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By Associated Press
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Terry Gou, the head of the world’s largest electronics supplier, Foxconn, said Wednesday he plans to run for president of Taiwan, bringing his pro-business and pro-China policies to what is expected to be a crowded field for next year’s election.
Gou announced that he would be putting himself up as a hopeful in the opposition Nationalist Party primary ahead of next year’s election, shaking up the political landscape at a time of heightened tension between the self-ruled island and Beijing.
Gou is Taiwan’s richest person, with a net worth of $7.6 billion according to Forbes.
“I am willing to participate in the primary election,” Gou said at the party headquarters in Taipei.
“If I am not chosen, it means I didn’t work hard enough.”
He told reporters earlier in the day he was inspired by the Chinese sea goddess Matsu to seek office. “Three days ago Matsu came to me in a dream. She told me she hoped the people will have a better life.”
“Peace, stability, economy and future — these words are the script of my religion,” Gou said.
The Nationalists favor closer ties with Beijing, a policy that accords with Gou’s massive business interests in China, where Foxconn produces products for Apple, Google and Amazon.
Foxconn has also said it will build a major manufacturing facility in the U.S. state of Wisconsin.
His 2020 bid comes at a delicate time for cross-strait relations and delivers a blow to the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, which is struggling in opinion polls.
China-Taiwan relations have deteriorated since the island’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, swept to power in 2016.
China despises Tsai for refusing to endorse its claim to Taiwan as a part of Chinese territory, to be annexed by force if deemed necessary, and has cut all ties with her government while seeking to isolate it diplomatically.
Recent months have seen China step up military drills around Taiwan in what is seen as an effort to intimidate the island’s 23 million people into backing pro-China parties.
Gou, the 68-year-old son of a police officer who moved to Taiwan after the Communist takeover of the mainland in 1949, began his career in plastics before branching out into electronics and later mobile phones.
Gou this week said he was planning to step away from day-to-day operations at Foxconn, but would continue to guide the company’s “major direction” while working on a book about his management philosophy and bringing along a new generation of leaders.
Gou is likely to face criticism from China skeptics in Taiwan, said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the international affairs college at National Chengchi University in Taipei.
Foxconn factories employ hundreds of thousands of people in China and have a reputation for sometimes harsh work conditions.
Gou also has a reputation for being strict with employees, Huang said. “His personality is sort of the same as Trump: ‘What I say, is what goes,'” Huang said.