Chiang Kai-shek’s life spanned many decades and he saw many changes throughout his lifetime. He was born in 1887, and spent his formative years in the final decades of the Qing Dynasty, a dynasty he played a small part in ending. Those were not China’s best years. The 1970s weren’t China’s best years either, but they were a lot better than what had come before. In 1887, airplanes had not yet been invented, and in 1972 a man landed on the moon. He saw the rise of the United States and the Soviet Union. He saw the fall of European colonialism, and he would live to see almost every European colony gain its independence. But most importantly, he oversaw China become a respected nation again, and that was a cause for pride.
(Chiang Kai-shek in 1907)
The Chiang Kai-shek of the 1970s spent a lot less time performing the duties associated with his position. He spent more time with his wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He had two sons, one biological and one adopted. His adopted son was Chiang Wei-kuo, who was half-Japanese (Chiang Kai-shek had lived in Japan for part of the 1910s). Wei-kuo’s biological father was General Dai Jitao, one of Chiang Kai-shek’s friends. Neither child was born to Chiang’s wife Soong Mei-ling, who he married in 1927. Of Chiang’s grandchildren, Ching-kuo’s second son Chiang Hsiao-wu looked to be the most promising politically. In addition to spending time with his family, Chiang had more time for reading now. He often read ancient Chinese poetry and the Bible (Chiang Kai-shek converted to Christianity during the 1920s).
(An earlier picture of Chiang Ching-kuo and his family)
Chiang Kai-shek was not completely absent from government, however. He would attend cabinet meetings. He would also be present at military parades. In 1973 he gave medals to twenty who fought heroically in Vietnam and Laos, including the Medal of the Armed Forces, the Medal of the Brilliant Light, the Medal of Loyalty and Integrity, and the Medal of the Flying Dragon. The Order of Brilliant Jade was given to Saudi King Faisal in 1973 and Vietnamese President Nguyễn Tường Tam in 1974 for their support of China. Another recipient of the Order of Brilliant Jade, former US President William Knowland, came to visit China in 1973, and met with Chiang Kai-shek in Nanking. Chiang Kai-shek also oversaw some economic reforms, mostly consisting of the loosening of business regulations.