Taiwan, Taipei: In Taiwan history, this is first time that a female become President. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen become Taiwan’s first female president. Unlike the previous DPP leaders, she only joined the pro-independence party in 2004. She took the helm as chairwoman in 2008 when the party lost power over corruption scandals.
Ms Tsai, 59, is no stranger to defeat, having lost the Xinbei mayorship to her Kuomintang (KMT) rival Eric Chu in 2010, and being beaten by incumbent Ma Ying-jeou in the 2012 presidential election. But these setbacks drove her to lead the DPP to an unprecedented victory in local elections in 2014. It has surprised many that a soft-spoken and moderate female leader from a party traditionally dominated by dramatic rhetoric could have come this far.
The former law professor is riding on an overwhelming wave of popularity resembling that of President Ma in 2008. Many have likened her to a female version of Mr Ma because of their similar educational background and persona. But others disagree, saying Ms Tsai shows more leadership than the outgoing president. A professor, Fan Shih-ping from the National Taiwan University said, “She is completely different from Ma Ying-jeou”. “I think Mr Ma is mild, gentle and courteous in many ways, but Ms Tsai is more stern and discipline in her strategy”. What Ms Tsai prides herself on the most is her negotiation skills. She was a negotiator for Taiwan’s entry to the World Trade Organisation in the 90s. Later she became an advisor to then president Lee Teng-hui and a key drafter of a special state-to-state doctrine to describe cross-strait ties.
In 2000, she headed the Mainland Affairs Council for four years and later served as vice premier from 2006 to 2007. It is no secret that Ms Tsai wants a Taiwan identity separate from the mainland, but so far, she has refused to show her cards on China policy. Ms Tsai said when asked if she would accept the 1992 consensus, “I will push for peaceful cross-strait development by following the current constitutional system, public opinion and democratic system”. “I will use the fruit of the past two decades of cross-strait development as the basis. The 1992 consensus is not the only option. It’s an option, but not the only option.”
Ms Tsai has yet to accept the 1992 consensus, which is a tacit understanding that both sides agree to disagree on what one China means. This is despite Beijing’s threat of “earth-shaking” consequences if the principle is not adhered to.Observers say her ambiguity on cross-strait ties is what has attracted the majority of voters, who are growing wary of China. That may be her strength and her strategy in negotiating with China – by not giving away anything without getting something in return.