Lee Teng-hui lē´ dŭng´-hwē´ [key], 1923–, Taiwanese agricultural economist and politician, president of Taiwan (1988–2000). Born in Taiwan when it was ruled by Japan, he was educated at Kyoto Imperial, Iowa State, and Cornell universities. A member of the Kuomintang, he served on the Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (1957–61) and as a minister without portfolio (1972–78), mayor of Taipei (1978–81), governor of Taiwan province (1981–84), and vice president of Taiwan (1984–88). In Jan., 1988, he succeeded to the presidency at Chiang Ching-kuo's death. Although originally considered an interim figure, he continued the democratization of Taiwan and in 1996 became its first popularly elected president. Continuing to foster Taiwan's industrial expansion, Lee used the island's economic success to diminish its international isolation. His suggestion in 1999 that Taiwan might consider itself to be a independent nation and not part of China strained relations with the mainland. In Mar., 2000, Lee was forced to resign as head of the Kuomintang after its candidate placed third in the Taiwanese presidential election. After Lee publicly split (2001) with the new leaders of the party, charging them with betraying Taiwan, he was expelled from the Kuomintang. In 2011 he was charged with having embezzled state funds during his presidency.
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