Sat, Apr 20, 2019 - Page 3 News List

IN FOCUS: Gou’s China links could weigh on election chances

By Yimou Lee  /  Reuters

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co chairman Terry Gou gives a salute to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members upon receiving the KMT Central Standing Committee’s honorary certificate at a party meeting in Taipei on Wednesday.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

While Hon Hai Precision Industry Co chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) enters the rancorous political arena free of any political baggage, he could yet find himself weighed down by connections to Beijing forged during his pragmatic commercial rise.

Gou, 68, on Wednesday announced that he would contest next year’s presidential election, seeking to represent the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

After building the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer from scratch over the past 40 years, Gou’s connections reach as high as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and other senior Chinese officials.

His US$40 billion empire has an extensive Chinese footprint of factories producing components for Apple.

Gou’s network also includes extensive US connections, including a friendship with US President Donald Trump.

However, ties with Taiwan’s key political and security backer are likely to be overshadowed by his ties to a Chinese leadership that refuses to renounce the use of force to unify with Taiwan, some analysts and political figures say.

“Because he has a lot of wealth in China ... China has some control over him,” said Shane Lee (李憲榮), a political scientist at Chang Jung Christian University. “So I think the US government would have to be very cautious about him running for political office.”

Many ordinary Taiwanese are fearful of the intentions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) toward democratic Taiwan.

Tensions were highlighted again on Monday as Chinese bombers and warships conducted drills around the nation, prompting Taiwan to scramble jets and ships to monitor the Chinese forces.

Some analysts believe that Gou’s ties with Beijing could turn off ordinary voters.

“He’s one of the smartest businessmen in Taiwan,” said John Brebeck, a senior adviser at Quantum International, a capital markets advisory firm. “The problem is that, with so much of his business enterprise in China, it may prove a liability for him with the voters, as they may not be sure where his priorities lie.”

While most Taiwanese trace their ancestry to China, there remains a clear distinction in society between those who consider themselves ethnic Taiwanese and those whose ancestors came over more recently, most in a wave of refugees who fled to Taiwan at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

Gou’s parents were born in China and are part of that generation, although he was born in Taiwan.

The Chinese government has not commented on Gou’s decision, which has been widely reported in Chinese state media, although mostly citing Taiwanese reports.

However, on Thursday, the Global Times tabloid, published by the CCP’s official People’s Daily, welcomed Gou’s bid for power.

“If Terry Gou becomes the leader of the Taiwan region next year, tensions between the two sides will ease and the situation in the Taiwan Strait, in the short term, is likely to reach a turning point,” it said in an editorial.

The KMT developed closer ties with Beijing when it last held power, focusing on developing business ties.

Under President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), ties have cooled as China suspects Tsai is pushing for formal independence.

Tsai has said that she wants to maintain the “status quo” with China, but would defend the nation’s security and democracy.

Gou met Xi in 2014 in Beijing, and he was quoted by Taiwanese media in 2017 describing Xi as a great leader.

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