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Taiwan's Statesman: Lee Teng-Hui and Democracy in Asia

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A well-known observer of Taiwan and Asian history and culture provides an insightful biography of Lee Teng Hui, the pro-democracy statesman and former president of the Republic of China. As head of the Taiwanese government from 1988 to 2000, Lee managed, without violence or major civil unrest, to reform the authoritarian state into a constitutional democracy with a multi-p A well-known observer of Taiwan and Asian history and culture provides an insightful biography of Lee Teng Hui, the pro-democracy statesman and former president of the Republic of China. As head of the Taiwanese government from 1988 to 2000, Lee managed, without violence or major civil unrest, to reform the authoritarian state into a constitutional democracy with a multi-party political system. This examination of Lee's success puts to rest the idea that Asian values support only authoritarian regimes and reject human rights and political democracy in favor of economic success and military power. Richard C. Kagan describes in rich detail Lee's struggle to reinvent Taiwan's culture and political system by advocating an independent sovereign nation with universal values of human rights, democracy, freedom, and economic justice. His book offers new insights into the role Lee played in the still volatile Taiwan Strait crisis and how Lee's diplomatic skills used the crisis to break free of the One China straitjacket of the Shanghai Communiqu� of 1972 while avoiding open warfare with the People's Republic of China. The author argues that Taiwan is a vital part of America's national security interests in Asia and that the loss of Taiwan to Mainland China would seriously damage American economic and military power in Asia. He calls Lee's life a beacon for people looking for new ways to promote democracy and sovereignty and intends this biography of Lee's life to highlight the statesman's significant contributions, until now little known or misunderstood in the United States and Europe.


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A well-known observer of Taiwan and Asian history and culture provides an insightful biography of Lee Teng Hui, the pro-democracy statesman and former president of the Republic of China. As head of the Taiwanese government from 1988 to 2000, Lee managed, without violence or major civil unrest, to reform the authoritarian state into a constitutional democracy with a multi-p A well-known observer of Taiwan and Asian history and culture provides an insightful biography of Lee Teng Hui, the pro-democracy statesman and former president of the Republic of China. As head of the Taiwanese government from 1988 to 2000, Lee managed, without violence or major civil unrest, to reform the authoritarian state into a constitutional democracy with a multi-party political system. This examination of Lee's success puts to rest the idea that Asian values support only authoritarian regimes and reject human rights and political democracy in favor of economic success and military power. Richard C. Kagan describes in rich detail Lee's struggle to reinvent Taiwan's culture and political system by advocating an independent sovereign nation with universal values of human rights, democracy, freedom, and economic justice. His book offers new insights into the role Lee played in the still volatile Taiwan Strait crisis and how Lee's diplomatic skills used the crisis to break free of the One China straitjacket of the Shanghai Communiqu� of 1972 while avoiding open warfare with the People's Republic of China. The author argues that Taiwan is a vital part of America's national security interests in Asia and that the loss of Taiwan to Mainland China would seriously damage American economic and military power in Asia. He calls Lee's life a beacon for people looking for new ways to promote democracy and sovereignty and intends this biography of Lee's life to highlight the statesman's significant contributions, until now little known or misunderstood in the United States and Europe.

24 review for Taiwan's Statesman: Lee Teng-Hui and Democracy in Asia

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tenma

    This short 160+ page biography of Lee Teng-Hui is very well written. It starts with an excellent overview of Taiwan's history. Then it delves into Lee's political career, especially his role in transforming Taiwan into a free and democratic state, dismantling KMTs monopoly to power, and his quest to attain a national Taiwanese identity. There is no doubt that anyone reading this biography would support the conclusion that Lee is truly the father of democracy in Taiwan and its national identity. This short 160+ page biography of Lee Teng-Hui is very well written. It starts with an excellent overview of Taiwan's history. Then it delves into Lee's political career, especially his role in transforming Taiwan into a free and democratic state, dismantling KMTs monopoly to power, and his quest to attain a national Taiwanese identity. There is no doubt that anyone reading this biography would support the conclusion that Lee is truly the father of democracy in Taiwan and its national identity. Unfortunately, there was very little discussion (almost none) about his role in Taiwan's economic development. This left me wanting to know more as to who should be credited for Taiwan's meteoric growth (and why), and how much credit goes to Lee's predecessor Chiang Ching-kuo. My only quibble with this biography is Kagan's repeated emphasis, to the point of obsession, on Lee's spirituality and faith as a guiding force in his life, short of saying that Lee was sent by God.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peter A

    While this book has biographical information on the first freely elected President of the Republic of China, Lee Teng-hui, it is more a promotion of Lee’s unique role in the evolution of Taiwan’s governance, from military rule to democracy, and an argument that democracy is not at odds with Asian values, as claimed by other Asian countries. The author does portray an interesting, pragmatic, leader in Lee, who seems to have been distrusted by many groups inside Taiwan (e.g., KMT) as well as outsid While this book has biographical information on the first freely elected President of the Republic of China, Lee Teng-hui, it is more a promotion of Lee’s unique role in the evolution of Taiwan’s governance, from military rule to democracy, and an argument that democracy is not at odds with Asian values, as claimed by other Asian countries. The author does portray an interesting, pragmatic, leader in Lee, who seems to have been distrusted by many groups inside Taiwan (e.g., KMT) as well as outside, including the US State Department and the People’s Republic of China. Yet, under his rule he was able to guide the Taiwanese from one type of governance to a very different one, and he made the case to the world for Taiwan being different from China. The author acknowledges Lee’s detractors and apparent ambiguities in Lee’s positions over the years. Many of these he attributes to Lee’s philosophy / religious belief, blending Zen Buddhism and Christianity, as well as being a wily politician who knew when to proceed with change and when to wait. One key insight I got out of the book is the role of Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek, in Lee’s ascent to power. Had there been no Ching-kuo, who seemed to rely on and protect Lee from many in the KMT, I do not see how Lee could have succeeded in what he accomplished, since he would not have been in the right place to enact the changes mentioned above. There are interesting insights into the politics with the United States during Lee’s term as president, from 1988 to 2000. I note that the author was a student in Taiwan during 1967 to 1969 (when Chiang Kai-shek ruled) and befriended many Taiwan dissidents. He was barred from coming to Taiwan from 1981 to the early 1990s. In 2003 he was awarded a human rights award in Taiwan for his earlier activities. [Kagan was noted in the book by Milo Thomberry, Fireproof Moth; similarly, Kagan mentions Thomberry in this book – with helping Peng Ming-Min escape.] FB: A promotional biography of Lee Teng-hui’s unique role in the transition of Taiwan from martial law to democracy. Lee appears on these pages as a larger-than-life, multifaceted figure, interesting, pragmatic, controversial, traitorous, patriotic, wily, and ultimately visionary. Yet, he shaped today’s Taiwan.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Pei-jean Lu

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Though short, this is a great look into the life of Lee Teng-Hui Taiwan’s first democratically elected president from his birth to the end of his term as president. As much as this is a biography, this is also a look into the social and political history of Taiwan which I knew little about and so I found very interesting as it gave insight into my mother’s family history.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julien

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Chuk

  8. 4 out of 5

    DG

  9. 4 out of 5

    Will

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian

  11. 4 out of 5

    lvw5264

  12. 4 out of 5

    arkadi cloud

  13. 4 out of 5

    Merrick

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jan

  15. 4 out of 5

    William

  16. 5 out of 5

    Richard Horsman

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dominik

  18. 5 out of 5

    yuchun

  19. 4 out of 5

    Guy Smith

  20. 4 out of 5

    Luc

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pablo

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charles Dunst

  23. 5 out of 5

    Joe Carpenter

  24. 5 out of 5

    Long Trinh Huu

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