2016 Presidential Election – Player Spotlight featuring Chu, Tsai and Soong

On January 16, Taiwan will democratically elect its next president. With 3 predecessors, the next president will have a legacy to continue. Who are these candidates? What makes each one so special? What are each candidate’s policies? Read below to find out more about the three candidates.

Eric Chu (朱立倫)EricChu_headshot

  • Never one to finish
    • This will be the third time Eric Chu has left a government post to run for another. In 2009, he resigned his position as Taoyuan County Magistrate after being given the position of Vice Premier under Premier Wu Den-Yih. In 2010, after the formation of New Taipei City, he resigned from the Vice Premiership in order to run for New Taipei City mayor. Just a few months ago, he took leave on his mayoral duties as the new KMT candidate, replacing Hung Hsiu-chu, in the 2016 Presidential election.
  • “One Taiwan”
    • Eric Chu’s campaign surrounds the idea of “One Taiwan,” as it is his vision to focus inward rather than outward as President Ma had done. This vision is a change to the public’s perception of the KMT as being China-centric.
  • Hoping to win over Tsai again
    • This is not the first time that Chu will be facing off against Tsai. In 2010, in the fight for the newly formed New Taipei City mayorship, Chu faced off against Tsai and won with 52.61% of the votes. Facing off against a familiar opponent, Chu hopes to have a similar result.

Click here to read about Eric Chu’s background in detail.

Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文)


  • First female presidential candidate—again
    • This is not the first time that this strong female has stepped up to the presidential election stage. Tsai previously ran against the incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou in 2012 and lost by six percent of the total votes. This will be her second time in the presidential election, and, hopefully, she will achieve a different outcome.
  • Publicly supports LGBT
    • To promote the Taiwan LGBT Pride Parade which took place on October 31, 2015, Tsai released a video that openly supports marriage equality. “Before love, everyone is equal. I am Tsai Ing-wen and I support marriage equality. Everyone has the freedom to chase love and happiness.”
  • Cross-Strait policy
    • Regarding Taiwan’s international policies, she pledges that “protecting the ‘status quo,’ as the people of Taiwan define it, namely a democratic way of life, respect for human rights, and the rule of law, will be the principal objective of [her] cross-strait agenda, one which reflects the expectations of the Taiwanese people.” However, the KMT has, on many occasions, criticized Tsai’s ambiguity about her policy.

Click here to read about Tsai Ing-wen’s background in detail.

James Soong (宋楚瑜)


  • Never give up, never surrender
    • At the age of 73, James Soong will be running for the ROC presidential position for the third time (2000, 2012, 2016). He also ran as Lien Chan’s running mate in the 2004 presidential election. Considering Soong’s ripe old age, this will likely be the last time that we will see Soong running in a presidential election.
  • Words of the elder
    • “The keywords for Taiwan’s future is not power struggle, not blue or green, not winning or losing. They are cooperation, sharing, mutual aid, feeling for others and working together.” These are the words from James Soong’s announcement of his decision to run in the upcoming election, truly focusing on cooperation as a crucial need for Taiwan.
  • Away from KMT we are united
    • On November 18, James Soong announced Hsu Hsin-ying as his running mate. Earlier this year, Hsu left the KMT, just as Soong had back in 1990, and formed her own party, the Mingkuotang. “I chose Hsu because I want to form a coalition government,” said Soong. “This is not for the interests of one party or one people, but to really put aside partisan struggles and find our common ideals again.”

Click here to read about James Soong’s background in detail.

Eric Chu (朱立倫)

Picture from South China Morning Post

The presidential candidate for the Kuomintang (KMT) party, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu replaced Legislative Yuan Vice President Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), who was the KMT candidate until October 17,  2015. Along with former Head of Labor Affairs Jennifer Wang (王如玄) as running mate, Chu is making his first bid for the presidency.

Hailing from Taoyuan County, Chu earned his PhD in accounting at New York University in 1991. He briefly was an accounting professor at City University of New York and at National Taiwan University. His political career took off from that point on; he served as a KMT legislator in the Legislative Yuan from 1998 until 2001, when he was elected as Magistrate of Taoyuan County. During his eight-year term as Magistrate, he also served briefly as the Vice Chairman of the KMT. Chu resigned as Magistrate to serve as Vice Premier, earning the distinction of being the youngest to hold the position. In 2010 he resigned his position to run in the mayoral elections in New Taipei City. After winning the election, he served as Mayor until October 19, 2015, when he put his mayoral duties on hiatus due to his presidential campaign.

On January 17, 2015, he replaced President Ma Ying-Jeou as Chairman of the KMT. He pledges to reform the KMT, largely due to its negative performance during the 2014 Mayoral elections and consistent low approval numbers. He has stated that his position is different from that of President Ma.

Eric Chu’s campaign surrounds the idea of “One Taiwan,” as it is his vision to focus inward rather than outward as President Ma had done. This vision is a change to the public’s perception of the KMT as being China-centric. Netizens and members of the public have criticized his campaign, saying that it mimics Tsai’s current campaign and disguises the KMT’s position that Taiwan is part of China via being under the ROC. Chu’s campaign has also been parodied as the KMT “declaring independence”.

Eric Chu has a track record of vowing to not resign during his terms in different political positions, yet he resigned from the New Taipei City mayorship in order to run in the 2016 presidential election. He also recently stated his aim for constitutional reforms.


Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文)

Tsai light up taiwan logo
Picture from Storm Media Group

The first female presidential candidate in Taiwan, Tsai first ran as the DPP presidential candidate in the 2012 Presidential Election and received 45% of the votes but was ultimately defeated by incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) party. She will be making her second bid for the presidency in the upcoming 2016 election alongside running mate Dr. Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁).

After obtaining her PhD in law from the London School of Economics in 1984, Tsai taught law in Soochow University and National Chengchi University before being appointed as chairperson of the Mainland Affairs Council in 2000. In 2006, she was appointed vice president of the Executive Yuan and also served as chairwoman of the Consumer Protection Commission. She resigned from the Executive Yuan in 2007 and became the chair of TaiMed Biologics, a Taiwanese biotechnology company, before beginning her first term as chairperson of the DPP in 2008. She is currently serving her second term as chairperson of the DPP, and, through both terms of her chairpersonship, she has helped the DPP regain momentum. For example, in the local elections that were held on November 29, 2014, she led the party to secure leadership of 13 of Taiwan’s 22 municipalities and counties in a historic victory.

A supporter of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, Tsai plans to continue deepening the Taiwanese localization movement and defending social justice, pledging to create an effective, transparent government that will “communicate fully with society so that citizens know [its] reasons, the necessity, and the effects of [its] policies.”  Additionally, Tsai promises to implement a new economic development model that will promote innovation and attract investment, along with legislative reform that will make the Legislature more representative of public opinion and better able to serve as a balance to the executive branch. Tsai also seeks to put an end to the lack of “mature political interaction” and “malicious fighting between political parties,” stating that she “absolutely will not sit and watch Taiwanese society be continuously torn apart by fighting between political parties.” She proposes to create a Reform Alliance that will recruit talent from everywhere within Taiwan to participate in governance and contribute to reform.

Regarding Taiwan’s international policies, she pledges that “protecting the ‘status quo,’ as the people of Taiwan define it, namely a democratic way of life, respect for human rights, and the rule of law, will be the principal objective of [her] cross-strait agenda, one which reflects the expectations of the Taiwanese people.” The KMT, as Tsai’s main opposition in the election, has on many occasions accused Tsai of being ambiguous about her stance on the cross-Strait issue and has demanded a clear statement.

She also promises to create legislation “to establish a comprehensive set of rules for overseeing the cross-strait exchanges and negotiations” (a key demand of the Sunflower movement) and emphasizes communication with the Taiwanese public and the US. Additionally, she envisions increasing cooperation between Taiwan and the US on all fronts and having Taiwan join regional trade agreements, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


James Soong (宋楚瑜)

Soong campaigning 2015
Picture from Chinese Television System (CTS)

Soong, age 73, has a long history of serving in the ROC. His career began in 1974 as the Secretary to the Premier, where he was favored by Chiang Ching-kuo. In 1978, Soong became a household name for addressing the nation and condemning the United States after the US decided to break official diplomatic ties with the ROC in favor of the People’s Republic of China.

Before the first presidential elections, Soong ran for “Governor of Taiwan Province” in the position’s first and only popular election, defeating the DPP’s Chen Ding-nan. The position focused on developing infrastructure and managing the Bank of Taiwan, but, in 1997, it was given less responsibilities and changed into a provincial council appointed by the president.

Soong prepared to run as the KMT presidential candidate in the 2000 election, but the party supported Lien Chan instead. Feeling betrayed, Soong ran as an independent and was kicked out of the party as a result. Soong narrowly lost to the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian, receiving 36.8% of the votes while Chen won with 39.3% and Lien received 23.1%. With his impressive election results, Soong took his supporters and formed his own party, the People First Party (PFP).

The PFP and KMT decided to work together for elections in order to avoid the splitting of votes that occurred in the 2000 presidential election. Soong ran as the Vice Presidential candidate under Lien in the 2004 elections, but the duo narrowly lost to President Chen, this time collecting 49.89% of the votes compared to Chen’s 50.11%. Following this loss, the PFP began losing popularity in local elections, and the PFP-KMT partnership quickly fell apart. Soong’s popularity would never be the same: he ran for the position of mayor of Taipei in 2006 and only received 4.14% of the votes, and then ran for president again in 2012 under the PFP, only to get 2.77% of the votes.

Soong’s campaign focuses on finding a middle way, appealing to voters who are tired of the bickering between DPP and KMT. His goals include creating a true coalition government that is “non-ethnic, non-partisan, non-generational,” to push for constitutional reforms to create a stable foundation for the nation, and to build sustainable peace with China. In his bid announcement speech, Soong addressed internal issues, saying education should not be used “as a political tool for brainwashing and clipping the wings of the young” in reference to the recent education curriculum changes that sparked student protests, and that the income equality has to be addressed while not being too difficult on businesses.



Written by Jeffrey Tsai, Alicia Lee, Charles Chuang

Edited by Eric Tsai


2 thoughts on “2016 Presidential Election – Player Spotlight featuring Chu, Tsai and Soong

  1. Shouldn’t it be Lien and not Chan as this article has been addressing presidential candidates with their last names?


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