Terry Gou's 'hat trick' stirs cross-strait controversy

May 10, 2019 19:14
Foxconn chairman Terry Gou wore a cap that bears both the US and ROC flags when he met with US President Donald Trump recently. Photo: Bloomberg

Terry Gou Tai-ming, chairman of the Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (Foxconn), has remained the focus of public and media attention across the strait ever since he announced his candidacy for the 2020 Taiwanese presidential election.

A recent talking point about Gou is his cap, which bears the flags of both the United States and the Republic of China.

On Labor Day, Gou entered the White House in Washington and met with US President Donald Trump, during which he was wearing that cap all along, and gave a similar one to Trump at the end of their meeting.

However, when reporting the news of Gou’s bid for the presidency last month, the state-owned CCTV deliberately blurred the ROC flag on Gou’s cap on TV, a move that has triggered a firestorm of controversy in Taiwan.

In recent years, as the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been working aggressively to “desinicize” Taiwan, the ROC flag has basically disappeared in many official events and election campaign rallies.

Intriguingly, though, even members of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) are refraining from flying the ROC flag in public, particularly during election campaigns, probably for fear that it might upset localist voters.

Han Kuo-yu, the KMT candidate who won the mayoral race in Kaohsiung by a landslide last year, was perhaps a rare exception.

As far as the mainland is concerned, the ROC flag remains a highly politically sensitive symbol.

As a result, the credibility of the ROC flag has continued to decline, as it is shunned by both Beijing and Taipei.

Nevertheless, Gou is apparently well aware that he will need to keep the ROC flag flying once he succeeds in getting elected as the new Taiwanese president.

It is because only by embracing and highlighting the official title of the ROC can Gou withstand pressure from Beijing for reunification and rebut the DPP’s accusation against him of “selling out”.

The reality is, “one country, two systems” has absolutely no market appeal for the majority of Taiwanese people.

Instead, most Taiwanese are actually in favor of maintaining the cross-strait status quo and sticking to the principle of “one China, respective interpretations”.

In order to counter the growing independence-leaning sentiment in Taiwan, what Beijing should do is to acknowledge the fact that the ROC still exists as a political entity rather than continue to hard-sell the idea of “one country, two systems”.

As for the KMT, it should step up efforts at gaining the understanding of the mainland in order to prevent Beijing from working too aggressively on forcing reunification.

That the CCTV blurred the ROC flag on Gou’s cap has definitely backfired as it has hurt the feelings of many pro-reunification voters in Taiwan.

And some KMT members even take the view that the Communist Party of China and the pro-independence bloc in Taiwan actually share the same goal, i.e., to eliminate the ROC.

In the meantime, James Soong Chu-yu, chairman of the pan-blue People First Party, has also fallen victim to Beijing’s hard-selling of “one country, two systems”.

In a recent interview with the Xinhua News Agency, Soong was quoted as saying that he endorses the "one country, two systems model" for Taiwan.

Having immediately come under fire from virtually all sectors in Taiwan for his alleged remarks, Soong had to hold a press conference clarifying that he had never mentioned “one country, two systems” throughout the interview.

With his high popularity in Taiwan as well as his good relations with both US and mainland leaders, Gou is perhaps the only presidential candidate that can convince Taiwanese voters to set aside their political differences and stay focused on jump-starting the economy.

But whether Gou’s “hat trick” is going to work this time depends pretty much on the degree to which Beijing is willing to exercise restraint.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 3

Translation by Alan Lee 

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong Economic Journal contributor