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Chinese Media Mocked Taiwan's New President For Being A Single Woman But The Internet Wasn't Having It

Choosing to "single-shame" Tsai Ing-wen when fewer and fewer people in the country are OK with the idea of "leftover women" seems to have been a misstep.

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Chinese state news agency Xinhua on Tuesday went after Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's new president, blaming her "extreme political style" on the fact that she's a single woman.

Ashley Pon / Getty Images

Tsai, 59, was sworn into office last Friday as the first female president of Taiwan. A self-made politician and former law professor, with a doctorate from London School of Economics and a master's from Cornell University, she's already annoyed Beijing. In her inauguration speech, she neglected to specify whether she thinks Taiwan is part of China. (Unlike the former ruling party, the Kuomintang, who lost the mainland and fled to Taiwan in 1949, Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) doesn't have a history with the Communists and is pro-independence.)

Her almost perfect resumé means her personal life has become the main target of criticism. Tuesday's op-ed, penned by a military analyst from the PLA military academy, called Tsai "a complicated person who grew up in the abnormal Taiwan society and political ecosystem."

As a single female politician, she doesn't have the burden of a relationship, the constraints of a family, the worries about children, so politically, her style and tactics tend to be more emotional, personalized, and extreme.
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Published by the party mouthpiece, the article has been reposted by countless Chinese-language media outlets and reached a large domestic audience, triggering a public backlash.

"This is from official media? Isn't this a personal attack and discriminating against women?" asked one of the many Weibo users upset over the article.

"Although I also really hate DPP and Tsai Ing-wen, to attack someone's personal life and singleness is not quite decent," another Weibo user wrote.

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"Even if you do want to make a point of Tsai Ing-wen's extremism, you don't have any proof to say being single is a definitive cause of extremism. There are countless extremists out there who are married," the user continued.

Many users raised the point that a couple of world leaders who have a good relationship with China are currently not married, including South Korea's Park Geun-hye and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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"OK, how do you [Xinhua] think that the Foreign Ministry is gonna explain these [comments] to the South Korean president?"

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"Such a rhetoric is low and obscene," another commented.

Weibo

"More importantly, it completely disintegrated the authority and integrity of Xinhua as a national media outlet, now to the eyes of people around the world, probably they are all going to think Xinhua and KCNA [the Korean Central News Agency] are the same. The Great Wall is collapsing from inside."

The mainland is also finding other ways to slam Tsai in the press. On Wednesday, Global Times, another state media outlet, published an editorial mocking her for stammering in a meeting with Marcus D. Jadotte, an assistant U.S. secretary of commerce.

Weibo

"Tsai Ing-wen made a fool of herself because she wanted too much to please the Americans," read the title of the editorial.

"Why does she struggle to find her words and 'eh' for 10 seconds?" it read, claiming that Tsai said during the meeting that she had a “problem of saying Chinese language." The editorial concluded that the reason she was nervous was that "she thought the person she was meeting was 'too important' and made her feel 'too honorable'", while if Jadotte were to come to the mainland, "probably he wouldn't even be able to meet our secretary of commerce."

But what Tsai really said was, "I have problem of saying THAT in Chinese language," referring to Jadotte's name.

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It's not super easy to catch if you aren't listening carefully, but it's there. (Taiwanese media are running with the same narrative as the mainland but that's no excuse for not double-checking.)

Thankfully, some readers who know English watched the original video and debunked the hole in the reporting.

Weibo

"Is it really fine that the media just quote out of context? We don't like Tsai Ing-wen but it doesn't mean that the media can treat us as fools," this user wrote.

Meanwhile, on Chinese social network Baidu Post Bar, a forum for Tsai Ing-wen has quietly accumulated over 400,000 posts, with the latest one asking others to recognize that Tsai was elected by her own people. "Do you think that the 23 million people chose the wrong president? Don't underestimate Taiwanese's IQ," the post says.

Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.

Contact Beimeng Fu at beimeng.fu@buzzfeed.com.

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