TSMC chairman and Giant Group boss turn down presidential adviser posts

By Stephanie Chao, The China Post

Two corporate heavyweights have backed out of accepting a request to act as senior policy advisers to President Tsai Ing-wen.

The withdrawal of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) Chairman Morris Chang and Giant Group Chairman King Liu from a short list of potential presidential advisers was confirmed by the Presidential Office on Friday.

‘Hai Pa Wang’ Effect Their exits were described by some observers as a continuation of the “Hai Pa Wang (海霸王) effect,” where businesses have sought to distance themselves from the Tsai administration to reduce the risks to their operations in mainland China. Hai Pa Wang, a seafood restaurant chain, earlier this week took out a newspaper ad pledging support to the “one China” principle, amid rumors that the firm had close ties to Tsai’s family. Fears that Beijing is stepping up efforts to punish firms close to the Democratic Progressive Party were fanned by a Dec. 2 announcement from Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) in mainland China. The TAO said China would continue to welcome investment from Taiwan companies “but not from those that support Taiwan independence.” The short list of candidates for senior policy adviser was released Nov. 14 by the Presidential Office. Following the withdrawals, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang said he did not know whether the president would continue to seek advisers from the private sector.

‘Planning retirement’: Giant Chairman Liu had declined the post by saying he was making plans to retire and that Tsai should choose a younger person for the job, the presidential spokesman said. Liu had served as policy adviser to the president during former President Ma Ying-jeou’s second term. Tsai had invited Liu to stay on, Huang said. While she respected Liu’s decision, Tsai was sorry to see him step down, Huang said.

‘I’m unsuitable’: TSMC Chairman Chang believes that he is “unsuitable” for the position, due to the fact that foreign investors hold at least 80 percent of his company’s shares, TSMC said in a statement. TSMC acting spokeswoman Elizabeth Sun said Chang had always been “non-political,” adding that she did not believe Chang would enter politics after retirement.

‘Respect their decision’ Huang did not respond to reporters’ questions on whether the two resignations were part of a so-called “Hai Pa Wang effect.” “We respect their decision, and do not have any more to say on the matter,” he said. Asked about the matter at an exhibition opening Friday morning, the president glanced at the press corps and left without replying.