Terry Gou is no fool.
Reports Tuesday have the chairman of Foxconn Technology Group assuring Chinese officials that he won't withdraw capital from the nation, a move aimed at assuaging concerns over his possible investment in the U.S.
What you need to know, however, is that it wasn't Gou who promised that Foxconn would invest in Donald Trump's America. Excitement -- or fears -- that the Taiwanese maker of iPhones would pump money into the U.S. were stoked by Masayoshi Son, the chairman of SoftBank Group Corp. The Japanese billionaire, a friend and business partner of Gou's, rushed to New York last month to shake hands with the president-elect in what looks like an attempt to smooth the path for his much-hoped merger of Sprint Corp. with T-Mobile US Inc.
While Son was publicizing his pledge to invest $50 billion and create 50,000 jobs, he dragged Foxconn into the conversation by hinting that Foxconn would commit $7 billion and provide a similar number of jobs. Those figures weren't from Gou, they came from Son. If you read Foxconn's response closely, you'll see they didn't actually pledge to invest in the U.S. at all.
We can confirm that we are in preliminary discussions regarding a potential investment that would represent an expansion of our current U.S. operations. While the scope of the potential investment has not been determined, we will announce the details of any plans following the completion of direct discussions between our leadership and the relevant U.S. officials.
I wrote at the time that Son's fabulous SoftBank pledge wasn't real, and those jobs won't happen. I also published a mock letter from Gou to Trump, which outlined the Foxconn chief's government-relations playbook.
Gou's pledge to authorities in Beijing is simply another page out of that book. It's probably one of the easiest promises the billionaire has ever had to make. After all, it's not hard to make a commitment to not do something when you weren't planning to in the first place.
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Tim Culpan in Taipei at firstname.lastname@example.org
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