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-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.

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Editorial Reviews

"An important contribution to the study of Taiwan's political development over the past 25 years. Kagan's contribution remains a positive and valuable one to the history of Taiwan's march toward democracy."  —Strategic Studies Quarterly
"Professor Kagan has re-conceptualized Taiwan's history in this cultural and intellectual study of Lee Teng-hui's life. His study provides the spiritual and philosophical context for Lee's democratic reforms. Kagan's perceptive analysis of Lee explains why the former president attempted to invent a new Taiwan identity. Drawing upon Lee's seminal education in Japan, his acceptance of Christianity, and his baptism in student movements at Cornell University, Kagan provides an original approach to Lee's achievements and personal reformulations. In addition, he has produced new information on Lee's life, and on the history of Taiwan. His work is aware of the common arguments about Taiwan's identity and history, but he steps outside of them to create a new and valuable way to discuss Taiwan's past, present, and future. Professor Kagan's book would be a valuable addition to the understanding of Taiwan's democratization."  —Wen-yen Chen, PhD, Executive Director, Formosan Association for Public Affairs
"This should be translated at once and made required reading for all of today's Chinese leaders. This is the book for them to study if they want to do reform right." —Arthur Waldron, PhD, Lauder Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania
"Complex, dedicated, and controversial, Lee Teng-hui—Taiwan's president from 1988 to 2000—remains a key and crucially pivotal person of this period. In Taiwan's Statesman: Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia, Kagan gives an insightful analysis of Lee's formative background, mind, and spirit. Lee is not your ordinary Asian; the obstacles he had to overcome and the minefields he had to negotiate were formidable and numerous yet democracy did come to Taiwan. Few writers manage to capture this totality blending appreciation with objectivity as does Kagan."  —Jerome F. Keating, PhD, author of Taiwan the Struggles of a Democracy