by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Terry Gou/Facebook
FOXCONN FOUNDER TERRY GOU announced his running mate today in a press conference held this morning. It was generally anticipated that Gou would announce a female running mate.
In a fit of the bizarre, however, Gou’s candidate turned out not to be any established political figure, but actress and singer Tammy Lai. As of late, Lai is best known for playing the presidential candidate of the DPP stand-in party on Wave Makers. Though Lai also previously worked in the publishing industry and has a doctorate in law, teaching at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Lai has no political experience and is not known as a politician. Otherwise, it has been noted that Lai has a mixed-race background, seeing as her father was an American GI who met her mother in Taiwan around the time of the Vietnam War.
In his announcement, Gou touted Lai’s communication skills as an entertainer, as well her educational background at the Harvard Kennedy School. It is also not unheard for entertainer to throw their hats into the political realm in Taiwan, as anyone from musicians Freddy Lim to Yu Tien or YouTuber Froggy Chiu in the pan-Green camp, or Hsieh Lung-chieh in hte pan-Blue camp. Nevertheless, it should be clear that though Lai does have an impressive CV, the main reason for her choice as a running mate is probably due to her performance in Wave Makers.
Facebook post by Terry Gou on the announcement
Lai’s performance in Wave Makers was a commanding one, with her character Lin Yueh-chen depicted as a wise and compassionate party leader able to balance political ideals and electoral pragmatism. As a result, after Wave Makers, many took to the Internet to comment that they hoped for a president like Lin Yueh-chen, though some interpretations suggested that Lin was an analog of Tsai Ing-wen. It proves another matter entirely to run the actress that played Lin Yueh-chen, however.
This would be the latest outlandish political move from Gou, then. In the present election cycle, Gou has leaned into a number of bizarre proposals. This includes proposing to fund an army of 80,000 robots to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion, as well as suggesting that Taiwan should build small nuclear reactors across the island, never mind that a longstanding fear in Taiwan is what the effects of seismic activity could be on nuclear plants. At present, Gou has taken to reviving the notion of inking a peace treaty between Taiwan and China, an idea that has come up several times with the pan-Blue camp in recent memory.
Yet Gou was not previously known for bizarre political statements. Gou has taken to leaning into this as part of an electoral strategy aimed at gaining headlines, perhaps taking a page out of former Kaohsiung mayor and 2020 KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu’s playbook. So, too, then, with Gou’s choice of running mate. This may illustrate to what extent that Gou’s campaign is not an ensemble effort, but highly focused on his individual political personality, in that Gou’s choice of running mate was ultimately unimportant. Some have criticized Gou as only considering a female running mate as more or less ornamental to his campaign, in this regard.
Some interpreted the timing of Gou’s announcement as intended to distract from KMT presidential candidate Hou You-yi’s trip to the US, which starts today. Taiwanese presidential candidates of both political camps traditionally travel to the US ahead of elections, not only to meet with American government officials but to solicit campaign contributions from members of the Taiwanese diaspora. It was expected that Hou’s trip would result in more publicity and potentially an uptick in approval ratings for him.
Certainly, this seems to have been successful, with most headlines now focused on Gou’s choice of running mate and sparse coverage of Hou’s trip. To this extent, Gou’s electoral ploy in announcing Lai as his running mate may have been a successful one. But if his choice of Lai as a running mate was influenced by Wave Makers, this may again reflect the abiding influence of the show, perhaps making it among the most influential shows to influence any presidential campaign season. After all, it was Wave Makers that sparked the wave of #MeToo cases that broke out in political circles in late May, something that significantly impacted early election campaigning in Taiwan. As this was due to Wave Makers drawing from the experiences of the showrunners in Taiwanese politics, Gou’s choice of running mate proves another case of life imitating art imitating life, then.