By defeating her opponent Eric Chu from the Kuomintang Party, 59 year-old Tsai Ing-Wen sealed her spot as the next president of the Republic of China (ROC), making her the first woman to lead Taiwan. The leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has her eyes set on her nation’s independence from China – and she’s ready to go hard on her naysayers.
There has not been a female leader for a Chinese-speaking country for a long time. The last lady to rule China was Empress Dowager Cixi around year 690 (millennia’s ago). Now, after a really long time, Tsai Ing-Wen created history on January 16 this year when her party won the Taiwan general election against the ruling Kuomintang party. The victory against Kuomintang wasn’t only for her; it was for the 24 million citizens of the island Taiwan as well.This is the first time in years that DPP won a majority in the legislature, thanks to Tsai.
Tsai’s growing up years related neither to the heroic or prophetic. You might be expecting blood, sweat and tears from her background but in reality, it is nothing like that. Tsai was the youngest of 11 siblings and she grew up in a family that’s quite well off. Her parents had a successful automotive repair business and life was affluent and fulfilled. As a woman, Tsai is a shy lady who’s still single and crazy for cats. Her furballs, Think Think, Ah Tsai and Xiang Xiang made special appearance in her campaigns. Now, that seems like a good strategy to win some hearts.
Academically, Tsai is a law graduate. Initially she wasn’t interested in law as her interests were in archaeology and history. Her father however was concern about how she’s going to make a living; hence Tsai changed her mind and pursued law instead.However, she did not pursue the corporate life like many other law grads, she chose academia instead. She furthered her studies and obtained a masters degree from Cornell University, USA. Done with that, she kept her engines running and went on to get a PhD at the London School of Economics. Tsai returned to Taiwan in the late 80’s after her pursuit of knowledge and taught law at Soochow University and National Chengchi University situated in Taipei.
It took a long time before Tsai ventured into politics. Her initial exposure to politics was when she was appointed to the Fair Trade Commission and the Copyright Commission. She was later in charge of the Mainland Affairs Council from year 2000 to 2004 – Taiwan’s government office that’s in charge of policy making towards Mainland China. Tsai was an exemplary staff and she was dedicated, detail oriented, and basically a “perfectionist”. She always took her work very seriously as she’s pretty deft at anticipating the needs and wants of people. Another thing that makes Tsai stand out from the rest is her approach. As an idealist with a global stance, Tsai has more “international” plans for Taiwan and that is certainly the kind of leader Taiwan needs in its quest for independence.
For some, losing one election run is a pain, and losing in the presidential race two years later can easily break anyone apart. But Tsai was no ordinary woman. She may seem shy and reserved but she’s got a spirit that very few leaders do. Of course, support takes time to build, thus making Tsai’s road in politics rocky at the beginning. Tsai lost once in 2010 when she ran for Mayor of New Taipei City, and she lost again in the 2012 presidential race against. After her second loss, Tsai relinquished her position as the Chairperson of DPP and went on a journey to learn more about the people.
If there’s one thing about Tsai that would make her a good president, it is the fact that she goes all out to win the hearts of the people and her allies. Since her defeat four years ago, Tsai had been spending more time engaging with grass-roots voters while also strengthening her relationship with Taiwan’s biggest ally; United States of America. She knows that the people are the ones that need to be convinced and she needs to keep the ties with USA strong as they are the ones that will back Taiwan up against China.
Two years passed, Tsai was back for more. She returned to DPP with hopes of becoming the party’s president.After two of its incumbents dropped out of the party elections, she was appointed as the DPP’s president. Now, there was only one person left in her way to become chief; Kaohsiung County deputy commissioner Kuo Tai-Lin. She defeated him to become the next chief of DPP.
With DPP under Tsai’s leading, the party managed to secure leadership for 13 of Taiwan’s municipalities and counties in the 2014 elections. The stunning victory meant two things for Tsai – she’s now in a strong position inside the party and she knows how to win the game. DPP named her as its presidential candidate in the 2016 Presidential Elections. Her opponent this time around was Eric Chu, the 6th chairman of Kuomintang and the Mayor of New Taipei.
Tsai had lost to Eric Chu in 2010 in the run for Mayor of New Taipei. This was her chance to get back at him and the odds were on Tsai’s side this time as the Kuomintang Party had been accused for keeping important decisions to very few people. DPP strongly opposes Kuomintang’s pro-China policies and is very much concerned that Taiwan’s sovereignty and national security will be in grave danger (as Mainland China considers Taiwan a “renegade state”). After years of sinking economy, stagnant graduate salaries and ageing population, Taiwan was finally ready for a change when DPP, under Tsai’s leadership won with a landslide victory of 51%.
The shy, feline-loving, brilliant and idealistic Tsai Ing-Wen once promised the people of Taiwan in her final week of the 2016 presidential campaign; “Six days from now, we will win back Taiwan!”Today, after her victory and creating history as the first female president of Taiwan, Tsai’s warning shots to her opponents have been loud and clear – signalling that her time is right here and now and the winds of change will be unstoppable.