• Directory of Taiwan

Lee Teng-hui: Democratic leaders must be selfless

Lee Teng-hui: Democratic leaders must be selfless

Former President Lee Teng-hui 's "Journey of a Lifetime" took him to Donghua University in Hualien Thursday, where he attracted a crowd of students to hear his thoughts on "Training for Leadership." For leaders in a democracy, said Lee, the most important trait is selflessness and devotion to the people.

Lee answered a question posed by a student from China by saying that the PRC's biggest problem is that Chinese communism does not allow people to think freely and that this can only hamper long-term development.

The student addressed Lee as "President Lee” several times, unlike other students from China who have studiously referred to him as "Mr. Lee." The student also noted that Lee had made many contributions to the progress of freedom and democracy in Taiwan, leading Lee to respond, “We are all very glad you have come to Taiwan to study!"

The student said that democracy in China is very closely related to democracy in Taiwan, and asked whether young people on the two sides can work together to help promote democracy and progress among the Chinese peoples. Lee said that China's problem is that Chinese communism does not allow people to think freely, even in areas like religion, thus he sees little hope for long-term development. Lee said Chinese culture has few opportunities for contact with the outside, and East-West cultural exchanges are practically non-existent.

Lee added that during the past lunar New Year he watched a broadcast of the movie "Three Kingdoms." He noted that when Cao Cao was dying he called together his sons and ministers and told them, “In the past, a lot of people have criticized me for my shortcomings, and they will continue to do so in the future. All I can say to you is, " I am me," Lee used the film as an example, saying the idea that "I am who I am" has been around for a long time in China, but without any connection to ‘everyone.’ In a democratic society, he said, people should say “I am not my own me, I am the people’s me." For leaders this means they must always be aware that they are also a member of ‘the people’ and not be too selfish.

Asked about the issue of Taiwan identity, Lee suddenly changed the subject, mentioning that "when the (Communist) Chinese heard I wanted to establish a National Unification Council they were delighted. They thought I wanted to pursue unity with them. The National Unification Commission was not founded for that kind of unity. They were just too naive!"

The National Unification Council is a government agency that was established in February 1990 and issued calls for China to become more democratic as part of a plan to eventually unite the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. The council effectively ceased operations once Chen Shui-bian assumed office as president in 2000, and Chen tried repeatedly to have it abolished. In 2006 he declared that the council had ‘ceased to function.’