When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Enjoy unlimited access to quality journalism.

Limited time offer

Get your 30-day free trial!
Taiwan

Is Taiwan's New President Being Too Soft On China?

Tsai Ing-wen made history when she became Taiwan's first female head of state. A year later, she is facing the harsh realities of the job. And that starts with dealing with hardliners in Beijing.

An encircled President
An encircled President
Laura Lin

TAIPEI — After soaring to power last year, President Tsai Ing-wen — arguably the most powerful woman in the Chinese-speaking world — now finds herself on the political hot seat following the arrest in China last month of a Taiwanese human rights activist.

Lee Ming-che, an NGO worker and affiliate of Tsai Ing-wen's Democratic Progressive Party (DDP), hasn't been heard from since March 19. Beijing says he is being held on "suspicion of endangering national security," but has otherwise offered little information about Ming-che's detention.

In Taiwan, all eyes are on Ing-wen, who was elected in a landslide in January 2016 and took office in May. So far she has been notably restrained and low-key in her dealings with mainland China, especially as compared to former president Chen Shui-bian (2000-2008), the last DPP member to lead the country. It appears that Ing-wen wants to avoid earning the kind of "troublemaker" label that China attached to Shui-bian. But in Taiwan, her approach is attracting criticism, particularly in light of the Ming-che situation.

"If the case is left to drift without concrete action, how can the Taiwanese people trust that this government is capable of protecting its citizens and handling cross-straits affairs?" said Yu Mei-mei, a well-known commentator. Another high-profile pundit, talk-show journalist Hu Zhong-xin, accused the president of behaving like a "soft-footed shrimp."

Complicating matters even more are developments involving Ming-che's wife, Lee Ching-yu, who tried to fly to Beijing to speak with Chinese authorities directly only to discover, at the last minute, that her visa had been revoked. "If I do not stand up to fight against such injustice, Taiwan will always be a victim," she told reporters.

The pro-China Kuomintang Party suggested to Ching-yu that she be more discreet in her approach to the issue. The detainee's wife balked at the idea. "If we have freedom but no dignity, then we're no better off than dogs," she said. Such language only raises the pressure on a new president facing an old problem.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Geopolitics

Olaf Scholz: Trying To Crack The Code Of Germany's Enigmatic Chancellor

Olaf Scholz took over for Angela Merkel a year ago, but for many he remains a mysterious figure through a series of tumultuous events, including his wavering on the war in Ukraine.

man boarding a plane

Olaf Scholz boading an Air Force Special Air Mission Wing plane, on his way to the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Tirana.

Michael Kappeler / dpa via ZUMA Press
Peter Huth

-Analysis-

BERLIN — When I told my wife that I was planning to write an article about “a year of Scholz,” she said, “Who’s that?” To be fair, she misheard me, and over the last 12 months the German Chancellor has mainly been referred to by his first name, Olaf.

Still, it’s a reasonable question. Who is Olaf Scholz, really? Or perhaps we should ask: how many versions of Olaf Scholz are there? A year after taking over from Angela Merkel, we still don’t know.

Chancellors from Germany’s Social Democrat Party (SPD) have always been easy to characterize. First there was Willy Brandt – he suffered from depression and had an intriguing private life. His affected public speaking style is still the gold standard for anyone who wants to get ahead in the center-left party. Then came Helmut Schmidt. He lived off his reputation for handling any crisis, smoked like a chimney and eventually won over the public.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest