June 21, 2024

Taiwan’s Vice President, Lai Ching-te, has criticized China for launching a tax probe into Foxconn, a major supplier for Apple. 

This development comes amid rising tensions in the run-up to Taiwan’s January elections, in which Foxconn’s founder, Terry Gou, is running as a presidential candidate.

Political Implications of the Foxconn Probe

Taiwan’s upcoming presidential elections have heightened the political implications of China’s tax probe into Foxconn. Two sources familiar with the matter suggest that the probe was for political reasons, possibly related to Terry Gou’s presidential aspiration. 

The Chinese state-backed Global Times has speculated that Gou’s candidacy might split the opposition vote, potentially benefiting Lai Ching-te, currently leading in the polls. 

This situation underscores China’s keen interest in the election’s outcome and its desire to influence it. Moreover, China considers Taiwan its territory and has consistently opposed any moves toward Taiwanese independence. 

Lai Ching-te, who believes in self-determination for Taiwan, faces strong resistance from Beijing. He has tried to engage in talks with China, but these have been rebuffed, reflecting the broader tensions and disputes between the two governments. 

Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, denies being pro-Beijing but is willing to restart talks with China if it wins the elections. Meanwhile, Vice President Lai Ching-te criticized China’s pressure on Taiwanese companies, particularly during elections.

He called on China to “cherish and treasure” Taiwanese businesses that have contributed significantly to China’s economic development. Lai argued that China’s interference during elections could lead to Taiwanese companies losing confidence in China and potentially shifting their production elsewhere.

And this move could be detrimental to China’s economy. This comment reflects Taiwan’s delicate balance in its economic relationship with China.

The Broader Context of Foxconn’s Global Expansion

Foxconn, a major global player in electronics manufacturing, has been working to diversify its manufacturing base outside of China, focusing on India. 

This diversification may have contributed to Beijing’s decision to pressure the company to maintain its regional economic influence. Gou’s campaign team has not commented on the probe, emphasizing that he is no longer involved in Foxconn’s day-to-day operations. 

Following this, Taiwan has frequently accused China of attempting to exert military and economic pressure. This is to influence its elections to favor candidates more favorable to China. 

The government assesses that China’s leadership is displeased with the Global Times’ reporting on the probe. This issue has allowed the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, led by Lai, to accuse China of interference in the election to gain voter support.

One senior Taiwanese security source suggested that China’s senior leadership may not be pleased with how the situation has developed. 

However, the Chinese government has not made an official statement regarding the Foxconn probe, and the matter has received limited media coverage within China.

But in response to the Foxconn probe, Ko Wen-je, Taiwan People’s Party presidential candidate, calls on China to clarify the impact of the Foxconn probe on Taiwanese companies. Ko emphasized the challenges faced by the Taiwanese government in communicating with the mainland on behalf of Taiwanese companies.

He also highlighted the lack of diplomatic channels between the two governments. It is important to note that China severed a routine government-to-government talks mechanism with Taiwan.

This was after President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, complicating communication and diplomatic relations. 

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