Crony-driven politics contributed to Asia's crisis by blocking out the possibility of reform and stifling the popular will. Stripping away that old system has been the lifelong mission of Chen Shui-bian, the first mayor of Taipei not to belong to Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang. Chen, 47, has dismantled the KMT's patronage machine in Taipei and tackled long neglected problems that had fueled the citizens' rage. In three years, he has eased Taipei's notorious gridlock by rearranging traffic patterns, shortened the time it takes to get business licenses approved, closed thousands of gangster-run businesses, and even lowered counters at city offices so people could see the civil servants. "We treat the citizens as our masters, and we are their public servants," Chen says.

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