Sun Yun-suan, the former Taiwan premier credited with facilitating the island's economic expansion during the 1980s, died on February 15 of heart and lung failure. He was 93.
In his role as premier from 1978 to 1984, Sun initiated the reforms that took Taiwan from an agrarian society to an industrial powerhouse. He oversaw the establishment of technology industries that have since become the backbone of the island's solid economic development.
Born in Penglai County, Shandong province in 1913, Sun gained a degree in electrical engineering from Harbin Polytechnic Institute in 1934 before spending three years as an engineer at a state-run power station in Qinghai province. He was sent to the US in 1943, where he took up an engineering position with the Tennessee Valley Authority before being assigned to Taiwan at the end of the Second World War.
Attached to the Taiwan Power Company, it was Sun's responsibility to restore the electricity system constructed during the Japanese occupation and largely destroyed during the war. Despite Japanese predictions that "Taiwan was doomed to turn pitch-dark in three months," Sun managed to get 80% of the power network back online in five months.
Between 1946 and 1964, he rose through the ranks at Taiwan Power to become vice president. The World Bank then seconded him to work as head of Nigeria's national electricity company shortly after the country's independence.
He returned to Taiwan in 1967 to become minister for communications and, two years later, took up the post of minister for economic affairs, which he held until assuming the office of premier in 1978. As premier, Sun introduced a number of large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport and Sun Yat-sen National Expressway.
He also advocated high-tech development, establishing the Industrial Technology and Research Institute and the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park, which became the world's foremost semiconductor manufacturing hub. Under his leadership, the island's export industries enjoyed huge growth as Taiwan textiles, shoes and toys came to dominate world markets.
When Sun stepped down as premier in 1984 after suffering a stroke, Taiwan's per capita income was nearing US$3,000, an enormous increase on the US$320 it stood at when he took up the economics portfolio in 1969.
After his stroke, he was appointed to the largely honorary position of senior adviser to the President of the Republic of China. He also became a staunch supporter of health issues and was a fervent backer of anti-smoking campaigns.
Despite being left wheelchair-bound by a second stroke, Sun remained politically active in the KMT, coming out to support Ma Ying-jeou in his 1998 bid to become mayor of Taipei and Lien Chan in the 2004 presidential election.
Sun passed away at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei. His funeral was held February 25.