History was made on January 16, 2016, as Taiwan got its first female president by obtaining a clear 56% majority. The resounding victory of Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came as an inspiration to many. Tsai has served as the Chair of the DPP since 2008 and has worked significantly hard to clear the sullied image of the party after the Chen Shui-bian presidency. While the party suffered a major defeat in the 2008 elections, Tsai kept her calm and helped improve the party’s morale, and even guided it to win local and administerial elections. The diplomatic outlook and focused strive kept the party fixated on the path of winning. With time, Tsai has emerged as a patient and an effective leader and is often regarded as the most powerful woman in East Asia.
Tsai Ing-wen’s solid and ambitious outlook was also further highlighted when the fierce leader voiced her concerns in Hong Kong’s national security matters. While Hong Kong faces an unparalleled void of a voracious and efficient leader, Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen’s robust statements vocalizing the plight of the domestic youth of Hong Kong came out as a testament to what a good leader brings to the table. Tsai Ing-wen is known for her reputation of being wooden on the stump. The same was exhibited in her recent campaign where she exploited the heightened fears about life under Chinese rule by zeroing in on the pro-democracy protests that shook Hong Kong in 2019.
The journey of Tsai Ing-Wen, from a Law Professor at Soochow University School of Law to the President’s Office, has certainly been remarkable and awe-spiring. Tsai has been involved in politics since 2000 when she was appointed the chair of the Mainland Affairs Council during the Presidency tenure of Chen Shui-bian. She later joined the DPP in 2004 and was subsequently nominated by the DDP as a suitable candidate in the 2004 legislative election and was consequently elected as a legislator-at-large. Tsai was later appointed to the post of vice president of the Executive Yuan (vice premier) while she continued to serve as the chairwoman of the Consumer Protection Commission. The political career of Tsai took a hit in 2007 when she had to resign from the incoming Premier Chang Chun-Hsiung and his cabinet. Tsai then served as the chair of Tai Med Biologics, a local biotechnology company in Taiwan. Tsai rose back to fame in 2008 when her name was suggested in the 2008 ROC presidential election by the Kuomintang candidate Ma Ying-jeou. Ma implied that his suggestion had no criteria and his search would not be defined by gender, occupation, or even political party affiliations. Tsai won the ROC elections and became the 12th term chair of the party while Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated as president. She also became the first woman to chair a major Taiwanese political party.
In her term as the chair of the DDP party, Tsai aimed to work in deepening the Taiwanese localization movement while defending social justice. She ambitiously criticized her mentor, Ma for mentioning closer Cross-Strait relations but nothing about Taiwan’s sovereignty and national security. The animosity between Ma and Tsai grew when the latter stressed the sovereignty issues and the former called her a Taiwan independence extremist. The strong and robust vocalization of local issues, as well as issues concerning national security, catapulted Tsai to political superstardom, eventually winning her the 2016 Presidential elections with a clear majority. During her tenure, Tsai met imminent policymakers from all across the world and highlighted issues of national security, sovereignty, and the nation’s economy on a global level, making her the public eye candy.
Tsai contested the 2020 presidential elections again and won with an even bigger majority by attaining 8.17 million votes accounting for almost 57 percent of the total share making it the highest vote share won by a DPP candidate.
Tsai Ing-Wen’s story of losing elections and then fighting her way back to the first women president of Taiwan threads a very inspirational tale. Her women-centric developments at the center as well as dominion over sectors that are rather predominantly male-oriented like military and warfare reflect confidence and self-reliance in little, young girls, promoting them to make their own space in their respective fields quashing the shackles of patriarchy and misogyny.