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Foxconn boss Terry Gou considers automating the entire population of Taiwan

Foxconn boss Terry Gou has confirmed that he is considering running for president in Taiwan’s general election next year, according to the South China Morning Post.

“I will decide in the next two days whether to run for president,” Gou told reporters at a seminar in Taipei earlier today. “I hardly slept last night thinking of the future of Taiwan and its security issues.”

He added that the 2020 presidential election will be “extremely critical in determining Taiwan’s future in the next 20 years in the political, defense and economic sectors”. 

Gou is founder and chairman of Foxconn, known locally as Hon Hai Precision, and he is one of the country’s richest men.

Foxconn is an electronics manufacturing giant and makes iPhones and other products for Apple. The company’s annual turnover is in the region of $160 billion and it employs more than 800,000 people in several countries, mainly Taiwan and China, but an increasing number in the US.

Gou has indicated in the past that he will fully automate large parts of Foxconn’s operation, with robots taking over from humans in many factories.

The company already has more than 40,000 industrial robots installed in its factories. All of these robots were made by Foxconn and are not intended for sale to outside companies.

It further increased its investment in robotics with an additional $8 billion as it looked to expand overseas – in the US and India, among other countries.

With such a record, some observers believe Gou will look to automate the entire nation of 24 million people as much as possible, in all areas of manufacturing, to begin with, and then other sectors.

Taiwan is one of the world’s leading electronics manufacturers, much of it in advanced areas of technology, such as semiconductor and microprocessor manufacturing.

However, its growth is being slowed by emerging nations such as Vietnam and Thailand, where some global automotive and smartphone brands have gone to for some of the latest materials, components and systems.

Companies in some of these countries, such as Vietnam, are working with South Korean electronics giants such as Samsung to manufacture, for example, the new touchscreen for iPhones.

And this, along with other issues, may be concerning Gou, who has enjoyed what could be described as something of a meteoric rise in the world of business.

The current president of Taiwan is Tsai Ing-wen, a lawyer and scholar who is also pro-China in her outlook.

Ing-wen has been in power since 2016 but now faces serious challenges from a number of politicians including the former mayor of New Taipei, the capital city.

It is not clear how pro-China Gou is, but considering that a huge amount of Foxconn’s manufacturing is done in China, it’s unlikely that he would be hostile to the island nation’s giant neighbour, which considers Taiwan to be an integral part of the country.

One thing for sure is that the 69-year-old Gou is looking for someone to take over the day-to-day running of Foxconn so he can concentrate on larger, more strategic issues.