Hou You-yi receives tepid KMT support

    By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times  2023.6.11

Things are not going too well for Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜). Amid grumblings over the party’s shoddy treatment of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘), who also sought the KMT nomination, Hou sought out former National Taiwan University (NTU) president Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔), but Kuan said he had no interest in politics, ending speculation of a Hou-Kuan ticket.

Hou then turned to Ko Chih-en (柯志恩), who heads the National Policy Foundation, a KMT think tank. Ko turned down the offer. Former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) declined to act as Hou’s campaign director.

The lukewarm support from fellow KMT members has dealt a blow to Hou’s support ratings. He trails Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲).

However, Hou has done nothing to appeal to young voters, nor did he participate in a sedan chair procession at a religious festival in Kinmen County along with Ko, Gou or the Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate William Lai (賴清德) a few weeks ago. Even KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) appears to have lost interest.

Ko seems to enjoy “flirting” with Gou on the sidelines. Before Hou’s enlistment, Gou and Ko met in private. On the day of the Kinmen procession, Gou briefly met with Lai, while Ko did not. Later that day, Gou and Ko were photographed seated side-by-side looking at the night sky, but both prevaricated when asked what they talked about.

Gou raised a few eyebrows when he promised to fund an army of 80,000 robots to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion, but was indifferent to Nvidia Corp cofounder and CEO Jensen Huang’s (黃仁勳) visit to Taiwan, where Huang said that artificial intelligence’s (AI) “iPhone moment” has arrived.

Since Gou says he is concerned with young people and start-up activities, should he not at least show some interest in AI?

Bonnie Glaser, a US expert on China affairs, told a Brookings Institution forum in Washington that compared with Hou, Ko had a track record of handling relations with China, which meant that Beijing would be “more comfortable” supporting him.

However, Ko twisted Glaser’s words, saying that she means “he is the one most capable of communicating with China and the US,” which Glaser pushed back by calling Ko “dishonest.”

Regardless of the change in polls or support ratings, Ko is a force to be reckoned with in this campaign.

So far, Ko’s role has been to lambast the DPP and KMT for their unsatisfactory performance or scandals. He has no vision of his own, and is best known for repeating Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) “the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family” idea. Given this, it is safe to assume that he does not object to unification. He should be able to garner support from the “deep-blue” voters, China supporters and perhaps Gou’s backers. He could also appeal to the pan-green camp, as he used to be the leader of former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) personal medical team. Due to this history, Ko once called himself “black green” and has won favor with a percentage of Chen’s fans.

On the other hand, Gou has said that he would do his best to promote solidarity in the KMT, so how exactly does he plan to collaborate with Ko?

Perhaps he will give spiritual and financial support, or join Ko on his ticket, although it is difficult to say who will be on top. As the TPP chairman, Ko is used to giving orders; as the head of a huge enterprise, Gou is no stranger to being head honcho. As Ko has the considerable advantage of having a party behind him, it might all boil down to how much Gou desires the presidency.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.


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