Tue, Mar 07, 2017 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: The reason Tsai is turning gray

What has nine months in office done to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)? Has she changed? This question was recently put to the Presidential Office spokesman. His reply was interesting, albeit hardly insightful: He said it seems that Tsai has gotten more gray hair.


Discussion about the relation between the presidency and gray hair is not new.

At the beginning of former US president Barack Obama’s time in office, his hair did attract the attention of the mainstream US media. During his second term, Obama himself even predicted that by the end of four years, his hair would look like actor Morgan Freeman’s.

In 2009, with his promise of change, the 48-year-old Obama fought his way into the White House and it was not long before journalists began to notice that his hair had started turning gray.

It was not surprising that after being in office for nearly a year, he started to occasionally explain to the US public that change is difficult and does not happen overnight.

All these reveal that, in the actualization of ideals, all these issues “beyond expectation” that appear in the process often confuse novices.

With the US acting as a global leader, its president is often called upon to take the lead in global affairs. Obama’s ambition was not only to change the system at home, such as with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, but also to change US foreign policy, for example bringing an end to the war in Iraq.

It is a huge game, and is understandable if it turns out to be difficult and does not go well.


How does this compare with Taiwan and its relatively modest population of 23 million?

So long as the health insurance system does not fall apart, anyone — rich or poor — has access to healthcare, so there are unlikely to be scenes of people perishing in the streets.

Beyond this, other affairs are relatively less complicated, so being the president of Taiwan is much easier. If the president is a good leader and knows how to govern, the issue of gray hair need not become a topic of discussion.


Leadership is knowing where to lead everyone and setting an example by one’s own actions; to govern is to make everyone obey the rules and to move toward a common goal. Both are prerequisites for a president.

Presidents in Taiwan have usually served as the chair of the ruling party; under the unity of party and government, the buck really does stop with the president.

Being a leader requires bringing together divergent opinions and successfully concluding deals. In other words: having the final say, end of discussion.

It is clear that this requires a decisionmaker, not a negotiator. Coordinating diverse views and mitigating differences is more the party chairperson’s role.

This would not work within the executive, just as the head of state cannot attend to all matters in person, as this would introduce confusion in the hierarchy.


In these cases, the head of state needs to know how to delegate. This is especially true in domestic affairs, where others share the burden, but also the credit.

This principle already exists within governmental structures: the secretary-general reports to the president, while the Executive Yuan secretary-general reports to the premier.

The official duties of the Presidential Office secretary-general are listed in the ROC Office of the President Organization Act (中華民國總統府組織法): to carry out the orders of the president and to take overall charge of Presidential Office affairs, as well as directing and supervising the staff.

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