VOTE 2016: Tsai Ing-wen’s Five Major Reforms

The DPP presidential candidate describes the five pillars of her future administration
Photo: Tsai Ing-wen's Facebook Page
Photo: Tsai Ing-wen's Facebook Page
Tsai Ing-wen

Reform is painful. Because of this pain, we dare not reform, but that constitutes a dereliction of duty by leaders. This country has too many problems that demand reform. But if the nation’s leaders only think of power, their reforms will be weakened by “discounts” before they are implemented.

I don’t want to be someone who makes such discounts. I want to do things, do them well, and do them thoroughly. I want my reforms to be great achievements.

I want to win people’s hearts with reforms. Even if I offend some vested interests, I will persist until the end and not give up. What I have to take responsibility for is this country’s whole future, not those vested interests.

So today, here before everyone in Kaohsiung, I want to explain to everyone my concrete governmental reform plan. If I am elected president in 2016, I will promote these five major reforms.

Reform #1: Generational justice

During the 2012 presidential election campaign, we called for fairness and justice, because we already saw a severe problem: Young people were in direr and direr straits, and they were losing hope for the future.

Young people can’t find work and don’t have good salaries. They can’t afford to buy a house. The cost of taking care of their elders and children is a heavy burden. The national treasury is overdrafting, which means it is borrowing money from future generations. The national debt is rising, and the national pension system faces bankruptcy. The older generation spent money without restraint and left a heavy burden on the younger one. This society has lost generational justice.

This problem is worsening. I have to say something very serious: If the nation’s young people don’t have hope for the future, this country has no hope either.

Four years ago, I proposed taxing real estate at its actual value and building social housing. At that time many people doubted me, but now housing justice is a mainstream value. Time has told us that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) team saw where Taiwan’s problems were before the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) did, and it thought of solutions earlier as well.

There is no single elixir that heals generational injustice. A comprehensive set of medicines is needed. The first action that must be taken is to sweep away the obstacles to young people getting jobs and starting businesses.

I believe that the problems that young Taiwanese are facing came neither from a lack of intelligence nor from a lack of ability. Rather, their problems come from their government not building a good environment for them. I guarantee to everyone that our new economic development model will create a good environment for innovation and attracting investment, which will create high-quality employment opportunities and higher salaries for young people.

The government must also do its utmost to help young families bear the burdens of housing and caring for family members. Social housing is a helping hand that pulls young people up so they need not gasp under the heavy weight of mortgage payments.

A home is a place to live, not a tool for financial speculation. Home ownership should not be an impossible dream for our citizens.

We will also plan sources of revenue and establish fair-priced and excellent long-term and childcare systems for citizens. Our government will share responsibilities with families, not drop problems on them.

We guarantee to everyone that DPP governance will give fiscal restraint the utmost importance. We will block the sources of waste in the government’s budget.

We will promote pension reform and make retirement funds fiscally sound. We will make the retirement system fairer and bring all of society together to face and solve its problems together. Young people will be able to avoid drowning in the pension system’s red ink, and we will make it possible for them too to receive pensions when they grow old and retire some day.

This is the first reform I will carry out.

Reform #2: Government institutions

The government pushes many things, yet it doesn’t budge. The real problem is that it never communicates with citizens. Why have there been so many protests these past years? Why do students take to the streets every year? The answer is very simple. It’s because this government is not democratic, and it locks citizens out while it decides policies.

So my government will communicate with citizens better than any that have come before it. Executive ability is very important for government officials, but so is communication ability. I will demand that before deciding policy, my team communicates fully with society so that citizens know our reasons, the necessity, and the effects of our policies.

The most important thing to communicate is how many people will benefit as well as how many people will be hurt by our policies. A balance must be struck between the two, and those who are harmed must be provided appropriate compensation.

My government will not just communicate. I will also demand it to be transparent. The future administration will make its data open. I am willing to share data with the opposition parties and get rid of “black boxes,” because I firmly believe that the more transparent information is, the closer policy decisions will be to citizens.

Besides communication and transparency, I want my government to be effective. My government will serve the people, and when it provides them services it will not fear that doing so is too much trouble. I will open all-in-one service windows on pressing issues and establish horizontal and vertical relationships between agencies in order to speed up services.

The government will also need to thoroughly review whether certain control systems can be done away with in order to lower social and administrative costs. Finally, in order to get all agencies moving, there must be a comprehensive review of the ossified personnel and organizational systems that make the government akin to an old car that can’t run anymore.

Reform #3: The legislature

Taiwan has a democratically elected president as well as a democratically elected legislature. These are the two engines leading its democratic politics. Hence, besides executive reform, there must be legislative reform for its democracy to progress forward.

This reform must firstly be achieved through a constitutional amendment that makes the Legislature more representative. In our legislative election system, some votes count more than others, so seat apportionment cannot fully reflect the will of society. I will promote constitutional reform to establish a mixed-member proportional representation system while lowering the threshold for parties to win seats in order to allow a wider range of political parties that represent public opinion to enter the Legislative Yuan. At the same time, we must increase the number of legislators apportioned by proportional representation in order to increase the overall level of professional cultivation and representativeness among legislators.

Another major point of reform is that the speaker should be neutral. The handling of legislative affairs can only be neutral if the speaker is neutral. This is not just a demand that should be made of the speaker; it is a guarantee that must be made by the system.

Moreover, all the legislature’s staffing agencies — from those dedicated to budget to those dedicated to law — should, like their counterparts in the U.S. Congress, possess strong research capabilities and the ability to maintain professionalism and nonpartisanship. Only this can increase the legislature’s ability to inquire about administrative affairs and serve as an effective balance to the executive branch.

The DPP will not reject legislative checks and balances on account of having the opportunity to govern. Legislative oversight of executive agencies absolutely must be powerful and professional so that the democratic balance between the two branches can be mutually beneficial.

The legislature should be a mirror for the president. The opposition parties should not see the ruling party as the enemy. If I become president, I will absolutely not fear legislative oversight, because I will not be a president who acts alone and heedless of the opinions of others. Nor will I be a president who rejects public opinion. And I will absolutely not be a president who selfishly seeks to maintain one-party government.

Reform #4: Transitional justice

Weeks ago, while speaking about indigenous peoples policy, I said that after becoming president I will offer an official apology to Aborigines on behalf of the government. The oppression and exploitation suffered by Taiwan’s Aborigines throughout history is a part of our history that cannot be whitewashed. Although history is the past, its influence persists today.

This is why we must reasonably make up for the injustices that history has left behind, in order to mitigate the injury it has caused.

Broadly speaking, this is transitional justice. We will not neglect errors because they are in the past. Likewise, because past rulers used national violence to hurt and bully the citizens, we have the historical wounds of [the] 228 [Massacre] and the White Terror. We can forgive, but we cannot forget. We must face up to it, and we cannot allow this history to be tampered with.

I guarantee to everyone that the government I lead will bravely face the past. It will do everything it can to restore historical truth. Only if the truth of history is known can it be understood. The government I lead will absolutely not use black-box methods to force controversial history and consciousness upon students. Our future educational content must be diverse and enlightened, and it must honestly face history.

The damage left behind by the authoritarian era must be wiped out bit by bit. Because of the Martial Law era and one-party rule, even today we have a political party that possesses massive, inappropriate assets. This is the greatest defect in Taiwanese democracy, and it prevents fair competition between parties.

In the future, if progressive forces can win a legislative majority, we must correct these faults one by one. Only in this way can the sunshine of democracy truly light up Taiwanese politics.

Reform #5: This is the most important and also the most difficult. I want to put an end to social antagonism and let Taiwan shake off malicious political fighting to take a giant step forward

Over the past 16 years, Taiwan has gone through a period of painful democratic transition. Though it has already established a democratic system, it does not have rules of mature political interaction. Nor does its society have sufficient consensus on the value of democracy and freedom. No matter what one side does, there will always be another side that jumps up to oppose it. Thus many people believe that over the past 16 years, Taiwanese politics has been tedious. Everyone hopes for change.

I believe that the nation’s leader has the greatest responsibility for putting an end to this political atmosphere.

I guarantee to everyone that DPP governance absolutely will not become a source of malicious fighting between political parties. Even if the DPP manages to attain a legislative majority in its own right, we will absolutely not “keep the whole bowl for ourselves.” We will still bring together all forces that support progress on reform to create a Reform Alliance, allowing a stable majority to provide the rearguard for administration. Talents from everywhere will be able to participate in governance and contribute to reform.

Because there are so many reforms in my administrative blueprint, a stable majority is needed to support them and allow them to be implemented smoothly. During my term, I absolutely will not sit and watch Taiwanese society be continuously torn apart by fighting between political parties. I will bring together the entire country, because only with internal solidarity can we have external unity.

I do not believe in recklessness, the iron fist, antagonism, and conflict. I believe in consensus and communication. These will provide the chief momentum for Taiwan’s reform. In 2016, we want not just to govern, but much more importantly, to be the force leading the nation stably forward.

Taiwan’s politics must change. It needs these five major reforms. Only by giving our all to advance reform can we face the past, undertake the present, and challenge the future. I believe we can do that.


This article is a translation of Tsai Ing-wen’s campaign speech posted on the front page of her website since Aug. 16, 2015 ( Translated by Anonymous, a translator based in Taipei.

9 Responses to “VOTE 2016: Tsai Ing-wen’s Five Major Reforms”

September 22, 2015 at 3:22 pm, Mike Fagan said:

Perhaps I am now overconfident in DPP presidential and legislative victories next January (I was not at all confident of this back in 2012 but the KMT government have been far worse since then than I imagined they would be), but it seems to be a sad indictment of this “think tank” that the closest thing it has to an actual discussion of (and perhaps even rational criticism of) Tsai’s proposed policies is a translation of a typical politician’s “all things to all men” campaign speech. I am sitting in the position of taking it as “read” that Ms Hung is going to lose badly and that the KMT are going to lose badly at the legislative elections too. This could be wrong, and I am not a fanatical follower of electoral detail, but it seems to be a reasonable and widely believed bet.

Let’s take just one of the things she says in that speech…

“Four years ago, I proposed taxing real estate at its actual value and building social housing. At that time many people doubted me, but now housing justice is a mainstream value.”

There are two proposed policies in that first sentence, one on taxation and one on spending. The second sentence may or may not be true, but is in any case rhetorical: note the expropriated concept of justice to dress up a proposed housing welfare policy: there is no such thing as “housing justice”, there is only justice and injustice. Yet the fact that most of us (myself included) cannot yet afford to buy a house is a real problem; I do not want to be forever at the mercy of this or that landlord who might sell out to a big developer any day now (as I write here in Tainan, there are houses barely a few hundred yards away from mine which have just torn down in the last week or so to make way for new apartment buildings). At the same time however, I would not want to be – either now or at any point in the future – a recipient of “social housing”, just simply as a matter of pride. Moreover, there are ample market-based reasons and historical evidence to suggest that government social housing schemes tend toward failure for the poor people they are ostensibly intended to benefit. They can however be a great electoral trick for democratic politicians who can use these schemes as vote-capturing devices.

(I am not sure what the optimal solution would be, but one possible conjecture is that the solution may have a lot to do with upsetting some of those vested interests she speaks of by abolishing zoning laws and other regulatory restrictions on the market supply of low cost housing).

The ostensible aim Tsai states, of helping young people to get onto the property ladder, is a laudable one, but insofar as this speech reveals, the proposed means of doing so do not exactly inspire confidence. As a relatively “poor” person who would also like to buy a house, I have a direct personal interest in this so I want Tsai to succeed in her aim, and so I am worried about her proposed means.


September 23, 2015 at 10:45 pm, Taipei joe said:

Lots of policy statements but no policy details in that speech. Also there’s nothing wrong with social housing per se, what’s the problem with providing subsidized housing , this is in fact what many institutions in Taiwan already do or did in the, government depts, large corporations etc.there are in fact many social housing units now being offered for rent in Taipei, the problem is the rent they want is laughably high!


September 26, 2015 at 12:10 am, Mike Fagan said:


You (in part) answer your own semi-question: the government might lease or subsidize housing, but that doesn’t mean it can do so in disregard to the price system.


October 26, 2015 at 7:21 pm, Oscar Hiseh said:

Great ideas. Some more detailed is needed for sure to see how this can become reality.
Economy being the center of everything in today’s world. It is not in the 5 major reforms? Maybe because we do not need a major reform? I will like to view and hear more about the economic plan as well as a modernization of the laws (like the other commentator says based on proof and evidence and not on politics) to include a new regulation for laws, prostitution. Perhaps if we are enlightened enough, abolition of death penalty.


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