Taiwan Scholar Richard Kagan announces his new bio of Lee Teng-hui.


Member Publication: Kagan,
_Taiwan’s Statesman: Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia_
From: Richard C. Kagan

I am writing to introduce my book to my colleagues. I would appreciate any comments, criticisms, and discussion.

The full citation is :

_Taiwan’s Statesman: Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia_. Naval Institute Press. 2007. ISBN 978-1-59114-427-4.

My biography goes beyond a strict and traditional analysis of Lee’s democratic reforms in order to provide the context for Lee’s character by tracing his intellectual heritage and political philosophy. Lee’s experience in the Japanese Army and his witness to the aftermaths of the Fire bombing of Tokyo, and the atom bomb destructions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came at a time when he was passing through the maturing of a young adult. The impact was for him to regard the spiritual path as more important than the sole achievements of technology.

Lee’s decision to become an agricultural economist was drawn by the tide of the Manchurian opportunity to live in a cosmopolitan and modern environment. But most significant was his deep personal attraction to the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, and the spirituality of Christianity as expressed in the explanation of the meaning of life and death.

The life of Lee is partially modeled on Richard Brookhiser’s study of George Washington. In that vein, this biography is a study about character. It is about how Lee self-consciously built his own identity with regard to Taiwan, Japan, and democracy and the world. Like other post-colonial leaders, Lee invented his own nation in modern and global terms. The book provides a new history of Taiwan, a critique of the “One china” policy, and a list of suggestions for a new policy toward Taiwan.

The title of the book, “Taiwan’s Statesman” draws from the Greek and Christian meaning of the term. A Statesman is a herder of human beings who not only takes on the mission of providing for their external security but also creates a disposition of virtue within his flock.

My research involved hours of interviews with President Lee as well as shadowing him during his daily calendar of events. I have read sources in Japanese and Chinese, and have sought information from many of his colleagues, and from scholars. I have addressed in a new way the issues of “One China,” Taiwan identity, and Lee’s commitment to a Taiwan independent from China’s rule and authority.

Richard Kagan
Hamline University