Breakfast with Tsai Ing-wen

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairwoman and one of the contenders for her party’s presidential nomination*), had a morning tea meeting (早茶會) with foreigners  – not least press people – at the Breakfast Club in Taipei on Saturday morning local time. There was no need for translations, as Tsai’s address and the following questions-and-answers session were all held in English. TWIMI Television posted a video recording on youtube – the first video clip is embedded on the TWIMI website; the following ones (‘#2 – #6) can be found directly on youtube.

For readers whose Chinese is better than their English, an executive summary – between the video and photos – is also provided on the TWIMI website.

One consideration to hold that meeting may have been to raise Tsai’s profile in international news, with possibly positive publicity within Taiwan. Another seems to be that a president who easily (and informally, if need be) communicates with the international community could be an asset for the island republic which is diplomatically isolated, given that no country can maintain official diplomatic ties both with Beijing, and Taipei.

Main topics of her talk

  1. Video 1/6 – 03’50” Relationship with China, use of  multilateral WTO framework in ECFA and other negotiations
  2. Video 1/6 – 13’14”  Economic policies / job creation, continued on video #2.
  3. Video 2/6 – 02’15” – how Taiwanese investment in China affects job quality in Taiwan / importance of R&D.
  4. Video 2/6 10’10” – Rural areas: farming as an opportunity, rather than a burden – continued on video #3.

Tsai’s talk might have come across better – on video – if it had been a short statement instead, even if the talk probably came across more effectively among the group of people at the Breakfast Club than it does on video. The subsequent Q&A is much more lively and instructive than her talk. The longer the Q&A went, the more quick-witted and spontaneous Tsai seemed to become. On issues like the death penalty, she offered both a roadmap to its abolishment, and an explanation for the public mood which favors the death penalty.

She made no secret of the difficulties a DPP government may face if Beijing tries to make life difficult, but explained Taiwan-Chinese relations – and her approach to them – in an international context, in a relaxed and even humorous way.

The compère and moderator wasn’t exactly neutral – see video 3/6 – 05’48” / 12’33”.

Q & A

  1. Video 3/6 – 07’01” – Science: aren’t the humanities and the environment important for development, too?
  2. Video 3/6 – 13’03” – The Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co. naphtha cracker complex in particular, and environmental policies in general. Continued on video #4.
  3. Video 4/6 – 03’45” – How will a Tsai administration deal with Beijing accusations against a DPP-led government, and how will she make the US state department her ally (basically)? – the DPP’s path from revolution to diplomacy.
  4. Video 4/6 – 11’15” – Restoration of trust between the DPP and Washington so far / think-tank diplomacy.
  5. Video 4/6 – 15’26” – Is a vote for Tsai Ing-wen a vote for Chen Shui-bian and his clique? Would she pardon Chen? Continued on video #5.
  6. Video 5/6 – 02’08” – Given Tsai’s emphasis on R&D, the questioner doubts that R&D and the kinds of jobs that have been moved to China are connected, and wonders how Tsai would create an environment which foreign talents would like to move into.
  7. Would there be a moratorium on the death penalty if Tsai gets elected?
  8. Video 6/6 – 00’04” – is the best survival strategy for Taiwan to be as different from China as possible, and does Tsai have a vision for the country Taiwan should be?
  9. Video 6/6 – 05’00” – what are the three things Tsai would want to have accomplished after a first term in office, in Taiwan-Chinese relations?
  10. What is Tsai’s deepest criticism of Taiwan’s educational system?



*) Tsai has reportedly taken a leave of absence, with the presidential nomination caucus chief Ker Chien-ming being acting chairman for the time being.



Tsai Ing-wen’s Presidential Bid: Democracy over Idolization, March 11, 2011
Creative Destruction or Development, March 15, 2010


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