William Lai

1 minute read
By Jon Huntsman

Lai Ching-te, or William Lai, as he will be known throughout the world, will take office as Taiwan’s next President in May. A coal miner’s son who prizes problem solving and trust, Lai is also a Harvard-trained public-health expert. But the health of the island’s 23 million inhabitants is just one part of a much larger task he is inheriting: ensuring his government’s very survival, amid China’s amped-up campaign to reclaim the nascent democracy. Former leader Chiang Kai-shek’s rigid legacy is no more—Taiwan’s energetic civil society is flourishing. Trade is booming, providing more than half the world’s critical chips, yet—with tensions rising with Beijing—its risk profile couldn’t be higher. For a politician who garnered only 40% in an unprecedented multiparty election, this feels like Atlas shouldering the world. But less mythological will be his choices and their impact on a world on edge—to say nothing of the future of democracy in Asia.

Huntsman, a Republican, is a former governor of Utah and a former U.S. ambassador to China

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