In a race that will be closely watched globally for its military and economic implications, technology billionaire businessman Terry Gou has lost his bid to represent the opposition Nationalist Party in next year’s Taiwan presidential election, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported today.
The Nationalists, also known as the Kuomintang, or KMT, nominated New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih as the party’s presidential candidate today. Hou will face Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te, the candidate of ruling Democratic Progressive Party, and former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je from the smaller Taiwan People’s Party in the election scheduled for January.
Beijing claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island of 24 million people, and has stepped up military exercises around Taiwan following a visit by then U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi last August. U.S-China ties have further spiraled downward of late in connection with Beijing’s close relationship with Russia, its suspected sending of a spy balloon over militarily sensitive parts of the U.S., and raids on U.S. consulting and due diligence firms in the country, among other issues.
A rags-to-riches entrepreneur, Gou also ran for president in 2019, citing a message from sea goddess Matsu, only to lose and then quit the KMT. His image as successful founder of Hon Hai Precision, one of the world’s largest contract manufacturers and a key Apple supplier, was hurt at the end of last year by labor woes at the company’s huge iPhone factory in the mainland. Hon Hai’s investment plans at Lordstown Motors in Ohio have also faced setbacks. Nasdaq-traded Lordstown shares have lost 87% of their value in the past year.
Gou ranked No. 317 on the 2023 Forbes Billionaires List unveiled last month with an estimated fortune worth $7.2 billion. He stepped down as Hon Hai chairman in June 2019, after 45 years as leader.
The billionaire businessman, who formally sought the KMT’s nomination starting in April, pledged to support triumphant Hou. “I will keep my promise and do everything I can to support Mayor Hou to win the 2024 general election and get rid of the incompetent government,” Gou said in a FaceBook post, CNA reported.
Incumbent Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who ranked No. 17 on the latest Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women last year, can’t run for the post again due to rules that limit her to two four-year terms.
The stakes are big. Taiwan is the world’s No. 22 economy and a vital source of semiconductors. Its chip industry leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, or TSMC, one of the world’s largest chip makers, plans to invest $40 billion — one of the largest outlays by a foreign company in U.S. history — in a facility in Arizona. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway said in a filing this month it has sold its entire stake in TSMC amid concerns about Taiwan’s future, reports said.
Other Apple suppliers from Taiwan besides TSMC and Hon Hai include Pegatron, Lite-On Technology, Inventec, Catcher Technology, Largan Precision and Compeq Manufacturing.
The differences between the KMT and Democratic Progressive Party on policy toward the mainland could be more perceived than real, Gallup pollster Tim Ting said in an interview last December. (See earlier post here.) The KMT is strong in northern Taiwan, where many mainland families settled in the late 1940s after then KMT leader Chiang Kai-Shek lost a civil war to the Communist Party’s Mao Zedong and moved its capital to Taipei.
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