Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president, is challenged by a former underling

Mar 21, 2019

AS TAIWAN’S FIRST female president, Tsai Ing-wen is a trailblazer. She is well-liked abroad for her reluctance to pick fights with China. But she is not popular at home. Recent polls put her approval rating below 30%. Her bid for re-election next year, already iffy, just got iffier. Lai Ching-te, her former prime minister, has declared that he will challenge Ms Tsai for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). It is the first time an incumbent president in Taiwan has been subjected to a primary. And the contest may anger China, since Mr Lai is a more vocal supporter than Ms Tsai of the idea that Taiwan should formally declare itself to be a distinct country from China—a move China says would be grounds for war.  

“Taiwan doesn’t want to be a second Hong Kong or Tibet,” declared Mr Lai as he registered for the primary this week, insinuating that Ms Tsai is not doing enough to ensure Taiwan’s independence. The DPP was thrashed in municipal elections in November by the Kuomintang (KMT), the main opposition party, which advocates warmer relations with China. Voters seemed disappointed that Ms Tsai’s efforts to stimulate the economy have had scant success. Growth is slowing. Wages have been stagnant for decades.

Following the defeat in November, Ms Tsai stepped down as leader...


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