Following a dismal winter you can’t count on a good summer, yet Tsai Ing-wen is making hay. Early in the year, Taiwan’s president had appeared mired in gloom. Ordinary Taiwanese were disillusioned with her stewardship of the economy. Her Democratic Progressive Party (dpp) had fared so badly in municipal elections that she felt compelled to step down as party leader. To compound it all, Xi Jinping, China’s ruler, had made it clear that China, which claims Taiwan as its own and which has ostracised Ms Tsai and her independence-leaning party, was in no mind to make life easier for her or for Taiwan.
What a difference a few months make. First, Ms Tsai emerged surprisingly strongly from a primary contest in which she beat off William Lai Ching-te, the former mayor of Tainan, who challenged her to be the dpp candidate to contest the next presidential election. The primary, curiously, is decided by taking opinion polls of voters. Some experts suspect Ms Tsai’s camp of massaging the outcome. But there is no doubt that Ms Tsai’s firm support for pro-democracy protests currently roiling Hong Kong (see article) boosted her standing at home. She has since welcomed several dozen Hong Kong protesters who reportedly intend to seek political asylum in Taiwan. By contrast, the protests have thrown the opposition Kuomintang (kmt), which is conciliatory towards China, off balance.