Oct 17

Wang Yung-Ching (王永慶) – One of Taiwan’s Proud Sons – Passes Away…

Written by Allen on Friday, October 17th, 2008 at 2:15 am
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Wang Yung-Ching

Wang Yung-Ching

Wang Yung-Ching, founder of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group, has passed away at the age of 91 while on a business trip to the United States. Wang died unexpectedly in his sleep at his daughter’s home in New Jersey.

Known affectionately as the “Midas of Management” in Taiwan, Wang started his business by selling rice in 1932. From that humble beginning, Wang would become the richest man in Taiwan with a personal fortune (last year) of U.S. $6.8 billion. Wang’s rags-to-rich’s story, coupled with his frugal, unassuming, hardworking lifestyle, makes him one of the most inspirational figures in Taiwan in a generation.

Wang began building his business conglomerate in the early 1950s – when the Japanese had just left the island. His conglomerate would help to transform Taiwan’s biotechnology, petrochemical processing and electronic components production industries into leaders of the world.

Wang’s conflogmerate would grow to include Formosa Plastics Corporation, Nan Ya Plastics Corporation (NPC), Formosa Chemicals and Fiber Corporation (FCFC), Formosa Petrochemical Corporation (FPCC), Formosa Taffeta Co., Ltd. (FTC), Nan Ya Technology Corporation, Inotera Memories, Inc., Nan Ya Printed Circuit Board Corporation, Formosa Sumco Technology Corporation and Formosa Advanced Technologies Company, among others.

Besides being a role model and a highly regarded business leader, Wang is also known for his open and early call (since at least 2001) for Taiwan to adhere to a “one China policy” and to develop closer economic and political ties with the Mainland. Wang was among the first wave of Taiwanese businessmen to start doing business and to invest in the Mainland on a large scale. After the tragic Sichan quake earlier this year, Wang’s group was among the earliest business concerns to pledge donations to help the victims (Wang’s group donated 100 million yuan (14.6 million U.S. dollars)).

Wang is survived by two daughters and eight sons and has willed most of his personal fortunes to charities. Wang Yung-Ching will be sadly missed by Chinese compatriots on both sides of the strait.

There are currently 4 comments highlighted: 18074, 18110, 18149, 18155.

18 Responses to “Wang Yung-Ching (王永慶) – One of Taiwan’s Proud Sons – Passes Away…”

  1. TonyP4 Says:

    Still working at 91 gains a respect from everyone even I do not know him at all. Giving back to society is another good virtue we learn from him. Thanks, Mr. Wang!

  2. bt Says:

    Sure, he seems to have been a hard working guy, involved in his community.
    Rest in peace!

  3. RUMman Says:

    You could have left out the obligatory one China crap.

    It is also worth nothing that a call for greater integration between Taiwan and China in 2001 was hardly an ‘early call’. Taiwanese were up to their necks in Chinese investments by the 1990s. Sounds like he was just engaging in the anti-DPP shit-stirring that is expected of the KMT funded Taiwan establishment. Not worth commenting on.

    All credit to him for helping the Taiwanese economy during the early years. His group has been absolutely core to Taiwan’s economic development and transformation into a wealthy nation.

    No credit at all though for his disregard for the environment and exploitation of his workers. His group caused huge environmental devastation on Taiwan, and was even involved in dumping toxic waste as far afield as Cambodia. His group has also been notorious for shoddy treatment of workers – in recent years particularly Filipino migrant workers.

  4. Steve Says:

    RUMman, I gotta stick up for Wang Yung-Ching on some of these points. My sister in law’s husband worked for Formosa Plastics for many years as assistant to the president (Wang was COB at the time) so he had a lot of interaction with Wang both professionally and personally.

    The people who worked with him had tremendous respect for him. He was more of a “Sam Walton” type, very frugal and hardworking. He drove average cars and frowned (as in, time to look for another job) upon any of his management driving luxury autos. He was also apolitical. What I mean is that he didn’t support either the KMT or DPP; he supported the interests of Formosa Plastics. His support for “one China” was support for the status quo, since he wanted to invest more in China than the Taiwan government would allow. His son, Winston Wang, got together with Jiang Zemin’s son to put together Grace Semiconductor (GSMC, based in Shanghai) but there were limits on the technology allowed, just as the US government currently has limits on technology transfer to China in high tech. That’s what he was trying to change.

    I once sat down with TSMC’s (Taiwan Semiconductor) fab planning manager in Hsinchu and we were talking about new fabs in China. He said that there was no advantage manufacturing in China over Taiwan, and it was actually more cost effective to manufacture in Taiwan for the export market. China has unreliable utilities, and the major investment in this business is capital equipment which needs to be imported so no saving there. Labor costs are a relatively small factor in this business. TSMC wanted the investment controls relaxed in China to make chips for the China market!

    Back in the 70s and 80s when the US lost the semiconductor lead to Japan, it wasn’t so much Japan’s better product, but the fact that the Japanese electronics manufacturers had knocked the US manufacturers out of the memory market (the US responded by developing ASIC chips and retook the lead) so they were selling to themselves, and in Japan you buy Japanese products, regardless of the cost. Korea was able to build their manufacturing base by having Samsung and LG become both major electronics manufacturers and chip makers, and sell to themselves. These days, China is a major electronics equipment manufacturer but still imports the majority of their semiconductor chips, so having a source of supply inside the country is good business and a huge untapped market. GSMC (with Wang as the major investor) wanted a slice of that business.

    You’re correct concerning the environmental devastation, but that wasn’t just limited to Formosa Plastics. All the major manufacturers back then played havoc with the environment. The government wanted economic development and like China today, wasn’t as concerned about the environment. Groundwater in Taiwan is some of the most polluted in the world. Interestingly, the groundwater in Silicon Valley is also very contaminated. Back in the early days of the industry, chemical waste was dumped directly into the ground. I used to sell Teflon instrumentation and plumbing for those high purity chemicals and know exactly how nasty they are.

    In recent years, Wang is a figurehead who didn’t get involved in day to day decisions, so I’d cut him some slack on the Filipino migrant workers, but would not cut any slack to FP itself. Filipino workers have undergone shoddy treatment in many Taiwanese industries, so I’m glad you brought that up.

  5. Allen Says:


    It is surprising that even forward-looking places like the San Francisco Bay Area / Silicon Valley can be so polluted / polluting!

    PCBs appear to be a particular problem. These long-lived substances were once used as an insulating material in electrical transformers, are hard to degrade and continue to show persistent levels in and around the Bay Area (in the Bay, in the ground, and in the underground water).

    Of course, the Bay Area also suffer from many “non-point” pollutions. These include problems associated with polyaromatic hydrocarbons (or PAHs), mercury, Diazinon, dioxin, pesticides, etc.

  6. Allen Says:


    Thanks for bringing up the plight of the Filipino workers. Their plight relate not just to Wang’s companies, but also across the entire spectrum of industries employing them, from big conglomerates employing them as custodians to street food vendors employing them as dishwashers to individual homes that employ them as house workers.

    The plight of international migrant workers in general is an issue that we as citizens of the world ought to address in light of globalization. So are problems such as environmental pollution and worker’s working conditions.

    I can spend another post addressing these issues in the future. But the issues are complicated.

    Judging from you tone, I’d advise you to note that the issues are not just about “irresponsibility” of developing countries – it’s equally about the cost being dictated by industrialized nations as a price for developing countries to modernize.

  7. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Sounds like this guy was an admirable man whether he believed in One China or Twelve Chinas. The rags to riches story is always inspiring, as is the giving-back spirit.

  8. Nimrod Says:

    The existence of Filipino workers and Vietnamese brides in Taiwan, of course, is purely a result of its relative isolation to mainland China. On the other hand, I shudder to think if those were mainland workers and brides. It just goes to show the more things are different, the more things are the same.

  9. EugeneZ Says:


    I am not sure if Wang really invested in GSMC, although I know that Winston Wang and Jiang Zemin’s son made a fourtune out of the GSMC deal. Chinese government loaned / invested $1.6B in the venture, a big portion of the money, as you pointed out, was spent purchasing equipments. Wang and Jiang set up a separate offshore company called Kingsland that charges GSMC 15% of the purchase price for every piece of equipment that goes to GSMC while providing absolutely no tangible benefit to GSMC. It is a shrew, but legal way of sucking hard-earned Chinese money into their private bank accounts, in the amount of tens of US millions.

    GSMC has consistently lost money every quarter since its foundering in 2000, and the company can not repay the government loan. Since Chinese governments have injected tax dollars into the mostly government-owned banks to reduce bad debts, one can argue that Wang and Jiang had made tens of millions dollars without actually investing in GSMC. Although legal, but the Kingsland business was shady business and immoral way of making money in my view.

    Ever since Chinese government scrapped the VAT tax for imported semiconductor under WTO pressure, there is no cost advantage of making the semiconductor chips on the mainland. The cost of shipping the finished wafers / chips from Taiwan to mainland is negligible as compared to the value of the chips. Semiconductor is a completely globalized business. Almost all of the major semiconductor chip manufacturers on mainland including SMIC are losing money.

  10. Allen Says:

    @all, based on the above comments, I think this is a good opportunity for Mainlanders to voice some of their perspectives regarding Taiwanese business people doing business on the Mainland. Some examples of topics include:

    1. Do Mainlanders see Taiwanese businessmen (from leaders of big businesses like Wang to small mom & pop owners of Karaoke joints) as caring compatriots who have come to invest in China’s future or simply opportunistic capitalists who have joined with China’s “elite” to make a quick buck on the back of common Chinese people?

    2. In work environments, how well do Taiwanese and Mainlanders mix in social scenes (I’ve heard of some factories where Taiwanese and Mainlanders tend to eat lunch separately)?

    3. Where Taiwanese are business owners: are Taiwanese businessmen snobby and condescending toward their Mainland workers? Are Taiwanese typically snobby and condescending in their attitude in general?

    4. etc., etc.

  11. Steve Says:

    @Allen #5: I’m going on memory, but I’m pretty sure that the biggest polluter in the Bay Area was 1-1-1 tricholorethane, which was the most commonly used solvent back then. These days it’s banned by the Montreal Protocol because of ozone depletion, but the damage is already done. However, since the late 70s, the Bay Area has set and maintained very low contamination levels, and are the worldwide model. In the early days, the local governments had no idea how bad some of that stuff was. Even today, people tend to think of chip manufacturing as a very clean industry.

    @EugeneZ #9: What you’re saying is correct, but there are other reasons involved that affect the equation. Those might explain why China negotiated the deal it did with GSMC.

    Formosa Plastics is a division of the Formosa Group. There is also another division called Nan Ya Plastics. Nan Ya Plastics owns approximately 44% of Nanya Technology Corporation based in Taoyuan, Taiwan, which mostly produces DRAM memory chips. They are modern, world class facilities and very competitive.

    Quick history on Winston Wang: He was a VP at Nan Ya Plastics until he had a highly publicized affair (he’s married yet he seems to have had a lot of those) so his father sent him off to the US where he met Jiang Mianheng, Jiang Zemin’s son. My personal feeling is that both of these guys were spoiled “bad boys”, but that’s just speculation. GSMC is a foundry, which for those of you not involved in the industry is a manufacturing facility where the customer invests its own money together with the foundry and the foundry produces the product. This allows the end user not to have to sink a billion dollars into producing its own fab and also can control the cost of the product. What the foundry brings to the process is expertise in producing chips. The other option is to buy product from a manufacturer, but then you are at the mercy of the market and your end cost is higher. IBM pioneered the concept many, many years ago, and currently TSMC and UMC of Taiwan are the largest foundries in the world.

    At the time, the ROC had very restrictive laws involving cross strait ownership, so though Wang was CEO of GSMC, he wasn’t a stockholder since that was against Taiwan law. Wang is also the oldest son, so I sincerely doubt he did this without his father’s approval and guidance. Nanya was not allowed by law to build a plant in China, and as China’s electronics industry was growing like mad, everyone wanted to get in on the ground floor, including Nanya. They tried to get a license from the ROC to manufacture there, along with the other Taiwan manufacturers, but were turned down. That’s why I think GSMC was just an end run around the ROC government’s policy.

    At the time, China’s semiconductor industry was literally 20 years behind the times. I’ve been inside those old fabs and in many ways they were more primitive than US fabs in the late 70s. Motorola Tianjin was the first modern fab built in China. There were limits on the allowed circuit geometry (distance between circuits) and if I remember correctly, Motorola was building at 0.35 micron geometry while the industry was lower, maybe around 0.18 or so. You might have heard of the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls. This agreement governed the export of sensitive equipment to certain countries and I think back then, China was allowed to import equipment two generations behind current technology. Motorola could only build what the American government allowed, and the Chinese government considered state of the art semiconductor manufacturing to be a national priority.

    EugeneZ, this is why the Chinese government made that “sweet” deal with Wang and Jiang. I’m sure the fact that Jiang’s son made a killing didn’t hurt the deal either. Back in then, one of the lines I sold was computerized GTAW welding equipment; very sophisticated stuff. The welders were not allowed to be exported to China (they are now) because the Chinese military would scavenge the chips out of the welders to use on military equipment, so we could only sell the older analog equipment. What I’m trying to say is that China had no problem “sucking hard-earned Chinese money into their private bank accounts” because the government felt the money was well spent to acquire the technology.

    “GSMC has consistently lost money every quarter since its foundering in 2000”. “Foundering” was a great Freudian slip on your part, since that’s exactly what GSMC has been doing since its creation. We had two guys who knew nothing about running a semiconductor fab; constant starts and stops when building the plant (I was involved with the construction), terrible morale between the Taiwanese managers and the Chinese engineers (unlike Motorola, which had excellent morale), too much turnover, poor building decisions, etc. They overpaid for TSMC engineers to get the plant going and had cost overruns. I haven’t been there since the end of 2002 but it sounds like things never improved. If you believe it was immoral, then both the two principals (Wang and Jiang) and the Chinese government were immoral since this was a two way street. Each knew exactly what they wanted to achieve and though not profitable, China did add to its high technology manufacturing base.

    There could be a cost advantage to manufacturing on the mainland for mainland use, but until the utilities improve it will be hard to realize. The raw water in China is horrible. The electrical grid is not reliable. When running a fab, both of these contribute directly to the bottom line. I would also venture an opinion that very heavy corruption is at work here. Too many government officials were and are involved not to have that be a major factor. The last reason is experience. You can train forever on process and equipment, but until the fab starts and things start going wrong, that training doesn’t really help. When those problems DO occur, then it is experience that tells you what to do. A complaint I heard from both the American and Taiwan engineering managers is that the Chinese engineers were too quick to think they could run things and didn’t have the experience to handle the problems. There might have been nationalistic feelings behind that issue. If it had only happened with the Taiwan engineers I would have written it off as political, but because it happened with both groups, I think it might have been cultural but that’s just an opinion.

    In the end, China is more than willing to lose money to have a local manufacturing base, especially from a military viewpoint.

  12. Allen Says:

    @Steve, as usual, great insight in your comments – but especially in the post you have given so far in this thread. So ARE you an engineer who used to live in Silicon Valley or still lives in Silicon Valley?

    By the way – for everyone else, -I didn’t my comment #10 to be limited to Mainlanders. I’d love to have everyone else – including Taiwanese and non-Chinese – to comment as well…

  13. Steve Says:

    @Allen: Nope, my degree is in Political Science but I sold high purity gas and chemical instrumentation for 25 years so all those engineers thought I was an engineer. I just seemed to have had a knack for it. Part of my job responsibilities in Asia were training. I gave quite a few high purity seminars to the engineers in those fabs, in Taiwan, China, Korea and Singapore. I went into my first fab back in 1978 so I’ve seen the industry grow up over the years. These days it’s gone from using new technology with vast improvements every year to becoming more of a commodities business for what I used to do which I find boring, so I’m not involved in that anymore.

    I never lived in Silicon Valley but worked for companies based in Silicon Valley. I spent most of my time with the fabs in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern California and those countries I mentioned in Asia. Outside of my time in Asia, I’ve lived in San Diego since 1990. But it’s a small industry within your field and since I was involved with the distribution of high purity chemicals and DI water, I knew not only the equipment and facility engineers but also some of the safety guys, hence the familiarity with the water problems in the valley.

  14. EugeneZ Says:


    It is a small world. You are an industry veteran ! You mentioned that you last visited the China fabs in 2002, that is exactly when I started my 4-year stay in China. I worked for a silicon valley company that sells production equipments to the leading edge fabs. Between SMIC and TSMC, the technology gap did shrink to maybe 2 years, although the past two years witnessed a backtracking of that progress.

    I agree with you that there are other benefits to China although the fabs lose money. SMIC stock has gone from $17 at IPO to around $1 now, but many job opportunities, relatively high-paying, are created because of the fabs in Shanghai, Beijing, and now in Wuhan, Chendu, and next on to Shenzhen.

    Between you and me, we can write a history of China’s semiconductor industry 🙂 But that would be too narrow of an interest for the readers of this blog !

  15. Allen Says:


    we can write a history of China’s semiconductor industry … But that would be too narrow of an interest for the readers of this blog !

    Maybe you don’t have do it right here right now … but a history would be really interesting for most of our readers – esp. if it touches on the subject of how China balances the competing interests of strategic industry development, social development, technology transfer, government ownership, environmental impact, geopolitics, etc.

    It will give invaluable insight into a microcosm that informs readers in the bigger picture how and why China got to be where it is and where it might go in the future…

  16. Steve Says:


    Hey hey!! I bet things are really different these days than when I was there. I was in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen a little over a year ago but for a completely different industry, so I am way behind on semi stuff. Back then, I worked for Metron Technology (since bought by Applied Materials) as their Asian Business Development Manager, which is a fancy way of saying I got to influence whatever I wanted without having to report to anyone over there, since I reported to corporate in Sunnyvale. Since China and Taiwan are Confucian cultures, it threw everyone off since the only thing that matters there is who is above you and who is below you, and I didn’t fit anywhere in the pyramid but was off to the side. It was great fun!

    Do you know if Sally Wu is still the Facilities Manager at GSMC? She was former TSMC and her husband also worked there. They introduced my wife and I to Di Shui Dong on Maoming Lu, for which I’ll be forever grateful since it was the best Hunan food in Shanghai, at least back then. I think they were on 5 year contracts so they might have gone back to Taiwan by now. Both Sally and my wife were Hakka ladies from Miaoli.

    I had tickets to Chengdu when they were talking about building that fab, but the project was put on hold so I never did get out there, to my eternal regret. I have always wanted to visit that city. After all, my Shanghainese friends told me the girls there are very spicy. 🙂

    Back in my day there was only back end stuff in Shenzhen and Hong Kong, so no need for our equipment. I’d go to HK for two days every six months to renew my China 6 month multiple entry visa, which was the longest you could get back then. Isn’t it up to a year now? We had an office there that sold production equipment into the back end so it was nice to hang with those guys for a day.

    Which city are you based in?

  17. Michael Turton Says:

    Funny how none of the many eulogies of Wang mention that he was picked and funded by US AID as a promising young entrepreneur. I wish these rags-to-riches fantasies would be buried along with Wang, and he would be celebrated for what he is: a talented businessman who received the right aid at the right time from a US government committed to expanding the private sector in Taiwan over the objections of the KMT government. That, I think, is much more interesting.


  18. Allen Says:

    A quick economic summary of Taiwan over the last 90 or so years from pbs. I highlighted U.S. and Japan “aids” during this period – as well as Taiwan investments outside of Taiwan.

    1910-1936: Agricultural production is dominant, as industry focuses mainly on processing agricultural products.

    1937-1944: Japan uses Taiwan as a wartime supply base, developing munitions-related industries with astonishing speed. Modern industries such as steel, chemistry, textile, metal, and machinery are developed. By 1939 industrial production surpasses agricultural production and reaches its highest point in 1944, before a sharp decline at the end of the war.

    1945-1950: Japan leaves Taiwan devastated, with railroads, roads, and harbors operating at half capacity and inflation completely out of control. Prices rise as much as 10,000 times between 1945 and ’50. With the influx of nearly 1.6 million mainlanders by 1949, people begin to hoard supplies, which fuels even worse inflation. The government focuses on land reform to develop the agricultural sector.

    1951-1953: The United States resumes aid to Taiwan during the Korean War and defends the Taiwan Strait. Over the next 15 years, U.S. aid will top $4 billion, accounting for 5 percent of Taiwan’s gross national product and enabling it to invest in infrastructure. Agricultural production increases by 14 percent and provides much of the investment capital and labor needed for later industrialization.

    1954-1959: Emphasis on agricultural production stimulates the economy, with sugar as Taiwan’s main export. Inflation shrinks to 8.6 percent while international trade deficits are covered by American aid.

    1960-1964: Agricultural production holds steady as industrial production and exports boom. Taiwan enters the Industrial Era as workers who were displaced from rural jobs find employment in labor-intensive export industries. Low-cost loans and low tariffs on imports needed to make exports bring an increase in foreign investors eager to capitalize on the island’s cheap labor.

    1965-1969: With U.S. aid to Taiwan ended, the government turns to Japan and receives a loan of 150 million U.S. dollars, to be repaid over a 15-to-20-year period. While not comparable with the United States’s aid package, these loans result in close cooperation between the Taiwanese and Japanese economies.

    1970-1979: By the ’70s Taiwan is considered one of the four “mini-dragons” of Southeast Asia; the other three are Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Agricultural production remains steady, and industrial production and exports grow rapidly. Ten large construction projects expand Taiwan’s industrial infrastructure. Oil crises in 1973 and 1979 do not seriously hurt the economy.

    1980-1989: To maintain growth in the face of wage increases, labor shortages, oil supply problems, and industrial pollution, the government shifts emphasis from export processing to high-tech industries. An entrepreneurial class is encouraged, and research and development are funded. By the mid-1980s Taiwan invests more than $2 billion annually in Southeast Asia, even before it begins investing in China.

    1990-1996: With the largest capital reserves in the region, Taiwan begins to invest heavily in Guangdong, Fujian, and Zhejiang. By 1993 its investment in China soars to $8.5 billion per year. With its vast trade surplus, foreign investment profile, and ties to overseas Chinese networks, Taiwan is a major regional economic and financial power.

    1997-1999: Taiwan experiences a small recession as its gross domestic product falls from 6.8 percent in 1997 to 4.8 percent in 1998. This is mild in comparison to the shocks felt in other Asian countries during Asian financial crises.

    2000-2003: Taiwan produces 30 percent of the world’s high-tech computer equipment, and per capita income has risen to nearly $14,000. But export dependence makes Taiwan vulnerable to the global slowdown of 2001-02, and recession sets in. Resistance to a farm loan reform scheme forces a finance minister out of office. Seeking lower wages, Taiwan businesses have invested tens of billions in mainland China.

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