The President of Taiwan has just appointed Chen Chien-jen as Prime Minister. A devout Catholic and renowned epidemiologist, the new head of government will have a lot to do in a deteriorated situation with Beijing.
On January 26, 2023, during the Chinese New Year holidays, President Tsai Ing-wen met with Chen Chien-jen. At the end of the meeting, the latter accepted his appointment as Prime Minister. On January 30, he officially succeeded his predecessor, Su Tseng-chang.
The new Taiwanese chief executive comes from the ranks of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a political formation born of the fight for the democratization of the island in the 1980s.
But Chen Chien-jen is best known for his Catholic faith, about which he makes no secret. The new prime minister was knighted in the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in 2010, then of that of St. Gregory the Great in 2013, for services rendered to the Catholic Church in Taiwan.
The choice of Chen Chien-jen was hailed in the ranks of the DPP as being consistent: the new head of government has the advantage of having a good academic background, a social image free from scandals, and in the past has demonstrated excellent communication skills in coordinating numerous reforms.
In addition, he has extensive political experience. He has held the position of vice-president; his network in diplomatic and religious circles is well established; and his empathy for the most disadvantaged makes him appreciated by the Taiwanese working class.
So many qualities that will be needed by the new head of government, with the pressure mounting in the Taiwan Strait, with incessant demonstrations of force from Beijing, not to mention the difficulties encountered by Chen Chien-jen's own party.
In January 2024, presidential elections are due to take place as President Tsai Ing-wen's second term comes to an end, but the timing is tricky for the ruling DPP, which faces growing threats from the Chinese Communist Party. Moreover, many American studies warn against a military escalation.
Thus, in a recent issue of the Foreign Affairs journal, analysts Jude Blanchette and Ryan Hass underline that within American think-tanks, they are resigned to the fact that peace cannot last very long.
According to the two researchers, the policy of the United States could change significantly in the region: “Preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait should be the only measure by which American policy can be assessed. And not the settlement of the Taiwan question once and for all, or the maintenance of the island in the bosom of the United States.”