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It’s time to take the Terry Gou threat seriously

While the media focus on Han Kuo-yu intensifies, it is Terry Gou who poses the most serious threat to Taiwan’s future

It’s time to take the Terry Gou threat seriously

(Wikimedia Commons photo)

The Han wave might be weakening a little, but it is still consuming just about all the pan-blue media coverage in Taiwan.

However, there is growing reason to wonder whether the Han wave might not be something of a red herring.

While absentee Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) undoubtedly aspires to the top job at the expense of his current role, his combination of false rhetoric and nonsense policies are slowly but surely being found out.

His polling numbers are slipping and the main beneficiary of that, in the short term at least, is likely to be Terry Gou.

Terry Gou (郭台銘), the hugely successful chairman of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., better known as Foxconn, has generally been seen as a secondary candidate in the KMT primaries up to this point.

Pan-blue media darling Han has been urged to run by all and sundry since his mayoral victory in Kaohsiung last November. Gou's candidature has been interpreted by many as a vanity project by a man who is used to getting what he wants. Most assumed that Han would either be directly anointed or sweep to victory in the KMT primaries.

But there are a number of reasons why Gou should be taken a lot more seriously.

Why Terry Gou must be taken seriously

Firstly, Gou's presidential run was announced directly by the KMT party. He was an official party candidate rather than someone being carried shoulder-high by the grassroots. The fact that the announcement came at a time when the Han wave was at its peak suggests that it is Gou rather than Han who really has the backing of senior party members.

While Han’s success in Kaohsiung was a notable achievement, it is worth remembering that he had a far from illustrious political or business career under his belt prior to that. In contrast, Gou is a candidate with considerable business success under his belt, something that will always resonate well with the Taiwanese electorate.

Then there is the suggestion, reported earlier this week, that Gou is the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) preferred candidate.

For all the hype around Han’s links to the CCP and his meetings with CCP officials, there is no doubt that Gou has more concrete ties to China.

As Chiu Chang (邱彰), a Taiwanese lawyer and former legislator has pointed out, more than 80 percent of Gou’s assets are held in China, meaning he is more likely to be amenable to pressure from Beijing on their unification agenda.

He is not the first person to highlight this. Back in April, the Financial Times also noted the possible conflict of interest in Gou’s presidential bid.

Such links to China raise questions over whether Gou should be eligible to run for Taiwanese President at all, given the risk that he could be influenced by the country’s greatest national security threat.

Gou would no doubt argue that his company also has significant assets and investment in the United States and that his recent appearance at the White House and positive comments from US President Donald Trump work in his favor. But these connections are far fewer and shallower than his links to communist China.

Polling is starting to swing Gou’s way

Then there is the fact that Gou can make a more credible claim that he is the business candidate. For all Han’s claims that he would make Kaohsiung and its people rich when elected, he has failed to deliver on these promises in every conceivable way.

The truth is that Han has no genuine business background to base these claims on. He is a career politician and public sector worker who succeeded in convincing the people of Kaohsiung that he was something he isn’t.

Gou, in contrast, is undeniably one of Taiwan’s greatest business success stories. The success of Foxconn, which Gou has nurtured into the world’s largest provider of electronics manufacturing services, has been immense, despite much of the actual manufacturing taking place in China.

Many voters in Taiwan are swayed by a candidate that can convince them he can improve their financial situation. Gou can make a much more legitimate case for this than Han.

Some recent polls suggest that he is already beginning to succeed at this. President Tsai’s polling has spiked in the wake of the recent Hong Kong protests, and Gou is now consistently running Han close; one poll has Gou leading Han by 3 percent.

There will no doubt be some within the KMT that would like to see Gou take the top job while Han continues his grip on the DPP heartlands in Kaohsiung.

The concern is that this could well be what the CCP wants to happen too. The risk posed by the KMT combination to Taiwan’s democracy, sovereignty, and national security is significant, and it is now the DPP's job to unite against a pro-CCP candidate who could place the very future of the country in jeopardy.

Updated : 2021-07-29 07:43 GMT+08:00