Terry Gou, the man who made iPhones, is once again seeking to become Taiwan’s president

TAIPEI, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Having mastered the iPhone, Taiwanese billionaire founder of Apple supplier Foxconn (2317.TW) now wants to turn his entrepreneurial skills elsewhere to become the island’s next president.

After at least two previous attempts failed, Zhou, 72, is seeking to unite a divided opposition amid rising tensions with China, which he blames on the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s hostility to Beijing.

“Over the past seven years, the DPP government has not only dangerously pushed Taiwan to the brink of war, but also pursued flawed domestic policies that have failed to solve the challenges facing Taiwanese industries and people’s lives,” he said on Monday announcing his candidacy. To be “Taiwan’s Chief Executive” in the January elections.

The DPP-led government has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing, but these have been turned down, blaming China for the tensions.

Zhou faces the challenge of trying to convince the two main opposition parties — the Kuomintang, which he had hoped to represent as its candidate, and the Taiwanese People’s Party — to work together and “bring down the DPP,” he said Monday. .

Before announcing his bid to run as an independent on Monday, Zhou had unsuccessfully sought the KMT’s presidential ticket.

But his direct language, along with his business acumen, drew crowds at sham campaign events across Taiwan that Jo organized in the run-up to his announcement.

“He’s an outspoken political outsider,” said Song Wen-tee, professor of political science in the Taiwan Studies Program at the Australian National University.

“It is able to attract voters who are more confident in the market. It can also attract the educated masses who are inclined to a more technocratic form of government.”

From factory jobs to apple jobs

Joe was not born rich. After graduating from university, he worked a series of factory jobs as Taiwan in the late 1960s and early 1970s began using its cheap labor force to produce consumer goods for the wealthy Western world.

He established Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, commonly known as Foxconn, in 1974 with a loan of $7,500 from his mother and 11 elderly workers. He initially manufactured inexpensive plastic parts for black-and-white televisions for a television manufacturer in Chicago, before striking a major deal in 1980 to make joystick connectors for Atari game consoles.

In 2000, Foxconn won an order to manufacture redesigned iMacs from Apple, drawing on its experience making a variety of parts for the likes of US personal computer retailer Dell.

Joe recalled how persistent he had to be with Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, saying he had to force Jobs to give him a business card.

“He was so happy when I could help him develop the first ever iPhone. He showed me how to use the touch screen right away,” Joe said in 2011 of his relationship with Jobs.

Foxconn eventually became one of the world’s largest private companies, at times employing more than a million workers assembling hardware for global brands such as Sony Corp (6758.T), Nintendo Co Ltd (7974.T) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT). .O). .

“I don’t follow their instructions.”

Joe remains a figure of praise at Foxconn after stepping down as chairman in 2019, and is reverently referred to as the “founder,” though the company said on Monday he was no longer involved in day-to-day management after “handing over the baton” four years ago. . .

Taiwanese media reported that Zhou, having built the world’s largest contract manufacturing company from scratch, has reached the level of Chinese President Xi Jinping whom he met in 2014 in Beijing, who in 2017 described him as a great leader.

Zhou’s parents were both born in China and were from the generation that fled to Taiwan after the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, a year before Zhou was born on the island.

In an interview with the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily in 2018 marking the 40th anniversary of China’s historic economic reform, Gu said he was glad to see the changes.

He said that his father was from Shanxi Province and his mother from Guangdong, and that when he first visited China in 1987 to trace his family roots, it was “the first time he set foot on the motherland.”

Earlier this year, Gu pledged to start negotiations with China if he was elected president on the grounds that the two sides belong to one China, but each can interpret what that means.

“The two sides can sit together and we can take all the time we need to talk about the ‘different interpretations’.”

On Monday, however, he struck a tougher tone when asked if his shares in Foxconn meant that China could simply tell him what to do if he became president.

“I have never been under the control of the People’s Republic of China,” he said. “I do not follow their instructions.”

Friends in high places include former US President Donald Trump.

Jo told Trump that he wanted to be a peacemaker between Taiwan, China and the United States as president of Taiwan.

“Peace, stability, economy and the future are my core values,” he said after announcing his candidacy to be the KMT’s candidate in the 2020 elections, despite ultimately failing to secure the nomination.

The Kuomintang lost that election by a landslide.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee – Prepared by Mohamed for the Arabic Bulletin – Prepared by Mohamed for the Arabic Bulletin) Additional reporting by Sarah Wu; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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Yimou Lee is a senior correspondent for Reuters covering all things from Taiwan, including the delicate relations between Taiwan and China, China’s military aggression, and Taiwan’s key role as a global semiconductor power. A three-time SOPA award winner, his reporting from Hong Kong, China, Myanmar and Taiwan over the past decade includes Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingya Muslims, the Hong Kong protests and Taiwan’s battle against China’s multi-front campaigns to assimilate the island.

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