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Billionaire presidential candidate in Taiwan promises ’50 years of peace’ with China – Magazine Creations

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan — After announcing his intention to run for president in late August, Terry Gou, the Taiwanese billionaire founder of Foxconn who some have compared to Donald Trump, is now officially a registered independent candidate.

Gu resigned as a Foxconn board member in early September, citing the need to focus on the election. He also announced as his running mate Tammy Darshana Lai, a well-known actress-singer and author.

The selection of Lai, 60, who recently played a Taiwanese presidential candidate in a Netflix drama credited with helping to revitalize the island’s #MeToo movement, was a surprise. But almost everything the 72-year-old tycoon has done this year has been a surprise.

Mr Gou and Ms Lai are campaigning to challenge the ruling party’s disastrous decisions, decisions that have escalated rather than eased tensions with China, weakened rather than strengthened Taiwan’s economy and brought about increased isolation , no greater integration. the nations of the world,” said a spokesman for the Terry Gou for President Campaign.

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President Donald Trump and Terry Gou, chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, attend a groundbreaking ceremony for Foxconn’s $10 billion factory complex on June 28, 2018, in Mt. Pleasant, Wis. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The January 13, 2024 presidential election is now a four-way race. Despite his reputation in business, Gou’s message of boosting the economy and laying the groundwork for “50 years of peace” with Taiwan’s nemesis, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), does not appear to be resonating with the majority of Taiwanese voters. Polls in Taiwan are very often unpredictable, but almost every poll shows him in last place.

Some have compared him to former President Donald Trump. There are some similarities. Like the former US president, he has bold proposals that some voters find unrealistic, such as a promise that, under his economic stewardship, Taiwan will soon have the highest GDP per capita in Asia.

Other Gou ideas are controversial, such as calling for a reduction, if not an end, to purchases of US weapons systems. and even fantastic ones, like creating a drone or robot army to defend Taiwan from China.

While both are billionaires — Gou’s net worth in 2022 was $6.8 billion — both entered politics only recently, both are portrayed as conservatives, and both are often described as populists. Beyond these larger points, however, the comparison breaks down.

Taiwan politics

Terry Gou, founder and former chairman of Foxconn and an independent candidate for the presidency of Taiwan, shakes hands with Vice President Tammy Darshana Lai (Lai Pei-hsia) during a press conference in Taipei on September 14, 2023. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

Gou (pronounced Gwo) is not considered an involved public speaker. Media commentators note that he lacks the pomp and charisma that many attribute to Trump. The most notable difference between the two, however, is their very different histories.

Gou’s middle-class parents left China for Taiwan in 1947, and he was born just outside the city of Taipei in 1950. He did not attend a Taiwanese version of an Ivy League college, nor did he receive further education at a prestigious business school.

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Terry Gou

Supporters of Terry Gou, founder of tech giant Foxconn, attend a campaign rally in Kaohsiung on May 7, 2023. (Jameson Wu/AFP via Getty Images)

In his early 20s, he spent two years in the Republic of China (Taiwan) Army, fulfilling a mandatory military service requirement. Gou was located on Kinmen Island, about 115 miles from the main island of Taiwan, but just under two miles from the coast of China.

After his military service, he worked for a merchant shipping company. He started a small plastics manufacturing company in the early 1970s. His company, known in English as Foxconn, got its first lucky break in 1980 when the gaming company Atari chose it to make its joystick video game consoles.

His success, however, cannot be attributed to mere luck. He is famous for his salesmanship and business acumen. Foxconn eventually became the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, serving many global brands, most notably American electronics giant Apple. Foxconn is the largest exporter in China and one of the largest private employers in the world.

Chinese soldier looking through binoculars with a military ship in the background

A member of the People’s Liberation Army looks through binoculars during military exercises as Taiwan’s Lan Yang frigate is seen on August 5, 2022. (Lin Jian/Xinhua via AP)

The billionaire has long been an armchair general in Taiwanese politics. In 2012, he supported the Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate, who was successful in his re-election. The KMT, officially known in English as the Chinese Nationalist Party, (pronounced in Chinese as “Guo-Min-Dahng”), is often characterized as “friendly to China”, although the party rejects this and says instead that it is ” pro-peace.” Until 2016, however, his direct involvement in politics was minimal.

In 2019, he said that the sea goddess Mazu, a popular deity in both Taiwan and parts of coastal China, instructed him in a dream to enter the KMT presidential race, which he lost. In 2020, the eventual KMT candidate also lost in a landslide to Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the island’s first female president, who easily won a second term. He must resign next year.

Kaohsiung City, Taiwan

A busy street in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. (Eryk Michael Smith)

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Taiwan has not been a democracy for a long time. The first peaceful transition of power took place in 2000. Since then, Taiwanese voters have alternated between the DPP and the KMT, giving each government eight years. In 2024, however, it appears that the DPP is well on its way to successive administrations.

Gou had promised to support whoever the KMT nominated for the 2024 race, but backed down after losing the nomination. Considering his poll numbers, Gou’s decision to run for president has left many in Taiwan confused. Some have speculated that he believes he can pull off a last-minute rally of non-DPP voters as a “consensus candidate”.

Taiwan political commentator Courtney Donovan Smith, a columnist for Taiwan News, one of the island’s largest English-language newspapers, told Fox News Digital: “He says he’s going to end up winning over what he calls ‘hidden voters,’ people who do.” . don’t answer poll questions’.

President Chai

In this photo released by the Office of the President of Taiwan, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks at a luncheon during a visit by a congressional delegation to Taiwan in Taipei, April 8, 2023. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

Aggregate polling data published by Smith and Taiwan News shows that at least 13% of likely voters are still undecided. But that’s not a huge number, and as Smith told Fox News Digital, “These ‘undecideds’ could theoretically vote for Terry Goo at the last second, which still wouldn’t mean a sure win for him. But they could also end up choosing the first, one of the others, or choose not to vote at all.”

He made his fortune in Communist China, which is escalating hostile military actions against Taiwan on an almost daily basis. His supporters say his experience with the PRC makes Gou the perfect person to bring calm to China-Taiwan relations. His critics say he is “out of touch” and too close to self-serving business interests linked to Beijing.

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The KMT called Gou’s entry as an independent candidate “regrettable,” as Gou voters in Taiwan are more likely to turn away from both the KMT and the more recently formed Taiwan People’s Party (TPP).

As former President Trump proved in 2016, nothing is impossible. But with Taiwan’s opposition now divided into three camps – barring an increasingly unlikely last-second unity ticket – President Tsai’s anointed successor, now Vice President William Lai of the ruling DPP, looks set for almost certain victory.

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