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Keep history in mind

Publication Date : 29-03-2013


There is a well-known saying in Taiwan to describe the volatile spring weather on this island: “A spring day is like a stepmother's face” . A Chinese stepmother is known for her volatile temper - her face changing colour many times a day. Politicians in Taiwan are just as unpredictable as a spring day in March.

Eric Chu, mayor of New Taipei City, contributed an op-ed article to the China Times calling for a referendum on the future of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, known popularly as Nuke 4, simply in order to raise his electorate's voter turnout. All of a sudden, all politicians of the referendum-phobic Kuomintang (KMT) rallied behind him. Hey presto, Premier Jiang Yi-huah, with the approval of President Ma Ying-jeou, proposed the “stop-work” referendum, intended not to pass so that Nuke 4 may be completed and begin operation in two years. Politicians of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who have been clamoruing for referendums, were shocked but couldn't openly oppose it and have been forced to reluctantly go along.

KMT lawmakers began at once to get their Nuke 4 referendum ready for ramming through the Legislative Yuan to have the vote taken in August at the earliest, while their opposite numbers were fearfully watching the development. They got lucky, however. At least 100,000 protesters took to the streets in Taipei and four other major cities to call for the scrapping of Nuke 4 and an immediate phase-out of nuclear power. Opposition leaders were more than happy to begin urging Jiang to order a halt to work on Nuke 4.

The New Taipei City Council adopted a resolution calling for an end to Nuke 4 without a referendum and Chu tacitly agreed, saying “that's the public opinion” of his most populous city of Taiwan. Other KMT-controlled cities and counties have followed suit. Hau Lung-bin, the KMT mayor of Taipei, said he wouldn't support the referendum “if it were taken tomorrow.” When the opposition party had a resolution passed at an Economic Affairs Committee of the Legislative Yuan to request the Cabinet suspend Nuke 4 construction, the KMT didn't dare demand a review of the resolution.

Well, spring days are here to stay for two more months, and nobody knows how politicians are going to change the colour of their faces like a fickle stepmother. But one thing is certain: Taiwan won't fare well with Nuke 4 closed and all three others decommissioned on schedule. Household power rates are bound to rise, but those for factories and plants will double or triple or even more for sure, damaging Taiwan's export trade and accelerating its industrial hollowing-out.

Unemployment will soar again, and Taiwan will have to rely even more on China for economic survival. Everybody knows a zero-nuclear policy is in the best interests of the People's Republic of China, which wants to “take back” Taiwan, but the KMT dare not point this out as one reason for going slow on a nuclear power phase-out. Meanwhile the opposition shuts its eyes to the eventual predicament of Taiwan kowtowing to China like Japan in the early 15th century. Keep history in mind when mulling nuclear phase-out

Japan set up diplomatic relations with China in 607 and cut them off in 894 during the rebellion of An Lushan in Tang China. Almost 600 years later, diplomatic ties were resumed, because Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, best known as founder of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, was so cash-strapped that his Bakufu government had to seek lucrative trade with Ming China in order just to avoid bankruptcy. So he sent an envoy to Nanjing in 1401 to pledge to stop the Wako pirate traders in exchange for official “tally” trade. He had to pay tribute to Ming Emperor Jianwen, who sent an imperial commissioner to Kyoto in the following year to invest Yoshimitsu as “king of Japan and subject of the Ming Empire.” Yoshimitsu accepted the investiture and was able to put the Bakufu financial house back in order.

There may yet be a change in the question the voters will be asked in the Nuke 4 referendum. KMT politicians may change their minds and add a question about an immediate nuclear phase-out to the referendum, as we recommended in this space not long ago. Eligible voters should learn from history if they are asked to go to the polls to decide whether Nuke 4 should be scrapped and nuclear power phased out at the same time.


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