The Presidency of Lee Teng-hui, 1988–93
When Lee Teng-hui assumed the presidency of the Republic of China, he faced numerous challenges. For one thing, Taiwan was only marginally democratic. It was internationally isolated, as well as overly dependent on the United States both militarily and economically. For another, unlike his predecessors, Lee’s power was not absolute: he had to share power with the mainland-born KMT old grandees. And his country was in the process of a rapid transition, politically, economically, and socially. On paper, the president of the Republic of China is the head of state and is granted broad constitutional powers to conduct national affairs. Operationally, however, all acts of state are conducted in the president’s name, such as commanding the land, sea, and air forces. As a consequence, Hau Pei-tsun (born in 1919 in Kiangsu province), chief of the general staff, was a formidably powerful person. Hau had placed his personal confidants in almost all of the key military positions; his office controlled nearly 99 percent of the national defense budget.
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