蔡英文非典型學者

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2012 / 7月

文‧陳歆怡 圖‧圓神出版社提供


打完激烈選戰、卸下黨主席職務的蔡英文,現在最習慣的頭銜是「教授」,這個稱呼反映了她內在理性的學者性格。

她曾形容,自己是一個走路喜歡靠著牆邊的人,天生內向、安靜,不喜歡引人注意;卻沒想到在43歲時被邀請入閣,從此在政壇平步青雲,走入權力核心。


「我很慶幸自己在充滿愛的環境下長大,我自認是個有自信的人,有能力處理風險,又有足夠的勇氣乘風破浪。」

蔡英文的人生有過三次重大轉折──她是前總統李登輝倚重的國安與經貿顧問、陸委會主委、台灣第一位女黨魁,從政之路完全超乎自己的規劃和期待。

1956年次的蔡英文,成長於殷實的商人之家,她的父親有9位子女,她是么女。由於父親希望子女中至少有一人懂得法律,以協助家中生意,無奈她的兄姐都各有志向,因此父親特別拜託最晚成的她,以法律系為第一志願。就這樣,蔡英文一路從台大、美國康乃爾大學念至英國倫敦政經學院,學成後成為大學教授,人生道路原本就該這樣安靜平凡地走下去。

最年輕的陸委會主委

37歲那年,她以經貿及法律專家之姿,進入政府部門負責國際貿易談判。2000年首次政黨輪替,蔡英文應前總統陳水扁之邀,成為陸委會有史以來第一位女性、也是最年輕的主委。

當時兩岸關係因民進黨執政而特別敏感,她的領導才能與政策走向備受矚目;4年任內,她成功推動了更平等的兩岸發展模式,包括實現「小三通」、召開「經發會」凝聚朝野共識,完成《兩岸人民關係條例》修訂案。

蔡英文透露,擔任陸委會主委時,她常一早就要到國防部開會,軍方知道她早上有喝咖啡的習慣後,特別買了一台咖啡研磨機,還會事前詢問她「愛喝哪一種咖啡豆」,讓她見識到軍方一絲不苟的紀律與直率,也是一種文化衝擊。「軍方從李登輝總統到陳水扁時代,努力嘗試適應新領導人,而我扮演的就是『緩衝』與介面的角色。」

2008年總統大選,民進黨落敗,黨內存在分裂的危機,檢討與改革的呼聲湧現,蔡英文一肩扛起民進黨的轉折重任,開始為選舉奔波。2010年黨主席連任後,她以主帥之姿,將5都之戰定調為民進黨發展史上「第二次地方包圍中央」,要把過去執政經驗和學者專家構思的「十年政綱」中的區域建設理念化成行動,並且親征新北市。

雖然最後敗選,但這場選舉「把我從大學教授、社會菁英轉變成一個親近群眾,可以跟群眾自然地互動,去感受群眾感受的政治人物。」爾後在民進黨天王紛紛退居第二線之際,她當仁不讓成為黨內爭取總統大位的人選。

非典型人物的內心世界

蔡英文曾自我剖析「非典型政治人物」的意涵,即是隨時做好為政策或選舉成敗負責而下台的準備。蔡英文在口述自傳《洋蔥炒蛋到小英便當》中透露,她的造勢演出經常被嫌「太冷」,為此,她特別請教紙風車劇團總編導李永豐:如何應付很冷的場子?李永豐回答:「真正的演員,不管台下是熱的、冷的,都能演出,不受台下情緒影響。」於是蔡英文放膽發展出她專屬的政治語言,雖然有時沿襲慣例喊出的「好不好?」略為僵硬,卻堅持要用理性的語言,陳述政治願景與理想,讓台上台下維持一種「安靜卻激烈的熱度」。

此次訪問中,蔡英文始終維持一貫的冷靜與優雅,唯有談及「單身」的問題時,在招牌笑容中帶著促狹說:「現在的社會,婚姻所可以提供的,在沒有婚姻的情況下也可以得到;很多法國人生了一堆孩子也沒結婚啊。」一切盡在不言中。

「只要把我關在房間或辦公室,我自然能調整好情緒。我從小到大習慣一個人,我喜歡一個人待在家裡,看書、寫東西或發呆都好。放空就是最好的休息。」

2月底,她卸下黨主席的職務時,引述已故的美國政治學大師杭亭頓在《第三波》的話表示,「歷史不是直線前進的,但是當有智慧、有決心的領導人要推動歷史的時候,歷史的確會前進!」而這裡的「領導人」,不是指任何個人,而是民進黨,「要相信我們,就是引領歷史前進的力量。」至於她的未來,她說:「我要去尋找能讓台灣改變的力量」。

蔡英文掌握自己的步調,她的一舉一動也可能牽動台灣的未來。

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近期文章

英文

A Woman of Many Parts: Tsai Ing-wen

Chen Hsin-yi /photos courtesy of courtesy of Eurasian Publishing /tr. by Phil Newell

Having fought the good fight in a failed bid for the presidency, and having resigned her position as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party, Tsai Ing-wen is most accustomed these days to being addressed as “Professor.” It fits. She is more thoughtful scholar than slogan-shouting politico.

Introspective and quiet by nature, she has never much enjoyed the limelight. She never expected that at age 43 she would suddenly be invited to join the cabinet, and from there progress into the stratosphere of politics and the very center of power.


There have been three major turning points in Tsai Ing-wen’s life: First, when former president Lee Teng-hui began to consult her on important issues and made her an advisor to the National Security Council. Second, when she was appointed by then-president Chen Shui-bian as chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, the government agency in charge of relations with mainland China. Third, when she became the first ever woman to become chairman of a major political party. Yet oddly enough, she never expected to have a career in politics.

Born in 1956, Tsai grew up in a thriving commercial family. Her father had nine children, with Ing-wen the youngest daughter. Because he hoped that at least one of his kids would learn something about the law, as that could help the family business, and seeing as Ing-wen’s older brothers and sisters all had their own vocations, her father asked her as a special favor to choose law as her first option for university study. This got Tsai launched on her academic track to National Taiwan University, Cornell University, and the London School of Economics, followed by a career as a university professor. There didn’t seem to be any obstacles to continuing on this path for the rest of her life.

In 1993, at age 37, as an expert in both law and international economics and trade, she was asked to serve on the International Trade Commission of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, where she handled international trade negotiations. Over time, she became one of then-president Lee Teng-hui’s most valued counselors on relations with mainland China, and served as a senior advisor to the National Security Council in 1999–2000.

In 2000, the opposition won the presidency for the first time in Taiwan’s history, and, in response to an invitation from incoming DPP president Chen Shui-bian, Tsai became the head of the Mainland Affairs Council. Her appointment was especially noteworthy because she was not only the MAC’s first female chairman, but also its youngest chairman ever.

At the time, cross-strait relations were in a very sensitive state because of the mainland’s hostility to the DPP’s policy preferences, so she came under a great deal of scrutiny both of her ability and her political orientation. In her four years in office, she successfully promoted a more equal model of cross-strait development, including implementation of the “mini three links,” the convening of the Economic Development Advisory Conference (an attempt to reach consensus between the two main political parties on economic issues), and the passage of amendments to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area.

After the presidential race in 2008, when DPP candidate Frank Hsieh ended up on the losing end, there was a crisis in the party that threatened to lead to a breakup. Many voices were raised calling for internal reassessment and reform. At this critical juncture Tsai took on the heavy responsibility of leading the party through a transformation, and threw herself into the task of getting party candidates into office. After winning re-election as DPP chairman in 2010, looking like a field marshal preparing her troops for battle, she declared that the 2010 elections for the mayors of the five special municipalities would mark a return to the party’s previous strategy of “surrounding the center from the periphery.” She personally became the DPP candidate for mayor of New Taipei City.

Although she lost that race, the campaign marked her transition from, in her words, “a university professor and member of the social elite” into “a political figure able to interact naturally with the general public, and able to relate to and have a feeling for the problems and complaints of ordinary people.” With the 2012 election for president coming up, as growing numbers of prominent DPP figures decided to move away from the front lines of the political struggle, she did not shy away from throwing her hat into the ring—and she won the party’s internal nomination process to become its presidential candidate.

Here’s what Tsai Ing-wen meant by describing herself as an “atypical political figure”: She lacked the same ambition, the same thirst for power, as a mainstream politician. She was at all times psychologically ready to step down from politics by taking responsibility for policy errors or election defeat.

In her oral autobiography, Tsai reveals that because her rallies were often considered lacking in fire and brimstone, she sought advice from Lee Yung-feng, leader of the Paper Windmill Theater troupe, on what to do if you get a chilly response from an audience. Lee told her that truly professional actors aren’t affected by what happens offstage; they focus on getting their roles right no matter what the response. So she decided to stay with her own persona and personal political vocabulary, presenting her views methodically and logically. Though sometimes criticized for failing to yell out standard crowd-motivating slogans with sufficient ardor, she stuck with her approach of creating a mood, both onstage and off, of “low-key but deeply felt passion.”

Throughout our interview, Tsai was continually friendly and smiling, but always in a very composed way. It was only when the issue of “being single” came up that she seemed to let her hair down a little and, with a crooked smile, replied: “In today’s society, a person who is not married can still get all the things that marriage has to offer.”

At the end of February, when she resigned as DPP chairman, she quoted the words of the late American political theorist Samuel Huntington, who said in his book The Third Wave that history does not go in a straight line, but when wise and decisive leaders decide to push history forward, it does indeed go forward! By “leaders,” Tsai was not pointing to any particular individual, but to the Democratic Progressive Party as a whole. “You have to have faith that we are the force dragging history forward!” As for her own future, she says, “I will go out searching for the sources of strength that will change Taiwan.” Tsai knows exactly where she has come from and where she wants to go.

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