Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of the country’s Democratic Progressive Party (DDP), has been elected as President of Taiwan. In her victory speech, Ms. Tsai spoke of a “new era” for the island democracy, particularly with regard to its relationship with China.
The election is significant, not only because of the historic import of electing a woman leader, but also for what it could mean for the country’s future. Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China, and while the island is technically a sovereign state, mainland China (the People’s Republic of China, or PRC) sees Taiwan as under its authority. Ms Tsai’s party, the DDP, traditionally supports Taiwanese independence from mainland China, something that could cause tension.
China and Taiwan have maintained an uneasy status quo for the past few decades, and President-elect Tsai says that she intends to follow the will of the people in regard to relations moving forward.
“Following the will of the Taiwanese people, we will work toward maintaining the status quo for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait in order to bring the greatest benefits and well-being to the Taiwanese people,” she was quoted by The New York Times.
President-elect Tsai is one of a growing number of female world leaders. According the Pew Research Center, the number of female heads of state or government has more than doubled in the past ten years, but the number remains fairly low, percentage-wise. Data from UN Women shows that women account for only about one in ten of the leaders of United Nations member states, and most of them are the first women to hold their office. While Asia has a better record than many other regions in terms of female representation at the highest levels, Ms. Tsai will be the first ever female leader of Democratic Taiwan.