Taiwan’s iPhone Tycoon Walks a Fraught U.S.-China Line in Presidential Run


TAIPEI, Taiwan — Like different presidential hopefuls in Taiwan, Terry Gou has spent the previous few weeks engaged on his public picture by carrying toddlers, wrapping dumplings and serving to farmers.

Unlike the opposite candidates, he’s a billionaire, the chairman of Foxconn, a main Apple provider that operates huge factories in China. He has additionally pressed the flesh with President Trump, who advised him, Mr. Gou says, that being president is a “tough job.”

Should Mr. Gou turn into Taiwan’s president, Mr. Trump would have a lot of say over what is likely to be the hardest a part of his job: placing a delicate stability between the pursuits of the United States and China, particularly as the 2 giants combat a bruising commerce struggle.

On Friday, Mr. Gou handed over the reins of his sprawling electronics manufacturing empire to a new Foxconn working committee to deal with potential conflicts of curiosity as he runs for president. He constructed Foxconn and amassed a private fortune of $7 billion by skillfully straddling the hole between China and the United States. For years Foxconn has assembled the iPhone in China, serving to make Apple what it’s right this moment and changing into China’s largest private-sector employer on the identical time.

Even if Foxconn does relocate parts of the company from China to Taiwan, it would not amount to a decoupling from the Chinese market, said Lauren Dickey, an expert on China-Taiwan relations at CNA, a research firm in Arlington, Va. “The question, then, is whether these linkages become political risks or liabilities,” Ms. Dickey said.

Some voters who seek a stronger economy might find an appealing candidate in a billionaire businessman who runs a company with hundreds of thousands of employees and has repeatedly won tax benefits and land grants in his negotiations with local Chinese officials. Mr. Gou founded the company in Taiwan in 1974, initially producing components for black and white televisions and Atari joysticks. He opened the company’s first facility in China in 1988, in the southern city of Shenzhen, and later expanded its operations to central and northern China.

But Mr. Gou’s business brought jobs to China, not Taiwan. While doing so, Foxconn has come under heavy scrutiny over its employment practices. In 2010 it was hit by a wave of employee suicides, and in 2012 it admitted to hiring workers as young as 14. And as one analyst sees it, despite having a reputation for being a shrewd businessman, Mr. Gou is not known for delivering value to shareholders.

“Terry Gou has been a ruthless exploiter of local labor, tax breaks, and repeatedly floated fresh stakes in new companies to create equity value,” said Richard Kramer, a founder of the London-based technology research firm Arete. “But these stocks have consistently underperformed the market.” Foxconn representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Business aside, many other voters are concerned about the question of Taiwan’s sovereignty and how the island’s leadership should manage China’s overtures and threats. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, but the majority of people in Taiwan want to retain de facto independence.



Source link Nytimes.com

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