Foxconn’s billionaire founder Terry Gou announced on Monday that he will run for president of Taiwan as an independent in the election scheduled for January 2024.
Gou, the self-ruled democracy’s richest man, has long held political ambitions and stepped down from Foxconn in 2019 in an attempt to secure the nomination of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) in the last election.
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He failed in that attempt and was also rebuffed earlier this year when the KMT, which is seen as being friendly to Beijing, chose Hou Yu-ih, the mayor of New Taipei City, as its candidate.
“I have decided to join the 2024 presidential race,” Gou told a press conference.
The tycoon will need to collect 290,000 signatures by November 2 to qualify as an independent candidate, and has been holding campaign-style events around Taiwan in recent months.
Foxconn is one of the world’s largest contract producers of electronics and a key supplier for Apple’s iPhones.
Gou accused the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has won the past two presidential elections, of leading “Taiwan towards the danger of war” and said their domestic policies also had mistakes.
“Give me four years and I promise that I will bring 50 years of peace to the Taiwan Strait and build the deepest foundation for the mutual trust across the strait,” he said in a plea to voters.
“Taiwan must not become Ukraine and I will not let Taiwan become the next Ukraine.”
Vice President Lai Ching-te – who is the DPP’s candidate – is the current election frontrunner, while the KMT’s Hou is running a distant third behind former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je of the small Taiwan People’s Party.
Beijing has stepped up efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally and put pressure on its government ever since President Tsai Ing-wen was first elected in 2016.
China accuses Tsai of being a “separatist” and has staged regular military exercises near and around the island to express its disapproval of her administration and assert its claim over the island.
The DPP says the people of Taiwan should be the ones to decide their future.
At a press conference on Friday, Lai stressed the island’s status as a “sovereign country” and accused China of ratcheting up tensions across the strait.
“Taiwan holds regular elections for our president, vice president, legislators, officials, mayors and local government leaders, and they serve the people, so I think this shows that it is a fact that Taiwan is a sovereign country,” Lai said. “This is a fact, this is the truth.”
His comments came as Beijing criticised the United States for another weapons sale to Taiwan – a $500m package including technology such as infrared search and track systems for Taiwan’s F-16 fighter jets.
While the US does not formally recognise Taiwan, which is also known as the Republic of China, it is one of its top allies and chief security backers. Taiwan regularly buys weapons from the US as a deterrent against military action by China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised to restore Taiwan to the “motherland” by 2049 and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve that goal.