TSMC Founder Says Congratulating Xi on Party Congress Was ‘Personal’

(Bloomberg) — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. founder Morris Chang said the congratulations he offered Chinese President Xi Jinping about the congress that his ruling Communist Party recently held were his own “personal” view.

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“Taiwan’s Presidential Office told me beforehand that if there was an opportunity, there was no need to avoid meeting or greeting him,” Chang said Monday at a press conference in Taipei held to brief journalists on his role as the island’s envoy to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit last week in Thailand.

“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,” Chang said, when asked if the government in Taipei had asked him to convey the sentiments.

Chang is one of Taiwan’s most important business figures, founding what eventually became Asia’s largest company by market capitalization and the linchpin of an industry that has become increasingly politicized by the US-China conflict. The Biden administration is trying to convince chipmakers around the world to curb high-end exports to China, a move that would limit progress the world’s No. 2 economy can make in areas such as artificial intelligence and military applications.

In remarks at the opening of the party congress where he secured more time in power and packed top leadership bodies with allies, Xi said China’s unification with Taiwan “must be realized.” US President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the US would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack, though the White House has walked back the statement each time, reiterating that Washington’s policy toward the democracy has not changed.

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Chang met Xi on Friday at the APEC event, the Presidential Office in Taipei said in a statement, congratulating the Chinese leader on the success of the twice-a-decade congress. Chang said in an earlier statement that he had a “very pleasant and polite interaction” with Xi, and that the two did not discuss cross-strait issues.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen respected Chang’s interactions with Xi, Hsu Szu-chien, deputy secretary-general of Taiwan’s National Security Council, said at the same briefing as Chang on Monday.

Official and unofficial interactions between Taipei and Beijing are closely watched, particularly due to cross-strait tensions. Beijing has refused formal communication with Taiwan’s government since Tsai’s election in 2016, though she has said she is willing to talk to China.

Chang also said Monday that US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo would attend a ceremony on Dec. 6 to mark the first batch of equipment arriving at a plant TSMC is opening in Arizona. The firm also invited Biden, who has not confirmed his attendance.

–With assistance from Cindy Wang.

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