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United Daily News: Will Taiwan buy nuclear energy from China?

2011/05/23 17:46:21

If the end of the Kuokuang project signals Taiwan's abandonmentof its petrochemical industry, the local mid- and downstream firms inthe sector could be destined to become satellites or affiliates ofupstream petrochemical companies in China.

Likewise, once nuclear-free power generation becomes our nationalenergy policy, we cannot not help but ask, "Will Taiwan eventuallyneed to purchase electricity from nuclear power plants in China'sFujian province?"

In the foreseeable future, the petrochemical industry will notdisappear. As it is one of the few industries with high output valueand immense development potential, Taiwan is unlikely to remainprosperous without mid- and downstream petrochemical enterprises.Once these companies become predominantly reliant on Chinese upstreamsuppliers, we could face political risks.

Similarly, if we scrap nuclear power plants, we will faceincreases in power rates and carbon emissions, which may eventuallyforce us to buy electricity from nuclear power plants in China.

Nuclear power remains a cheap and low-polluting energy source.Germany has been procuring electricity from French nuclear powerplants. In negotiating those contracts, Germany needs only toconsider the price at which it wishes to purchase power. But inTaiwan, there is also a political price when dealing with China.

We have consistently argued that Taiwan's political strategyshould be compatible with its economic policy. This is why Taiwancannot politically pursue formal independence because it does notoffer any feasible and viable course of action for economicdevelopment.

Nevertheless, Taiwan must maintain a largely self-relianteconomic system that can help keep it free from China's control andentice local companies to retain their business roots at home. Bydoing so, foreign and local investors will also have a better climateto launch ventures and create jobs in Taiwan.

Giving up our upstream petrochemical industry and nuclear powergeneration marks an about-face of major economic policies -- a movethat would not only impact our economic prospects but alsocross-strait relations.

Under such a trend, Taiwan's economic conditions may worsen andits competitiveness may weaken, which would ultimately make it moredependent on China and tilt the balance in cross-strait ties.

We believe the Ma administration's decisions to put the Kuokuangproject on hold and not to extend the license of existing nuclearpower plants after their set service life expires are the consequenceof the cut-throat competition for the next presidency rather thanbased on majority public opinion.

It has never been easy for a country to maintain a self-relianteconomic system. It is more difficult for Taiwan since it sits soclose to China -- a super-magnet for investment and a major politicalthreat to Taiwan.

In charting Taiwan's economic policy, we cannot afford to beshortsighted. While Taiwan cannot cut off its links with China, itmust also not lose its economic independence. We hope the politiciansfrom both the "blue" and "green" camps will never forget to factor incross-strait ties when weighing in on industrial development andenvironmental protection issues. (Editorial abstract -- May 23,2011).

(By Sofia Wu)