Foxconn founder Terry Gou again bids to become Taiwan’s president

Manufacturer’s close ties to China match the party position, perhaps not the public mood

Terry Gou, the founder and former CEO of Taiwanese contract manufacturing titan Hon Hai Precision Industry (aka Foxconn) is making a second attempt to become president and therefore head of state of the democracy.

The 72 year old Guo bid for the presidency in 2019, running in primary elections for Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist Party that warred with the Chinese Communist Party, lost, and in 1949 retreated to Taiwan.

Guo was not elected as Kuomintang’s candidate for the presidency and quit the party. But he’s since rejoined and launched a fresh bid for the gig.

In media appearances this week, Guo has told Taiwanese outlets he will deliver a detailed manifesto in around a month. In the interim, he’s articulated a position of ensuring Taiwan’s future prosperity and independence from both China and the USA.

The billionaire faces considerable obstacles. For starters Kuomintang’s leaders have previously indicated their preference for New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih as the party’s nominee. Guo has appealed to the court of public opinion, stating that he thinks party leaders will do well to consider public opinion ratings as a criterion.

Foxconn’s success and status as a flagship of Taiwanese success and ingenuity means Guo is widely admired, but Mayor Hou is regarded [PDF] as Taiwan’s most trustworthy lawmaker, albeit in polls take before Guo stated his intention to enter the race.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), political home of current president Tsai Ing-wen, also represents a threat, as polls suggest it enjoys equal support to Kuomintang.

The lack of a clear roadmap is another challenge. Kuomintang will soon outline how it will select its candidate. Then comes the campaign, ahead of the January 2024 election.

Despite its roots as the ideological and martial opponent of the Communist Party of China, Kuomintang is felt to be more pro-Beijing that then DPP. That puts it at odds with public sentiment in Taiwan, which runs against re-unification with the mainland.

Guo certainly knows how to get along in China: Foxconn famously has enormous facilities in the People’s Republic and has used them to crank out billions of iPhones and other gadgets.

Whether and how the billionaire founder of Foxconn can use that expertise to handle Chinese president Xi Jinping’s oft-stated desire to reclaim Taiwan in coming years is unknowable.

US President Joe Biden has said the nation he leads would aid Taiwan in military conflict with China, a nod to US approval of Taiwan’s democracy and to the island’s critical contributions to semiconductor supply chains. Administration officials recently indicated the US would prefer Taiwan-based semiconductor factories be destroyed rather than falling into China’s hands.

If Guo gets his party’s nomination, and wins the election, those geopolitical issues become his problem.®

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