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 a strongly pro-business and China-friendly platform to what is expected to be a crowded field for next year’s presidential election.
Gou, who ranks among Taiwan’s richest people with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $7.8 billion, says the Nationalists should hold debates to select their candidate.
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-oriented style of leadership.
However, Gou is likely to face 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 oppose unification with China, the island government’s Mainland Affairs Council said in January.
Despite that, the Nationalists favor closer ties with Beijing, largely as a way of recharging the island’s high-tech economy through access to China’s massive economy.
Gou has a reputation at Foxconn for a strongly authoritarian leadership style and strictly controlling employees.
Foxconn has wanted to make changes to its contract with the state, which originally promised to make more than $4 billion available in state and local tax credits — the largest incentive package given to a foreign company in U.S. history — if Foxconn spends about $9 billion and hires 13,000 people.
After waffling earlier this year on its intentions, Gou recommitted to the project in February after a meeting with President Donald Trump.