Taiwanese tech mogul joins presidential race


Ending months of speculation, the billionaire founder of tech giant Foxconn has announced he’ll run in Taiwan’s 2024 presidential elections. Terry Gou (72) will campaign as an independent after failing to secure the nomination of Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT).

Gou, who has deep ties in China, vowed during his launch to never let Taiwan become “the next Ukraine”, pledging not to “bow to China’s pressure”.

His bid attracted a fair bit of international attention for a few reasons:

  1. 📱 Most of Foxconn’s footprint is in China, and Gou remains both a Foxconn board member and shareholder, raising questions about how he’d handle pressure from Beijing.
  2. ⚖️ Taiwan’s elections have long been two-horse races, but a third party is now polling well, and Gou’s entry as the fourth horse splits the vote even further.
  3. 🌬️ This isn’t the entrepreneur’s first foray into politics: in 2019 he launched his first (unsuccessful) presidential candidacy, citing inspiration from the sea goddess Mazu.

Gou will need plenty of help to win in January: it’s 290,000 signatures just to qualify as an independent candidate, and the road thereafter looks pretty steep for anyone without the backing of a party machine.

Intrigue’s take: Taiwan’s electoral process is simple: whoever gets the most votes wins (i.e., no runoffs, no preferences).

But a simple process can still bring a complex race: with the opposition vote now split across three relatively China-friendly candidates including Gou, his entry likely benefits the ruling, independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

And yet… we’re still months out, there are big egos in the mix, and an opposition alliance remains possible (if unlikely). So anything could happen.

Also worth noting:

  • In 2022, Foxconn earned $216B in revenue and employed a million employees worldwide. It produces a reported 70% of all iPhones.
  • Gou says Beijing wouldn’t use Foxconn (China’s single largest private employer) as leverage, as this would harm China itself.
  • Lai Ching-te, Taiwan’s current vice president and the ruling DPP’s candidate, is topping polls at 39% (double the next candidate).
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