by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Terry Gou/Facebook

FOXCONN FOUNDER Terry Gou announced his intentions to run for president earlier this week on Wednesday. Gou emphasized that he believed that “Taiwan needs a great CEO” to serve as its leader.

During the press conference in which he made this announcement, he apologized for leaving the KMT four years prior in anger after the 2020 KMT presidential primary in which Gou unsuccessfully sought the KMT’s nomination. It is currently an issue of contention whether to allow Gou back into the party, as Gou left the party too recently be allowed to rejoin under current rules. It was already known that Gou hoped to run, with Gou claiming to have the approval of both the sea and war gods, seeing for his 2020 run, he claimed that the sea goddess Mazu had come to him in a dream and urged him to run.

Likewise, Gou stated that he would support anyone that the KMT puts forward as candidate. This is to indicate that he would not challenge the KMT’s candidate through an independent run, as it was speculated he might do. Given his billionaire status, Gou could potentially field a run on his own, without the backing of a major political party. At the same time, it has been speculated that Gou could potentially align with former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je and his TPP, former KMT majority speaker Wang Jinpyng, or James Soong of the People First Party for a run.

Current KMT chair Eric Chu has to date demurred on the decision of whether to bend the rules to allow Gou to rejoin the party. Likewise, it was recently announced that the KMT would be deciding its choice of 2024 presidential candidate through a nomination process by its standing committee rather than an open vote.

Chu took the chairship promising to not run as the KMT’s presidential candidate himself and instead try and cultivate the strongest possible candidate for the KMT. However, it is generally thought that Chu has presidential ambitions himself, even if this would make for his third bid for the KMT presidential nomination and Chu unsuccessfully ran against Tsai Ing-wen in 2016.

Video of the press conference of Gou announcing his intention to seek the KMT’s presidential nomination

The announcement that the KMT would be deciding its presidential candidate through a nomination process was likely Chu having maneuvered himself into a position to shut Hou out. Although Chu was in the past seen as a more pro-American KMT politician, who was moderate on cross-strait relations, Chu has maneuvered himself into a position where he is more trusted by the KMT establishment than Hou.

The KMT establishment fears Hou as a potential turncoat, seeing Hou was close to the pan-Green camp in the past, and Hou’s relative moderation on cross-strait issues may sow distrust. While Chu faced many of the same criticisms as Hou in the past, Chu taking a more hardline stance on cross-strait issues as of late, as in allowing for vice chair Andrew Hsia’s visits to China, may be to politically differentiate himself from Hou in a way that leads to support from the party establishment.

As for Gou, his apology for leaving the KMT in anger and his promise to support any candidate put forward by the KMT is evidently a show of contrition for his prior actions. As Gou’s rejoining the party is contingent on Chu, Gou also may aim to make amends and indicate that he would be willing to accept Chu’s authority as party leader.

Gou only rejoined the KMT to seek the presidential nomination in the lead-up to 2020. With Gou having ruled out an independent run, likely due to being unable to rely on the KMT’s mobilization network, his independent standing from the KMT here proves both his greatest strength and weakness.

Gou may even be able to steer a course on cross-strait politics separate from that of the party, while not getting entrenched in the factionalism that is evidently working against Hou’s standing at present. Gou recently visited the US during a similar timeframe to Tsai Ing-wen’s two diplomatic stopovers in the US, while by contrast, former president Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT was visiting China. Recent comments by Gou warning against economic dependence by Taiwan on China also indicate Gou is aware of how the KMT’s pro-China image proves a liability to it in elections.

It is less clear whether Gou hopes to position himself as a compromise candidate between Hou and Chu. Gou may be taking advantage of the in-fighting between Hou and Chu in order to become the KMT’s candidate, with the closed nomination process that the KMT will use for its choice of presidential candidate providing for this sort of backdoor maneuvering.

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