Chiang Kai-shek’s Politics of Shame and Humiliation, 1928–34
At the heart of international conflict is the potential that some countries will suffer humiliating defeat. Although such defeat can affect a country’s identity and subsequent behavior, the mechanisms for understanding this effect remain largely unspecified, especially pertaining to political leaders’ contributions. By analyzing how the Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek formulated and reformulated his use of shame and humiliation over three moments—the Jinan and Mukden Incidents (military clashes with Japan) and the New Life Movement (initiated by Chiang to rejuvenate the country)—this paper demonstrates that although national humiliation is useful to rally a country, under a political leader’s strategic hand, it may be a cover for other political agendas. Hence, rather than view shame and humiliation as mainly causing friction between victor and victim countries, one might view them more fruitfully as strategized and contested cultural resources that enable the pursuit of self interest and allow for competing domestic responses on how best to seek avengement.