Who Run The World? GIRLS: Taiwan Elects First Female President
by Abby Smith
History was made on January 16, 2016 when Tsai Ing-wen was elected as the first female president of Taiwan. Tsai represents the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and promises to “put political polarization behind [her] and to forward the arrival of a new era of politics in Taiwan,” according to CNN. Tsai’s win puts an end to eight years of control by the Nationalists.This control led to rapid inequality and weak economic growth.
The 59-year-old former lawyer first studied at National Taiwan University then continued her education abroad, earning a master’s from Cornell University and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. Tsai’s victory is an impressive win for women in Asian politics. She is the first to win without a prior political legacy- there have been successful female politicians in other Asian countries such as Myanmar and South Korea who have won elections, but having former familial political backgrounds. Tsai represents a new era of female politicians in Asia.
After winning 56% of the votes, Tsai is optimistic that Taiwan, especially the younger generation, is ready to embrace a female president. She is vocal about her support of LGBT rights, going so far as to regularly post pro-marriage equality videos on her Facebook page. This outright support is believed to help shift the LGBT views of this island nation.
Tsai put revitalizing Taiwan’s economy at the forefront of her campaign. The nation of 23 million people has a stagnant economy that Tsai plans to re-energize by diversifying trade with South, Southeast, and East Asia.
The economy was the top priority among voters this past year and with such disparities between upper and lower income classes, there is a fair amount of work to be done. People of the DPP represent the majority of Taiwan with average to lower incomes while people of the Nationalist Party, or KMT, represent the overly wealthy, most of whom live in the growing city of Taipei, recognized as one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Tsai and the people of the DPP are concerned about Taiwan’s economy while the leaders of the KMT are friendly with the Chinese government, some so much so that they wish to reunify with China. Tsai is adamant about working towards “maintaining the status quo for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait in order to bring the greatest benefit for the Taiwanese people,” according to TIME.
Tsai has guaranteed an overhaul of the education system, introducing five new industrial and innovation centers, and has focused on efforts to improve tourism. Another challenge Tsai will face is convincing Taiwanese businesses who have invested in China to relocate their operations back home. With the dwindling economy over the years, many businesses have migrated out of Taiwan into China, feeding the arguments of those wanting to reunify with China. Tsai hopes bringing these businesses back to Taiwan will aid her planned economic growth.
Tsai Ing-wen is unprecedented in the world of Asian politics and is already being compared to the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel. Her optimism and democratic values will help bring Taiwan into a new era and be an inspiration to a new generation of female politicians around the world.