Lee Teng-hui

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Alternative meaning: Li Denghui
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Lee Teng-hui, (Chinese: 李登輝; Taiwanese Romanization: Lí Teng-hui; pinyin: Lǐ Dēnghuī; born January 15, 1923) is a politician in the Republic of China on Taiwan. He was the President of the Republic of China and Chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) from 1988 to 2000. Since 2001, he has been the spiritual leader of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, which advocates Taiwan independence.


Early life

A Hakka, Lee Teng-hui was born in Sanchih, near Taipei, Taiwan when the island was under Japanese colonial occupation. Growing up under Japanese colonial rule, he developed an affinity for Japan and his family collaborated closely with Japanese colonial authority. Lee—one of only four Taiwanese students in his high school class—graduated with honors and was given a scholarship to Japan's prestigious Kyoto Imperial University.

After World War II, with Taiwan now under KMT control, Lee enrolled in the National Taiwan University, where in 1948, he earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural science. A devout Marxist in his teens, Lee joined the Communist Party of Taiwan in September 1946, but quit two years later. He participated in the 228 Incident during this time.[1] (http://www.siliconinvestor.com/stocktalk/msg.gsp?msgid=19780611) Based on the fact that the Communists who associated with Lee were all executed by the government while Lee survived, Li Ao, who is a pro-reunification politician and a writer, asserted that Lee must have sold out his comrades before joining Kuomintang later. Meanwhile, Li also criticized Lee for corruption. According to Wu Ketai, who inducted Lee into the Communist Party, the KMT was aware that Lee had been a Communist, but must have destroyed the records when Lee was promoted to the vice presidency. Lee himself admitted that he was a communist in a 2002 interview, but declined to comment whether he was a traitor. Lee stated that he joined out of hatred of the KMT. [2] (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/archives/2002/11/08/0000178746)

In 1953, Lee received a master's degree in agricultural economics from the Iowa State University in the United States. Lee subsequently returned to Taiwan as an economist with the Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR), an institution sponsored by the U.S. and aimed at modernizing Taiwan's agricultural system and at land reform.

In the mid-1960s Lee returned to the United States, and earned a Ph.D in agricultural economics from Cornell University in 1968.

He speaks Taiwanese, Japanese, Mandarin, and English.

Political career

Shortly after returning to Taiwan, Lee joined the KMT in 1971 and was made a cabinet minister without portfolio with special responsibility for agriculture.

In 1978 Lee was appointed mayor of Taipei, where he solved water shortages and improved the city's irrigation problems. In 1981, he became governor of Taiwan Province and made further irrigation improvements.

As a skilled technocrat, Lee soon caught the eye of President Chiang Ching-kuo as a strong candidate to serve as Vice President.

As part of his efforts to hand more authority to the bensheng ren (or native Taiwanese), Chiang Ching-kuo nominated Lee to become his Vice President. Lee was formally elected by the National Assembly in 1984.

In January 1988, Chiang Ching-kuo died, and Lee succeeded him as President. The hardline faction of the KMT, headed by General Hau Pei-tsun, deeply distrustful of Lee, threatened a coup. With the help of James Soong, who quieted the hardliners, Lee was allowed to ascend to the presidency unobstructed. Lee solidified his power by skillfully speaking of defending the party line, while emphasizing the global trends of reform. Lee and his allies in the government used the pressure from the hardliners as a tool to work for developing the underlying Taiwanese localization movement. Lee used methods under the veil of "pragmatism" to sideline Hau and his backers in the face of the opposition DPP.

In May 1991 Lee spearheaded a drive to eliminate the Temporary Articles, laws put in place following the KMT arrival in 1949 that suspended the democratic functions of the government. In December 1991 the original members of the Legislative Yuan, elected to represent mainland constituencies in 1947, were forced to resign and new elections were held to apportion more seats to the bensheng ren. The elections forced Hau Pei-tsun from the premiership, a position he was given in exchange for his tacit support of Lee.

Lee's June 1995 visit to Cornell University sparked the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. The PRC conducted a series of missile tests in the waters surrounding Taiwan and other military maneuvers off the coast of Fujian as a response to what it saw as provocative moves by Lee in attempting to "split the motherland." Another set of tests days before the 1996 presidential election were intended to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate to not vote for Lee. Though these tests disrupted trade and shipping lines and cause the stock market to fall, it aroused anger among the Taiwanese and boosted Lee's popularity.

In March 23, 1996, Lee became the first directly elected president of the ROC with 54% of the popular vote. The previous eight ROC Presidents and Vice Presidents were elected by the deputies of the National Assembly.

In March 18, 2000 presidential election, Democratic Progressive Party candidate Chen Shui-bian won with 39% of the vote, making an end to KMT rule. Lee was accused by supporters within his party and by supporters of James Soong for purposely splitting the vote by running the uncharismatic Lien instead of the popular Soong, who was subsequently expelled from the KMT for launching an independent campaign. Popular protests in front of the KMT headquarters in Taipei led Lee to resign as KMT Chairman on March 24, 2000. He was expelled from the party in December of the same year.

Taiwan localization movement

Lee Teng-hui, during his term as president, supported the Taiwanese localization movement. The Taiwanese localization movement has its roots in the home rule groups founded during the Japanese era and sought to put emphasis on Taiwan as the center of people's lives as opposed Mainland China or Japan. During the Chiang regime, China was promoted as the center of an ideology that would build a Chinese national outlook in a people who had once considered themselves Japanese subjects. Under this ideology, Taiwan was seen as a place for mainlanders to resent as they waited for the re-conquest of the Maoist mainland. Taiwan was often relegated to a backwater province of China in the KMT-supported history books. People were discouraged from studying Taiwan and old customs were to be replaced by "Chinese" customs. Lee, conversely, sought to turn Taiwan into a center rather than an appendage, a shift that was widely supported in Taiwan. However, he has stated that his actions were also based on the premise that a Chinese identity and a Taiwanese identity are ultimately incompatible, a notion that does not have universal support on the island, even among supporters of localization.

Lee presided over the democratization of Taiwanese society and government in the late-1980s and early-1990s. During his presidency, Lee was followed by persistent suspicions that he secretly supported Taiwan independence and that he was intentionally sabotaging the Kuomintang. The former suspicion was proven true by Lee's behavior after his Presidency, which led to his expulsion from the Kuomintang and subsequently becoming the spiritual leader of the strongly pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union.

Lee's positions

Since resigning the chairman of KMT, Lee has actively campaigned on behalf of pan-green coalition candidates and has actively opposed candidates of his former party, who took pro-unification positions, during the presidential elections. He has stated a number of political positions and ideas which he did not mention while he was President, but which he appeared to have privately maintained.

Lee has publicly stated that he supports changing the name of the country from the Republic of China to the Republic of Taiwan and opposes increased economic ties with mainland China. The latter two positions conflict with the positions of the ruling party, supported by the more moderate supporters of Taiwan independence, and also conflicts with incumbent R.O.C. President Chen Shui-bian. These differences in positions have been played down in the public.

Lee has also stated that he believes that Taiwan cannot avoid being assimilated into the People's Republic of China unless it completely rejects a Chinese identity, and that he believes that it is essential that Taiwanese unite and develop a unified identity other than the Chinese one. Furthermore, in reference to Mainlanders, he believes that to be truly Taiwanese, one must assume a "New Taiwanese" identity.

He dismisses both the notion that this strategy will trigger a war with the PRC and the notion that Taiwan benefits economically by developing economic ties with the PRC. His argument is that the PRC is a paper tiger and that both its military and economic strength have been far overestimated. He asserts that when presented with a united and assertive Taiwan, Taiwan will receive support from the international community and also from the United States; and that the PRC will be forced to back down. He also believes that the PRC economy is doomed to collapse and therefore integrating Taiwan into the PRC economy is unwise.

During the 2004 Presidential campaign, President Chen Shui-bian publicly campaigned with Lee Teng-hui and developed a campaign platform, including a call for a new constitution adopted by referendum, which could be interpreted as an opportunity to make the symbolic changes which Lee supports. There was a widespread worry, especially in the United States and in the People's Republic of China that Chen would be supportive of Lee's positions, a belief which was reinforced by Lee's own actions while President and by Lee's public statements that Chen Shui-bian agreed with him.

The shared worry between the U.S. and the P.R.C. about the possible unilateral change of cross strait status quo by President Chen has led to a public rebuke of Chen from the United States President George W. Bush in December 2003. It is believed that this rebuke in part intended to challenge the notion, which Lee had advances, that American support of Taiwan was unconditional. After his close election in March 2004, Chen has quietly distanced himself from Lee, by explicitly stating that Chen's constitutional reforms will not include a rename of the ROC and by stating a desire to establish greater economic links with Mainland China.

See also

External links

Preceded by:
Chiang Ching-kuo
President of the Republic of China
Succeeded by:
Chen Shui-bian

Template:End boxminnan:L Teng-hui ja:李登輝 zh:李登輝


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