TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Fifteen years after being recruited by Taiwan to help establish local high-tech electronics and semiconductor industries, Morris Chang again has been tapped to serve the island's government as senior adviser to president-elect Chen Shui-bian.
The appointment of Chang, 68, to Chen's new adviser group came late Thursday afternoon, just several hours after Chang participated in the opening ceremony of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd.'s Fab 6 plant in Tainan. Chang, the high-influential chairman and chief executive of TSMC, is considered the "father of Taiwan's chip industry" by many local political and industry leaders.
Prior to the appointment, rumors were circulating that Chang was considering a post in the new government following Chen's upset election victory over incumbent Lee Teng-hui earlier this month. Chen's victory and his Democratic Progressive Party's past support for Taiwan independence has caused tensions to increase between the island and communist China, which insists that Taiwan will continue to be a territory of mainland China.
Chang's name -- along with other Taiwan business leaders -- had been floated as a possible candidate for a cabinet post or even premier, but the TSMC founder insisted he wasn't interest in becoming a political leader prior to his meeting with Chen on Thursday. Chen, 48, surprised many observers by appointing defense minister Tang Fei from the rival Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT), as Taiwan's next premier.
According to local press reports, Chang and president-elect Chen agreed on several issues, such as Taiwan's sovereignty and security as well as economic reform and increased development. Earlier this week, Chang said he was confident that heightened tensions between Taiwan and mainland China were easing and no open conflict would result from the Chen's election or the debate over the island's status as a country or province. He is certainly not worried about war.
"The leadership [in mainland China] is quite rational when it comes to international issues," said China in an interview during a dinner in Taipei this week. "It would be monumental stupidity to do anything rash. The days of mad dictatorship are gone and the current leadership [in China] is much more rational."
Chang -- like many of Taiwan's top business and political leaders -- is a native of mainland China. He moved to the United States in 1949 after graduating from high school in Shanghai. In 1952, Chang received a bachelor's of science degree from M.I.T, and a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the school a year later.
In 1958, Chang joined Texas Instruments Inc. in Dallas as an engineering manager after working for Sylvania. He received a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1964, and soon became TI's general manager of germanium transistors and then the head of silicon transistors. Chang worked his way through TI's management ranks to become semiconductor group vice president in 1972, and held other senior positions at the company before leaving the Dallas chip maker to join General Instrument as president and chief executive in 1984.
In 1985, Chang was recruited by the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan to serve as president of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). He served as ITRI chairman from 1988 to 1997. In 1987, Chang founded TSMC as the world's largest pure-play silicon foundry company. He is also chairman of DRAM maker Vanguard International Semiconductor Corp. in Taiwan as well as Wyse Technology Inc.