Lee Teng-Hui - Transformational Leadership in Taiwan's Transition

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

Lee Teng-Hui is the first democratically-elected president of Taiwan. He once studied in Kyoto University when Taiwan was then part of Japan. After World War II, after the Republic of China (ROC) took over Taiwan, Lee enrolled in National Taiwan University and received his B.S. degree in agricultural science. He earned his M.S. degree in agricultural economics from the Iowa State University, and a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Cornell University. Lee’s life experience has not only given him an open-minded heart, but produced him “a spiritual passion made up of equal parts Zen Buddhist philosophy and nineteenth-century Western anti-rationalism”, so writes Dr. Richard C. Kagan, the author of the book.

From the book, Lee can best be described as a "pragmatic democrat"; in other words, while possessing a general sense of the ideals of democracy, he was ready to compromise them when he felt it necessary for his political survival. Most importantly, he possessed the necessary abilities to maximize his leadership role. He was able to set the agenda, to build coalitions, to mobilize the public, to select the timing of actions, to make use of the resources of the system, to foster a discourse of legitimacy, and to maintain a balance among contradictory forces. All of these showed Lee’s flexible social skills and enabled him not only to maintain the dominant status of the KMT (Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party) much longer into the process than would have been expected, but also to exert influence on subsequent political developments through new means.

Some studies combined the goal-oriented and the tactical analyses to give a picture of Lee as a “transformational leader”. As society transformed, Lee transformed along with it, and he matched himself to the society's needs at each period. On the one hand, he was channeled by changing circumstances and, at the same time, he affected the...
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