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.
Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times
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.
In an interview last year with the People’s Daily to mark China’s 40th anniversary of reforms, Gou said that he was happy to have witnessed the changes.
He talked about how his father was from Shanxi Province and mother from Guangdong, and how he had first visited China in 1987 to trace his family’s roots, the “first time I had stepped foot on the soil of the motherland.”
“While on the road I saw the scene of reforms and opening up, which made me extremely excited,” he said.
Gou also cited Xi in his interview.
“Xi Jinping has pointed out that it is necessary to promote the deep integration of information technology and the real economy... I think the general secretary’s point of view is very far-sighted,” he said.
Some in the Democratic Progressive Party are already eyeing Gou’s China links as a weak spot.
Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文), a senior adviser to Tsai, said that he thinks Gou’s bid could create problems, given his business.
“He’s very pro-China and he represents the class of wealthy people. Will that gain support from Taiwanese?” Yao asked.
VOTERS’ CHOICE: The DPP’s Chen and independent candidate Huang conceded defeat before 7:20pm, with Chiang pledging to remain humble and do his best Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) yesterday won the Taipei mayoral election, with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate defeating the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) pick, former minister of health and welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), and former Taipei deputy mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊), an independent. After polling stations closed at 4pm, the Taipei Election Commission issued a preliminary estimate that voter turnout in the city was about 64 percent, slightly lower than in 2018. Chiang, 43, is to be the youngest Taipei mayor ever, with the KMT regaining the capital after eight years. Chen had an exceptionally high national approval rating when he was head
UNCREWED CRAFT: A lack of domestic components and engine outsourcing show the need for Taiwan to develop a local drone supply chain, an analyst said The development of a fully domestic drone manufacturing supply chain is crucial to Taiwan’s ability to use the uncrewed aircraft effectively during wartime, a recent report from the Institute for National Defense and Security Research said. Ukraine’s experience in resisting Russia’s invasion demonstrated that civilian drones can provide valuable intelligence during wartime, but they must be manufactured domestically to ensure that foreign component makers cannot take control of the devices, the report said. In the report, institute researcher Chen Po-hung (陳柏宏) analyzed the security of Taiwan’s drone supply chain. Ukrainians have used civilian drones to locate Russian convoys and other targets, he said,
In the last few days before the local elections on Saturday, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said it is focusing on 10 regions it considers highly contested areas, while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said it is stepping up campaigns across the nation. The DPP considers Keelung, Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu City, and Maoli, Yilan, Nantou, Penghu, Changhua and Yunlin counties as areas where its candidates are facing fierce competition, a party source said. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Vice President William Lai (賴清德) and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) plan to visit those areas again this week, the source said. The night before the elections,
A naval landing craft on Thursday sank near Kinmen County after wet weather and rough seas flooded its cabin, the Naval Fleet Command said. The vessel, called Landing Craft Mechanized 1326, had completed transport and replenishment missions in the county and was returning to Taiwan proper when surging waves flooded the cabin, the navy said in a statement. The craft’s five crew members tried to bail out the water to no avail, the Navy said. The landing craft eventually sank off Kinmen’s Liaoluo Bay (料羅灣) at 5:18pm, although all crew members rescued, it said, adding that the precise cause of the sinking