During my visit to Taiwan about one year ago the presidential campaign was in full swing. The energy in the streets was palpable: billboards both old fashioned and electronic were full of smiling candidate faces, and small vans meandered the streets blaring political songs. Even my Dad got caught up in the fervor–which never seemed nasty, just enthusiastic (perhaps some of this is due to my imperfect command of Chinese).

This is not the only point of contrast with the recent American election: Tsai Ing-Wen won. Not only is she Taiwan’s first woman president ever, Dr. Tsai is highly educated, single, and descended from Paiwan indigenous ancestors.  Like Hilary Clinton, she is trained in the legal profession and like Elizabeth Warren, she harks back to aboriginal roots. Most remarkably, President Tsai came to hold the highest office in an East Asian country completely through her own energy, talent, and drive: with no family or political dynasty helping her (see http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/tsai-ing-wen-a-new-type-of-female-leader-in-asia/ for a great read on this topic).

The strangest twist in this comparison is the recent controversial phone call between President Tsai and President-elect Trump. It’s difficult to picture two leaders with more different backgrounds and world views on either end of the phone line, but we live in strange times. Despite my mixed feelings regarding the One China policy, I see the phone call as a tendril of hope that America’s president elect is willing to talk and listen to world leaders unlike himself.

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Jade green snail clings to a leaf in Taroko National Park.