Foxconn Founder Bids To Become Taiwan’s President

Political move for the man who flourished making Apple iPhones, as Foxconn founder Terry Gou seeks to become island’s president

The billionaire founder of Foxconn, Terry Gou, has announced his intention to run to become the island’s next president.

Foxconn is the largest tech manufacturer in the world, and while the company is a Taiwanese powerhouse, it earns the majority of its revenue from its factories in China and increasingly in India.

The move comes amid ongoing political and military tensions between China and Taiwan. Another Taiwanese powerhouse, TSMC, warned last August about the likely impact on the world’s supply of semiconductors, if China were to invade Taiwan.

Image credit: Foxconn
Image credit: Foxconn

Presidential run

If China were to invade Taiwan, the most-advanced chip factory in the world would be rendered “not operable,” TSMC’s chairman said at the time.

But Foxconn’s Terry Gou has reportedly adopts a much more friendly approach to Beijing, and it should be noted that his parents were born in China.

Terry Gou is seeking to unite a fractured opposition amid rising tensions with China, which he blames on the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) hostility to Beijing, Reuters reported.

Gou aged 72, has previously made at least two previous failed presidential bids, so it remains to be seen whether his political ambitions will succeed this time around.

“Over the past seven years, the DPP government has not only brought Taiwan dangerously close to war, but has also pursued flawed domestic policies that have failed to resolve the challenges facing Taiwan’s industries and people’s lives,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying on Monday, announcing his run to be “Taiwan’s CEO” at the January election.

The DPP-led government has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing, but been rebuffed, and has blamed China for the tensions.

Uniting Taiwan’s opposition

Reuters noted that Foxconn’s Gou faces the challenge of trying to get the two main opposition parties – the Kuomintang (KMT) which he had hoped to represent as its candidate and the Taiwan People’s Party – to work together and “take down the DPP”, as he reportedly said on Monday.

Before he announced his bid to run as an independent on Monday, Gou had sought the KMT ticket for the presidency but reportedly failed.

But his direct language, along with his business acumen, has drawn crowds in pseudo-campaign events across Taiwan that Gou held in the run-up to his announcement, Reuters reported.

Gou founded Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, better known as Foxconn, in 1974 with a $7,500 loan from his mother and 11 elderly workers.

In 2000, Foxconn won an order to make Apple’s redesigned iMacs, leveraging experience making a variety of parts for the likes of Dell.

Foxconn eventually became one of the world’s largest private-sector employers with at times over a million workers assembling devices for global brands, Reuters noted.

Foxconn factory Shenzhen China 2005 - by Steve Jurvetson from Wikimedia
A Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China. Image credit: Steve Jurvetson

China relations

Reuters reported that earlier this year, Gou vowed to start negotiations with China if he was elected president on the basis that both sides belong to one single China but each can interpret what that means.

“The two sides can sit down together and we can take all the time we need to talk about ‘different interpretations,” he reportedly said.

However, on Monday Gou struck a tougher tone when asked if his Foxconn shareholdings meant China could simply tell him what to do if he became president.

“I have never been under the control of the People’s Republic of China,” he was quoted as saying. “I don’t follow their instructions.”

Terry Gou was friends with former US President Donald Trump, and reportedly told Trump he wanted to be a peacemaker between Taiwan, China and the US as Taiwan’s next President.