My Take

A tale of cats, dogs and cross-strait relations

Taiwan’s most famous feline lover Tsai Ing-wen is adopting three canines. Surely that’s a good sign for relations between the island and the mainland

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 May, 2016, 11:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 May, 2016, 11:29pm

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then perhaps Taiwanese are cat persons while mainland Chinese are more like dog people.

The fact that Taiwan’s new president Tsai Ing-wen is a lifelong feline lover is surely a psychological fact at least as relevant – or irrelevant - to cross-strait relations as that she is unmarried. (And just to get this old chestnut out of the way, yes, Chinese eat dogs, and cats too. But we eat fewer and fewer of them every year.)

‘She’s so extreme because she’s single’: mainland official launches personal attack on Taiwan’s new leader Tsai Ing-wen

Tsai’s status as a single woman has been the subject of psycho-political analysis by Wang Weixing, the director of foreign studies at the People Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Science.

“As a single woman politician, she does not have the emotional burden of love, of ‘family’, of children. Tsai’s political style and executive strategy tends to be emotional, personal and extreme,” wrote Wang, who is also a member of Beijing’s Association of Relations across the Taiwan Straits.

I don’t have Wang’s expertise. But I have always owned cats and dogs. Recent studies have found differences between cat and dog lovers in all the “big five” personality traits: extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness. A survey of 4,565 people by psychologists at the University of Texas in Austin finds that dog people are 15 per cent more extroverted, 13 per cent more agreeable and 11 per cent more conscientious than cat people. They prefer discipline, planning and control over being spontaneous.

Taiwan’s cat-loving president Tsai Ing-wen to adopt three retired guide dogs

Cat lovers are 12 per cent more neurotic but are 11 per cent more open, a trait that involves greater appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity and new experiences. Dog people tend to be more conventional and traditional.

Another study from two Australian universities finds dog people are more socially dominant and competitive, and prefer their pets to be loyal and obedient.

Sound a bit like the difference between democratic Taiwan and the authoritarian mainland? Now Tsai is breaking her feline-loving mould by adopting three dogs. Taiwanese media have speculated an impending “civil war” with her two beloved cats, Xiang Xiang and Ah Tsai.

But it sounds like Taiwan’s most famous cat lover is reaching out to dogs. That’s surely a good sign for cross-strait relations.