Born in 1923, in modern day New Taipei City, former President Lee Teng-Hui (李登輝) was not known in school by his Mandarin name but by his Japanese name: Iwasato Masao (岩里 政男/いわさと まさお).  As someone with a strong thirst for knowledge, he was one of the few Taiwanese to receive a scholarship to enter Kyoto Imperial University. There, he chose to study agricultural economics for two reasons:

  1. He noticed an imbalance between the work put in by farmers and the reward they received.
  2. Influenced by his high school history teacher, he believed that agriculture was going to help the people in China.

Both of these ideas stem from the fact he had heavy interests in Marxism during high school and saw that farmers are the bedrock of society.


However, as World War II raged on, students at Kyoto Imperial University were drafted to serve the Japanese Empire. Teng-Hui was sent to serve in the anti-aircraft artillery unit. After the war ended, he resumed his time at the university but had to leave because Japan had surrendered Taiwan as part of the treaty.

Continuing Education in Agricultural Economics

After returning to Taiwan, Teng-Hui continued his education at the National Taiwan University, and finally graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics.

In 1947, 228 Massacre took place. As a Taiwanese, Teng-Hui was also persecuted. He went to a friend’s place seeking asylum. To this day, no one will speak about why he had to flee authorities.

In 1952, Teng-Hui was awarded a scholarship to study in America. While he dreamed of seeking higher education, he was also encouraged to leave for America due to the White Terror at the time and the repression of intellectuals in Taiwan. He continued his studies at Iowa State University and graduated with his master’s degree in 1953. In 1965, he returned to America, this time attending Cornell University, where he obtained his PhD in agricultural economics in 1968.


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