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Lien Chan

Lien Chan (連戰, in pinyin: Lián Zhàn) (born August 27, 1936, in Xi'an) is a politician in Taiwan, active in late 20th and early 21st centuries. He was vice-president of the Republic of China from 1996 to 2000, and is currently chairman of the Kuomintang. 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.

Early life

Born in Xi'an, China, Lien Chan is 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." Lien Chan never met Lien Heng.

Lien earned a Bachelor's degree from the National Taiwan University and a Master's degree and PhD from the University of Chicago, all in political science.

Political life

Lien was governor of Taiwan Province from 1990 to 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. 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 Vaclav 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, and he made a dismal showing in the 2000 Presidential elections. 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. The KMT also filed suit against James Soong in what is known as the Ching Hsing Bills Finance Scandal, in which the KMT accused Soong of stealing KMKT party money from a slush fund. Soong denied the allegations and following both the PFP and KMT losing the election the charges were dropped.

Part of Lien's defeat may have been due to the massive 7.4 earthquake on September 21, 1999. As the acting 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%. Since Lien's third place finish in the 2000 Presidential Elections, he has 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.

After the defeat of the KMT in 2000, Lien was able to achieve Lee's ouster and assume the leadership of the KMT. 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 stolen by the KMT after the Japanese exodus. To date there has been no further progress on this issue. Lien has been criticized for trying to give the land away to local governments as a type of payoff for support.

After negotiations between the PFP and KMT, Lien Chan agreed to hold a combined KMT-PFP ticket against Chen Shui-bian in the 2004 Presidential electionss. The pairing has met with speculation as it has been thought that he two men personally dislike each other. During the 2000 campaigning, Lien accused Soong of positioning his family graves to interfere with Lien's Feng Shui and thus Lien had to reposition his graves. The KMT-PFP pairing seats the aloof Lien as the presidential candidate with the vocal and often bellicose Soong as his running mate.


As ordered in the traditional Chinese name order, his surname is Lien. His given name, Chan, is a different character from the common surname Chan (in pinyin: Chén), 陳. In this case, "Chan" means "battles", which was given to him by Lien Heng. As he was sick with liver cancer in Shanghai, Lien Heng wrote to his daughter-in-law, Chao Lan-k'un, pregnant with Lien Chan 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。』)

See also: Politics of Taiwan