Winston Li (李豫明), who passed away on Monday of heart complications, may have been little known to the public, but behind the scenes this implacable force of nature made several contributions to Taiwan’s security over the years — contributions that will linger on well after his premature exit.
Born in Taiwan on June 29, 1958, Li graduated from the Republic of China (ROC) Naval Academy in 1981 and received a master’s degree in acoustics from the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, in 1987.
After serving in various assignments in the ROC Navy, Li was posted to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington as deputy naval attache in 1997.
He returned to Taiwan in 2000 and, prior to his retirement from the navy, worked as a section chief at N-5 (a section now known as the Integrated Planning Section) and later served as deputy director of planning at N-5 and director of intelligence at N-2.
Since 2009, Li had served as a legislative aide to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Herman Shuai (帥化民), who is a member of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Following his death, a number of officials, reporters and academics who worked with Li over the years — including Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) — paid tribute to his many contributions to the nation. Some of them shared their reminiscences with the Taipei Times.
“As a friend, Winston was as warm and generous as he was insightful and supportive — always willing to share his wisdom and good humor,” said Fu Mei (梅復興), director of the US-based Taiwan Security Analyst Center. “Winston was also a great patriot, so abundantly evidenced by his love for Taiwan and the ROC Navy.”
“He was a dedicated advocate and tireless fighter for causes beyond Taiwan, in particular US-Taiwan relations, both within and outside of defense and security circles,” he said.
“The mid-1990s were a depressing time for Taiwan in Washington, with Chinese agents of influence running amok in the [former US president Bill] Clinton White House and their success in blocking any new major arms sale during Clinton’s two terms,” said Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington. “But one ray of hope during those years was this phenomenal navy Captain from TECRO — this fellow Winston Li.”
Among his many accomplishments, Li played a key role in Taiwan’s acquisition in 2001 of four Kidd-class destroyers — the largest warships ever to serve in the ROC Navy and a formidable platform carrying various radar, air defense and anti-submarine missile systems. Li also made substantial contributions to a two-phased approach for a Taiwanese submarine program, which has yet to come to fruition.
As well as navy or defense initiatives, Li also made numerous contributions to broadening Taiwan’s relations with other countries, including Australia and India, through many projects, most of which remain little known to the general public, Mei said.
“Non-political in outlook and single-minded of purpose, with the objective always being getting the job done, Winston was both technically extremely competent and bureaucratically savvy,” he said. “He understood, down to amazing detail, how everything worked: from the Aegis combat system, to how to get projects through Taiwan’s political labyrinth; from intelligence on People’s Liberation Army submarine developments to US congressional legislative process.”