Foxconn founder Gou confirms Taiwan presidential bid


If his bid passes, it could be ‘pop the champagne’ time for the pro-Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party.

Foxconn founder Gou confirms Taiwan presidential bid

Foxconn founder Terry Gou announces his bid for the Taiwan presidency during a press event in Taipei, Taiwan August 28, 2023.

Taiwan’s mercurial richest man and founder of Foxconn, Terry Gou, has ended months of speculation – largely fueled by his own cryptic statements at rallies – by confirming he is joining the presidential elections.

Leaving no uncertainty as to his intentions, the billionaire would-be politician said Monday, “I, Terry Gou, solemnly announce to you all today that I have decided to enter the 2024 presidential election as a candidate.”

But the fact that Gou has at last said the words, does not automatically make it so.

Gou now faces the challenge of summoning up 290,000 petition signatures to officially run as an independent candidate. The count is out as to whether there’s still time to do that.

“A reality reminder,” said Paul Huang, research fellow at the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation: “Just because Taiwan’s #TerryGou announced he’s running does NOT automatically make him a candidate in [the] presidential election … Gou needs to pass [the] petition stage by Nov. 1 which IMO he has a high chance of failing.”

But some observers of Taiwan politics maintain that Gou’s entry into a race in which the opposition vote is already fractured between Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang (KMT) and Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) can only serve to further bolster the chances of Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winning the presidency.

Lai is consistently running ahead of his rivals in the polls, and if Gou can actually run – and neither Hou nor Ko is able to cut a deal and make him a running partner – he is likely to give Lai an even surer chance of becoming president in January next year.

“William Lai [Ching-te] likely just won Taiwan’s presidential election, scheduled for January. Hard to envision three opposition nominees, to include Terry Gou entering the race today, winning enough votes individually when they are all competing for the same votes,” Derek J. Grossman, RAND Corporation analyst, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Michael Turton, a veteran Taiwan analyst and columnist, argued that Gou could be such an asset to the DPP – or “green” – vote that it was likely that Gou’s required petition numbers would come his way from an unlikely direction.

“Lots of smart pan-Greens are going to sign this petition, because they want Gou in the race, just as in the 2020 KMT phone poll they supported Han [Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang] because he so obviously could not win.”

A vote for peace?

As the so-called “blue camp,” or “pan-blue coalition” is broadly positioning itself, Gou is putting himself forward as a vote for some kind of reconciliation with Beijing and against an “inevitable” Ukraine-like conflict that another term of the DPP might bring.

Taiwan’s blue voters very broadly tend to support the KMT and its allies, which advocate for closer ties with mainland China, based on the principle of “one China” with different interpretations, although close watchers of Taiwan politics caution that elections are not fought over China relations alone.  

Multiple factors, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s increasingly bold aerial and naval incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, and China’s slowing economy, have led some Taiwanese to fear that Chinese leader Xi Jinping could play the ultimate nationalist card in his deck – an invasion.

Beijing is also manifestly opposed to the election of the DPP’s Lai, who in the past has called himself “a practical worker for Taiwan independence,” although every sign is he will represent a continuation of President Tsai Ing-wen’s non-provocative policies.

Taiwan’s political and economic predicament has been declining for the past seven years of DPP rule, argues Gou. The pro-Taiwan party has to be removed from power if Taiwan is to be saved from what Gou calls the “abyss.”

“In the face of the precarious military situation across the Taiwan Strait and the tense relationship between China and the U.S., Taiwan absolutely cannot become another Ukraine,” he said on Monday while declaring his determination to be president.

Gou has sent conflicting messages on his assets in China, at one point saying, “Personally, I don’t own a penny’s worth of assets in mainland China, including land and real estate.”

On Monday, on the other hand, he said he would willingly sacrifice his assets in China to save Taiwan from war.

“If the Chinese Communist Party says, ‘If you don’t listen to us, we will confiscate Foxconn’s assets,’ I will say ‘Yes, Please. Do it!’” said Gou on Monday.

“If sacrificing my personal wealth means they won’t attack Taiwan, I’m willing to go back to being a mold worker, as long as they don’t attack Taiwan. I cannot obey their commands.”

Gou’s avowed willingness to sacrifice everything for Taiwan drew some wry comments on social media.

“Foxconn founder Terry Gou … said that he would accept the Chinese government’s seizure of his firm’s assets in China in exchange for not invading Taiwan,” Swedish author and Taiwan commentator Jojje Olsen posted on X, adding:

“Yeah, Beijing would probably stop there.”

The polls

Despite only declaring his candidacy on Monday, Gou has been tirelessly touring Taiwan to drum up support for an unannounced campaign, but he still trails his rivals by a large margin.

Various recent polls saw his support at between approximately 9% and 14%, while Hou of the KMT was at 14% to 22%, Ko at 27% to 28% and the DPP’s Lai at 37% to 43%.

Just hours after Gou announced he was joining the presidential fray, the KMT said in a statement it was “deeply regrettable” that he had walked away from an earlier promise to help its presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih in the 2024 presidential elections.

The statement signaled a deep unease in the blue camp that Gou could wreck all chances of defeating the DPP and preventing the party from winning an unprecedented third term, in a move Beijing would almost certainly deplore as a victory to the island’s separatists.

KMT Chair Eric Chu has stated that if Taiwan’s opposition forces remain divided, as they currently are – and more so with Gou as a candidate – Lai will win the presidential election “lying down.”

“If Gou runs, the rest of us are done for,” Ko said in an interview with Chung T’ien Television earlier this month, Bloomberg reported.

“Lai Ching-te would 100% win. We wouldn’t even need to hold the election. Lai could pop the champagne right away.”

Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *