Tuesday, January 19, 2010

From Li Chia-tung to Lin Yi-hsiung

From Li Chia-tung to Lin Yi-hsiung
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 19, 2010

On the 17th of this month, Professor Li Chia-tung published an article in this newspaper's "Hall of Fame," entitled "South Korea Can Export Nuclear Power Plants. Can Taiwan?" It was reminiscent of Lin Yi-hsiung's frequent appearances during street protests.
Lee Chia-tung and Lin Yi-hsiung appear to have similar temperaments. Both may be bleeding heart humanitarians. But the two have fundamental differences. Li is an intellectual. Lin is a politician.

The differences between Li and Lin on nuclear power generation are intriguing. Lin Yi-hsiung opposes nuclear power generation. He quotes scientific sources to prove that nuclear power generation is a danger to society. He has linked "anti-nuke" with "referendum." He has turned it into an issue of human rights and political justice. The "referendum on nuclear plant no. 4" has become a synonym for "Lin Yi-hsiung." Lee Chia-tung is a scientist. He is familiar with the arguments against nuclear power generation. But in a article entitled "South Korea Can," he characterized South Korea's 40 billion dollar nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates, after winning a competition against the United States, Japan, and France, as a world shaking industrial and technological achievement. Actually, the Republic of China and South Korea began using nuclear power at the same time, about thirty years ago. The ROC was once even in the lead. Today, Lee Chia-tung is demanding to know why we aren't ashamed for lagging so far behind South Korea?

Lee Chia-tung is one of a small number of prestigious "self-made" intellectuals. He has never attached himself to any pressure group or political party. By writing about the issue, one article at a time, he has made a name for himself within the community. At first, his concern was humanitarian. It was the borderless humanitarianism of Mother Theresa and of Shusaku Endo's "Deep River." Later, he became a vigorous advocate of education. He personally taught poor students English. He considers giving people the gift of knowledge an act of humanitarianism. It prevents them from being exploited as a result of their ignorance. More recently, Lee Chia-tung has turned his attention to technology and industry. His article "South Korea's Nuclear Power Plant" is a must-read.

Lin Yi-hsiung is an emotionally intense humanitarian. The difference between Lin and Lee Chia-tung is that Lin's humanitarianism comes packaged with political arguments. Lin Yi-hsiung has three proposals. First, his "Basic Draft Law for the Republic of Taiwan." Lin wants to establish a "Taiwanese national identity" and considers this a humanistic solution. Secondly, his single-member district two-vote system. It was intended to reduce the probability of "Mainlanders" getting elected, thereby reducing "ethnic conflict" (more accurately termed "communal strife") and social friction. This too had a humanitarian aspect. Thirdly, the fourth nuclear power plant referendum. This was also a humanitarian ideal.

As previously mentioned, the biggest difference between Lin and Li is that Lin is a politician, while Li is an intellectual. Lin Yi-hsiung's three propositions, his "Basic Law for the Republic of Taiwan," his single-member district two-vote system, may have humanitarian implications. But his humanitarianism is part of a political package deal. As for his opposition to Nuclear Power Plant No. 4, he finally persuaded President Chen Shui-bian to halt construction in October 2000. Halting construction of the plant however created a political and economic crisis for Chen Shui-bian. Furthermore, construction on the project was halted without resort to the referendum process, i.e,, without public consent. In terms of justice, Lin Yi-hsiung's position on Nuclear Power Plant No. 4 was self-contradictory. Chen Shui-bian never initiated a referendum on the plant. If the decision whether to hold a referendum is made on the basis of political power, then is the decision whether to halt Nuclear Power Plant No. 4 also to be made on the basis of brute political power?

Li and Lin both have ideals and passion. But if one wishes to save the nation, one needs to be realistic as well as idealistic. Besides passion, one needs knowledge. Lin Yi-hsiung dropped his demands for a referendum as soon as Chen Shui-bian acquired the power to halt the project. Those with differing views on nuclear power generation could only bow to the dictates of political power. Is nuclear power generation a question of political power? Or is it a question of scientific knowledge? Lin Yi-hsiung mobilized crowds to oppose nuclear power generation. Lee Chia-tung stayed in bed, reading reader comments posted in the newspapers. Whom should the public listen to? Where do we go from here?

In fact, both Li and Lin play indispensable roles within society. Lin alerts us to the risks of nuclear power generation. Lee offers us a choice based on reality and factual knowledge. Today there is a resurgence of support for nuclear power generation. This will not diminish people's concerns about nuclear power generation. But it shows that knowledge of the anti-nuke position will not necessarily make the anti-nuke position the only policy choice. France's total generating capacity is over 80% nuclear. Belgium's is 60%, Japan's is 34%, and Switzerland's is 42%. Even the United States' total generating capacity is over 20% nuclear. The Republic of China's is only 17% nuclear. Are there no Lin Yi-hsiungs in those countries? Are there no Chen Shui-bians in those countries to halt construction of nuclear power plants on behalf of their own Lin Yi-hsiungs?

South Korea is building more than nuclear power plants for the United Arab Emirates. The Samsung Group has just completed construction on the Burj Dubai, the tallest tower in the world. Does the public on Taiwan wish to continue linking humanitarianism and "love for Taiwan" with ideology? Or should we promote the humanitarian sentiments expressed by Mother Theresa and by Shusaku Endo in "Deep River?" Should we revitalize our educational system, our technology, and our industry to demonstrate our "love of the land?"

Lee Chia-tung puts pen to paper. Lin Yi-hsiung takes to the streets. Both are passionate humanitarians. Both are respected by the community. But idealism must also take into account reality. Passion must also be accompanied by knowledge. In particular, attention should be paid to the hijacking and corruption of humanitarianism by political power. Ideological zealotry plus nativist sentiment will inevitably spell disaster.

2010.01.19 04:17 am











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