Sun, Feb 26, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The welcome death of a calendar

A proposal was raised in the legislature on Friday to abolish the Republican (minguo 民國) calendar and replace it with the Gregorian calendar, the time system used in most of the world today. A simple and commonsense proposal, one might think, which should win unwavering support and pose less of an obstacle to foreign consumption.

But nothing escapes the curse of the "Greater China" ideology.

Indeed, one would have been surprised if die-hard pan-blue-camp supporters did not jump up and slam the proposal as evidence of pro-independence sentiment and splittism.

This nation uses a dual-calendar system (not counting the still very relevant lunar calendar), and under the Republican calendar, 2006 is designated as the 95th year of the founding of the Republic of China (ROC).

Therefore, to some, abolishing this calendar is an attack on the very legitimacy, the very dignity, of the ROC, which in turn suggests that Taiwan is not part of China.

Use of the Gregorian calendar would therefore violate the "one China" principle, upsetting Beijing and Washington, despite the fact that China and the US use the Gregorian calendar.

One readily arrives at this prediction by looking at the response to the proposal to abolish the National Unification Council and the unification guidelines, or the proposal to abolish or at least curtail the teaching of classical Chinese in high school.

The council and the guidelines embody tokenism in every way. Very few people can remember when the council last convened (it was in 1999).

And everyone knows that with Taiwan's democratization, unification with China will require the consent of the electorate rather than the imprimatur of the council and its guidelines.

The legislature can hardly be credited with taking the council seriously, allotting the dormant agency an impressive NT$1,000 (US$31) budget.

Still, the proposal has attracted consternation from the US State Department, as well as the standard petulant threats of presidential impeachment from die-hards in the pan-blue camp.

Perhaps the State Department would also care to weigh in on the relevance of classical Chinese to a modernized Taiwan?

After all, much of modern vernacular Chinese is based on the classical form, it's culturally tagged to a pristine past, and -- most importantly -- it clumsily but effectively lends itself to a unificationist take on the status quo.

The beauty of literary Chinese is that it, like Latin, knew when to die.

What a pity the same truth is not self-evident for those who would treasure a government body that is riddled with rigor mortis.

Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) sounded reasonably supportive of the proposal to put the unification council and guidelines out of their misery.

But what is most disappointing is that he did not make a firm commitment to the proposal on the spot. Surely he knows that pan-blue lawmakers will have a field day over this.

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