Lee Teng-Hui is a leader in Taiwan, president of the Republic of China on Taiwan, chairman of the Guomindang but expelled from the Party in 2001.
Li Denghui was born in the town of Sanchi near Taibei city during the period of Japanese colonial rule on Taiwan (from 1895 to 1945), a period that saw the rise of a self-defined and self-conscious Taiwanese elite. His father (a Hakka) served in the Japanese administration as a manager of the local irrigation service. He came from a Presbyterian family and remains to this day a devout Presbyterian and a member of the island s influential Presbyterian Church of Taiwan.
Li seems to have had a normal youth but was one of those few who did attend Tamsui High School, an educational facility established by the pioneering Presbyterian Missionary, George Leslie MacKay. This school was one of the few places that Taiwanese could attend and receive the education they needed to go on to Japan to attend one of the major universities. Li followed this path and the final years of World War II saw him attending the Kyoto Imperial University. The end of the war forced him to cut short his education. He returned to a Taiwan badly damaged by the U.S. bombing and being ransacked by Guomindang (GMD) officials and mainland business. However, he was able to return to his studies, graduating from Taiwan National University in 1949. Later on he studied in the United States and received a Ph.D. from Cornell University. He then returned to Taiwan and to his steadily advancing career as a scholar and bureaucrat.
From 1972 to 1978 he served in the cabinet as Minister-Without-Portfolio. He specialized in his field of expertise, agricultural policy. He was appointed mayor of Taibei City and served during the critical months and years of the Meilidao Movement and its aftermath.
In 1981 Li was chosen to be the governor of Taiwan province, serving until 1984. During these years he began once again to work on Taiwan s rural irrigation system. In 1984 President Jiang Jingguo (son of Jiang Jieshi) took the next step by making Li the vice-president of the Republic of China (ROC) This can be seen as one more example of Jiang's wish to show that Taiwanization was real. Jiang and Li won the National Assambly election. In 1986 the state under Jiang legalized the tangwai and the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) officially came into being.
Jiang died in January 1988 and Li Denghui took his place. His years as president can be broken down into a number of distinct stages. The hrst period began in early 1988 and lasted until the spring 1990. During this period he created a base of power and defined the faction that would support him. He also began to define his foreign policy, one that was based on a dual strategy of reaching out to the mainland even as he developed economic and political ties with the major states of Southeast Asia.
The second period began with student demonstrations in the spring ot 1990 and ended with the Legislative Yuan election of 1992. During demonstrations students demanded major governmental reforms This led to the convening of the National Consultative Conference. Held in early July 1990, it brought together a wide number of individuals representing vastly different agendas. In the end, a set of proposals a blueprint of sorts was drawn up and agreed upon. In the years that followed Li used this document as the formal or theoretical basis for his wide-scale reform program.
In 1992 the National Assembly convened and began its efforts at putting the GMD list of proposed amendments in place to change the nature of the 1947 Constitution and make it more responsive. The rise of the DPP, and the perceived failure of the premier to gain more seats for the GMD, gave Li the rationale he needed to push Premier Hau aside and pick his own man as premier, Lian Zhan. He was another Taiwanese educated m the West and had earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
Li put Lian into the center of the political arena as the third penod in his presidency began in early 1993. That period would end with another step toward democratization, the first election of Taiwan's provincial governor in late fall 1994.
A number of issues took center stage in 1994. One was a scandal of the navy, which dominated debates in the first part of the legislative year A second was a conflict over the construction of Atomic Power Plant Number Four, which would rage during the summer and fall w.th little resolution.
The next six years were a dramatic whirlwind for Li and Taiwan. The campaign for the presidency began in 1995 and ended with Li s landslide victory in the election of March 1996. Li had gained so much influence and prestige that he was almost invulnerable and he won a victory that made him his nation's most powerful man.
After the first few easy months since Li's inauguration, however, a combination of natural disasters and bad political mistakes made the presidency more difficult than it might have been. The floods in the summer of 1996 were the prelude and the government's failure to deal with key issues presaged the problems that would come. Li and Lian created their own nightmare in their attempts to decrease the size of the provincial government and undercut another GMD leader, James Song’s, power. Song did not go quietly and gave notice he would remain a thorn in Lian and Li’s sides thereafter. The early phases of the 1999 presidential campaign demonstrated how fractured GMD politics had become. Song left the Party. The New Party showed it was still in the game, and Lian and Li spent the summer making the best of a difficult situation.
By the time the campaign was well under way, with all the dire predictions of a divided Party coming true, yet another natural disaster, the great earthquake of September 21, struck. The government's response to this disaster was not as quick nor effective as it might have been. Lian's popularity was thus greatly affected.
Li became deeply involved and used his own influence and considerable skill to campaign for his friend but Lian’s image and personality were not as attractive as those of the other men ahead in the race. Chen Shuibian, the charismatic DPP candidate, won the day and the GMD expressed their bitterness about Li, Lian Zhan, and their parties，great failure in demonstrations near GMD Party headquarters. For Li, the man of unity and the would be messiah, these final days were the most bitter medicine one could imagine. It was a sad end to his long, effective, oft-times dramatic, and precedent-shattering career as government official and as political leader.
Shortly after stepping down from the presidency in 2000, Lee had coronary artery bypass surgery. In late 2011, Lee underwent surgery to remove stage II colon adenocarcinoma, the most common form of colon cancer. Two years later, he had a stent implanted in his vertebral artery following an occlusion. Lee was sent to Taipei Veterans General Hospital in November 2015 after experiencing numbness in his right hand, and later diagnosed with a minor stroke.
Golf, literature, philosophy.
Lee married Tseng Wen-hui on 9 February 1949, with whom he had three children. Their firstborn son Lee Hsien-wen (c. 1950 – March 21, 1982) died of sinus cancer. Daughters Anna and Annie, were born c. 1952 and c. 1954, respectively.