TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Terry Gou, head of the world’s largest contract assembler of consumer electronics, stepped closer to running for president of Taiwan on Monday by announcing that he would not accept a vice presidential slot on the ticket of the opposition Nationalist Party.
Gou is chairman of Foxconn, which assembles electronic products such as Apple’s iPhones. He would bring strongly pro-business and China-friendly policy proposals to what is expected to be a crowded field for next year’s presidential election.
Gou, who ranks among the richest people in Taiwan with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $7.8 billion, says the Nationalists should hold debates to select their candidate.
The incumbent president, Tsai Ing-wen, has been hampered by low public approval ratings and a diplomatic embargo imposed by China, which claims the island as its own territory.
“I am not a suitable candidate for a vice president, because I am used to making decisions,” Gou told reporters.
Gou’s candidacy would be the first for a Taiwan business mogul and may appeal to Taiwanese dissatisfied with stagnating incomes who want a different, more business-like style of leadership.
However, Gou is likely to be faced with criticism from China skeptics in Taiwan over Foxconn’s 12 factories in nine Chinese cities and his close ties to the Chinese government.
Gou, the 68-year-old son of a police officer who moved to Taiwan after the Communist takeover of the mainland in 1949, began his career in plastics before branching out into electronics and later mobile phones.
China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and has threatened to take it by force if it deems it necessary. More than 80% of Taiwanese are opposed to the possibility of their country’s becoming unified with China, the island government’s Mainland Affairs Council said in January.
Despite that, the Nationalists favor closer ties with Beijing, largely in order to recharge the island’s high-tech economy through access to China’s massive economy.
Gou has a reputation for being a strong, perhaps even slightly authoritarian, at Foxconn and for strictly controlling employees.
Foxconn announced in 2017, to much fanfare, that it planned to invest $10 billion in the U.S. state of Wisconsin and hire 13,000 people to build an LCD factory that could make screens for televisions and a variety of other devices.
After waffling earlier this year on his intentions, Gou recommitted to the project in February after a meeting with President Donald Trump.