BEIJING – An article by a Chinese military official suggesting that Taiwanâ€™s new president was â€œextremeâ€ and â€œemotionalâ€ because she was unmarried provoked an outcry on Wednesday, undermining the ruling Communist Partyâ€™s efforts to win allies across the Taiwan Strait.
The article, written by a senior scholar for the Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army, described Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwanâ€™s first female leader, as a â€œsingle woman politicianâ€ who was prone to a radical style because she lacked the â€œburden of love, family and children.â€ It also questioned her loyalty to China because of her familyâ€™s ties to Japan.
The article, written by Wang Weixing of the Academy of Military Sciences in Beijing and posted on Tuesday on the website of the International Herald Leader, a newspaper affiliated with the state news agency Xinhua, was roundly denounced as sexist and promptly removed from major mainland news sites.
â€œIt is discrimination against women and being single,â€ Sun Xingjie, a lecturer at Jilin University in northeast China, wrote in a commentary published by Sina, a news portal. â€œPutin divorced during his presidency. Has Russiaâ€™s strategy changed since?â€
On Weibo, Chinaâ€™s equivalent of Twitter, a user wrote, â€œDoes this mean you will agree to the independence of Taiwan as long as sheâ€™s married?â€
In Taipei, Lin Jih-wen, a political scientist at Academia Sinica, a research institute, called the commentary â€œpaparazzi newsâ€ and said the mainland news media should focus on more substantial issues.
The article threatened to become a public-relations blunder for the Communist Party, which has sought to win hearts and minds in Taiwan in recent years as it pushes for reunification.
Mainland officials have reacted warily to the rise of Ms. Tsai, who took office on Friday and has promised a more cautious approach to China than her predecessor. In recent days, officials have threatened to cut off communication with Taiwan if Ms. Tsai does not endorse the idea that there is only one China, known as the 1992 Consensus.
Mr. Wangâ€™s commentary offered a vitriolic psychoanalysis that suggested Ms. Tsai espoused abnormal values and was not to be trusted.
In one passage, Mr. Wang, a member of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, the semiofficial body in charge of contacts with Taiwan, suggested that Ms. Tsai was loyal to Japan, describing her fondness for Japanese rice balls and her close relationship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In another, he offered a lengthy tirade on Ms. Tsaiâ€™s personal life, noting that her father had had several wives.
â€œAll in all, Tsai Ing-wen has a conspicuous duplicity to her personality and her politicking,â€ Mr. Wang wrote. â€œShe is doomed to dwell in this contradiction for a lifetime.â€
Mr. Wang could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, and a spokesman for Ms. Tsai declined to comment.
Throughout her political career, Ms. Tsai, a 59-year-old former law professor, has faced questions about her decision to remain single and not have children. In Chinese society, the pressure to marry can be intense, and families often look down on women who remain single into their late 20s.
In a 2012 interview with a Taiwanese magazine, Ms. Tsai said being single had allowed her to avoid â€œfighting a double warâ€ and to focus on her career. In a Facebook post that year, she expounded on her philosophy.
â€œIn a traditional society, a woman who never marries would be regarded as less whole,â€ she wrote. â€œBut in modern society, what marriage provides is also available outside of marriages, isnâ€™t it?â€
For many Taiwanese, the article by Mr. Wang reinforced an image of a China that was out to discredit Taiwan by whatever means possible.
Alain Guilloux, a visiting scholar at City University of Hong Kong, said Chinaâ€™s leaders would have to walk a fine line in dealing with Ms. Tsai.
â€œIf they do attack her personally or engage in character assassination or whatever, they know it might backfire,â€ he said. â€œThey have to keep in mind that the vast majority of Taiwanese want the status quo and are asking neither for independence nor for reunification anytime soon.â€
By Javier C. HernÃ¡ndez and Vanessa Piao – NYT