Taiwan’s opposition and Beijing
Taipei Times 2023.11.2
By Paul Lin 林保華
While Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) aspires to stand for election as president of Taiwan, it remains to be seen whether he can collect enough signatures to register as a candidate. In addition, some people involved in Gou’s signature drive have become embroiled in lawsuits.
Meanwhile, negotiations over electoral collaboration between the “blue” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the “white” Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) are proceeding in fits and starts.
At one point, Gou said that “all will be revealed” about a possible cooperation with TPP Chairman and presidential nominee Ko Wen-je (柯文哲).
Just after Gou said that, China’s tax authorities started examining the accounts of factories operated by Hon Hai, more widely known as Foxconn, in China’s Guangdong, Jiangsu, Henan and Hubei provinces.
This move by the Chinese authorities was obviously meant to put pressure on Gou and even to warn him not to transfer money out of the country. It prompted Gou to immediately cancel his election campaign activities on Monday last week. On that day, even Ko avoided saying anything about a “blue-white alliance,” as he was not sure what Beijing had in mind.
On Aug. 28 a reporter asked Gou how, if he is elected president, he would cope with strong pressure from China. Gou responded: “If the Chinese authorities say: ‘If you do not do what I say, I will confiscate your Hon Hai property,’ I will say: ‘Yes, please do it.’”
For some reason, he said this last part in English.
If the Chinese authorities want to confiscate his property, they would definitely say so in Chinese, so why would Gou respond in English? To borrow a phrase coined by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), would that not be deliberately “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who probably does not understand English?
In 2019, Gou resigned as chairman of Hon Hai for the sake of running in the 2020 presidential election, but he still had a place on the board of directors. This time he has gone further by relinquishing his directorship to show his full commitment to the upcoming presidential election.
However, his changeable attitude toward the CCP has annoyed that party’s leaders. On Aug. 30, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Director Song Tao (宋濤) accompanied KMT Vice Chairman Andrew Hsia (夏立言) on a visit to China’s Xiezhou County in Shanxi Province’s Yuncheng City, which is the birthplace of Guan Yu (關羽), a heroic general of China’s Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms period.
Song and Hsia went to pay homage at the Xiezhou Guandi Temple, where Guan Yu is worshiped as an immortal. While they were there, Song recited the last sentence of the fictitious Oath of the Peach Garden (桃園三結義), by which, as the story goes, the three heroes Liu Bei (劉備), Guan Yu and Zhang Fei (張飛) swore to be brothers. The last sentence of the oath reads: “If we should ever do anything to betray our friendship, may Heaven and the people of the Earth strike us dead.”
Song’s quotation of this passage was clearly directed at Gou, to convey the message that the CCP provided the conditions for Gou to become the richest person in Taiwan, so he had better not think about betraying that friendship.
Gou sees himself as an international celebrity. Even former US president Donald Trump saw him as such, so why would Gou worry about the CCP? Gou does not have any personal property in China, so how could China confiscate what he does not own?
However, although Gou no longer involves himself in Hon Hai’s affairs, he is still its major shareholder, making Hon Hai inseparable from him. Consequently, any action that the CCP might take against Hon Hai would have an impact on Gou’s wealth.
Hon Hai does have many foreign institutional investors among its shareholders, but so does Chinese online trading corporation Alibaba. When the CCP decided to “sort out” Alibaba, causing its share price to plummet, what could its foreign shareholders do about it?
In the end, Alibaba acted in a “communist” manner by making hefty donations to causes that the CCP approves of. This allowed Alibaba founder Jack Ma (馬雲) to temporarily resolve the crisis.
Will Gou also consider donating part of his wealth to further the CCP’s stated goal of “common prosperity” and gain the CCP’s forgiveness and understanding?
If he cannot resist the CCP now, who would believe that he would be able to maintain cross-strait peace if he is elected president? Would he “donate” Taiwan to the CCP?
Gou has said that China’s economy is in a bad state with high unemployment, so it would not mess with Foxconn.
However, he overlooked the fact that the CCP often settles political accounts, but ignores economic accounts, not to mention that China’s government departments are not good at communicating and cooperating with one another.
Conflicts between departments need to be put before Xi for him to adjudicate, but Xi has his hands full dealing with all kinds of problems every day, and Hon Hai is small fry to him. As long as things do not get out of hand, he would not intervene.
This is why the CCP has recently made repeated calls for “opening up,” while at the same time repeatedly arresting people under the pretext of “counterespionage.”
Honduras in March cut its diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of China, but China has not yet taken over the importation of white shrimp that Honduras originally exported to Taiwan. This is because diplomatic relations are a matter for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while buying white shrimp is a matter for the country’s Ministry of Commerce.
New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), the KMT’s presidential nominee, has recently stopped insisting that he must be the candidate for president rather than vice president, allowing some room to maneuver in negotiations between the KMT and the TPP.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) electoral prospects have taken a hit after the revelation of an extramarital affair between DPP Legislator Chao Tian-lin (趙天麟) and a Chinese woman.
In the light of such developments, could Ko become the main player among Taiwan’s opposition parties? Whatever happens, the CCP will do something to unite the opposition.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg