Tsai Ing-Wen, President of Taiwan Chris Stowers via ZUMA Wire

Taiwan’s New Balancer-in-Chief

Even as many of the world’s electorates are tilting toward the extremes, voters in Taiwan have bucked the trend and chosen the middle road. The election of Tsai Ing-wen as President is a signal that, while voters may be hesitant to enter into a deeper embrace with China, they also want to avoid a rupture in the relationship.

TOKYO – Even as many of the world’s electorates – most notably in the United States – are tilting toward the extremes, voters in Taiwan have bucked the trend and chosen the middle road. The election on January 16 of Tsai Ing-wen, Chair of the Democratic Progressive Party, as President is a signal that, however hesitant Taiwanese voters may be about entering into a deeper embrace with China, they also want to avoid a rupture in the relationship with their powerful neighbor and former antagonist.

Tsai, who will be Taiwan’s first female president, is said to have once supported Taiwanese independence, but she avoided expressing similar sentiments during the campaign, pledging instead to maintain the status quo. Indeed, she was careful to distance herself from her mentor, former President Lee Teng-hui, an outspoken supporter of a clear break with China.

Tsai’s victory over the China-friendly Kuomintang implies that relations with the mainland – which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that it will eventually reclaim – will be considerably more measured. Moreover, as a former law professor, she is likely to be a stickler for details in any negotiations with China.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in

  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now