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Tsai Ing-wen

Wang Weixing, who is a council member of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, a semi-official mainland body handling cross-strait relations, charged 25 May 2016 that "As a single female politician, [Ms Tsai] does not have the emotional burden of love, the pull of 'family', of children". China's internet censors took the unusual step of taking down the editorial on the official newspaper International Herald Leader, a newspaper run under the auspices of the official Xinhua news agency. The piece prompted outrage for suggesting Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was prone to "emotional" and "extreme" political views because she was unmarried and without children.

The personal attack, which delved into her dating history and family background, suggesting that her father had four wives had made Ms Tsai insecure – was part of a sustained outburst of negative articles in the state media her inauguration 20 May 2016.

In her inauguration address on Friday, Tsai of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said she respected "the historical fact that the two institutions representing each side across the Taiwan Strait reached joint acknowledgements and common understandings in 1992 through communication and negotiations."

"Regarding the 1992 Consensus, Tsai adopted a circuitous and indirect stance and in a tricky way, avoided answering the yes or no question [of whether she agrees with the principle]," said an editorial in the China Times newspaper. The new leader's words cannot be seen as acknowledging the 1992 Consensus, said an editorial in the Commercial Times newspaper.

In a statement, the Chinese mainland's Taiwan affairs authority said, Tsai "was ambiguous about the fundamental issue, the nature of cross-Straits relations, an issue that is of utmost concern to people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits" in her inaugural speech. The statement also reads that "She did not explicitly recognize the 1992 Consensus and its core implications, and made no concrete proposal for ensuring the peaceful and stable growth of cross-Straits relations." The statement also says "The current developments across the Taiwan Straits are becoming complex and grave. The Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are following closely the prospect of the growth of cross-Straits relations."

On average, women represent only one-fifth of lawmakers, and out of more than 190 countries, only 20 have women heads of state. Japan set a goal in 2005 to have women occupying at least 30 percent of the seats in the parliament and local assemblies. That goal is still a distant dream. apanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to put women in 30 percent of senior posts in all sectors by 2020. Japan does not have a potential woman heavyweight like German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Republic of Korea President Park Geun-Hye on the horizon.

In Taiwan, women traditionally had a very subordinate status in the hierarchical Chinese and Taiwanese society. On the other hand, Taiwan has undergone extensive economic growth and modernization in the past five decades, and women now assume a major role in the labor force. In addition, the emphasis on equality and democracy in Dr. Sun Yat-sen's "Three principles of the people" stimulated the Republic of China to reserve some legislative seats for women according to a formula that guarantees them about 10% of the seats.

Tsai became the first female president in the Republic of China's more-than 100-year-old history when she takes office in May. At the same time, a record number of female lawmakers were elected to Taiwan's Legislature. Among the 113 newly elected lawmakers, 43 are women. That's 38 percent, the highest in ROC's history and the highest in Asia. Women, Chairman Mao famously proclaimed, hold up half the sky. But not half the Politburo. The traditional patriarchal structure of Confucianism still has a large influence on modern society, including the cultural stigma that women inherently lack leadership ability.

A total of 21.3 per cent of mainland China's National People's Congress [NPC] delegates in 2008 were women. But the female proportion of NPC delegates has not significantly changed since virtually the early 1970s, stuck around 21 per cent all this time. Women were even less well represented in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), making up fewer than eighteen per cent of the NPC’s main advisory body.

Since the Communist Party took power here in 1949, no woman has served on its ruling structure, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee. Former Vice Premier Wu Yi, known as the `Iron Lady’ for her tough negotiating skills and ranked by Forbes as the second most powerful woman in the world in 2007, failed to advance past the Politburo, the group of about 25 from which Standing Committee members are recruited.

China has 22 provinces, five autonomous regions and four centrally controlled municipalities, but as of 2012 only one — Anhui province in the east — was run by a female governor, Li Bin. And there was only one female Communist provincial chief, Sun Chunlan, the party secretary in Fujian province, on the east coast. In the past 30 years, the Chinese Communist Party had appointed only four women as provincial governors. And Sun is only the second female Party provincial chief in the 63-year history of Chinese Communist rule.

According to the United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index, China was ranked 91 out of 187 countries. The United States was ranked fifth.

Shengnu, “leftover woman”, is a term China’s Ministry of Education has added to its official lexicon. It describes an unmarried urban professional woman over the age of 27. The prefix, sheng, is the same as in the word shengcai, or “leftover food”. By 35, a single woman is the “ultimate” leftover, spiritually flawed in thinking she is higher than the mandate of marriage.

By early 2015 DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen had become the undisputed center of power in the opposition party. She was a shoo-in to win the DPP's presidential nomination for the 2016 race. Just over three out of every four people polled believed the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would win the presidency in 2016, according to a poll released 24 December 2014 by a think tank headed by Taiwan independence supporters.

Tsai graduated from the College of Law at the National Taiwan University in 1978 and received a LLM from Cornell University Law School in 1980. She has a PhD from the London School of Economics in 1984. During the 1990s she was one of the key negotiators for Taiwan’s accession to the World Trade Organization. Her outstanding performance led to her recruitment to the National Security Council as a national security advisor to former President Lee Teng-hui.

Following the DPP election victory in 2000, she became the new government’s Mainland Affairs Council [MAC] minister. She joined the party in 2004 and was nominated as a legislator-at-large. As MAC Chair, Tsai helped to promote a pragmatic cross-Strait policy and participated in talks with China to improve economic ties. She has routinely maintained that the DPP does not object to closer economic ties with China so long as agreements are made in a transparent manner and did not harm Taiwan's interests.

Tsai Ing-wen became Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chair in May 2008. Tsai Ing-wen came a long way since spring 2009, when the party was reeling from its mammoth losses in the legislative and presidential elections of 2008. At the time, DPP supporters grumbled about her leadership as the party struggled with funding woes, contentious election nominations, and the corruption trial of former President Chen Shui-bian. The overwhelming KMT electoral victories in 2008 left Taiwan’s polity lopsided, the opposition effectively crushed. The DPP has been demoralized and decimated further by the political scandals involving former President Chen, who brought the party from a fledgling opposition party to the pinnacle of power.

Since then, Tsai's efforts to retire the party's campaign debts through contributions from individuals and small businesses instead of larger corporate donations began working. Likewise, Tsai successfully managed the fallout from Chen's corruption scandal. Although she initially was criticized by party supporters for either not doing enough to defend Chen or not taking a strong enough stand against him, her middle-of-the-road approach to expel Chen but to press for fair judicial treatment won support from both camps. Chen was found guilty of corruption in September 2009.

The party's strong showing in a September 2009 legislative by-election and the December 5 local elections boosted party supporters' confidence in Tsai as well as her own self-confidence. This strengthened position helped the moderate Tsai advance a relatively flexible and open-minded China policy within the DPP. Tsai had proven herself capable of running the DPP even though she may lack the depth of political experience enjoyed by senior party leaders. Tsai's rising popularity increased the likelihood she will run in one of the high-profile special municipality races in late 2010 that often have been used as political springboards for presidential candidates.

Tsai made inroads reaching out to the DPP masses. Tsai -- then Chair of the Mainland Affairs Council -- was on the campaign trail during the 2008 legislative elections. Tsai hovered in the background, almost uncertain as to what to do. Tsai worked a lot of rallies since becoming party chair in May 2008 and appeared to really enjoy campaigning.

A marked improvement in her Taiwanese language skills bolstered Tsai's abilities to work the crowd. Her limited Taiwanese had been a point of criticism within the party because the dialect long has been the DPP's lingua franca. Previously, Tsai would often begin her speech in Taiwanese but quickly lapse into Mandarin Chinese, her native tongue. How could the DPP have a leader who could barely speak the language of the masses? Tsai heard the criticism and worked to improve her Taiwanese, and her progress was on display at the 20 December 2009 protest when she addressed the crowd mainly in Taiwanese. Her preference to speak Mandarin still remains useful, however, as Tsai and others note that a large proportion of Taiwan youth does not understand much Taiwanese.

As Tsai adjusted to fit the party, she also helped to reshape it in ways that could broaden its appeal. In her previous positions as vice premier and Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chair, Tsai put forward solid performances and dealt with legislators regularly. Her professionalism and international experience -- she speaks fluent English -- remained apparent as DPP Chair. She appeared comfortable meeting foreign dignitaries and views relationship with Japan and the United States as particularly important to Taiwan.

As Tsai tried to move the DPP forward, she continued to battle party elders who maintain strong clout within the party. Despite being technically retired, former Vice President Annette Lu and former premiers and DPP chairmen Su Tseng-chang, You Shyi-kun, and Frank Hsieh were active in the 2009 anti-Ma rally and in local election campaigns. They remained a threat to Tsai's effort to develop consensus within the party and maintain a balance between factions.

Tsai has a strong background as an academic and an appointed government official, and winning elective office further solidified her support within the DPP by enhancing her credibility. By 2010 she was considered a possible DPP candidate for president in 2012, when the embattled President Ma was up for reelection.

Since election losses in 2008, opposition DPP party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen had united factions in her divided party. In 2011 the party chose her to run against incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT. If she won, Tsai was expected to lead what has been a historically anti-China party one cautious step closer to Beijing. Tsai was campaigning for increasing trade ties with China but only if Beijing respects Taiwan’s autonomy. That meant vetting cross-Strait deals through the World Trade Organization and other international bodies. Beijing was likely to resist those requirements, but was expected to work with her administration, if elected.

Campaigning for President in 2011, Tsai acknowledged there was a “rough period” in relations between Taiwan and the mainland when her independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party was last in power from 2000 to 2008. She said if she is elected in January, her government's policy toward China will be stable and balanced and will avoid radical approaches. She said her party has matured as Taiwan's democracy has developed, and her party is better prepared than ever to govern. She also said Taiwan must do a better job of preparing for its own defense.

The DPP's Tsai lauded her proposed "Taiwan consensus" as a better solution for dealing with Beijing. Tsai held a news conference to say she will set up a task force for cross-strait dialogue if elected. During the debate, she again rebutted the existence of such a consensus. Tsai said there should instead be a "Taiwan consensus" to decide what issues should be discussed between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and how the discussions should be handled. While there was indeed a cross-strait meeting in 1992, no consensus was reached in that year, according to Tsai. Even the late Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman, Koo Chen-fu, who attended the meeting, denied there was any such consensus reached, Tsai said. "The '1992 consensus' is an agreement between the Communist Party of China and the then-ruling Kuomintang, not the Taiwanese people," she added.

Further, Tsai said, the lack of public involvement and parliamentary supervision over the "1992 consensus" has "severely hurt Taiwan's democracy." Instead, the country's first female presidential candidate said that a "Taiwan consensus" -- through a democratic mechanism in which different opinions can be fully presented and evaluated -- is the key to maintaining peace with China.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou claimed victory in the Janaury 2012 vote. opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen conceded defeat and apologized to her Democratic Progressive Party members. Taiwan's election officials said Mr. Ma had almost 52 percent of the vote, compared to almost 46 percent for Ms. Tsai.

Dealing with the island’s biggest trading partner, China, and helping strengthen a faltering economy and wage stagnation — particularly for young workers — are some of the challenges Tsai would face in 2016.

Tsai Ing-wen said she would move to help Taiwan's smaller enterprises get ahead in the domestic market and overseas. In May, her party suggested changing laws to raise wages and shorten work hours from 84 every two weeks to 40 per week. She advocates creating jobs through a network of neighborhood caretakers for children. She also wanted to build 200,000 units of affordable housing to ease worries about high land prices. Apartments in Taipei are priced comparably to other major world cities.

According to a TVBS survey, by 2017 the rate of public satisfaction with Tsai’s authorities reached a historical low of 21%, while the rate of dissatisfaction rose to 63%. As Taiwan’s economy remained sluggish and cross-strait tension rose, Tsai’s popularity continued to slide. According to a poll by the Taiwan Competitiveness Forum released on 04 September 2018, 59.3% of the people polled said that they were dissatisfied with Tsai’s performance and only 29.2% were satisfied. At the same time, 72.4% believed that Tsai should adjust policies toward the mainland so as to improve the chance for Taiwan to participate in international activities.

It was at this time, however, that protests in Hong Kong erupted and gained increasing international attention over time. Seeing this as a golden opportunity to change her political fortunes at home, Tsai began to exploit the Hong Kong protests to her political advantage. On 15 June 2019, she issued a statement on Hong Kong claiming that the democratic protests in Hong Kong not only made Taiwanese cherish their existing democratic system and way of life even more, but also made it clear to them that the “one country, two systems” model was not viable. In her speech on 10 October 2019, Tsai even said that China’s “one country, two systems” proposal for Taiwan would “pose a serious challenge to regional stability and peace.” “The overwhelming consensus among Taiwan’s 23 million people is our rejection of ‘one country, two systems,’ regardless of party affiliation or political position.”

In Taiwan’s presidential election in January 2020, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured 72 percent of the vote among people under 40, according to a poll by Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s most respected research institution.

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Page last modified: 06-10-2021 12:15:15 ZULU