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Gates Foundation

​This is Tsai Ing-wen, the newly elected president of Taiwan.

Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images.

Next to Holly Holm, Tsai might be the most badass woman on the planet right now. 


Why?

1. She's the first of her kind.

This might come as a shock to you, but Taiwan has never elected a woman to presidential office before. In fact, you’d have to travel back to the end of the Qing Dynasty to find the last woman who held power during an era there: Empress Dowager Longyu, who abdicated the throne back in 1912. While Taiwan’s status as a country might be a source of great contention — it operates completely independent of China but is recognized as a “sovereign state” by many — Tsai’s win makes her one of around two dozen or so female world leaders currently holding office. 

Out of nearly 200 countries. 

GIF via "Star Trek."

2. No, seriously, she’s the first.

Aside from being Taiwan’s first ever female president, Tsai is also the first unmarried president to hold office in the country’s history as well as the first person to receive the title without previously having held an elected post of any kind. I can’t even begin to convey how unprecedented that is: It’s like if a former real estate mogul-turned-reality-show-star ran for president in America and actually won!

3. She is a completely self-made woman.

Unlike South Korea's current president, Park Guen Hye, whose father was president of the country from 1962 until his assassination in 1979, Tsai had no familial ties to any of Taiwan’s political parties before deciding to run for president. She had no man’s footsteps to follow in, which makes her ascension to the highest office all the more incredible. 

Instead, she’s the daughter of an automobile repairman and the last of his four wives. Tsai was, in fact, discouraged from pursuing her political aspirations early and often throughout her childhood.

4. She ain’t no slouch, either, though.

A brief list of Tsai's credentials:

  • Master of laws recipient, Cornell University Law School
  • Doctorate in law, London School of Economics
  • Former professor, School of Law at Soochow University and the National Chengchi University
  • Former chairperson, Fair Trade Commission
  • Former consultant, Mainland Affairs Council and National Security Council

A brief list of my credentials:

  • Voted "Most Talkative" in high school
  • Once hit a hole-in-one
  • Likes pizza

Tsai wins.

5. Also, she cleaned up a corrupt political party.

As if Tsai wasn’t facing enough obstacles on her road to the presidency, she also happened to be aligned with the Democratic Progressive Party, which was entrenched in scandal. 

Interestingly, Tsai became the trustworthy voice that the DPP needed in turbulent times, calling for the party to focus on its goal of defending Taiwan’s sovereignty as a nation while maintaining a peaceful relationship with mainland China. She was elected as the DPP’s chairperson in 2008 and vowed to rebuild the party’s confidence and defend social justice while continuing to push for Taiwan’s sovereignty.

6. She also bounced back from defeat.

In 2010, Tsai ran for mayor of New Taipei city in her native Taipei and was defeated by Eric Chu. Just two years later, Tsai became the first female presidential candidate, running against incumbent president Ma Ying-jeou. 

How did Tsai react to her defeats, you ask? Oh, only by writing a memoir, creating a bilingual website devoted to Taiwan affairs, and founding the Thinking Taiwan Foundation — an organization aimed at “acting as a catalyst for social action through participation” — while patiently waiting until the day she could announce her candidacy four years later. 

Again, for the sake of comparison, I went to the grocery store and the bank yesterday and needed a nap.

7. She won the presidency by a landslide.

With 99% of Taiwan’s voters reporting, Tsai defeated Eric Chu — yes, the very same Eric Chu — in an absolute sweep, securing 56% of the vote to Chu’s 31% and nearly twice as many total votes (6,894,744 to 3,813,365, respectively) in the process. Not since Kelly Clarkson defeated Justin Guarini to win the first "American Idol" has the democratic world seen such a one-sided butt-kicking. 

8. She’s a fierce negotiator.

At 59 years of age and with a reputation among her colleagues as naturally shy, Tsai isn’t exactly the most intimidating figure in politics at a first glance. She is, however, a force of nature at the negotiation table, having been compared to everyone from "The Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher to current German president Angela Merkel. 

“Before you attack or criticize her, she will have an answer ready before you even fire a bullet,” said Lin Chong-pin, a retired strategic studies professor and Tsai's first deputy.

9. She’s an LGBTQ rights activist.

In addition to Tsai’s promises to restore Taiwan’s struggling economy, she’s also a staunch activist for marriage equality, regularly posting videos of same-sex marriages to her social media accounts. Before her election, Tsai took to social media to voice her support for the gay pride festivities happening at the time. 

"In the face of love, everyone is equal. Let everyone have the freedom to love and to pursue their happiness. I am Tsai Ing-wen, and I support marriage equality," she said in a video posted on her Facebook page.

So not only is she attempting to broker a peace between her native sovereignty and China, but she’s also helping promote a greater global health through social policy as well? Bad. Ass.

10. She’s a wine-drinking cat lady like the rest of us.

As if you needed another reason to like her.

While owning a cat is not intrinsically badass, Tsai’s badassness has long been established, so by the transitive property of mathematics, her two cats, Tsai Hsiang Hsiang and Ah Tsai, are therefore the most badass cats on the planet. According to The Guardian, Tsai "very much enjoys sitting down with a glass of red wine, reading a book, and spending quality time" with those very cats.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of Taylor Swift announcing her run for president of the Unites States in 2020. 

GIF via Diet Coke.

So, to recap: Tsai Ing-wen is a trailblazing, self-made, tenacious-negotiating cat lady who promotes peace and supports everyone’s basic right to love freely. 

Sounds like a leader we could all get behind, does it not?

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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