Tsai Ing-wen
Country: Taiwan
ridaBlogImg

Tsai Ing-wen President of Taiwan

Tsai Ing-wen, (born August 31, 1956, Fang-shan township, P’ing-tung county, Taiwan), educator and politician who was the first female president of Taiwan (2016– ).

Taiwan-Tsai-Ing-wen
PC CREDIT: Tsai Ing-wen's speech marks a departure from her normally cautious tone © RITCHIE B TONGO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Tsai, who was of Hakka descent, was one of nine children born to a wealthy business family. She spent her early childhood in coastal southern Taiwan before going to Taipei, where she completed her education. She received a law degree (1978) from National Taiwan University in Taipei and then attended Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and the London School of Economics, earning, respectively, master’s (1980) and doctorate (1984) degrees in law. Tsai then returned to Taiwan, where until 2000 she taught law at universities in Taipei. Tsai became involved in government service in the early 1990s when she was appointed as a trade-policy adviser in the administration of Pres. Lee Teng-hui. A significant achievement during that time was her major role in the negotiations that paved the way for Taiwan to join (2002) the World Trade Organization. In 2000, after Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) became president of Taiwan, he appointed Tsai as chair of the Mainland Affairs Council. That organization, which was responsible for relations between Taiwan and China, faced significant challenges during Chen’s administration (2000–08) because of the DPP’s resistance to China and because of its advocacy of Taiwanese independence. In 2004 Tsai joined the DPP and was elected as a member-at-large to Taiwan’s national legislature. She resigned her seat in early 2006 when she was appointed vice-premier of Taiwan. She remained in that post until May 2007. In 2008, following the DPP’s loss in Taiwan’s presidential election, Tsai was chosen as the first woman president of the party. She successfully rebuilt the DPP after its defeat and was reelected to the post in 2010. Tsai ran unsuccessfully against Eric Chu of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT) for mayor of New Taipei City, and she also lost the 2012 presidential race against incumbent Ma Ying-jeou. Despite those setbacks, Tsai was seen as a respectable and electable candidate. Her popularity only increased during the second Ma administration as the KMT-dominated government became mired in corruption and ineptitude. Tsai had resigned the DPP leadership in 2012 for her presidential run, but she was reelected party president in 2014. The party again nominated Tsai as its candidate for the 2016 presidential election. Her campaign focused on the poor governing performance of the KMT, that party’s increasingly cordial relations with China, and the continued poor performance of Taiwan’s economy. On January 16, 2016, she soundly defeated Chu, and she was inaugurated on May 20. In addition to being Taiwan’s first woman president, Tsai also became only the second person to win the presidency who was not a member of the KMT. In addition, she was the first person with ancestry in one of Taiwan’s ethnic minorities (Hakka) to attain that office. Following her victory she sought to assure a concerned China that she would maintain cordial relations with the mainland.

be
.
PC CREDIT: : Tsai Ing-wen Tsai Ing-wen at a campaign event in New Taipei City, Taiwan, December 2015. © glen photo/Shutterstock.com

In December 2016 the delicate balance of Taiwan-China relations was disturbed when Tsai placed a telephone call to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who overturned several decades of diplomatic protocol by becoming the first U.S. chief executive to speak with his Taiwanese counterpart since 1979. Their conversation appeared to belie the longstanding absence of formal diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the United States, prompting China to make a formal complaint to the U.S. government. Although Tsai and Trump would later say that their call did not indicate a policy shift, by 2019 the Trump administration had committed to major arms sales to Taiwan that included, tanks, missiles, and jet fighters. Taiwan’s economy grew slowly under Tsai’s stewardship, but in 2019 it was robust enough to have achieved greater growth than that of regional competitors South Korea and Hong Kong. Still, wage gains were minimal, and wealth inequality grew. Having championed unpopular reforms to Taiwan’s energy and pension policies, Tsai witnessed a considerable drop in her popularity as the 2020 presidential election approached. Her strong commitment to Taiwan’s independence and sovereignty resonated loudly with Taiwanese voters, however, as they watched huge throngs of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong push back for months against the imposition of increasingly authoritarian rule by Beijing. In the January 2020 election, Tsai won a second term by trouncing her KMT opponent, Han Kuo-yu, who advocated greater engagement with China. When the results were tabulated, some 57 percent of the total vote had gone to Tsai, about 39 percent to Han, and little more than 4 percent to James Soong, the standard-bearer for the People First Party.

The Tsai Ing-wen presidency

On January 16, 2016, Taiwan’s voters went to the polls and gave Tsai Ing-wen, chair of the DDP, a resounding victory. She became Taiwan’s first female president by obtaining more than 56 percent of the popular vote, besting the support received by the two other candidates combined. She won more than three million votes more than the KMT’s standard-bearer, Eric Chu. She also had coattails. The DPP won a big victory in the legislative election, securing its first-ever majority in the lawmaking body.

be
PC CREDIT: : Tsai Ing-wen Tsai Ing-wen at a campaign event in New Taipei City, Taiwan, December 2015. © glen photo/Shutterstock.com

Tsai had a clear mandate to govern, and so did the DPP. The KMT was now a weak opposition party, which meant that Tsai and her majority party in the legislature could put their agenda into effect and change Taiwan’s political landscape for the foreseeable future. Relations with mainland China would certainly be different, as might ties with the United States. Taiwan would be changed socially, economically, and in other ways. Tsai’s win was the product of her having repaired the DPP’s very sullied image after the Chen Shui-bian presidency. Following her party’s 2008 defeats, she helped improve its morale and even guided it to win some small local and replacement elections. She kept the party’s focus on winning the support of the electorate with policies that were rational and popular. She was patient and an effective leader. She rode the tide of populism and eschewed issues that would hurt the DPP at the polls. She avoided mention of former president Chen, Taiwan independence, “one China,” and the 1992 Consensus (an agreement whereby both sides of the Taiwan Strait would accept one China but could define “China” differently). She criticized the KMT’s elitist style of governance and its mistakes. She and her party activists took the KMT to task over Taiwan’s anemic economic growth (especially in the months before the election), growing economic inequality, the plight of youth (unemployment and lack of opportunities), energy policy (especially on nuclear energy, which became deeply unpopular in Taiwan after the accident in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011), education policy (insufficient focus on Taiwan), and commercial ties with mainland China (which appeared to make Taiwan dependent on it to a degree that endangered Taiwan’s sovereignty). Tsai and the DPP deftly exploited KMT disunity. After the KMT’s bad defeat in the 2014 elections, it had difficulty choosing a candidate to run against Tsai. Eric Chu, the only KMT winner in the metropolitan mayoral races, was the obvious pick. However, Chu had vowed to finish his term as mayor, and he may have thought that, given the political climate, running for president was a futile undertaking. Wang Jin-pyng, the speaker of the legislature, was involved in an ongoing feud with President Ma and faced other detractors. Other possible candidates did not generate much support or create hope of winning. Hung Hsiu-chu, the deputy speaker, thus won the nomination by default. She failed to gain popularity among voters and thus lacked the necessary traction to beat Tsai. As a consequence of Hung Hsiu-chu’s inability to generate voter interest, the KMT overturned her nomination and persuaded Chu to run. Some pundits said that changing horses in midstream was not a good idea and had come too late. In any event, Chu did not produce results in terms of changing the opinion polls, which favoured Tsai by a significant margin. James Soong—former KMT secretary-general, governor of Taiwan province, and contender for the presidency in 2000, the vice presidency in 2004, and other offices thereafter—then entered the race, split the conservative vote, and to some extent diluted or brought confusion to the KMT campaign platform. In the meantime, Tsai promised to return Taiwan to meaningful economic growth, pledging to make Taiwan’s economy an innovative one, to cement free-trade agreements, and to break into regional economic organizations that were becoming increasingly important in controlling world trade. She vowed to fix Taiwan’s economic, and thus also its social, inequities. She offered plans to help youth, the poor, and geographic areas of the island that were doing especially badly. She proposed a status quo policy for dealing with Beijing and traveled to the United States to win support (or at least neutrality) in the election by convincing official Washington of her sincerity in keeping the status quo and not provoking Beijing or taking the United States for granted, as former president Chen had. U.S. Department of State and other officials were impressed by her pitch, and, in contrast to their stance in previous elections, did not show favouritism toward the KMT. Tsai assumed the presidency in May 2016. She was a unique president in a number of ways beyond being Taiwan’s first woman president. She was its first unmarried one. She was a member of a minority group, the Hakka, and had aboriginal blood. Her previous work in government related to dealing with economic and foreign policy matters. She was not by nature a populist and said so, even though populism was the modus operandi of her party. By her own admission, she was not an accomplished speaker or debater. She was an elitist by her education and the fact that she preferred to speak Mandarin Chinese rather than Minnan (Taiwanese; said to be the people’s language). Finally, she was a moderate in a party that on many issues was not moderate.

wwdadd
PC CREDIT: : Tsai Ing-wen Tsai Ing-wen at a campaign event in New Taipei City, Taiwan, December 2015. © glen photo/Shutterstock.com

Notwithstanding her astounding election victory and the strong mandate to govern that resulted, President Tsai faced serious, even formidable, problems in office. Taiwan’s economy was on a fast downward trajectory. She had proposed remedies for this that had resonance with voters but were not too promising as fixes. Going into the election, she alienated the business community to some degree. Attaining free-trade agreements and participating in regional economic organizations depended on mainland China’s support. Her party, a social democratic one, wanted increased social spending and more government involvement in the economy. The higher taxes this implied and the fact that they would probably discourage foreign investments were not seen by many businesspeople as a good plan. Tsai and the DPP were seriously, perhaps perilously, at odds with Beijing. The party stood for Taiwan’s greater separation and, formally speaking, Taiwan’s legal independence. Beijing was opposed to this approach, and some observers expected it to put extreme economic pressure on Taiwan or perhaps to call on its military to threaten the use of force against Taiwan if nothing else succeeded, to ensure that Taiwan, from Beijing’s viewpoint, did not go astray. The United States was Taiwan’s protector and its salvation, but America was not in the mood to employ its military to help Taiwan. Some officials in Washington did not trust President Tsai or her party, and some in the media and academe felt that the U.S. should abandon Taiwan in order to finally take leave of China’s civil war and remove the most serious source of conflict with Beijing. This equation looked as if it might shift when U.S. President-elect Donald Trump went against decades of diplomatic protocol by accepting a telephone call from Tsai in December 2016. It was the first conversation between leaders of the two governments since 1979, and it seemed to overturn the carefully calculated absence of formal diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the United States. That phone call prompted Beijing’s foreign ministry to lodge a formal complaint with the United States, though Tsai later said that the call did not signal a policy shift for Taiwan. Trump, for his part, recommitted the U.S. to the one-China policy in February 2017 during his first phone conversation as president with his Beijing counterpart, Xi Jinping. Nevertheless, in 2019 the Trump administration escalated the U.S. policy of selling arms to Taiwan by agreeing to provide tanks and missiles worth some $2.2 billion, along with 66 F-16C/D fighter jets at a cost of about $8 billion. Meanwhile, Xi Jinping intensified his call for Tsai to embrace the 1992 Consensus. Under Tsai’s leadership, Taiwan’s economy expanded, though not dramatically, until 2019, when it outperformed regional rivals Hong Kong and South Korea. At the same time, wages grew only slowly and the gap in wealth inequality widened. The president’s attempts at pension and energy-policy reform proved generally unpopular. There was also widespread opposition to the legislature’s legalization of same-sex marriage, which had earlier been rejected in referendum. As a result of these developments, Tsai’s approval rating dipped significantly as the January 2020 presidential election appeared on the horizon. Many Taiwanese rallied to Tsai’s stance of fierce independence in opposition to Beijing, however, in response to events in Hong Kong, where for months the imposition of the increasingly authoritarian policies of Xi Jinping’s government was greeted with massive pro-democracy demonstrations that led to violent clashes between protestors and police. In the January 11 presidential election, Taiwanese voters were given a choice between Tsai, the KMT’s Beijing-friendly Han Kuo-yu (the mayor of Kao-hsiung), and James Soong of the People First Party. The election was marred by accusations of interference by Beijing through the spread of misinformation on social media. When the results were in, Tsai had won a commanding victory, capturing some 57 percent of the vote, compared with about 39 percent for Han and just over 4 percent for Soong. In the legislative elections, the DPP lost seven seats but maintained its solid majority.

First In Asia: Marriage Equality Comes To Taiwan

Just days after Taiwan's legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage for the first time anywhere in Asia, the tiny island nation is now registering the first gay and lesbian weddings in its history. Marriage equality went into effect island-wide on Friday. "Today is a proud day for Taiwan," said Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen on May 17, during her visit to the southern municipal city of Tainan. "It is the day Taiwan let the world see the goodness and value of this land. Everyone's love is equal." The Man Who Fought For Equality The law is the result of a four year battle waged by gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei, who first petitioned the court in 2015, according to CNN. Taipei city officials representing three same-sex couples, who sued the government for rejecting their marriage registrations, filed a similar petition that same year. Lawmakers approved the bill with just a week left on a two-year deadline, which was set by the island's Constitutional Court. The panel of judges ruled that the law dictating marriage could only be between a man and a woman was unconstitutional. Conservative groups in Taiwan had been campaigning against same-sex marriage reform and their representatives pushed for watered-down versions of the bill, similar to same-sex unions. But outside parliament on Friday, tens of thousands of marriage equality advocates braved pouring rain, to show their support for the only bill to use the word "marriage."

dssa
PC CREDIT: TAIPEI, TAIWAN - MAY 17: People gather outside Taiwan's parliament ahead of a vote on legalizing

TAIPEI, TAIWAN - MAY 17: People gather outside Taiwan's parliament ahead of a vote on legalizing  GETTY Among them was Wu Tzu-an, a 33-year-old gay artist from Taipei. "Today the result was the best we got for this stage," Wu told CNN. "It's also a sign to show that Taiwan was different from China." What A Difference 110 Miles Makes Mainland China does not recognize same-sex marriage, and while it is legal to be gay, Communist Party rules still leave room for discrimination and prejudice against members of the LGBTQ community. Just last November, a mainland court sentenced the author of gay erotic fiction to 10 years in prison.

zzzz
.
PC CREDIT: TAIPEI, TAIWAN - MAY 18: Lesbian couple Amber and Huan Huan hold hands during a wedding event

TAIPEI, TAIWAN - MAY 18: Lesbian couple Amber and Huan Huan hold hands during a wedding event  GETTY Taiwan joins a growing list of more than two dozen nations around the world where same-sex marriage is legal, according to Pew Research, but elsewhere in Asia it's a different story: One law in Brunei calls for two men engaged in gay sex to be stoned to death. Two men said to be gay were publicly caned in Aceh, Indonesia in 2017. President Tsai posted messages of congratulations to Taiwan's LGBTQ community on social media, declaring it was a day for pride, a fulfillment of a campaign promise, and merely the start for full equality.

xxzz
PC CREDIT: Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on March 21, 2019. (Photo by SAM YEH / AFP / Getty Images

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on March 21, 2019. (Photo by SAM YEH / AFP / Getty Images  GETTY "It's not the end of the end," she wrote. I hope it's another starting point for the Taiwanese community to be inclusive. Taiwan still has to keep working, learning to understand and coexist. Let the differences no longer bring differences."

Outstanding Achievements
Taiwan's Tsai surprised the world with her achievements, but can her good fortune last another term?

Qi Dongtao reads into signs of change in President Tsai Ing-wen’s second term inauguration speech, sussing out that compared to four years ago, the president is placing greater emphasis on the idea of Taiwan as a national entity on its own. Such fateful steps augur potential clashes in the next four years as Taiwan runs the risk of being an unwitting pawn in US-China competition.

53
PC CREDIT: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen delivers her inaugural address at the Taipei Guest House in Taipei, Taiwan on 20 May 2020. (Wang Yu Ching/Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via Reuters)

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen delivers her inaugural address at the Taipei Guest House in Taipei, Taiwan on 20 May 2020. (Wang Yu Ching/Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via Reuters) As expected, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen delivered her second term inaugural address on 20 May in her usual low-key and plain manner. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Yet, in mainland China’s eyes, she had still failed the test as she did not clearly accept the “one-China principle" in her speech. However, this did not come as a surprise to the mainland as they have long concluded that Tsai will not openly accept the one-China principle anyway. On the other hand, the US has always heaped high praises on Tsai’s ability to rapidly improve US-Taiwan relations in a low-profile manner while maintaining a non-provocative stance towards the mainland — they should be very satisfied with Tsai’s speech. A day before her speech, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Tsai in an unprecedented move that implies he had prior knowledge of the content of Tsai’s speech. Mutual trust between Taiwan and the US can be said to have reached new heights.   Projecting a stronger sense of national identity Tsai’s second inauguration speech differs from the first one she delivered four years ago in a few ways. Firstly, she did not express immense gratefulness for the people’s votes as she did previously. Instead, she began her second speech by speaking about “a Taiwanese community”, and referred to Taiwan’s internationally-acclaimed successful containment of the coronavirus outbreak over the past four months as an important milestone in the growth and development of this Taiwanese community. Significantly, she first referred to Taiwan as the “Republic of China”, and later used the word “country” in relation to Taiwan a few times. This is the message she was bringing across: Taiwan’s successful containment of the outbreak has greatly strengthened the Taiwan people’s recognition of the “Republic of China” as a country, and forged a greater awareness of this community’s shared destiny. In a clever use of literary technique, such a narrative not only caters to the needs of Taiwan’s nationalism, but also ensures that the mainland cannot find fault with it. Of course, if the mainland really wants to nitpick, it can say that Taiwan is making use of the pandemic to achieve independence, in the same way that the Tsai administration’s is trying to gain membership of the World Health Organization (WHO) through the outbreak — both seek to strengthen and promote Taiwan’s political independence and identity.

55
PC CREDIT: Police officers stand guard in front of the Presidential Office Building during the inauguration ceremony of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei, Taiwan, on 20 May 2020. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Another change from four years ago is the fact that the pandemic has accelerated changes in the global political and economic landscapes over the past four months, for which Tsai described as presenting “unprecedented challenges and unparalleled opportunities” for Taiwan over the next four years. It reminds one of the phrase “changes unseen in 100 years” that China’s top leader Xi Jinping had talked about in his 2019 New Year's Eve address. While these two sayings speak about facing challenges, Tsai’s version put the emphasis on the opportunities that these extraordinary changes bring — opportunities that could help them achieve a more strategically advantageous position. Thus, these sayings are fundamentally optimistic and inspiring. However, if cross-strait relations remain tense, it would be impossible for both sides to stay optimistic at the same time — one party would eventually lose its strategic upper hand. Thirdly, as opposed to four years ago, Tsai grouped national defence, foreign affairs, and cross-strait relations under the same topic of “national security” in her second inauguration speech. She also placed other topics like economic development, safe society, and institutional and democracy strengthening under the umbrella topic of “national development”. Once again, we observe Tsai’s emphasis on Taiwan as a “country” in a bid to label everything that she is doing, as “nationalistic” and for the “sake of this country that is Taiwan”. Of course, after whetting their appetites over the past year, this is also Tsai and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s way of satisfying the Taiwan people’s hunger for nationalism. Not a rejection of “one country, two systems”? Certain parts of Tsai’s speech on cross-strait relations then and now are worthy of further analysis. In terms of word count, the discussion on cross-strait relations in both inauguration speeches were a mere 300 words, taking up just 5% of each of her almost 6000-word speeches. This implies that cross-strait relations were not the highlight of both of Tsai’s speeches, and that Tsai is not particularly hopeful about the progress of cross-strait relations.

Is Taiwan hinting that if the mainland was able to propose a solution that does not downgrade Taiwan, there is a chance that Taiwan would accept it?

Just as she did in her previous inauguration speech, she expressed that she would abide by the Constitution of the Republic of China and the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, indirectly acknowledging Taiwan’s interpretation of “one China”. Just a few days before her inauguration, DPP legislator Tsai Yi-yu had also withdrawn his proposal to remove the mention of “unification of the nation” from the Constitution and the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area in a sign that Tsai does not want the mainland to think that Taiwan is being provocative.

56
PC CREDIT: Motorcyclists wearing face masks amid the Covid-19 pandemic ride during the peak hours while heading to work in Taipei on 18 March 2020. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Additionally, when Tsai rejected “one country, two systems” again, it was not because of the reasons she cited in the past — “democracy and authoritarianism cannot coexist in the same country” or Taiwan is “an independent country already” — but because it would “ downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo”. Is Taiwan hinting that if the mainland was able to propose a solution that does not downgrade Taiwan, there is a chance that Taiwan would accept it? If the DPP thinks that the biggest obstacle standing in the way of unification is that both sides have different political systems, and that unification can only happen when the mainland has also achieved a Taiwan-style democracy, then unification would indeed be a far-away goal. However, if the biggest obstacle is instead that both sides are of unequal status, it follows that if the mainland has a unification proposal that could make Taiwan feel that they are of equal status, unification would be an achievable goal. Although Tsai rejected “one country, two systems” again, she did not sound as resolute and adamant as she did before.

Her use of “turning point” is intriguing — to the mainland, her speech was still an unsatisfactory one and cross-strait relations would only continue to worsen. How could there be a turning point?

Tsai also said that “cross-strait relations have reached a historical turning point” and that she hopes that “the leader on the other side of the Strait will take on the same responsibility, and work with us to jointly stabilise the long-term development of cross-strait relations”. Her use of “turning point” is intriguing — to the mainland, her speech is still an unsatisfactory one and cross-strait relations would only continue to worsen. How could there be a turning point? Based on such a speech, how could you expect the leader on the other side of the Strait to improve cross-strait relations according to their own take on the issue? The US factor In actual fact, although Tsai has always been very careful in handling relations with the mainland, it is very likely that the mainland would become her greatest challenge in her second term in office. The biggest reason for this is not because of Taiwan, but because of the conflict between China and the US. With the pandemic aggravating China-US relations, Taiwan is of an even higher strategic value to the US now. Without a doubt, the US would develop its relations with Taiwan in more industries. To the mainland, the higher the value of Taiwan to the US, the larger the threat to itself. Thus, to a large extent, it is Washington — not Tsai — that is controlling Taiwan’s threat to the mainland. While Tsai firmly maintains a non-provocative attitude towards the mainland, she cannot stop Washington from using Taiwan to spite the mainland. There is a limit to the mainland’s patience, and China would inevitably put more pressure on Taiwan in various aspects such as the economy, foreign relations, and the military.

Simply put, not only is mainland China unfazed by the pandemic, it thinks that it has become stronger than before. This increased confidence would definitely lead to greater conflict with the US, which is currently trying even harder to contain China.

57
wearing face masks amid the Covid-19 pandemic stand in formation on a US-made M110A2 self-propelled howitzer during Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's visit to a military base in Tainan, Taiwan, on 9 April 2020. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Many believe that the pandemic has seriously affected China’s economy and damaged its international reputation. China could, as a result, be left with no choice but to take the initiative to improve its relations with Taiwan. But the majority of the Chinese people believe otherwise — they believe that the pandemic has dealt an even greater blow to the US economy and that China would be the first major power to recover from the pandemic. They think that the US’s failure to contain the outbreak has marked a further decline in US leadership and that China would become more influential on the international stage for being the first to restore its economy. They also believe that even if global supply and value chains are to be reorganised, China could still rely on its long-term accumulation of talents, infrastructure, funds, market opportunities and other advantages to achieve greater heights amid the reorganisation.

Taipei has already forged a virtuous cycle of interaction with Washington that keeps Tsai very pleased, but the problem is that a vicious cycle of interaction is also forming between Taipei and Beijing.

Simply put, not only is mainland China unfazed by the pandemic, it thinks that it has become stronger than before. This increased confidence would definitely lead to greater conflict with the US, which is currently trying even harder to contain China. As a result, Taiwan would also be dealt with an even bigger blow. Amid the intensification of China-US competition and a fast-changing international landscape, the next four years have provided China with adequate time to prepare and implement various actions against Taiwan. Now, Taipei has already forged a virtuous cycle of interaction with Washington that keeps Tsai very pleased, but the problem is that a vicious cycle of interaction is also forming between Taipei and Beijing. Since Tsai does not possess the ability to control this vicious cycle, this external uncontrollability would become the greatest challenge of her second term in office. Manageable on the home front In terms of domestic events, however, Tsai is blessed with an unprecedented favourable state of affairs. Having successfully contained the coronavirus outbreak, Tsai and the DPP are still riding high on public opinion since her election victory at the beginning of the year.

Without question, its economic growth would top the Four Asian Tigers once again.

According to opinion polls carried out by think tank Taiwan Brain Trust (新台湾国策智库), 34.5% of those interviewed were satisfied with Tsai’s performance last May. This May, however, the percentage of people satisfied with Tsai’s performance has increased to a whopping 74.5%. Satisfaction level for Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang has also increased from 43.7% to 68.9%, but Taiwan Health and Welfare minister and Central Epidemic Command Center commander Chen Shih-chung’s satisfaction level was the most shocking: it saw a massive jump from 37.3% last year to 93.4% this year, speaking volumes of the enormous impact that a successful outbreak containment had on the Taiwanese.

58
PC CREDIT: man wearing a face mask cleans a handrail behind a sign telling students how to wash their hands amid the Covid-19 pandemic at a middle school in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on 29 February 2020. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Economically speaking, Taiwan’s first-quarter economic growth stood at 1.54%, with an estimated 2020 GDP growth of 2.37%. Without question, its economic growth would top the Four Asian Tigers once again. In terms of unemployment rates, Taiwan’s unemployment rate stood at 3.7% in both February and March, which is similar to the figures reported during the same period last year.

Tsai’s ability to transform both the opportunities from the US and the added pressure from the mainland into her own political capital has surprised the world with what she can achieve.

As Taiwan’s economy and society are not badly affected by the pandemic, Taiwan’s economic stimulus package was only equivalent to 5.5% of the country’s GDP, a proportion much lower than many other developed countries. More importantly, as Kuomintang — DPP’s biggest political opponent — has yet to show signs of recovery from its low satisfaction levels, the Tsai administration has, in turn, gained more manoeuvring space in its governance. Over the past four years, Tsai’s ability to transform both the opportunities from the US and the added pressure from the mainland into her own political capital has surprised the world with what she can achieve. In the next four years, can she still effortlessly manoeuvre an “externally tumultuous but internally favourable” situation? Perhaps, putting up such a gutsy front is all the more necessary for Tsai and her team in such challenging times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Math Captcha
35 − 28 =