Chiang’s rule over China during World War 2 was in many ways disastrous for the Chinese people.
The Japanese invaded Manchuria (northern China) in 1931 and set up a puppet government there. In 1937 they invaded the rest of China, and Chiang’s Nationalist (Kuomintang) army either retreated and left large swaths of territory in the hands of the enemy, or simply lost outright in battles.
Some of the most horrific episodes in Chinese history took place at this time. In December of 1937 the Japanese captured Nanking (today known as Nanjing). What the Japanese military did to the Chinese civilians is often called “the Rape of Nanking.” The barbaric torture and murder of about 300,000 innocent human beings staggers the imagination. It is almost impossible for anyone to outdo the level of utter cruelty and evil of the Japanese army at that time.
In 1938 Chiang’s army breached the dikes on the Yellow River in order to slow down the advancing Japanese. His troops ended up killing 800,000 of their own countrymen in the subsequent flooding.
Chiang only half-heartedly fought the Japanese. While he had some divisions train under US Army guidance in India, and they later fought with great distinction against the Japanese in Burma, overall the Chinese people did not perceive him as aggressive against the Japanese invaders.
The British and American militaries and their civilian populations were not impressed with his performance either. In fact, one of Chiang’s nicknames in the West was “Cash My-Check.” For all the millions of dollars sent to his government, the West did not see many good results.
That perception would hurt him, and China, in the years immediately after World War 2.