Wang Yung-ching, 1917-2008

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on October 16, 2008

Wang Yung-ching, the founder and longtime chairman of Taiwan’s biggest industrial group, has died at the age of 91. Like Li Ka-shing in Hong Kong, Wang was a legendary up-from-nothing success story who personified Taiwan’s transformation from an agricultural backwater after World War Two into the high-tech economy it is today. Wang also was way ahead of his time in pushing for closer economic ties between Taiwan and China, albeit for some less-than-noble reasons. Back in the early 1990s, when Taiwanese were souring on the idea of having gigantic petrochemical plants ruining their environment, Wang realized that he needed a place to invest where officials were less concerned about pesky environmental issues. Hence he became one of the first Taiwanese industrialists to promote investing big sums in the mainland.

No surprise, then, that Xinhua praised the billionaire in its obit. “The father of 10 not only made significant contribution to Taiwan’s economic prosperity, but attached great importance to the exchanges and cooperation across the Taiwan Strait,” reported Xinhua today. “He had repeatedly called for the acceleration and expansion of trade and economic cooperation with the Chinese mainland in recent years. Formosa Group has set up a number of petrochemical and plastic enterprises on the mainland. Wang himself also offered to help build 10,000 primary schools on the mainland. The project is now in progress. Soon after the 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck the southwestern Sichuan Province on May 12, his group donated 100 million yuan (14.6 million U.S. dollars) to the victims.”

For the most part, Wang was an old-fashioned industrialist. But one thing the obits I’ve read don’t mention is the role he played in promoting the growth of Taiwan’s electronics industry. Nanya Technology, one of the island’s top chipmakers, got its start in the Formosa group in 1995. The chairwoman of chip-design house Via Technology, an industry pioneer in Taiwan, was Wang’s daughter Cher. Most significantly for people outside Taiwan, the Wang family is a driving force in High Tech Computer (HTC), the smart-phone maker that is the biggest producer of Windows-enabled phones and is now making the Android phone for Google.

Not all of the Wang family’s tech ventures have been as successful as HTC. Most notably, Wang’s estranged son, Winston Wong (the spelling of the family name is not a typo), was one of the founders of Grace Semiconductor, a chip foundry in Shanghai that got its start early this decade at a time the Chinese government was hoping to build a semiconductor industry to rival that of Taiwan’s. Things didn’t work so well. Grace’s cross-town rival SMIC beat it to the punch with a Nasdaq IPO. In the years since, excitement about China’s chip industry has cooled considerably and Grace has sort of fallen into obscurity.

Reader Comments

Reiko Chang

October 17, 2008 2:59 AM

Dear Bruce,

Wang Yung-Ching will be always remembered in every Taiwanese heart.

One minor correction. It is an NYSE IPO for SMIC.

"Grace’s cross-town rival SMIC beat it to the punch with a NYSE IPO. In the years since, excitement about China’s chip industry has cooled considerably and Grace has sort of fallen into obscurity."

Thanks for your kind attention & Best Regards,

Reiko

Interconnect

October 17, 2008 7:45 AM

Condolences on the sad demise of Mr Wang Yung-ching his family, friends, fans, admirers, millions of beneficiaries in the region from his vision, and generocity for people of ROC, PRC, the Asian countries and the region. In the region very close are markets of sub-continent of India, Pakistan, and the CIS where the HTC today has revolutionised the smartphone, PDA, notebook and sub-notebook PC, VIA products the backbone for millions of PC users/integrators. Quoting one of the important market Pakistan country of 180 million where HTC is premium PDA. HTC the 1st with Google Android I understand it should be a PC with Android, Windows 7 upgradable, Ubuntu/Linux, in mass literacy program for retail price of $200-00 with millions of children in Pakistan, as the Google Android phone is $180-00 to compete with Wind Atom notebook. My compliments to
TAITRA permission to open offices in Karachi for promotion of Taiwan trade offices which will do the job of promoting ICT in emerging markets, and reciprocal TDAP offices in Taipei. eMail: haroon.rashid@akunet.org

Steven

October 17, 2008 10:53 PM

Bruce's lack of knowledge about Mainland China's economy again. Wang Yung-ching,'s investments in mainland mainly for the market where is his future. There is no direct transportation link between Taiwan-mainland due to the political chaos, his money had to chase the booming export of China. Wang does not only invest in petrochemical industry in mainland China, he has huge investment in power stations, hospitals...

keith ip

October 18, 2008 1:53 AM

To be a successful industrialist, personal attitude, experience, and luck are all important.
However, the most respectable person is that who willing to offer back the society from his success, let the new generations have chance to equip with knowledge & skills and thus strengthen the nation power & economy.

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies.

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