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 Communiqué 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.