Laura Steel Pascual
“Democracy is not just an election, it is our daily life.” (Tsai Ing-wen).
Tsai Ing-wen is an easy choice for a first article. It is not hard to see why the current President of Taiwan (2016-now) would be the perfect example of an inspirational woman. The praise Taiwan has been receiving for its highly effective Covid-19 response, for example, has definitely put her on the map. Smart, eloquent, and persuasive, below are some of the reasons everyone should look up to Tsai Ing-wen:
By the age of 24, 1980, she was both a law graduate of the National Taiwan University, Taiwan, and had completed her master’s degree at Cornell University Law School, United States. Four years later, she had earnt her doctorate degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom. (By 28, she had lived and studied in three different countries!).
It was perhaps this multicultural experience in law and economics that helped propel her political career. In the 1990s, she was a negotiator for Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization; and, later, she served as an adviser for former president Lee Teng-hui on national security matters.
She joined the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2004 and, by 2008 (and after the party’s defeat in the presidential elections), had become its chairwoman. While her first attempt at running for president failed in 2012, she continued to build up her support till 2016, the year she was elected President.
This win made history for three important reasons, as she became Taiwan’s: (1) first female leader; (2) first president to be unmarried when taking up office; and (3) first president not to have previously served as the Mayor of Taipei.
During her first term in office, Taiwan’s minimum wage, investments, stocks, social services and public housing were boosted, which allowed for Taiwan’s quality of life to rise, as well (an achievement worthy of recognition).
She is definitely not one to be trifled with. Her vision for the island is proudly, defiantly, Taiwan-centric. As a fierce defender of Taiwan's sovereignty (and not one to be bullied by China and their view that Taiwan must one day be unified with the mainland), she is putting Taiwan’s economy, development and culture first.
It was the belief that she would stand up to Beijing and keep Taiwan a liberal democracy that saw the Taiwanese population vote her in for a second time in January 2020. (A landslide victory: winning over 57% of the ballot – more than eight million votes – with her opposition trailing on 38%).
To say that her second term held challenges is an understatement. Covid-19 impacted the entire world, yet, thanks to early preparedness, health expertise, government competence, and popular alertness, Taiwan became a rare positive example of how governments could contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.
This was (and is) particularly impressive given the high degree of travel between Taiwan and China (where the disease originated from) and the lack of transparency shown by this latter country in the outbreak’s beginnings.
Can Tsai Ing-wen then be said to be one to be admired? Without a doubt. Smart, eloquent,
persuasive, she is making Taiwan a country indispensable for today’s changing world. Her
government’s long-term and efficient thinking has only reinforced Taiwan’s reputation as a
country of resilience and with a capacity for unity of purpose, which is crucial if they are to
remain independent from a power as mighty as China. Having also additionally invested in
initiatives such as biotech, defence and green energy will not only serve to stimulate Taiwan’s economy but also their role on the world stage. Tsai Ing-wen, thus, not only has our respect, but deserves it too.