1911. During this time Chiang’s Kuomintang army was actually allied with the Chinese Communist army. But, in April of 1927 Chiang ordered the massacre of some 5000 communists in Shanghai (some estimates are as high at 10,000). Some 300,000 more communists in cities across China were arrested and executed.
It is important to note that while Chiang clearly detested communism, he equally detested free market capitalism. It would probably be fair to say that his economic and political theory would be pretty close to fascism at this time.
From 1928-1937 Chiang and his Kuomintang basically ran all of China’s urban areas and much of the countryside. The communists and warlords, being much weaker, were driven into remote hinterlands.
In 1931, the Japanese invaded Manchuria (northern China), and in 1932 attacked the rest of China. Chiang was faced with fighting a formidable modern army (the Japanese), and also with chasing down the communists and warlords.
He believed that the major threat to China was in the communists, not the Japanese, and thus expended his energies in trying to eradicate them. Chiang said that “the Japanese were a disease of the skin,whereas the communists were a disease of the heart.”
In 1936, Chiang was kidnapped by his own generals in Xian, and forced to strike a deal with the communists in order to have a united front against the Japanese.