Saving the Nation by Sacrificing Your Life: Authoritarianism and Chiang Kai-shek’s War for the Retaking of China

Isabelle Cheng


This article examines the role assigned to citizens by the ideology of authoritarianism in the relationship between Chiang Kai-shek’s war to retake mainland China and the wartime regime constructed for fighting that war. Viewing Chiang’s ambition of retaking China by force as an anti-communist nationalist war, this paper considers this prolonged civil war as Chiang’s attempt at restoring the im-paired sovereignty of the Republic of China. Adopting the concept of “necropolitics,” this paper argues that what underlay the planning for war was the manipulation of the life and death of the citizenry and a distinction drawn between the Chinese nation to be saved and the condemned communist Other. This manipulation and demarcation was institutionally enforced by an authoritarian government that violated citizens’ human rights for the sake of winning the nationalist war.


China, necropolitics, Chiang Kai-shek, retake China, authoritarianism, Cold War in East Asia

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