TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A report penned by CNN’s Talk Asia host Matt Rivers and published by CNN on Saturday (Feb. 23) described Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen as “the unconventional president staring down Beijing” after the host conducted an exclusive interview with the president and spent time with her on a short walk through a shopping area in downtown Taipei, and eating snacks together over the past few days.
Rivers said that President Tsai is a “self-proclaimed introvert” who “values privacy” and doesn't like crowds and taking photographs.
He wrote that “her reticence to ingratiate herself to the public has allowed detractors to paint her as a detached politician.” To which, Tsai explained that “any perceived aloofness is due to her keen focus on government affairs and international relations," CNN reported.
The CNN host further wrote that her aggressive and progressive agenda, including a sweeping reform that drastically reduces unreasonably generous pensions the government doled out to retired soldiers, teachers and public servants, didn’t score political points for her.
Rivers noted that ahead of a 2020 re-election bid, “some polls have Tsai down as much as 30% against potential Kuomintang presidential nominee Eric Chu, who she defeated in 2016," and that she knows she needs to turn her image around.
The CNN host said that Tsai told him that one of her biggest regrets in the last two years was that "she didn't spent enough time with Taiwan voters, so they could get to know her.”
Facing the relative unpopularity stemming from her reformative domestic policies, Tsai is hoping her hardline stance against China’s aggression can become "an election-winning issue" for her and her party, the CNN host wrote..
She has recently stepped up her anti-Beijing narrative, declaring "China needed to respect Taiwan’s independence and she would protect 'the free and democratic life of our 23 million people,'" he wrote.
"If a vibrant democracy that champions universal values and follows international rules were destroyed by China, it would be a huge setback for global democracy," she told CNN.