March 2, 2023

S3-E3 - Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁: The Early Years

S3-E3 - Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁: The Early Years

Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was a highly controversial two-term ROC president (2000–2008). How “A-Bian” studied and fought his way out of rural poverty to the highest office, thus bringing 55 years of continuous KMT rule to an end, is the single greatest personal political story in modern Taiwanese history. Sadly, though, this fairytale would have a tragic ending, with a troubled second term and Chen later doing prison time for corruption. But in today’s episode, we look at the early years: his stoic parents, his remarkable local teachers, and the struggles and triumphs that shaped him.

Cover images: Chen as a high schooler, left. On the right, an image said to show Chen Shui-bian graduating from elementary school.  

Below: A rare picture of Chen Shui-bian, commonly referred to as A-Bian (阿扁), as a child in the 1950s. 

Below: A-Bian's father (center) Chen Song-gen (陳松根) holds the hands of his eldest and youngest sons. The boy on the left would become the first non-KMT president of the Republic of China.   

Below: Former president Chen's memoir, "The Son of Taiwan." 

Below: A 1979 picture of A-bian's father with his grandchildren. Chen Song-gen (陳松根) died of liver cancer in the 1980s at the age of 60. (Pic via Facebook/Chen Shui-bian)

Below: Ex-president Chen Shui-bian is shown with his mother Chen Li Shen (陳李慎) at his home in Kaohsiung. Mrs. Chen passed away on January 15, 2021, at the age of 94.  (Via Storm Media)

NOTE: This episode drew on the work of Richard C. Kagan, who wrote an early biography of Chen Shui-bian (as well as a 2007 book on former president Lee Tung-hui). The book mentioned in this episode is "Mayor Chen Shui-bian: Taipei, Taiwan: Building a Community and a Nation," by Richard C. Kagan (1998).