Taiwan Life in Brief – May 2019

With some divine encouragement, Foxconn founder Terry Gou has decided to seek the Kuomintang's nomination as its presidential candidate. Photo: Austin Cheng

Foxconn Founder Set to Run for President

Terry Gou, founder of electronics giant Foxconn Technology Co., in April declared at a temple that Mazu, the goddess of the sea, had recently appeared to him in a dream. “She told me to come out and do something,” he recounted. That something was running for president on the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) ticket.

Gou, the richest man in Taiwan, heads the world’s largest contract electronic manufacturing company, which makes iPhones for Apple, among other things. His wealth and fame make him a strong contender. Voters, tired of salaries that have stagnated for almost two decades, may think his business acumen is what is needed to turn Taiwan’s economy around. On the other hand, his close ties to China, where most of his factories are based, are likely to alarm many voters.

The KMT is expected to pick a candidate based on an opinion poll to be conducted in June. The two other declared candidates – Eric Chu, a former mayor of New Taipei City, and Wang Jin-pyng, a former legislative speaker – are not doing as well in current polls as Gou is. The more formidable Han Kuo-yu, the newly elected mayor of Kaohsiung, has not yet announced whether he will seek the nomination. While many KMT supporters are clamoring for him to run for the presidency, he may be concerned about disappointing Kaohsiung residents after just half a year in the mayor’s office.

Gou met with U.S. President Donald Trump in early May in a closed-door meeting at the White House. Afterward the Taiwanese tycoon said he told Trump he would be a “peacemaker” rather than “troublemaker” if elected.

According to a company statement, Gou will “withdraw from daily operations” at Foxconn if selected as the KMT presidential candidate.

DPP Primary Delayed Until After May 22

The ruling Democrative Progressive Party has postponed its presidential primary election amid an increasingly bitter rivalry between President Tsai Ing-wen and her former premier, Lai Ching-te. Originally scheduled for mid-April, the contest will now be held after May 22 when its legislative primaries are completed. DPP Secretary General Lo Wen-chia said the party is still finalizing its primary procedures, with final arrangements to be announced May 22.

Analysts say the delay is due to President Tsai’s influence with the party machinery. She is said to be both still hoping to talk Lai out of challenging her and also making moves to boost her popularity before the primary. An angry Lai, who has been seeking to rally grassroots support, has complained that the party made no effort to discuss changes to the rules of the game with him.

Massive Anti-nuclear Protests in Two Cities

Thousands of anti-nuclear protesters marched through Taipei and Kaohsiung at the end of April, urging the government to put more effort into phasing out nuclear power plants by 2025, as the ruling DPP promised when President Tsai elected. A cloud of uncertainty was later thrown over the government’s plans when a referendum passed by a wide margin late last year called on the authorities to reverse the policy of creating a “nuclear free homeland” by 2025.

President Tsai marched with the protesters and vowed at a news conference to reach her targets regarding reducing emissions from thermal power plants and retiring the existing nuclear power plants – although without giving any timeline. As the KMT recently has supported nuclear power as one of the best ways to provide reliable energy, increasingly heated debate can be expected as next January’s presidential election draws closer.

Strong Earthquake Hits the East Coast

A powerful 6.1-magnitude earthquake that struck Taiwan’s east coast in mid-April was responsible for the death of a Malaysian tourist injured by falling rocks while hiking in Taroko Gorge National Park. Choo Yip Chean died at the end of April after two weeks in critical condition in an intensive-care unit. The quake’s epicenter was more than six miles northwest of Hualien. The tremor also left 17 injured, rattled buildings as far away as Taipei, and temporarily halted subway services in the capital city.