02 June 2016

Team Tsai Ing-wen: a Who’s Who of the New Cabinet

A handy guide with useful analysis on a vital and timely subject!

Lauren Dickey, “Team Tsai Ing-wen: a Who’s Who of the New Cabinet,” Jamestown Foundation China Brief 16.9, 1 June 2016.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office on May 20 with no shortage of challenges ahead. Her inaugural speech focused on five specific areas: transforming economic structures; strengthening the social safety net; addressing social fairness and justice; promoting regional peace, stability and cross-Strait relations; and contributing toward diplomatic and global issues. The domestic focus shows that Tsai recognizes that broad political unity will be key to tackling her agenda (Central News Agency, May 20). Nowhere is unity more important than in Tsai’s Executive Yuan Council (or cabinet, 內閣), the chief policymaking organ of the Taiwanese government comprised of nearly forty ministers and led by Premier Lin Chuan (林全) (Apple Daily, April 28).

Tsai’s cabinet selections were greeted with a lukewarm response from many Taiwanese, yet the eclectic groups represents an intentional effort to forge political unity (TVBS Poll Center, May 12). President Tsai’s inner circle is overwhelmingly male—there are only four women—and older than Ma Ying-jeou’s cabinet, with a median age of 60.5 years. Over half of the new appointees have completed Ph.Ds. or a degree overseas. Tsai and Premier Lin deserve credit for pulling candidates into government from across both the professional and political spectrums. Though the cabinet is weighted heavily toward academics (19 former professors), 15 people have government experience and 6 bring private industry experience. Also noteworthy is that the cabinet is predominantly independent in its political leanings (62.2 percent), with those linked to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Kuomintang comprising 29.7 and 8.1 percent, respectively (Storm Media, May 16).

Building on these data points, an examination of top cabinet members’ backgrounds provides a useful rubric for understanding President Tsai’s policies going forward.

Promoting and Protecting Taiwanese Freedom

A senior cabinet member that should be familiar to any Taiwan-watcher is Chao-hsieh “Joseph” Wu (吳釗燮), the new secretary-general of Taiwan’s National Security Council (NSC). With a strong media footprint, a track record of academic publications, and, more recently, appearances on the think tank circuit in Washington, Wu now leads the highest advisory body in the Taiwanese government (CSIS, January 19).