Tsai Ing-wen, 59, leads the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that wants independence from China. In her victory speech, she vowed to preserve the status quo in relations with China, adding Beijing must respect Taiwan’s democracy and both sides must ensure there are no provocations, reported BBC.

“We will put political polarization behind us and look forward to the arrival of an era of new politics in Taiwan,” Tsai said after her victory. “The people expect a government that can lead this country into the next generation, a government that is steadfast in protecting this country’s sovereignty.”

Capping a disastrous night for the former ruling party, Freddy Lim, lead singer of the death-metal band Chthonic, defeated the KMT’s Lin Yu-fang in his Taipei constituency.

“I’m sorry … We’ve lost. The KMT has suffered an election defeat,” KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu told the crowd gathered at the party’s Taipei headquarters. “We haven’t worked hard enough and we failed voters’ expectations.”

Here’s what you must know about Ms Tsai:

1. She has two cats, Think Think and Ah Tsai, who helped her win votes.

2. She lost to KMT’s Mr Ma Ying-jeou with 45.6 per cent of the vote in 2012.

3. Ms Tsai has said she wants to preserve the “status quo” with China if she becomes president.

4. She admires former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Having studied in England in the 1980s, Ms Tsai said in a recent interview that she admired the versatility and strength of the “Iron Lady”.

5. She is a respected thinker and negotiator, but publicity-shy.

6. She has law degrees from National Taiwan University, Cornell University and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

7. She is single, and the youngest child of a self-made property developer who started out as a car mechanic.

8. She worked hard and cleaned up the image of the DPP in 2008 after it was discredited by the corruption scandals surrounding Mr Chen.

Ms Tsai wrote in her book: “In a mature democratic society, if there is no strong opposition party, then democratic politics will most likely regress.

“I will never be able to forgive myself if I choose not to do what I know I can.”

9. Ms Tsai became the head of the Mainland Affairs Council, in the DPP administration. She joined the DPP in 2004 and was briefly vice-premier under former president Chen Shui-bian.

10. The former law academic was picked by then president Lee Teng-hui to head a group of legal experts to conduct research proving that Taiwan was not part of the People’s Republic of China and to formulate a “two-states” theory.