Childhood & Early Life
Tsai Ing-wen was born on 31 August 1956, in Taipei, Taiwan, to Chang Jin-feng and Tsai Jie-sheng. She was the youngest of the nine children of her parents. Her father had a car repair business.
As the youngest child in her family, she spent much of her leisure time caring for her father. No one in her family expected the girl to grow up to have a professional career.
Her father encouraged her to study and on his advice she enrolled at the College of Law, National Taiwan University, and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1978. She then moved to the Cornell University in New York to earn a Master of Laws in 1980. In 1984, she earned a Ph.D. in law at the London School of Economics.
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She returned home and began her career as an educator, teaching law at School of Law at Soochow University and National Chengchi University, both in Taipei.
A highly ambitious woman, she had ventured into governmental positions by the early 1990s. Working under the then-ruling Kuomintang (KMT), she served as a key trade negotiator involved in Taiwan’s entry into the World Trade Organization and was also one of the chief drafters of the special state-to-state relations doctrine of then President Lee Teng-hui.
In 2000, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came into power and President Chen Shui-bian took office. Under his administration, she served as Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council.
She became a member of DPP in 2004. In 2006, she was appointed to the post of vice president of the Executive Yuan, a position commonly referred to as vice premier under the Premier Su Tseng-chang. During this time she also served as chairwoman of the Consumer Protection Commission.
In 2007, Tsai, along with the rest of the cabinet resigned when Premier Su Tseng-chang left his post. She was then replaced by Chiou I-jen, the incumbent secretary-general of the Presidential Office as vice premier.
Tsai was made the DPP chairperson in 2008 after she defeated Koo Kwang-ming in the election for DPP chairperson, following her party's defeat in the 2008 presidential election.
Soon after taking office she said that DPP would work to deepen the Taiwanese localization movement while defending social justice. She proved to be popular in this position and was re-elected as the chairperson of the DPP in 2010.
In 2010, she ran for New Taipei City mayorship in the municipal elections but was defeated by Eric Chu of KMT. By this time she had set her aims high and in 2011 she won the DPP’s primary to become her party’s presidential candidate. It was the first time a woman had become the presidential candidate of a major party in the history of the Republic of China. She lost the presidential election in 2012.
Tsai has strong beliefs about maintaining economic and trade links with mainland China, and generally supports the diversification of Taiwan's economic partners. However, she spoke out against the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a preferential trade agreement that increased economic links between Taiwan and mainland China.
She supports the disadvantaged groups in society, including the poor, women and children, Taiwanese aborigines, and LGBT groups, and believes that the government should take initiates to reduce poverty, provide employment opportunities, and expand public housing. She supports LGBT rights and endorses same-sex marriage.
In 2015, she officially registered for the DPP’s presidential nomination primary and was nominated the party’s presidential candidate. As a part of her presidential campaign, she visited the US and addressed Taiwanese diaspora there. In 2016, she won the presidential election with 56% of the vote, beating her opponent Eric Chu by a margin of 25.04%. She assumed the office of the President of Taiwan on 20 May 2016.