Will Foxconn Billionaire Terry Gou’s COVID-19 vaccine trade bring Taiwan closer to China?




Foxconn founder Terry Gou will speak on June 21, 2019 in the Tucheng district of New Taipei City. In July 2021, Gou led a series of transactions with China’s state-owned Fosun Pharma, sending millions of COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan. Credits-SamYeh–AFP / Getty Images

For 18 months, Taiwan was a model for COVID-19 prevention, and President Tsai Ing-wen enjoyed political benefits. Her approval rate soared to a record 73% in May 2020.Then, a year later, on the island First outbreak hit And it became clear that the COVID-19 protection lacked one major element, the vaccine.

Taiwan due to a surge in infection in May this year There were just over 300,000 COVID-19 vaccines For that 23.5 million people. The government ordered 20 million doses from abroad, but supplies were coming in little by little.

Tsai, Has built a close relationship with the United States And supported a distant approach to China and blamed the shortage Interference from Beijing It collapsed in January after a contract was signed to purchase the vaccine directly from the German manufacturer BioNTech. However, pointing did not stop her popularity from plummeting, as many Taiwanese suffered from a shortage of jabs. June poll She showed that her approval rate dropped to only 43%.

Against such a background 70-year-old billionaire Terry Goo Became a Taiwanese vaccine hero. Gou, Apple’s largest supplier of Foxconn, led a series of transactions this month with China’s state-owned Fosun Pharma, a pharmaceutical giant that holds the right to sell Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to China, including Taiwan. (Pfizer is an agent in other parts of the world.) The deal will give Taiwan 15 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with the first batch expected to arrive in September.

“Our government was so happy with the vaccine purchase that there were few outbreaks,” says Akane Lee, who lives in Taipei. “Buying Gou’s vaccine is like raining in a drought.”

Politics to send COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan

台湾の蔡英文大統領は、2021年5月13日に台湾の台北で国内のCOVID-19症例が急増した後、大統領府で講演しました。<span class ="著作権"> Ceng Shou Yi–NurPhoto / Getty Images</ span>“src =” “data-src =” https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/x92_Q2BzmpFq7k4FX_vK2g–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ2OS41NDEwMTU2MjU-/https://suu /1.2/.GZ2Sv1orNHHP1Epac3HzA–~B/aD02ODI7dz0xMDI0O2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/time_72/0f6631a8dc5017be8a3782a96b52b837″/><noscript><img alt= Ceng Shou Yi–NurPhoto / Getty Images“src =” https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/x92_Q2BzmpFq7k4FX_vK2g–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ2OS41NDEwMTU2MjU-/https://s.yimg.com/u -~ B / aD02ODI7dz0xMDI0O2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u / https://media.zenfs.com/en/time_72/0f6631a8dc5017be8a3782a96b52b837″ class=”caas-img”/>

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen spoke at Cheong Wa Dae on May 13, 2021 after a surge in domestic COVID-19 cases in Taipei, Taiwan.Ceng Shou Yi–NurPhoto / Getty Images

Go enjoys a close relationship with Beijing and was unsuccessful in Taiwan’s 2019 presidential primary of the Opposition Kuomintang (KMT). His platform advocated the fostering of stronger relations between democratic islands and mainland China. Mainland China sees Taiwan as a separate state that must be forced back into its control if necessary.

Showing that the deal was made through a multi-billion dollar business man on the mainland, and that Beijing put its finger on the scale months after the Tsai government was unable to purchase the same vaccine. Yes, says political observers.

“Let’s [the Chinese government] We encouraged Fosun Pharma to make concessions so that the vaccine would be shipped directly from Germany, “says Spencer Yang, a political scientist at Chinese Culture University in Taiwan. “The Beijing government may want to use this transaction to humiliate the Tsai government.”

read more: How False Reassurance Destroyed Taiwan’s COVID-19 Defense

However, the vaccine trade was full of political obstacles from the beginning. In May, when the COVID-19 outbreak initiated by a cargo pilot was caught up in hundreds of cases and island-wide limits daily, Gou would buy 5 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for Taiwan. But the government took nearly a month to allow him. Start the process.

Why does Tsai hesitate to have local millionaires submit bills for their most desirable imports? “If Gou hadn’t run for president two years ago, that wouldn’t have been a problem,” said Arthur Ding, a political scientist at National Chengchi University. “But Gou put tremendous pressure on the Tsai administration. Tsai had to give in.”

When the government allowed the purchase of vaccines, the Tsai government allowed the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), one of the world’s leading microchip makers with close ties to the government, to proceed with the vaccine trade. TIME asked the Ministry of Health to comment on the recent vaccine deal, but it was rejected.

On July 12, Gou’s Foxconn and TSCM each announced a $ 350 million deal with Fosun Pharma for a $ 5 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The following week, Taiwan’s largest charity, the Tzu Chi Foundation, signed a contract to make another 5 million donations. The Kuomintang also offered to buy another $ 5 million, but Tsai closed the door saying he didn’t need to take any more.

Gou, who refused to talk to TIME about the story, said on social media that the deal was closed unaffected by Beijing, “the mainland did not interfere with or interfere with the vaccine procurement process.” Posted in.

Beijing Global Times “The signing of the vaccine purchase agreement proved that previous rumors on the mainland that prevented Taiwan from accessing the vaccine were unfounded,” a mainland official said.

Private purchases of the vaccine have highlighted recent public dissatisfaction with Tsai and her party. Most people made bitter comments when Tsai announced on its Facebook page that the deal was “a result of efforts by the government and the private sector.” “Did our government fall asleep? They can’t even buy vaccines. They need to use the private sector to do so,” said one user.

NS Global TimesHe quickly criticized Tsai’s “self-expanding attitude,” emphasizing that it was not her government that completed the vaccine deal.

Meanwhile, people flooded Gou’s Facebook page with words of gratitude: “Thank you CEOGou!” Said one user. “Your initiative and goodwill have filed a proceeding between TSMC and the Tzu Chi, saving 15 million lives in Taiwan.”

Trade cuts down other sources of vaccine in Taiwan

Part of the reason for Taiwan’s vaccine shortage is that the Tsai government has funded the production of its own vaccine, saying that at least one of the two jabs under development will be available by July. “Tsai definitely hurt her popularity by promoting them very enthusiastically and very quickly,” says Din.

Taiwanese drug regulators approved the use of the first domestic COVID-19 vaccine from Medigen Vaccine Biologics on July 19. However, regulators have used large phase III trials to test their effectiveness, instead of antibody response levels in individuals who have taken Medigen shots.

Authorities say Taiwan is the first place to use such a method with regulatory approval, but the methodology has proven to be somewhat controversial.Only 20% said they were willing to get the Taiwanese vaccine A recent MyFormosa survey found that And 82% said the vaccine would need to pass a phase III trial before it could be approved.

Fortunately for Tsai, six million doses of vaccine began to arrive from the United States and Japan in June, allowing Taiwan to launch a mass inoculation campaign. Currently, more than 24% of Taiwanese are taking a single dose. “When the Taiwanese people were anxious for the vaccine, US and Japanese donations really rescued Tsai,” says Din.

For Gou, this may be a political beginning

Gou-led 15 million purchases from BioNTech enough to vaccinate nearly one-third of the island’s population may require Taiwan to make additional donations from its allies or domestically developed vaccines. It means much less. However, the deal has caused some skepticism in Taiwan.

“It’s okay for Gou to buy the vaccine, but he didn’t have to buy BioNTech,” says Vivian Yu, a legal adviser specializing in cross-strait commercial relations. “Passing through Fosun Pharma in Shanghai always poses a political risk.”

Tensions with Beijing have been at their highest in the last few years. In Taiwan, Chinese military aircraft regularly fly into the island’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), recording a record 28 military aircraft invading one day in June.

read more: Foxconn founder Terry Gou wants to be the president of Taiwan and the bridge between the United States and China.

Has Beijing gained new loyalty during the Taiwanese vaccine issue? Ding believes China has laid the ground, but Tsai and her pro-West Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have lost it. In the last three months, Tsai’s ruling DPP has lost 15% of its supporters, according to a Taiwanese poll released in July.

However, North Korean defectors have not switched to a more Chinese-friendly KMT. Most (48%) are nonpartisan, and some are as small as the new Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), led by Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je, who is now taking a more practical tone in Beijing than Tsai. I support a large party. After losing the Kuomintang presidential primary, Gou called for support for candidates from the TPP and other small parties in the 2020 elections.

Gou has gained a place in Taiwan’s mind with his determination to offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a brand that surpasses people’s favorite local surveys of jabs. There is no doubt about his philanthropic confidence. He donated more than $ 635 million to build a state-of-the-art cancer research and treatment center to commemorate his first wife and brother who died of cancer. When he remarried in 2008, he and his new wife promised to donate 90% of his $ 6 billion property to charity.

Will such generosity lead to sufficient support for another presidential election?

“It’s too early to call because the next presidential election is three years from now,” says Lev Nachman, a postdoc at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. “But I don’t think he will quietly withdraw from politics. His public involvement in vaccination, his general presence in the Kuomintang and TPP, is the future politics from Terry Goo. Shows ambition. “

And while Beijing’s early vaccine overture to Taiwan was rejected, by leaving the BioNTech vaccine contract with Fosun (at least publicly), it may have achieved some political objectives in Taiwan. .. “To some extent, China has scored points, but Chinese planes remind us that Beijing is still hostile to Taiwan,” says Yang of Chinese Culture University.