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Foxconn’s Terry Gou Announces Bid for Taiwan’s Presidency

Terry Gou, founder of iPhone assembler Foxconn, said on Monday he would make an independent bid for Taiwan’s presidency, adding to an increasingly crowded field for the January 2024 ballot.

The 72-year-old tech billionaire’s announcement makes him the fourth candidate for the position, pitted against Vice President Lai Ching-te of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Taiwan People’s Party Chairman Ko Wen-je and New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih of the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT).

Gou also pledged to grow Taiwan’s economy and boost its technological prowess, saying he will “make Taiwan overtake Singapore within 20 years” and have the highest GDP per capita in Asia.

“If Singapore can do it, so can Taiwan,” he said. “We need to pull the country back to the path of peace and prosperity through this election. Only by doing so can hundreds of industries safely develop and can people live and work in peace and contentment.”

The businessman with close ties to China also said he’d ensure peace across the Taiwan Strait.

“Taiwan should absolutely not become Ukraine. I shall never let Taiwan be the next Ukraine,” said Gou, who is known as Guo Tai-ming in Chinese. “I can guarantee that I’ll bring 50 years of peace to the Taiwan Strait.”

Lai was the front-runner in a poll published Friday by the news site My Formosa. In a scenario of the four candidates, the vice president garnered 39.1% of support. Gou was in last place with 12%. His entry is widely seen by analysts as benefiting the ruling party candidate by splitting opposition votes.

In his press conference, Gou attacked the “corrupt and useless” DPP’s record of government, and argued mainstream public opinion turned against the party in last November’s local elections. But the opposition has failed to unite, he warned, in a thinly veiled swipe against the KMT and its embattled nominee Hou.

Gou’s move follows his loss of the KMT nomination to Hou, the second time he has failed to secure approval from the party. Gou sparked months of speculation five years ago that he would run as an independent.

His presidential bid is obviously related to a grudge during the KMT’s selection process, when the party leadership chose Hou and passed him over without a primary, according to Huang Kwei-bo, associate professor of diplomacy at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

“Now he is on par with Ko and Hou, and can bargain as a fellow presidential hopeful. These are negotiation tactics,” Huang told Nikkei Asia. “The objective for Hou, Ko and Gou is to produce a united ticket against Lai. Otherwise the votes will be split, heavily weakening the opposition.”

Gou needs sufficient nominations to officially become a presidential candidate in November. That shouldn’t be a problem but “it doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily do so,” Huang said. “It depends on the negotiations.”

Gou has said several times previously that his 40 years of industry experience makes him the best choice to navigate Taiwan through U.S.-China tensions. He has visited the U.S. twice and Japan once this year, meeting industry leaders such as Open AI founder Sam Altman, economist Thomas L. Friedman and former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso.

The presidential race comes at a critical time as China has stepped up its military aggression and political coercion against Taiwan. Earlier this month, the Beijing banned Taiwanese mango imports, threatened to walk back from a major trade pact and sent warships and planes near Taiwan — moves widely seen as an effort to intimidate Taiwanese voters.

Beijing has never ruled Taiwan but claims it as its territory, refusing to rule out using force to take control of the democratic island.

Asked by reporters after the news conference whether he was worried would Beijing retaliate against Foxconn, which has a massive footprint in China, over his decision to run for the Taiwanese presidency, Gou said he has not managed the company’s operations for four years since stepping down from the chairmanship in 2019.

“If the PRC said you are not well behaved and we will confiscate Foxconn’s assets, I will say ‘yes! Do it!,'” Gou said, adding that he has never been “controlled” by the People’s Republic of China — the formal name for China.

Source: Nikkei Asia