Tsai’s entire career trajectory could be described as a ‘Rampage of Firsts’, shattering glass ceilings as she rose through the ranks of Taiwan society
By Trista di Genova-CHANG, The Wild East magazine
Foreign observers & Taiwanese alike view Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen as a BIG POSITIVE! That must be why Tsai won re-election Jan. 11, 2020 by another massive victory (20%) a few weeks ago.
The former professor could be likened to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is presently running a VERY competitive race against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, both seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in America.
Both Tsai & Warren are gifted lawyers, both former law professors-turned-presidential material.
Both are smart, poised, beautiful & youthful-looking, articulate, pragmatic, competent, stable & trustworthy; & both are GREAT WOMEN LEADERS.
Many may be unaware of Tsai’s impressive background.
Tsai is a woman of firsts, many, many firsts.
Not only is Tsai Ing-wen the first woman president, she’s first to claim both Hakka & Aboriginal ancestry (Paiwan tribe, through her grandmother); she’s also the first single president, the first president not to have held executive position previously & the first to be popularly elected without having first served as Taipei mayor.
Tsai Ing-wen — whose name in Mandarin can translate as ‘English Tsai’ — was first woman chair of the MAC (Mainland Affairs Council); first woman to lead the ‘green’ party, DPP (Democratic Progressive Party); & first woman presidential candidate in Taiwan.
Tsai Ing-wen‘s academic quals are equally STERLING. Tsai studied or ‘professed’ Law at NTU (National Taiwan University, Taiwan’s Harvard!); National Cheng-Chi & Soochow Universities in Taipei; & prestigious London School of Economics (LSE).
Tsai Ing-wen rose through leadership ranks, swiftly becoming a highly respected, prominent member of Taiwan society.
Tsai was appointed to successively more important government positions under the KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party), which held power in Taiwan for a half-century. Tsai started out as an ‘independent’ legislator, & even considered for VP by then- KMT presidential candidate, Ma Ying jeou! This impressive feat might be roughly similar to an (Embattled, Corrupt, Impeached) President Trump in the US, askin’ female STAR of the OPPOSING Democratic Party, Elizabeth Warren to be his runningmate!
In fact, this shows not only Tsai’s multitalents, but indicates a COUNTRY whose politics & democratic processes & forward-looking policies must be extremely solid yet fluid.
Likely thanks to her top-notch leadership, Taiwan today operates more than ever like a meritocracy. Taiwan has emerged as a shining beacon of democracy, for its cream to rise to the top!
And obviously, Tsai was a ‘creme de la creme‘ kind of legislator and administrator, with opinions exceptionally highly regarded by all. Tsai’s leadership was so valued & highly sought-after, she attained great status in both of the main political parties in Taiwan.
Another amazing accomplishment: Tsai was one of the drafters of Taiwan’s state-to-state relations doctrine with China, under then-President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) of the KMT.
In 2012, Tsai won the party nomination by narrowly beating her predecessor when she was vice premier, Su, for the DPP’s presidential candidate. However, she lost that year to incumbent ‘Mark’ Ma Ying-jeou (KMT, (馬英九); then won by a whopping 25% in her 2016 second attempt; & by nearly a 20% margin this year !
Jan. 11, Tsai won 57.13% of the vote (with 75% turnout), almost TWENTY PERCENTAGE POINTS over the KMT opponent Han Kuo-yu. Astonishing, indeed !!
Our Taiwan has THRIVED & BLOSSOMED in all areas — stability in cross-strait as well as domestic ties; business development alongside environmental protections. Taiwan has developed into a more mature democracy, thanks to Pres. Tsai’s wise & just stewardship! Tsai is definitely Taiwan’s best leader so far !
CONGRATULATIONS EVERYBODY, & WELCOME BACK, PRESIDENT TSAI! 🙂
W.E. wish Tsai a PRODUCTIVE, PROSPEROUS & PEACEFUL SECOND TERM!!!
Trista di Genova-CHANG is artist, musician & author who studied Political Science at UC, Berkeley; Women’s Biography & Psychology at Oxford University, and Ethnobotany (Indigenous Use of Plants) at Taipei Medical University (TMU). CHANG is currently running for Pima County Sheriff in Tucson, with plans to enter the Arizona gubernatorial race in 2022.
Leave your questions in the comments section below & W.E. will ask Pres. Prof. Tsai to respond!
Tsai Ing-wen is known to be very open to feedback & suggestions from the Expat community in Taiwan.
Here’s a photo from a public Q & A event she held for the foreign community whilst she was running the first time for Taiwan President!
Additional info from WIKIPEDIA:
Tsai’s campaign headquarters in 2016
Further information: 2016 Taiwan presidential election
President Tsai and Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes in Taiwan, 20 May 2016
On 15 February 2015, Tsai officially registered for the Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential nomination primary. Though William Lai and Su Tseng-chang were seen as likely opponents, Tsai was the only candidate to run in the primary and the DPP officially nominated her as the presidential candidate on 15 April. She was the first-ever female candidate for President of Taiwan.
During summer of 2015, Tsai embarked on a visit to the United States and met a number of US policy makers including Senators John McCain and Jack Reed. In her speech addressing Taiwanese diaspora on the east coast of the United States, Tsai signaled a willingness to cooperate with the rising Third Party coalition in Taiwan in the incoming general election. On 14 November, Tsai’s campaign announced that she had chosen Chen Chien-jen as DPP vice presidential candidate. On 16 January 2016, Tsai won the presidential election, beating her opponent Eric Chu by a margin of 25.04%. Tsai was inaugurated as president on 20 May 2016.
After her election, Tsai was named one of “The 100 Most Influential People” in TIME magazine 2 May 2016 issue.
Member of the House of Representatives of Japan Keiji Furuya and President Tsai, 20 May 2016
The DPP’s traditional position on the issue of cross-strait relations is that the Republic of China, widely known as Taiwan, is already an independent state governing the territories of Kinmen, Matsu, Penghu Islands, and the island of Taiwan, thus rendering a formal declaration of independence unnecessary. While Tsai has never departed fundamentally from the party line, her personal approach to the issue is nuanced and evolving.
During the 2012 presidential election cycle, Tsai said that she disagreed with the 1992 Consensus as the basis for negotiations between Taiwan and mainland China, that such a consensus only served to buttress the “One China Principle”, and that “no such consensus exists” because the majority of the Taiwanese public does not necessarily agree with this consensus. She believed that broad consultations should be held at all levels of Taiwanese society to decide the basis on which to advance negotiations with Beijing, dubbed the “Taiwan consensus”. During the 2016 election cycle, Tsai was notably more moderate, making “maintaining the status quo” the centerpiece of party policy. She vowed to work within the Republic of China governing framework in addition to preserving the progress made in cross-strait relations by previous governments, while preserving “freedom and democracy” for the residents of Taiwan.
Tsai believes in the importance of economic and trade links with mainland China, but publicly spoke out against the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a preferential trade agreement that increased economic links between Taiwan and mainland China. She generally supports the diversification of Taiwan’s economic partners.
In response to the death of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died of organ failure while in government custody, Tsai pleaded with the Communist government to “show confidence in engaging in political reform so that the Chinese can enjoy the God-given rights of freedom and democracy”.
Tsai has accused the Communist Party of China’s troll army of spreading fake news via social media to influence voters and support candidates more sympathetic to Beijing ahead of the 2018 Taiwanese local elections.
In January 2019, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, had announced an open letter to Taiwan proposing a one country, two systems formula for eventual unification. Tsai responded to Xi in a January 2019 speech by stating that Taiwan rejects “one country, two systems” and that because Beijing equates the 1992 Consensus with “one country, two systems”, Taiwan rejects the 1992 Consensus as well.
Tsai expressed her solidarity with Hong Kong protesters, remarking that Taiwan’s democracy was hard-earned and had to be guarded and renewed. Pledging that as long as she was Taiwan’s president, she would never accept “one country, two systems”, Tsai cited what she considered to be the constant and rapid deterioration of Hong Kong’s democracy over the course of 20 years.
Tsai has traditionally been supportive of disadvantaged groups in society, including the poor, women and children, Taiwanese aborigines, and LGBT groups. She favours government action to reduce unemployment, introducing incentives for entrepreneurship among youth, expanding public housing, and government-mandated childcare support. She supports government transparency and more prudent and disciplined fiscal management.
Republic of China Military Academy, 16 June 2016
Tsai attends the commencement of her alma mater, Zhongshan Girls High School in Taipei, June 2016
Tsai advocated for the non-partisanship of the president of the Legislative Yuan, the increase in the number of “at-large” seats in the legislature, the broadening of participation among all political parties and interest groups. She supports proactively repairing the damage done to Taiwanese aboriginal groups, as well as the government actions in the February 28 Incident and during the phase of White Terror. She has also called for the de-polarization of Taiwanese politics, and advocates for a more open and consensus-based approach to addressing issues and passing legislation.
Tsai supports LGBT rights and has endorsed same-sex marriage to be legalised in Taiwan. On 21 August 2015, which is the Qixi Festival, she released a campaign video in which three same-sex couples actors appeared. On 31 October 2015, when the biggest gay pride parade in Asia was held in Taipei, Tsai expressed her support for same-sex marriage. She posted a 15-second video on her Facebook page saying “I am Tsai Ing-wen, and I support marriage equality” and “Let everyone be able to freely love and pursue happiness”. However during the presidency, Tsai delayed the process to legalize same-sex marriage due to opposition from conservative and religious groups. After the 2018 Taiwanese referendum, Tsai led the government to legalize same-sex marriage outside of the Civil Code.
Defense spending and indigenous programs
Under the Tsai administration, military spending has risen in Taiwan relative to GDP. The defense budget was set to $327 billion NTD in 2018 and $346 billion in 2019. The defense budget in 2020 was set to $411 billion NTD, estimated to be 2.3% of GDP, representing an 8.3% increase in total spending over the previous year and a 0.2% increase in percentage of GDP. The administration has also focused on developing indigenous submarines.
The Tsai administration has stated an energy supply goal of 20% from renewables, 30% from coal and 50% from liquefied natural gas.
Bills under the umbrella of the Forward-Looking Infrastructure initiative have been used to fund green energy initiatives. The administration plans to install 1,000 wind turbines on land and offshore and has contracted Ørsted of Denmark to install 900 MW of capacity and wpd of Germany to install 1 GW of capacity. Taiwan’s first offshore wind farm, Formosa I, consisting of 22 wind turbines expected to produce 128 MW of energy, is slated to begin operations at the end of 2019. The government also purchased 520 MW of solar capacity in 2017 and more than 1 GW in 2018; total capacity was 2.8 GW at the end of 2018, with the government planning to deploy an addition 1.5 GW of solar energy in 2019 and 2.2 GW in 2020.
Additionally, the government approved amendments to the Electricity Act on 20 October 2016 to break up the state-owned monopoly Taipower into subsidiaries and further liberalize the power sector by allowing companies to sell electricity to users directly rather than selling through Taipower. In particular, the generation and distribution divisions of Taipower are to be separated. Amongst the stated motivations for liberalisation was to allow for the direct purchase of green energy by consumers. The plan also included emissions controls, the creation of a regulatory agency, mandatory reserve margins (waived for start-up green energy companies), and measures for price stabilization. The plan was met with protests by Taipower employees.
Tsai campaigned on a promise to make Taiwan nuclear-free by 2025, which was codified into law on 11 January 2017 via amendments to the Electricity Act. An energy blackout due to an unrelated operational mistake have led some to question the nuclear phase-out. According to the results of the 2018 referendum, this provision was abolished on 7 May 2019. Nonetheless, the administration has maintained a goal of phasing out nuclear energy.
On 5 July 2017, the first Forward-Looking Infrastructure Bill passed the Legislative Yuan. The bill provided $420 billion NTD in funds over a period of 4 years toward infrastructure projects in light-rail infrastructure, water supply infrastructure, flood control measures, and green energy, talent developent, urban and rural infrastructure, digital infrastructure and food safety. Other projects include improving road safety and aesthetics, locally oriented industrial parks, recreation centers, bicycle paths, and public service centers for long-term care.
On 1 January 2017, the amended Labor Standards Law (commonly referred to as 一例一休), which was passed on 6 December 2016 by the legislature, took effect. The amendments stipulated, with some exceptions, a 40-hour five-day work week with one compulsory rest day and one flexible rest day. On the flexible rest day, workers may work for overtime pay, and the compulsory rest day guaranteed that workers could not work more than six days in a row. The amendments also reduced the number of national holidays from 19 to 12, eliminating Youth Day, Teachers’ Day, Retrocession Day, Chiang Kai-shek’s birthday, Sun Yat-sen’s birthday, Constitution Day and the day following New Year’s Day. Prior to the amendments, the Labor Standards Act stipulated a maximum of 84 hours of work in any given 14 day period. The amendments were met with protests from labor groups, who opposed the reduction of national holidays and demanded that work on flexible rest days should result in compensatory vacation days in addition to overtime pay.
After taking effect, the amendments were criticized for their lack of flexibility, resulting in a net decrease in total pay and an increased in cost of living, and for having an overly complicated scheme for calculating overtime pay, leading the administration to further revise the Labor Standards Act. On 1 March 2018, the second revision of the Labor Standards Act came into effect. The revisions relaxed the previous regulations by stipulating two compulsory rest days for each 14 day period rather than one compulsory rest day for each 7 day period, meaning that workers could work for 12 days in a row. The revisions also simplified the formula for overtime pay. The revisions were met with protests and hunger strikes by labor groups.
Further information: Languages of Taiwan
The Tsai administration took actions to preserve languages facing a crisis of inheritance and to put them on more equal footing to Mandarin. Previously, the only national language was Mandarin; during her administration, the national languages of Taiwan were eventually broadened to include Mandarin, Taiwanese Hokkien, Hakka, 16 indigenous Formosan languages, Taiwanese Sign Language and the Matsu dialect of Eastern Min spoken on the Matsu Islands.
The Indigenous Languages Development Act took effect on 14 June 2017, designating 16 indigenous Formosan languages as national languages. Hakka was made a national language via amendments to the Hakka Basic Act on 29 December 2017. On 25 December 2018, the sweeping National Languages Development Act passed the legislature, creating broadcast services for each national language of Taiwan, guaranteeing access to public services in each language, and introducing elective language classes in primary schools. The act also directed the government to work with civic groups to create standard orthographies for each national language, and to develop a plan for preserving and revitalizing threatened languages. It furthermore automatically designated, in Article 3, all languages of all ethnic group in Taiwan to be a national language, thus clearing the way for Taiwanese Hokkien, Taiwanese Sign Language, and the Matsu dialect to become national languages.
On 15 August 2019, the government amended the Enforcement Rules of the Passport Act to allow for the use of romanizations of names in any national language (Hakka, Hoklo or indigenous languages) in passports.
New Southbound Policy
Further information: New Southbound Policy
The New Southbound Policy was launched on 5 September 2016 with the intent to make Taiwan less dependent on Mainland China and to improve Taiwan’s cooperation with other countries. The 18 countries the New Southbound Policy targeted for increased cooperation are: Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Australia and New Zealand. The The policy designated areas of cooperation in trade, technology, agriculture, medicine, education, and tourism. In mid-2019, the Taiwanese government announced that since the implementation of the policy, bilateral trade between Taiwan and the targeted countries increased by 22%, while investment by targeted countries increased by 60%. Further, the number of medical patients from targeted countries increased by 50%, the number of visitors increased by 58%, and the number of students increased by 52%.
International observers have noted that Taiwan’s pre-reform pension system was due to default by 2030 for civil servants and 2020 for the military. Pension reform was passed via two separate bills, one dealing with civil servants and schoolteachers on 27 June 2017 and another dealing with military veterans on 20 June 2018. On 1 July 2018, the pension reforms came into effect. Civil servants, upon retirement, have a choice between receiving pensions in monthly instalments subject to a preferential interest rate or via a lump sum. Under the reforms, the previous preferential interest rate for those who opted for monthly instalments would be gradually reduced from 18% to 0% over the span of 30 months. Civil servants who opted for a lump sum would see their interest rates decreased from 18% to 6% over a period of 6 years. The reforms were estimated to affect 63,000 military veterans, 130,000 public servants and 140,000 schoolteachers. The reforms simultaneously set minimum monthly pensions for schoolteachers and civil servants at $32,160 NTD and for military veterans at $38,990 NTD. The reforms also raised the minimum retirement age to 60 from 55, to increase by 1 per year until the retirement age reaches 65. Though the reforms were met with protests from government retirees and veterans, polls have shown that the majority of Taiwanese are satisfied with the outcome of the pension reforms. After a legal challenge by the KMT, the Constitutional Court found most of the pension reform constitutional, while striking down clauses regarding the suspension of pensions for retirees that took jobs later in the private sector.
Further information: Same-sex marriage in Taiwan
On 24 May 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that the constitutional right to equality and freedom of marriage guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry under the Constitution of the Republic of China. The ruling (Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748) gave the Legislative Yuan two years to bring the marriage laws into compliance, after which registration of such marriages would come into force automatically. Following the ruling, progress on implementing a same-sex marriage law was slow due to government inaction and strong opposition from some conservative people and Christian groups. In November 2018, the Taiwanese electorate passed referendums to prevent recognition of same-sex marriages in the Civil Code and to restrict teaching about LGBT issues. The Government responded by confirming that the Court’s ruling would be implemented and that the referendums could not support laws contrary to the Constitution.
On 20 February 2019, a draft bill entitled the Act for Implementation of J.Y. Interpretation No. 748[a] was released. The draft bill would grant same-sex married couples almost all the rights available to heterosexual married couples under the Civil Code, with the exception that it only allows adoption of a child genetically related to one of them. The Executive Yuan passed it the following day, sending it to the Legislative Yuan for fast-tracked review. The bill was passed on 17 May, signed by the President on 22 May and took effect on 24 May 2019 (the last day possible under the Court’s ruling).
Transitional justice and ill-gotten assets
Further information: Transitional Justice Commission
Further information: Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee
The Act on Promoting Transitional Justice (促進轉型正義條例) was passed by the Legislative Yuan on 5 December 2017. The act sought to rectify injustices committed by the authoritarian Kuomintang government of the Republic of China on Taiwan, and to this end established the Transitional Justice Commission to investigate actions taken from 15 August 1945, the date of the Jewel Voice Broadcast, to 6 November 1992, when president Lee Teng-hui lifted the Temporary Provisions against the Communist Rebellion for Fujian Province, Republic of China, ending the period of mobilization. This time period, in particular, includes the February 28 Incident as well as White Terror. The committee’s main aims include: making political archives more readily available, removing authoritarian symbols, redressing judicial injustice, and producing a report on the history of the period which delineates steps to further promote transitional justice. Thus far, the commission has exonerated political criminals from the martial law era, made recommendations on the removal of authoritarian symbols, and declassified government documents from the martial law era.
The Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations was passed in July and Wellington Koo, one of the main authors of the Act, was named as the committee chairman in August. With the establishment of the committee, the KMT has insisted that it has been illegally and unconstitutionally persecuted and that the investigation is a political witch hunt. However, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) maintained that the means are necessary for achieving transitional justice and leveling the playing field for all political parties. Thus far, the committee has determined that the China Youth Corps, Central Motion Picture Corp., National Women’s League, and the Broadcasting Corporation of China were KMT-affiliated organizations and either froze their assets or ordered them to forfeit them.
Family and personal life
Tsai’s paternal grandfather, of Hakka descent, came from a prominent family in Fangshan, Pingtung, while her grandmother, from Shizi, Pingtung, was of aboriginal Paiwan descent. Tsai’s father, Tsai Chieh-sheng (蔡潔生; Cài Jiéshēng) owned a car repair business. Tsai’s mother is Chang Chin-fong (張金鳳; Zhāng Jīnfèng), the last of her father’s four mistresses. She is the youngest of her father’s 11 children, having three full siblings among them; she also has a maternal half-brother. Tsai is unmarried and has no children. Tsai is known to be a cat lover, and her two cats, “Think Think” and “Ah Tsai”, featured prominently in her election campaign. In October 2016, she adopted three retired guide dogs, named Bella, Bunny, and Maru.
According to the traditional Chinese naming practice, Tsai’s name would have been 蔡瀛文, since her generation name is 瀛 (yíng), not 英 (yīng). However, her father believed the former to have too many strokes for the girl to learn, so she was instead named 英文, which can be literally translated by its individual parts as “heroic” and “literature; culture”, or the Chinese word for the English language if taken even more literally and without its erudite meaning.
^ Also translated as the Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748.
^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs brochures MOFA-EN-FO-105-011-I-1 (also appearing in Taiwan Review, May/June 2016) and −004-I-1.
^ “Taiwan opposition candidate admits defeat in presidential election”. Reuters. 11 January 2020. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
^ “Taiwan’s Tsai wins second presidential term”. 11 January 2020. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
^ Kuo, Lily (11 January 2020). “Taiwan re-elects Tsai Ing-Wen as president in clear message to China”. The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
^ “Rebuking China, Taiwan Votes To Reelect President Tsai Ing-wen”. NPR.org. Retrieved 12 January 20
Questions W.E. have:
Why did your father ask you to become a lawyer?
What did you and president-elect Trump discuss?
Why did you resign as head of DPP after losing your first attempted presidential race?
What did you do 2012-2015, before running again – & winning by huge landslide in 2016?
How did you plan your strategy for debating with then President Ma Ying-jeou?