What you need to know
Before Taiwan's 2020 elections, get to know these fun facts about these Taiwanese politicians' nicknames to add to your election chit-chat.
Taiwanese politics are fun when politicians act like they are part of a soap opera. Netizens and local media add to the entertainment when they come up with creative and hilarious nicknames for the politicians. As Taiwan's 2020 elections are approaching, The News Lens has compiled a list of notable Taiwanese politicians and tell you the stories behind their nicknames.
Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文): Hot Taiwanese girl (辣台妹)
It might be wildly inappropriate to call a female president “hot,” but it’s a popular description used among Tsai Ing-wen supporters.
Tsai’s nickname didn’t stem from weird sexual desires, but a rap. On January 2, 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) warned Taiwan that unification is inevitable. But Tsai firmly rejected Xi’s speech and said, “China must face the reality of the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan), and not deny the democratic system that the people of Taiwan have established together.”
A week later, Taiwanese rapper Dwagie released a freestyle rap named “Hot Taiwanese Girl” (辣台妹), lauding Tsai for her bravery and "spicy" attitude. The term Tai-mei (台妹) used to be somewhat derogatory, stereotyping Taiwanese girls who dress in a revealing fashion and linger in nightclubs. Taiwanese rappers like MC HotDog and MJ116 have praised Tai-mei for their attractiveness and confidence, but Dwagie redefined the label by grouping Tsai into the mix.
President Tsai said she was at first confused about the reference, but she embraced the nickname after being advised by her social media team. And now, she's one of the “hottest” influencers in Taiwan.
Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜): Call Operator Han (韓總機)
Kuomintang presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu has many faces… or nicknames. One of the most hilarious ones might be “Call Operator Han,” crowned by New Power Party legislator Huang Jie (黃捷). Huang became internet famous when a video clip of her rolling eyes at Han went viral. She’s then known for probing Han during Kaohsiung city council inquiries, but Han almost never answers any policy-related questions. Instead, he would pass the questions onto different bureau chiefs.
In May, Huang entirely skipped questioning Han during a 50-minute inquiry session, but only asked each corresponding bureau with respective policy issues. Huang then mocked Han as a “call operator” who only transfers incoming calls to a designated person. “If we know the extension number, we can just skip the service hotline,” she said.
The Chinese word "總" is also incredibly versatile; it implies the meaning of a leader or a converging point. Hence, Han has been nicknamed in various combinations such as CEO Han (韓總) and President Han (韓總統).
James Soong (宋楚瑜): Buddha’s Palm Soong (宋神掌)
As a loyal follower of former President Lee Teng-hui, James Soong was elected as the one and only-ever Governor of Taiwan Province between 1994 and 1998. However, the governor position was eliminated to streamline the government’s administrative structure. It was seen as President Lee’s move to strip power from Soong since their duties largely overlapped.
Some claim that Soong’s political career had peaked during his time as a governor (省長), which is homophonic with “Buddha’s Palm” (神掌), a Chinese martial arts technique that’s often cited in films as a legendary move. Illustrations of Soong possessing the power of Buddha’s Palm were first circulated on his Facebook page. He has also embraced the nickname and said he liked the creativity.
William Lai (賴清德): The Golden Grandchild (金孫)
During the DPP presidential primary, the local media often referred to William Lai as “the golden grandchild of Taiwan independence.” Lai said the nickname “golden child” was misleading because it implied that he was born into a wealthy family. In fact, the nickname had nothing to do with his family background.
When Lai announced his surprising move to challenge incumbent President Tsai, a group of disgruntled senior DPP members rallied around him. They were mostly hardline deep-Greens who thought Tsai was not aggressive enough in pursuing independence for Taiwan. With their blessings, Lai was like the favorite golden child who would have made the family proud.
Except he didn’t.
Ko Wen-je (柯文哲): Ko P (柯P)
Before Ko Wen-je became the mayor of Taipei, he was a professor at National Taiwan University. His nickname Ko P was a reference to his being a professor. However, as his popularity declined significantly this year, many netizens have changed the word “P” into a homophonic Chinese character “屁” — fart.
Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌): The God of War (戰神)
New Power Party (NPP) legislator Huang Kuo-chang was hailed as the “God of War” by his supporters. As one of the Sunflower Movement activists, Huang won the legislative election in 2016. He’s known for having a warrior attitude in the legislature with his aggressive questioning style. He’s always fighting for transparency against corruption and bureaucracy; wherever there is a battle, there is the God of War.
Earlier this year, Huang revealed the cigarette smuggling scandal, stirring fears that it might affect the upcoming presidential election. He also insisted on never cooperating with Tsai or the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), causing an internal meltdown within the NPP. Many NPP members, including the co-founder Freddy Lim, have quit the party this year as a result.
The God of War, while fierce at battles, also has an Achilles’ heels — his own stubborn attitude.
Wu Den-yih (吳敦義): White Dolphin (白海豚)
Wu Den-yih, the chairman of KMT, got the nickname “White Dolphin” in 2010 when he responded to criticisms from environmental groups with a ridiculous explanation.
At the time, Kuokuang Petrochemical wanted to build a large-scale refinery in the middle of the Indo-Pacific dolphin's habitat, but activist groups warned that the refinery could endanger the existence of Taiwan's white dolphins.
Wu, in response, claimed white dolphins had an “innate ability” to make U-turns and save themselves. He said, “The white dolphins will naturally swim a route toward survival. They can turn. They are not cars that only follow a straight line. Fish can also turn.”
A song mocking his “white dolphin” excuse was created to commemorate this embarrassing moment in history.
His nickname has since re-emerged a few times when he suddenly reversed his position on some policies, such as his flip-flopping stance on same-sex marriage.
Bonus: Who Is Chucky?
This one is for you to guess. Leave a comment below!
TNL Editor: TJ Ting (@thenewslensintl)
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