Industrial giant Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) has been hit by a wave of public opprobrium after the seventh fire in just one year broke out at its sixth naphtha cracker plant in Mailiao Township (麥寮), Yunlin County. The company has been criticized over the state of the plant’s pipeline system in particular, as well as its poor safety management and cost-cutting corporate culture. Aside from these problems there is another issue that deserves attention: the longstanding idea that business investment will bring prosperity and development to outlying areas — a promise often made by politicians and entrepreneurs.
Even before the recent big fires that have provoked protests by people living near the plant, two major fires that broke out at FPG’s sixth naphtha cracker in July last year had already prompted thousands of local residents to organize marches, block roads and surround the complex.
More than 20 years ago, it was opposition by people living in Yilan County, where FPG’s sixth naphtha cracker was originally going to be built, that forced FPG to choose the “outlying” area of Mailiao as the site for the complex. At the time, people in Yunlin welcomed the proposed plant in the belief that industrial development would bring them a prosperous future with plenty of jobs. Many people saw the plant as a money-spinner and celebrated its arrival.
The reception given to the project at the originally planned location in the Lize (利澤) area of Yilan County’s Wujie Township (五結) was very different from what happened later in Mailiao. In December 1987, then-FPG chairman Wang Yung-ching (王永慶) took part in a televised debate with then-Yilan County commissioner Chen Ding-nan (陳定南).
Wang said that if Chen gave the go-ahead for the plant to be built in Yilan, it would be a highly ethical decision that would bring great benefits to the county. Chen, however, responded by saying that if he allowed the complex to be built in Yilan he would be blamed for generations to come for what he called a “criminal error.”
In view of the seven fires in one year at the plant in Yunlin, and the protests that have followed, one can well imagine how thankful Yilan residents must feel today about Chen’s decision not to let FPG build the plant in their county.
In the two decades since it was built, the sixth naptha cracker plant has not brought the promised prosperity to the area. Instead, it has brought the threat of cancer and other illnesses, as well as the menace of fires that can and have broken out at any time. However, over on the other side of the Jhuoshui River (濁水溪), in Changhua County’s Dacheng Township (大城), the government was until the beginning of this year still offering the same old lures of “jobs and prosperity” to try and persuade local residents to support the construction of an eighth naphtha cracker plant.
Quite a lot of people living in the area followed in the tracks of Mailiao residents before them, accepting the government’s promises and supporting the petrochemicals construction project. Luckily, thanks to the efforts of environmental groups and people from other areas, the Dacheng project was stopped.
From now on, in view of the string of fires at the FPG complex in Mailiao, the myth that industrial development will bring prosperity to any area should come under stricter scrutiny and criticism than it sometimes has in the past.
Chi Chun-chieh is a professor at the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures at National Dong Hwa University.
Translated by Julian Clegg
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s “century of humiliation” is the gift that keeps on giving. Beijing returns again and again to the theme of Western imperialism, oppression and exploitation to keep stoking the embers of grievance and resentment against the West, and especially the US. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in 1949 announced it had “stood up” soon made clear what that would mean for Chinese and the world — and it was not an agenda that would engender pride among ordinary Chinese, or peace of mind in the international community. At home, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) launched
The restructuring of supply chains, particularly in the semiconductor industry, was an essential part of discussions last week between Taiwan and a US delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach. It took precedent over the highly anticipated subject of bilateral trade partnerships, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) appearance on Friday at a dinner hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for Krach was a subtle indicator of this. Chang was in photographs posted by Tsai on Facebook after the dinner, but no details about their discussions were disclosed. With
To say that this year has been eventful for China and the rest of the world would be something of an understatement. First, the US-China trade dispute, already simmering for two years, reached a boiling point as Washington tightened the noose around China’s economy. Second, China unleashed the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, wreaking havoc on an unimaginable scale and turning the People’s Republic of China into a common target of international scorn. Faced with a mounting crisis at home, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) rashly decided to ratchet up military tensions with neighboring countries in a misguided attempt to divert the
Astride an ascended economy and military, with global influence nearing biblical proportions, Xi Jinping (習近平) — general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), chairman of the Central Military Commission and president of the People’s Republic of China — is faithfully heralded, in deeds and imagery, as a benevolent lord, determined to “build a community of common destiny for all mankind.” Rather than leading humanity to this Shangri-La through inspirational virtue a la Mahatma Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln, the CCP prefers a micromanagement doctrine of socialism with Chinese characteristics as the guiding light. A doctrine of Marxist orthodoxy transplanted under a canvas