Chiang Kai-shek was one of the most important political leaders in 20th century Chinese history, sandwiched between Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong
. Early in the 20th century Chiang Kai-shek fought for Sun Yat-sen's United Revolutionary League and the Kuomintang party to overthrow China's imperial dynasty. The Republic of China was established in 1912, but by the end of the 1920s the Kuomintang split with the Communists (led by Mao Zedong
) . After the death of Sun Yat-sen, Chiang became the leader of the Kuomintang army and seized control of the government. Still engaged in a civil war with the Communists, Generalissimo Chiang also led the army against Japanese invaders in Manchuria (1937). During World War II Chiang had the support of the Allied powers and was the supreme commander of the China theater for the length of the war, the acknowledged leader of a war-torn and impoverished China. After World War II ended, the Kuomintang and the Communists re-ignited the civil war, and Chiang was eventually driven off the mainland to the island of Taiwan (1949), where the Kuomintang set up a government-in-exile. Until his death in 1975, Chiang ruled Taiwan under martial law and modernized the economy, receiving support from the West for his anti-communism. His international position waned after the 1971 United Nations decision to recognize the Communists as the official government of China.