Foxconn billionaire Terry Gou will decide if he should run for Taiwan presidency this week

Terry Gou, founder and chairman of Foxconn, greets during an event that marks the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, in Taipei, Taiwan April 16, 2019.
Reuters

Electronics tycoon Terry Gou is weighing up a run in Taiwan’s presidential race next year and has promised to reveal his decision within the next two days.

Gou, one of Taiwan’s wealthiest men, who heads Foxconn – the world’s biggest electronics contract manufacturer and a key Apple supplier – said that if he decided to run he would seek to take part in the opposition Kuomintang’s primaries, instead of standing independently.

He made the surprise announcement on the sidelines of an international seminar in Taipei on Tuesday.

“I will decide in the next two days whether to run for president,” Gou said, when asked by reporters at the 2019 Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue if he wanted to do something for Taiwan after attending such seminars.

“I hardly slept last night thinking of the future of Taiwan and its security issues,” he said, adding the election in 2020 was “extremely critical in determining Taiwan’s future in the next 20 years in the political, defence and economic sectors”.

Gou, 68, said he was considering a presidential bid because he wanted to do something for Taiwanese, especially those aged between 20 and 40, as the next two decades would be critical to that generation.

Tuesday’s event also featured opening addresses by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and former US House speaker Paul Ryan.

On Monday, at another event in Taipei to mark the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, Gou specifically asked James Moriarty, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan – Washington’s de facto embassy in Taipei – to clarify the role of the US in the island’s presidential elections, and whether the superpower would lean towards Tsai in next year’s poll.

Moriarty said the US would respect the decision of the Taiwanese people in the 2020 poll and would work with the leader selected by the electorate.

“I hope I’m being clear. We do not plan to get involved in the Taiwan election. That is not the goal of the US,” he said.

Gou, with a net worth of US$7.4 billion, founded Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn, in 1974 with just US$7,500 and 10 staff in Taiwan. The company is now the world’s largest contract maker of electronics, with factories in a number of countries – but most of them on mainland China – employing more than 1 million workers.

An aggressive businessman, Gou’s electronics empire spread when he bought Finnish firm Nokia’s mobile phone brand and Japanese display maker Sharp in 2016.

Meanwhile, as trade tensions between Washington and Beijing escalated last year, Gou agreed to invest US$10 billion in a factory in Wisconsin to assemble liquid crystal display screens. US President Donald Trump attended its groundbreaking ceremony, praising Gou for his efforts to revive the local manufacturing industry.

Should Gou choose to run, it would put Tsai in an even more difficult position. She already faces challenges not only from pro-Beijing KMT aspirants – including former New Taipei mayor Eric Chu and former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng – but, more seriously, from her one-time confidant William Lai, former premier and fellow member of the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.

Tsai also faces another serious threat – from Han Kuo-yu, the highly popular mayor of Kaohsiung. He has yet to announce whether he will run, but has maintained a sharp lead ahead of Tsai in all Taiwan’s opinion polls, which have also shown her trailing Lai and Chu.

Han, a member of the opposition KMT, sensationally overturned predictions in last year’s local elections to win the key port city of Kaohsiung in a landslide. His popularity was widely credited with the KMT’s victory in 15 of Taiwan’s cities and counties.

He is nearing the end of a nine-day visit to the US, where he was invited to speak on his electoral victory and his political views.

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST