TSMC founder Morris Chang raised eyebrows by warmly greeting the Chinese president in a rare face-to-face meeting
Taiwanese billionaire Morris Chang has dismissed speculation that the Taipei government orchestrated his meeting with Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok last week. He said it was his own idea to warmly greet and congratulate the Chinese president when their paths crossed. .
“Taiwan’s presidential office told me in advance that if the opportunity arose, it was not necessary to meet or greet him,” Morris said this during a press conference in Taipei on Monday. “That was the only instruction.”
Chang, the founder of semiconductor giant TSMC, represented Taiwan as a special envoy to APEC. His chance meeting with Xi on Friday was a rare face-to-face meeting for a Taiwanese official, as Beijing cut off formal communications with the Taiwanese government after President Tsai Ing-wen took power in Taipei in 2016.
The meeting raised eyebrows not only because it took place amid heightened tensions between China and Taiwan, but also because Chang Xi congratulated the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress in Beijing last month. Xi spoke boldly about China’s sovereignty over Taiwan at the two-decade long 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, all of which were 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 troops to Taiwan in 1949. Chang left China to studying 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 battlefield in the US’s attempt to block China’s access to high-performance semiconductor technology. Last month, the company suspended its work with a Chinese chipmaker to comply with new US regulations.
TSMC is building a chip plant in Arizona and will receive the US Secretary of Commerce when it receives a “tool in” ceremony on December 6. Chang told reporters he would be attending the event and that TSMC had invited US President Joe Biden.