Photo: AP Images
At a shareholders’ meeting in Taipei, Hon Hai chairman and founder Terry Gou, which is the owner of Foxconn, heaped praise on Steve Jobs. In Taiwan, Terry Gou is held in wide respect on the island; Hon Hai is listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange.This is very much in contrast to how it is viewed in the West, where the huge contract manufacturer of Apple’s iPhone and iPads is widely criticised as a sweatshop, especially after a slew of suicides among its China workers in 2010. Since then, the company has raised wages and moved inland from Guangdong, opening new lines in Chengdu and in Zhengzhou, with plans to open additional lines in Brazil. This has cut into company profits, earning some criticism among shareholders in Taiwan.
During the meeting, Terry Gou was heckled by a minority shareholder. Gou asked the heckler how many shares he had. When he replied that he held five shares, Gou told him to shut up, adding that if he had 5,000 shares, he could sit at the big table with him.
He then went on to praise Apple CEO Steve Jobs as a great man, using the Chinese term weiren, which is very rarely used to describe living people. Gou said that the relationship between Apple and Foxconn went far beyond that between a consumer brand and its contract manufacturer, and said that they were partners. He said that the manufacturing process for iPhones and iPads was extremely challenging, and required the development of whole new processes.
Speaking about Jobs, he said that even though he had been seriously ill, he continued to work hard on the development of new products and technologies. “I am convinced that he is doing this because he is dedicated to his ideals and his vision, not out of any need to make more money.” Speaking about himself, he said “I have often asked myself if I would have worked as hard if I was as ill as Steve Jobs. My answer is that my wife most likely would not have let me work, and I would have stayed home. But I am not Steve Jobs.”
Gou then commented on an IP infringement lawsuit between Hon Hai and BYD, a Chinese electric car maker which Warren Buffett has invested in. He accused Buffett of being a speculator who has tried to market himself as a value investor to the unknowing masses. “If Warren Buffett really believes in BYD’s electric car technology, then why doesn’t he drive a BYD car instead of an American car? Doesn’t that tell you something about what he really thinks of BYD?”
Gou concluded by saying that he would fight the IP lawsuit to the very end, and would not make a settlement.
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