by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee
TAIPEI, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Having mastered making the iPhone, Taiwan’s Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of major Apple Inc supplier Foxconn, now wants to turn his entrepreneurial skills elsewhere – to become the island’s next president.
After at least two previous failed attempts, Gou, 72, is trying to unite the fractured opposition amid rising tensions with China, which he blames on the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) hostility to Beijing. Are.
Announcing his election campaign on Monday, he said, “Over the past seven years, the DPP government has not only brought Taiwan dangerously close to war, but it has also pursued flawed domestic policies that harm Taiwan’s industries and people.” have failed to solve the challenges life has to face.” To become “CEO of Taiwan” in the January election.
The DPP-led government has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing, but has been rebuffed and blames China for the tensions.
Gou was expected to represent the two main opposition parties as his candidates – the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Taiwan People’s Party – facing the challenge of working together and trying to “remove the DPP”. , as he said on Monday. ,
Before announcing Monday to contest the election as an independent, Gou had sought the KMT ticket for the presidency, but was unsuccessful.
But his direct language, combined with his business acumen, has drawn crowds to pseudo-campaign events across Taiwan that Gou organized before his announcement.
“He is a straight-talking political outsider,” said Sung Wen-ti, a political scientist with the Taiwan Studies Program at the Australian National University.
“He can appeal to the faith-oriented voters of the market. He can also appeal to the educated crowd who are into a more technocratic form of governance.”
From factory jobs to apples
Cow was not born rich. After graduating from university, he worked a number of factory jobs as Taiwan began to use its cheap labor force to produce consumer goods for the affluent Western world in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Had done it.
With a $7,500 loan from his mother and 11 elderly employees, he founded Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., later known as Foxconn, in 1974. He first made cheap plastic parts for black-and-white television sets for a Chicago TV manufacturer, before landing a bigger deal in 1980 making joystick connectors for Atari games consoles.
In 2000, Foxconn won an order to build Apple’s redesigned iMacs, taking advantage of the experience of manufacturing parts from American personal computer vendors such as Dell.
Gou recalled how he had to be in constant contact with the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and said he was forced to give Jobs a business card.
Gou said of his relationship with Jobs in 2011, “He was overjoyed when I managed to help him develop the first iPhone. He showed me how to use the touch screen at the same time.”
Foxconn eventually became one of the world’s largest private-sector employers, with at times more than one million workers assembling devices for global brands such as Sony Corp, Nintendo Co Ltd and Microsoft Corp.
‘I don’t follow their instructions’
Gou remains an admired figure at Foxconn after stepping down as chairman in 2019, respectfully referred to as “the founder”, although the company said on Monday that after “handing over the baton” four years ago he No longer involved in day-to-day management. ,
Having built the world’s largest contract manufacturer from scratch, Gou’s ties to Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he met in Beijing in 2014 and described in 2017 as a great leader, have reached, according to Taiwanese media reports .
Gou’s parents were born in China and belonged to the generation that fled to Taiwan after the Communists’ victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, a year before Gou was born on the island.
In an interview with the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of China’s historic economic reform in 2018, Gou said he was happy to see change.
He described how his father was from Shanxi province and mother from Guangdong, and when he first visited China in 1987 to trace his family roots, it was “the first time I set foot on the soil of the motherland”. Was”.
Earlier this year, Gao vowed to start dialogue with China if elected president on the grounds that both sides belong to the same China, but each can understand what that means.
“Both sides can sit together and we can take as much time as we need to talk about the ‘different interpretations’.
Still, when asked on Monday whether his Foxconn stake meant China could easily tell him what to do if he became president, he took a stern tone.
“I have never been under the control of the People’s Republic of China,” he said. “I don’t follow their instructions.”
Friends sitting in high positions also include former US President Donald Trump.
Gou told Trump that he wanted to be a peacemaker between Taiwan, China and the US as Taiwan’s president.
“Peace, stability, economy, future, are my core values,” he said after announcing a bid to become the KMT candidate in the 2020 election, though he ultimately failed to receive the nomination.
The KMT lost that election by a huge margin. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Sarah Wu; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)