Fri, 01 Dec 2023

TSMC founder Morris Chang raised eyebrows by warmly greeting the Chinese president during a rare face-to-face encounter

Taiwanese billionaire Morris Chang has dismissed speculation that the Taipei government orchestrated his encounter with Xi Jinping at last week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok, saying it was his own idea to warmly greet and congratulate the Chinese president when their paths crossed.

"Taiwan's Presidential Office told me beforehand that if there was an opportunity, there was no need to avoid meeting or greeting him," Morris said on Monday at a press briefing in Taipei. "That was the only instruction."

Chang, the founder of semiconductor giant TSMC, represented Taiwan as a special envoy at APEC. His chance meeting with Xi on Friday was a rare face-to-face encounter for a Taiwanese official, as Beijing cut off formal communication with Taiwan's government after President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in Taipei in 2016.

The meeting raised eyebrows not only because it came amid heightened tensions between China and Taiwan, but also because Chang congratulated Xi on the Chinese Communist Party's 20th National Congress last month in Beijing. Xi spoke boldly of China's sovereignty over Taiwan at the twice-a-decade congress, saying reunification with the self-governing island "must be realized."

"I later congratulated Xi on the success of the 20th party congress and talked about my own health condition, which were all my personal ideas," Morris told reporters. Tsai respected the envoy's decision and his interactions with Xi, said Hsu Szu-chien, deputy secretary-general of Taiwan's National Security Council.

Chang, 91, was born in Ningbo, one of mainland China's oldest cities, in 1931, before the civil war that ended with the retreat of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist forces to Taiwan in 1949. Chang left China to study in the US, where he earned engineering degrees from MIT and Stanford University. He founded TSMC in 1987 and built what became Asia's largest publicly traded company by market value.

As the world's dominant maker of advanced computer chips, TSMC is a key battleground in the US effort to block China's access to high-end semiconductor technology. Just last month, the company suspended its work with a Chinese chipmaker to ensure compliance with new US regulations.

TSMC is building a chip plant in Arizona and will host the US commerce secretary when it holds a "tool-in" ceremony on December 6. Chang told reporters that he would attend the event and that TSMC had invited US President Joe Biden.


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