Tsai's leadership makes its mark in Taiwan
Parents' small-business background instilled work ethic from an early age. Today, the top-polling leader is a champion of women's rights
Tsai Ing-wen, the first female president of Taiwan, was recently selected by Time magazine to be one of the 100 most influential people of 2020 because of her administration's measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Taiwan.
Under Ms Tsai's leadership, Taiwan had gone more than 200 days without a locally acquired Covid-19 case, and the country had only 942 cases and nine deaths since the start of the pandemic.
That success could be attributed to the quick response of Ms Tsai's administration, which instituted one of the world's most effective pandemic response protocols.
Her government quickly responded to early reports of the virus, preparing to close borders, impose travel restrictions, and set up rigorous contact tracing and quarantine protocols.
Born in 1956 in Taipei, Ms Tsai traces her family roots to Fangshan Township of Pingtung County in southern Taiwan. Growing up at an auto repair shop run by her parents, her family background instilled in her the spirit of small and medium-sized enterprises -- professional, dynamic, resilient and hard-working.
Ms Tsai graduated with a PhD in Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1984, specialising in international trade and competition.
After finishing her studies and returning to Taiwan, Ms Tsai served as an associate professor and then a professor in the Department of Law at National Chengchi University (1984–1990), a professor at the Soochow University School of Law (1991–1993) and a professor in the Department of International Business at National Chengchi University (1993–2000).
In 2004, she joined the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and became a legislator at-large (2005–2006). She was then appointed to serve as vice premier (2006–2007). After the DPP returned to the opposition, Ms Tsai was elected DPP chair for two successive terms (2008–2010 and 2010–2012), the first woman to chair a major political party in Taiwan.
Ms Tsai represented the DPP in Taiwan's 13th presidential election in 2012, becoming Taiwan's first female presidential candidate. She ran again as the DPP candidate in 2016 and was elected as the nation's 14th president. The first female head of state in Taiwan's history, Ms Tsai is also the first female head of state in Asia who was not born into a political family.
Last year, Ms Tsai represented the DPP in the nation's 15th presidential election and was successfully re-elected with over 8.17 million votes, the highest total in history.
Ms Tsai is popular among young people for legalising same-sex marriage in 2019, making Taiwan the first country in Asia to allow same-sex marriage.
She often shows her support for LGBT rights. In 2015, she released a campaign video in which three same-sex couples appeared and when the biggest gay pride parade in Asia was held in Taipei, Ms Tsai also expressed her support for same-sex marriage.
She posted a 15-second video on her Facebook page saying: ''I am Tsai Ing-wen, and I support marriage equality'' and ''Let everyone be able to freely love and pursue happiness''.
Many people in Taiwan also see Ms Tsai's presidency as a sign of the improving status of women in Taiwan.
In the year Ms Tsai was elected, the number of female legislators in Taiwan's parliament reached 38%, putting it far ahead of the 22% international average. The figure was higher than the UK, Germany, and the US.
Her government encourages the promotion of gender equality. As a result, Taiwan this year ranks first in Asia and sixth worldwide in terms of gender equality based on the Gender Inequality Index.