The mayors, city councilors and borough chiefs for the five special municipalities were elected on Nov. 27. They are ready to take on the challenges of their posts starting on Dec. 25, as Taiwan enters a new “five-special--municipality era.” As we congratulate all the newly elected officials and wish them great success, we should disregard party affiliation and consider the challenges and opportunities facing the five municipalities and how a partnership between industry, government, academia and the private sector could help push both national and regional competitiveness toward a more sustainable form of development.
Great ancient civilizations once appeared in Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America. In Europe, the Dark Ages were followed by the Renaissance, Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, which brought modern urban civilization, while the Age of Exploration spread industrialization and urbanization across the world. Today, countries worldwide find themselves at various stages of modernization. Europe, North America and Japan are generally considered more advanced, while Taiwan is a rapidly rising newly emerging country. With one last push, it can transform into an advanced country, but while we have pushed for a long time, we have still failed to achieve this goal.
However, the recent -elections may have provided us with a rare opportunity. Hopefully, both the central and local governments and the private sector can develop a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental spirit and the global governance strategy of the two UN Earth Summits. In terms of planning and implementing substantial development, Taiwan should set a good example globally. This is the best option for Taiwan to benefit both itself and the world.
The UN’s 1987 report Our Common Future defined sustainable development by saying that “humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This makes fairness and justice between generations its core value. Advanced countries have enjoyed the benefits brought by technology and suffered the drawbacks brought by its side-effects, such as pollution, environmental changes and natural disasters. Therefore, they are now turning back to seek more harmony between man and nature, to coexist and prosper together.
Researchers of environmental protection philosophy -have found that the tradition of “respecting heaven and earth, and learning from nature” is common to indigenous peoples worldwide, as well as to the doctrines of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Taiwan has faced challenges in the form of the construction of the Fifth Naphtha Cracker Plant and the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, as well as the recent controversies over the environmental impact assessments for the third and fourth-stage expansion projects at the Central Taiwan Science Park and the Eighth Naphtha Cracker Plant proposed by the Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co. It is better for us to seek a consensus based on a national goal of sustainable development, as the experience of advanced countries shows that this is the only way to ease conflict.
The five newly elected mayors will have greater decision-making opportunities and more resources than their predecessors. This means that it will be necessary for the central government to adjust its power structure, or it may face strong challenges if the five mayors unite. Pressured by global warming and the financial crisis, leaders across the world at both national and local government levels are all having a hard time. Since the five mayors will not have to rely so heavily on the central government, they need to take greater responsibility themselves.