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Reviews 229© 1994 by University ofHawai'i Press James Reardon-Anderson. Pollution, Politics, and Foreign Investments in Taiwan: The LukangRebellion. Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1992. xiv, 121 pp. Hardcover $32.50. For years, scholars and journalists have pointed to the high environmental price Taiwan has paid for its economic miracle. It is for this reason that at first glance one might think that James Reardon-Anderson's book is a story of how the local good guys fight back at powerful industrialists in an attempt to save their beloved hometown from the ravages oftoxic waste. But, as the author points out, his study attempts to show how Lukang, a town in the east-central county of Changhua , Taiwan, becomes not merely the focal point of a debate about environmental protection, but a case example of industry, society, and government wrestling with the complexities of an emerging democracy. Reardon-Anderson tells the story of the Lukang rebellion by focusing on Li Tung-liang, a small-business owner who possesses a good deal of local pride, prominence, and political ambition. Li organizes a group of locals to oppose the Dupont Company's construction of a plant that will produce a chemical powder used as a pigment in various petrochemical products. Dupont fails to foresee any problems in constructing the proposed plant because of the project's support by the government of Taipei. But because of previous environmental problems, Li and others take advantage of an increasingly liberal political atmosphere to oppose the plant and the government's support of the project. The case is an interesting one because Dupont is able to convince most of the more ardent opponents of the plant of its safety features, and of the relatively low level of danger posed to the environment in producing the powder. So why did opponents refuse to give up their cause and their efforts until the plant proposal was withdrawn? Dupont failed to sell the plant's safety features to the people of Lukang as early as they should have, mainly because public relations campaigns had been of minor importance in authoritarian Taiwan. The Lukang plant was proposed as pluralism was beginning to emerge, catching Dupont strategists completely by surprise. The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) government was also stunned by the speed with which private groups were willing to take on the governmentsponsored project. The Lukang demonstrators were able to rally journalists, intellectuals, and students to join in the effort to halt the plan. Such opposition would certainly not have been tolerated prior to 1986, as government opposition was strictly contained within limits approved by the KMT. The government, embarrassed by local and national attention to the issue, tried to play the role ofboth advocate and mediator , thus leaving Dupont largely alone in its efforts to sell the project. Politi- 230 China Review International: Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1994 cians, particularly local leaders, were afraid to go against the movement for fear that they would be accused of being bribed to support the construction of the plant. This fear that others would think there had been a financial payoff also haunted Li Tung-liang. In addition, Li's personal ambition and anger at the ruling party fueled his continued role as leader of the opposition to the plant. Perhaps the most significant conclusion of the book is the author's claim that the Lukang rebellion was in actuality less about environmental concerns than it was a popular expression of anger against the ruling KMT government for decades of exclusionary rule. The logic supporting this argument is apparent, though only developed by the author in the last few pages of the book. It is an important factor and one that needs greater elaboration, for its supports the conclusions made by scholars studying political development that when authoritarian systems open up, both government leaders and oppositions learn the processes of democracy by way of issues that are often important in a symbolic sense. A real success of the Lukang rebellion, therefore, was the opportunity given to government and opposition to confront each other on a local question relating to Lukang without having to address directly the real questions ofpolitical legitimacy , participation...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 229-230
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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