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Lien Chan (連戰, in pinyin: Lián Zhàn) (born August 27, 1936, in Xi'an) is a Taiwanese politician. He was Vice President of the Republic of China from 1996 to 2000, and has been the Chairman of the Kuomintang since 2000.
Early life and education
Lien Chan was born in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China as the only child of Lien Chen-tung (連震東) and Chao Lan-k'un (趙蘭坤). His paternal grandfather, Lien Heng (連橫), was the writer of The General History of Taiwan (台灣通史), a book that is often cited for the quote, "Taiwan's sorrow is that it has no history." Although he was born in Mainland China, because of his family roots in Taiwan, he is not usually considered a member of the Mainlander group in Taiwan.
Lien earned a Bachelor's degree in political science from the National Taiwan University in 1957 and a Master of Arts in International Law and Diplomacy in 1961. He received a Ph.D. in political science in 1965 from the University of Chicago and married former Miss Republic of China Fang Yui the same year.
Lien held assistant professorships of political science at the University of Wisconsin from 1966 to 1967 and the University of Connecticut from 1967 to 1968. He returned to Taiwan in 1968 to become visiting professor of political science at the National Taiwan University, serving as chairman of the Political Science Department and dean of the Graduate Institute of Political Science the following year.
His official positions included Ambassador to El Salvador (1975-1976), Minister of Communications and Transportation (1981-1987), Vice Premier (1987-1988), Foreign Minister (1988-1990) before becoming Governor of Taiwan Province (1990-1993). In 1993 he was appointed Premier of the Republic of China. His tenure proved unpopular and possibly in conflict with the constitution and in 1997, he resigned as Premier but remained Vice President, a post he had received a year earlier in 1996. Before becoming Chairman of the KMT, he was Vice Chairman (1993-2000) and a member of the Central Committee (1984-2000).
Lien took an active role as a representative of Lee Teng-hui in quasi-official diplomacy in the mid-1990s. One of his greatest moments of his career is his 1995 meeting with Václav Havel, in which Lien likened the democratic reforms of the Lee Teng-hui administration as being similar to the Velvet Revolution.
In contrast to his political opponents, Lien Chan is generally considered arrogant, aloof and out of touch with the public. Some have speculated that his immense wealth was obtained through black gold. Among the allegations, his father Lien Chen-tung was the interior minister responsible of Taiwanese agricultural policy. Through his influence, the family purchased farmland in the 50's and 60's and illegally rezoned it. In an investigation by his political opponents, one DPP legislator Tang Bi-A was quoted "It is doubtful that Lien Chan and his father could accumulate billions in wealth for their family when both of them were government officials receiving limited salaries."
He finished third in the 2000 Presidential elections despite having the backing of the KMT. One popular theory on Taiwan, which has some support from Lee's subsequent actions, has that Lien Chan was chosen to head the KMT's ticket by President Lee Teng-hui in an deliberate effort to destroy the KMT. Many have noted in support of this theory that Lien has never been elected on his own to any political office, and his ill-fated campaign for President was the first campaign that he ever undertook. During the 2000 Presidential campaign Lien campaigned on a platform of following in Lee's footsteps and continuing localization reforms. He touted a "3-S" slogan of "Safety, Security and Stability", claiming the selection of a DPP candidate would bring China's wrath and a return of fascism.
Part of Lien's defeat may have been due to the massive 7.4 earthquake on September 21, 1999. As the Vice President and KMT candidate, Lien bore the brunt of public dissatisfaction with government relief efforts, in one instance being chased onto his helicopter by furious victims. In a poll following the 921 earthquake, the undecided vote rose to 47%.
After the defeat of the KMT in 2000, Lien was able to achieve Lee's ouster and assume the leadership of the KMT. He had adopted a platform to erase the Lee effect from Taiwan and "Return to the Good Old Days", a call to return to the heyday of Chiang Ching-kuo. The KMT launched a party wide purge to eradicate Lee supporters, then held a membership drive to attract KMT loyalists. According to Lien the drive was successful, but many outside observers note a significant drop in membership as many of the former members who had joined the party as a compulsory act of conscripted military service never renewed. Lien as the Chairman of the KMT also vowed to learn from his loss and remake the KMT party. He held forums to discuss erasing the KMT's image as a corrupt institution and Lien promised to give up property seized by the KMT after the Japanese exodus. The KMT has returned some properties to the government and it considers the matter to be closed, but others disagree. Lien has been criticized for trying to give the land away to local governments as a type of payoff for support.
Lien Chan ran for president with Soong as his running mate in a combined KMT-PFP ticket against Chen Shui-bian in the 2004 Presidential elections, though it had been thought that Lien and Soong personally disliked each other. During the 2000 campaigns, Lien accused Soong of positioning his family graves to interfere with Lien's Feng Shui forcing Lien to reposition his graves.
Initially, it was believed that the Lien-Soong ticket would be a sure win, given that both men garnered a combined 59.9% of the vote in 2000. However, the lead gradually diminished to a dead heat and both sides were forced to moderate their positions. In December 2003, Lien said that while the KMT was opposed to "immediate independence," it did not wish to classed as "pro-reunificationist" either. The platform was changed from promoting the eventual reunification of China preserving the status quo and leaving Taiwan's status to be settled by future generations. Chen also floated the possibility of eventual reunification.
With the platforms largely similar, the campaign was filled largely with personal attacks between Lien and Chen. On March 20, the day after President Chen and Vice President Annette Lu were shot while campaigning, Lien lost the election by 0.2% of the vote. He refused to concede and decided to challenge the results.
His surname is Lien; his given name is Chan."Chan" means "battles" and his full name literally means "successive battles." The name originated from Lien Heng who, sick with liver cancer in Shanghai, wrote to his pregnant daughter-in-law in Xi'an:
- "China and Japan will battle inevitably. If the child born is a boy, name him Lien Chan, signifying that the strength coming from within oneself will never diminish and can overcome the enemies and be victorious. It also has the meaning of reviving the former nation, reorganizing the light and hope of our homeland." (『中、日必將一戰，如生男則名連戰，寓有自強不息，克敵制勝，有復興故國、重整家園光明希望。』)
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