Foxconn’s Chairman Terry Gou said on Tuesday he is considering whether to run for Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election, a day after Reuters reported the tycoon planned to step down from the world’s largest contract manufacturer.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event to mark the 40th anniversary of Taiwan-US ties, Gou declined to say which party he could represent, though he said if it was the opposition, China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), he would “go” with the standard procedures of the party.
“I didn’t sleep last night ... 2020 is key for Taiwan. The reason for the tense situation (with China) is because it’s a turning point for Taiwan’s direction for politics, economy, defence for the next 20 years,” Gou said.
“So I asked myself the whole night ... I need to ask myself what I can do. What I can do for the youth? ... The next 20 years will decide their fate.”
Gou, Taiwan’s richest person with a net worth of USD 7.6 billion according to Forbes, told Reuters on Monday he planned to step down in the coming months to pave the way for younger talent to move up the company’s ranks.
The company later said Gou will remain chairman of Foxconn, though he plans to withdraw from daily operations.
Taiwan is gearing up for presidential elections in January at a time of heightened tensions across the Taiwan Strait, with Chinese bombers and warships conducting drills around the self-ruled island on Monday.
A senior US official denounced the military manoeuvres as “coercion” and a threat to stability in the region.
The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.
“We need peace. We don’t need to buy too many weapons. Peace is the biggest weapon,” Gou said, adding that Taiwan only needs adequate self-defence.
“If we spend the money for weapons on economic development, on artificial intelligence, on investment in the United States, this would be the biggest assurance on peace.
“Whose children are willing to sit in those fighter jets?”
Asked by Reuters on Monday if he would quit as chairman, Gou said, at 69 years old, he was moving in that direction, though any decision needed to be discussed with Foxconn’s board.
“I don’t know where you got the information from. But I have to say, basically, I’m working towards that direction - to walk back to the second line, or retire,” Gou said.
He also signalled a major management reshuffle.
“In the board meeting in April-May we will give the new list of board members to the board,” Guo said without elaborating.
Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, is due to hold its annual general meeting in June.
Any management reshuffle would mark another top-level change at a major tech firm on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Morris Chang, founder of Apple supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC), retired as chairman last year. In September, Jack Ma, co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, said he would step down as chairman in a year to allow for younger management.
Founded in 1974, the Foxconn group is the world’s biggest contract manufacturer with Taiwan dollar 5.2 trillion (USD 168.52 billion) in annual revenue. It assembles goods for a miscellany of global tech firms but relies on Apple for over half of annual revenue, analysts said.