The country's newly appointed representative to the UK, Edgar Lin (林俊義), has a political career as diverse as his academic accomplishments.
Dubbed Taiwan's "Godfather of Environmental Movement," Lin was head of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) from 2000 to 2001. His brief service at the EPA ended shortly after an oil spill devastated a highly cherished ecological conservation area in southern Taiwan.
The spill, caused by a Greek cargo ship, the MV Armogos, ran aground on a reef near the Kengting National Park, triggered vehement attacks against Lin from both the governing and opposition parties, which blamed the EPA for its slow response to the disaster that ruined many coral reefs.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government sacked him in order to ease public anger about the agency's inefficiency in handling the oil spill, even though some international environmental experts said the EPA took the corrective measures to salvage the polluted area, Wealth Magazine reported at that time.
"Nobody doubts Lin's seriousness toward his job and his sense of mission toward the environment," the magazine said. However, Lin, a DPP member who did not join any party faction, could hardly find political support after the spill incident.
"Lin is a lonely bird fighting the MV Armogos," the magazine article also said.
Author of the book, The Evil Spirit of Politics (政治的邪靈), Lin once described politics as "an ocean full of sharks" and "the most filthy and cruel whirlpool" in the world. Nevertheless, he also noted he wanted to see his ideals realized through his participation in politics.
Lin, who was sworn in as representative to the UK last week, reflected on the political turmoil he faced after the oil spill.
"Politicizing environmental issues will bring many regrets," he said in an interview.
Probably because of the grinding political pressure he went through three years ago, Lin showed deep sympathy to former representative to the UK, Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂), who resigned after his office was found to have issued a passport to fugitive arms dealer Andrew Wang's (汪傳浦) wife.
Tien is widely regarded as a scapegoat for the visa fiasco, as many believe certain senior government officials have condoned or even facilitated the Wang family's application for visas and other legal documents in Taiwan's overseas representative offices.
"It is deeply regrettable that Tien resigned over the visa matter. The consular section in the London office is very busy. It is impossible for Tien to check every application form. His performance is highly acclaimed. Everybody says he did a great job in the UK," Lin said.
Six months after he resigned from the EPA, Lin was appointed ambassador to Gambia. Lin said his career transition from EPA head to a diplomat gave him an opportunity to enjoy a diverse life.
Viewing the UK as a vital diplomatic front, the government traditionally appointed internationally renowned figures to be representatives to London. Tien, for example, is a well-respected academic and a former foreign minister.
Lin's contribution to Taiwan's anti-nuclear movement, international reputation as a biologist and achievements in Gambia are among the host of reasons why the government chose him to be Taiwan's representative in the UK, observers said.
"People tend to think only those who study diplomacy in university can be diplomats. Actually, broad knowledge and life experience are more important to a diplomat. If you look at resumes of foreign diplomats, you will find that they come from all sorts of backgrounds," said Lin.