TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s main opposition party picked a pro-China populist mayor last week as its candidate for the 2020 presidential race against an incumbent who often bashes Beijing.
The Nationalist Party said Han Kuo-yu had won the presidential primary after opinion poll results gave him a 45 percent support rating. He defeated four other candidates including former Foxconn Technology chairman Terry Gou and will face incumbent Tsai Ing-wen in the January election.
Gou, the billionaire former Foxconn head, came in No. 2 in the field of five candidates with a 28 percent support rating based on opinion polls earlier in the month.
Gou’s candidacy attracted interest in overseas business circles, as Foxconn churns out iPhones and other consumer electronics as a contract manufacturer for Apple and other major brands.
Gou left the company a short time after it inked a deal in Wisconsin with then Gov. Scott Walker, where the company will reap $4.5 billion in tax credits, infrastructure investments and direct cash payments from the state. So far, that deal has been under much scrutiny.
Gou founded the firm 45 years ago and built it by investing heavily in factories around China to tap into the vast, cheap labor pool there.
China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since 1949, but Beijing still claims sovereignty over the island and occasionally threatens use of force to take it, if needed. A Taiwan government public opinion survey in January showed that most Taiwanese prefer self-rule.
Candidates focused on economic improvement will get the most votes in the presidential election, said Ku Chung-hua, a retired sociology professor and standing board member with the Taiwan advocacy group Citizens’ Congress Watch.
“I still think the economy will carry more weight than China this time around,” Ku said. “China matters, including Hong Kong, will make people feel on guard, but when they vote for a president, they’ll hope to change their own lives and voting will follow that direction.”
Taiwan’s GDP growth is expected to slow this year to 2.2 percent from 2.6 percent in 2018. Common Taiwanese often fret over salaries and housing costs.
“We’re most afraid for the next generation of youth,” Han said at a news conference Monday after winning the primary. “Tsai Ing-wen has been in power for three years, but I’d really like to know what she’s done.”
China-born Han, 62, was a Nationalist Party lawmaker from 1993 to 2002. He once managed a company that markets Taiwanese farm products. He lost a bid two years ago to become the chairman of his party.
Han traveled to Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Xiamen to sign the agricultural product deals. He visited the United States a month later to speak at two universities and meet members of Congress, and sought to encourage American investment in Kaohsiung.