Fri, Nov 03, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Quality of life trumps a shift in time zone

By Huang Sheng-feng 黃聖峰

There has been much discussion regarding whether Taiwan should switch to a time zone other than China’s, but if proponents of the change are seeking to differentiate Taiwan from China, it would be better to simply rename the time zone.

The purpose of dividing the world into time zones is to enable people in different parts of the world to live their lives according to their circadian clock.

The first step in designating a time zone for a place is to decide how many time zones the place falls into by looking at the longitude, as every 15 degrees longitude make up one time zone. If a place does not exceed 15 degrees longitude on a map, then the entire place can belong to the same time zone. However, if it does, it may need more than one time zone.

Taiwan — including the Penghu archipelago and the other outlying islands – only extends over three degrees of longitude, so it can belong to a single time zone.

The next step in designating a time zone is to determine the time of the place based on its longitude.

Since Taiwan and its surrounding islands all fall between 119°E and 122°E, from a geoscientific standpoint, the most ideal time for Taiwan is GMT+8, the eighth time zone east of the prime meridian.

The final step in designating a time zone entails political factors. While geoscience might suggest that a particular time zone is ideal for a place, political factors might suggest another time zone.

Those who hope to change Taiwan’s time zone as a way of differentiating the nation from China should consider the following: First, simply changing the time zone does not make China less interested in annexing Taiwan; second, it will not make the Chinese government disappear. Moreover, changing the nation’s time zone to GMT+9 will increase its consumption of resources, increase safety risks and reduce the number of sleep hours — especially in winter.

Taiwan’s time zone used to be GMT+9 during the Japanese colonial period, but at that time, Taiwanese had no choice but to follow the wishes of their colonial masters, who of course did not care about whether that was convenient for their colony.

Today, the nation’s priority is of course to ensure the quality of life of Taiwanese, which makes it difficult to support people who believe that Taiwan’s time zone should be changed simply to further distinguish it from China.

Instead of changing time zones, Taiwan should rename its time zone from “Chinese standard time” to “Taiwanese standard time” or “Yushan standard time.”

If the nation really were to change its time zone to GMT+9, the government should change the time zone back to GMT+8 from October to March every year — designating it as "winter time" — to reduce the negative effect of the change.

The Ministry of the Interior’s Department of Civil Affairs is responsible for issues related to time zones and calendars, including the possibility of renaming or changing Taiwan’s time zone. Since there is no law regulating the naming of the nation’s time zone, the department could rename it by simply issuing an ordinance.

However, to encourage public participation and to promote a sense of community, it would be better still to let the public decide the name through online or in-person voting.

Huang Sheng-feng is the founder and principal investigator of PIL Research Projects, RoTP.

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