Taiwan's Tsai Ing-wen, a Woman to Watch

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Tuesday July 08, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

I recently had the pleasure to take part in a two-hour question and answer presentation to the Taiwan Foreign Correspondent's Club (TFCC) by Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) new Chairperson. Without any canned, prepared statements, Tsai immediately launched into any and all topics that the correspondents wanted to ask and know about. With a short break in the middle, this went on for two hours straight; it was all in English. In sharp contrast to Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou (oft touted by foreign media for his ability to speak English), Tsai did Ma one better. Ma will usually require prepared questions in advance so that he can avoid controversial topics. Tsai had no such requirement.

Tsai Ing-wen's personal background is impressive as well. In academics, she has an undergraduate degree in Law from National Taiwan University (1978), a Masters in Legal Science from Cornell University Law School (1980) and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics (1984). Among the many positions in her career she has served on the National Security Council, been a chief drafter of the Special State-to-State relations policy of President Lee Teng-hui towards China, and was Vice President of the Executive Yuan. Tsai has held numerous positions where her academic background could immediately be applied.

This is a woman to watch. The DPP could not have chosen a better candidate for its Chairperson. This is not to belittle the other candidates or question their loyalty and wisdom, but Tsai brings to the table both a wealth of experience and knowledge as well as a modern vision for the future of Taiwan that is rare to find. Unlike Ma who is often pretentious and tries to make points by labeling his opposition, Tsai spoke directly to the issues of the questions and resisted the temptation to belittle the opposition. Tsai revealed a person clearly concerned with Taiwan's betterment and one with the background and will to move it forward.