by Amber Wang
Foxconn’s billionaire founder Terry Gou announced Monday that he will run for president of Taiwan as an independent candidate.
Gou made his fortune turning Foxconn into the world’s largest contract producer of electronics, including for Apple’s iPhones.
He has a long-running ambition to become the leader of the self-ruled island, failing this year in an attempt to become the opposition Kuomintang party’s nominee for the January election.
“I have decided to join the 2024 presidential race,” Gou said at a press conference.
“I implore the people of Taiwan to give me four years. I promise that I will bring peace to the Taiwan Strait for the next fifty years and lay the deepest foundation of mutual trust between the two sides.”
China considers Taiwan its territory, to be taken one day by force if necessary.
President Tsai Ing-wen, who is wrapping up her second and final term, refuses to accept that position and Beijing has ramped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since she came into office in 2016.
“The Democratic Progressive Party has been in power for more than seven years, and it has brought the danger of war to Taiwan,” Gou said Monday, referring to Tsai’s party.
He said he would “never let Taiwan become the next Ukraine”, referring to Russia’s ongoing invasion.
But Gou’s Foxconn has built huge factories in China, and critics have alleged that he has a cosy relationship with the leadership in Beijing.
In 2019, he stepped down as Foxconn’s chief for a failed presidential run.
When asked Monday about his links to the Chinese government given Foxconn’s extensive investments in the mainland, Gou said he has not been involved in the firm’s management for four years.
“I have never been under the control of (the Chinese Communist Party)… I will not be threatened,” he told reporters.
The 72-year-old, whose self-made success is the stuff of legend in Taiwan, needs 290,000 signatures to qualify as an independent candidate.
In recent months he has held campaign-like events around Taiwan, like staging rallies in various key cities and commemorating important anniversaries.
The Kuomintang has chosen Hou Yu-ih, a former police chief who is now the mayor of New Taipei City, as its candidate for the 2024 election. He has been polling poorly in recent weeks, however.
Tsai’s deputy, Vice President Lai Ching-te, is the DPP’s candidate and the current frontrunner in the polls.