Tsai Ing-wen, President of the Republic of China in-exile, filed her 1984 graduate thesis for the London School of Economics with the school library in 2019, thirty-five years late. The tardy filing was forced on Tsai by a growing list of scholars questioning the authenticity of her thesis entitled “Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions.” However, the recent library submission has not quieted the storm as scholars apply academic forensic analysis to the dissertation.
Attention now turns to the London School of Economics which stands by its award of a Ph.D. to Tsai, despite a statement that Tsai earned her LSE degree the school is not saying who the thesis examiners were or when they signed approval of the thesis.
Rachael Maguire, the LSE Information and Records Manager, responded to a social media request seeking the identity of Tsai’s reviewers. Maguire wrote, “The School believes that this information is held in full by the University of London.”
Tsai has not stated who her were the panelists for her viva or oral examination and the University of London has yet to answer a request for information about the panel member identities. According to Maguire, the University of London has the complete information. “The viva report would be a University of London record. An award letter was sent out from the University of London Registrar on 8 February 1984, degree certificate issued on 14 March 1984.”
Although LSE doesn’t know or will not say who reviewed Tsai’s thesis the school claims the review was conducted on October 16, 1983. Maguire says Tsai’s adviser was Michael Elliot, whose degrees were a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Civil Law.
Maguire concludes her media response with a warning. “Copying or reproducing such information in any way either in whole or in part without prior written consent may be an infringement of copyright or other intellectual property right belonging to the LSE or a third party.”
Tsai’s thesis controversy has shifted from an academic inquiry into a political issue that has her supporters worried about her upcoming reelection campaign. Tsai did not help herself telling a political rally that one of her mentors, John Barcello of Cornell University, was dead. A very much alive Barcello has stated he had nothing to do with the LSE thesis and does not know why Tsai did not file it on time in 1984.
The whole dispute seems headed to court and shows no sign of quieting down. Meanwhile two leading Tsai critics, Dennis Peng and Hwan Lin, made a trip to London where they held a news conference taking the story to a new international audience as the story shifts from Taiwan to England.
The fog of ambiguity that has long clouded Taiwan’s sovereignty status has now settled in around Tsai Ing-wen’s credibility as the Taiwanese leader of an exiled Chinese government attempts her second term in office. Charges of fake news and false statements fly back and forth as the thesis story rampages through social media.