Japanese Childhood and Agricultural Economics

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.)  Always thirsting for knowledge, he was able to be the few Taiwanese to enter Kyoto Imperial University. He chose to study agricultural economics for two reasons:

  1. He saw there was 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 these ideas stem from the fact he had heavy interests in Marxism in high school and saw that farmers are the bedrock of society.

Lee_Teng-hui_younger.jpg

However, as World War Two raged on, student at Kyoto Imperial University were drafted to serve the Japanese Empire. Teng-Hui was sent to serve 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

Returning back to Taiwan, Teng-Hui continued his education at National Taiwan Univeristy finally graduating with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics.

In 1947, 228 massacre arose, as a Taiwanese, Teng-Hui was also persecuted. He came to his 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 seeking higher education and further knowledge was a wish of his, he was also encourage to leave to America due to the White Terror and the crackdown against intellectuals in Taiwan. He continued his studies in Iowa State University and graduated with his master’s degree in 1953. In 1965 he returned to America, this time attending Cornell University and attained his PhD in agricultural economics in 1968.

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