1993 / 11月
圖表繪製．李淑玲（chart by Lee Su-ling)
Laura Li /tr. by Robert Taylor
Hsinchu County was once a large, rich county in the north of Taiwan, with flourishing agriculture, industry and commerce. But when Hsinchu City was made independent of the county in 1982, many resources were lost to Hsinchu County, which today is a poor place whose voice is barely heard. With all its glory snatched away by its younger brother the city, the county's "self-governing" status has also taken a blow.
How administrative boundaries are defined is crucial to the success or failure of local government. How to give each administrative unit a reasonable area over which to govern and a reasonable source of income is an aspect which cannot be neglected when implementing local self-determination.
Can you imagine that Taiwan, the seat of the Central Government, was once a "border region" of Greater China, where the government's influence was small?
In the period just after Taiwan returned to Chinese rule at the end of the Japanese occupation, but before the Central Government relocated to Taiwan, the autonomous powers of the Province were enormous, with agriculture, forestry, fisheries, transport and so on all falling under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Government. Later, when the Central Government moved to Taiwan, it was obvious that its functions would overlap with those of the Provincial Government. This created conflicts over resources and the limits of authority, and even led to many unreasonable arrangements.
For instance, the Taiwan Railway Administration and the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Monopoly Bureau are both nominally "provincial" agencies, but under the powers invested in them by the Central Government, they have control of the railways and of the tobacco and alcoholic drinks industries of the "whole country." But the provincial Water Conservancy Bureau has met with a different fate, for although in name the Bureau has charge of the rivers of the "whole province," in fact this means that it has no control over the rivers within the boundaries of the two special municipalities of Taipei and Kaohsiung, which are directly subordinate to the Central Government. Thus when the Bureau wishes work to be done on those rivers, it has to expend a lot of time and energy in roundabout consultations via the Central Government.Who is more powerful--the President or the Provincial Governor?
Because the areas of jurisdiction of the Taiwan Provincial Government and, in the present period, of the Central Government really are too similar (their two jurisdictions overlap to 98% in terms of area and 80% in terms of population1), many scholars and Legislative Yuan members question whether maintaining the present four-tier structure (see table), with all its complexities, is still really necessary.
Lin Po-jung, Mayor of Taichung City, observes that under the four-tier system, each level tries to exercise control, and higher authority has to be consulted on every matter. Because of this and the degree of overlap between the power and responsibilities of the Provincial and Central Governments, "everyone tries to grab the popular projects, while offloading the political hot potatoes." This indirectly leads to a lack of administrative efficiency and to wasted effort and resources.
For instance, Taichung City's urban development plan had to be approved by both the Provincial and the Central Governments. The plan was submitted in late 1981, but was not ratified and released until early 1986. Just this legally required procedure took over four years, and if after gaining the approval of the Provincial Government, to which Taichung City is subordinate, the Central Government had still had objections and the Provincial Government had returned the plan to the City Government, the entire process would have gone back to square one.
"If the Provincial Government is just a 'rest stop' for official documents, why do we need it?" asks one scholar who proposes "scrapping the Province."
But to do away with the Province would be no small step. On the one hand, if the Central Government had direct jurisdiction over all the counties and cities, it would give people the impression that "the ROC Government is purely and simply the government of Taiwan," and this would spark off a "unification versus independence" controversy. Secondly, there are currently many hundreds of laws and ordinances which refer to the "Province," and to revise all this legislation would be an enormous task. In addition, what to do with the hundred or more agencies now under the control of the Provincial Government, along with their 260,000 staff, would also be a problem.
That is why under the concept proposed by the Ministry of the Interior, in future Taipei City and County would merge, as would Kaohsiung City and County. The island of Taiwan would comprise a province and two large municipalities, with 21 million residents under the jurisdiction of the Central Government, of which only around 13 million would also be under the Provincial Government. This would reduce the overlap between them.
"But if there was a close-run direct presidential election, and a president was elected with 4 million votes, while a provincial governor was elected with 6 million votes, whose words would count for more?!" asks Legislator Kao Yu-jen.
The definition of the status of the Province is a controversial issue, and at present the Ministry of the Interior has still not finalized its proposals, which are still under discussion. On the other hand, the retention or abolition of the townships and rural townships is also a knotty problem.Mergers and divisions should not raise hackles:
According to the ROC Constitution, the smallest self-governing administrative unit is the "county;" but for the last 40 years, under the "Outline for Implementation of Local Self-Government by Counties and Cities in Taiwan Province," townships, rural townships and cities subordinate to counties in Taiwan have continuously had the status of "self-governing legal entities" (adminis trative units with independent financial, legislative, personnel, planning and other powers). In the draft "Provincial and County Self-Government Law" now before the Legislative Yuan, townships, rural townships and cities are clearly referred to as a tier of local government, and this can be seen as officially "setting the record straight."
At present in Taiwan, Kinmen and Matsu there are a total of 309 townships, rural townships and county-administered cities, and many townships and rural townships in remote areas have no more than a few thousand inhabitants, who generate no tax income to speak of. Someone has remarked that these entities have no real self-governing powers, and that "there is no way they could survive on their own; they really exist in name only."
However, if a self-governing administrative unit exists so much as in name, the pursuit of narrow self-interest is almost bound to emerge. In today's society, many new problems cut across administrative boundaries. Environmental protection is one of the most important. The small size of the townships and rural townships limits their outlook. For instance, under pressure from their residents, townships, rural townships and county-administered cities all over the province have repeatedly engaged in "garbage wars." Thus if one wishes to retain the self-governing capacity of the townships and rural townships, appropriate mergers and dissolutions are a necessity.
After all, administrative boundaries should be adjusted to facilitate administration, and changes, divisions and mergers in accordance with different stages of development are surely something which should be regarded as completely normal by administrators and ordinary citizens alike!
Taiwan's Changing Administrative Districts
Five Prefectures and Three Territories of the Japanese Era (In 1945 before retrocession)
Eight Counties and Nine Cities (After retrocession, 1949)
16 Counties and Five Cities (1951)
16 Counties, Five Cities and Two Special Municipalities (Since 1982)
Source: Provincial Historical Research
Commission, Ministry of the Interior
(chart by Lee Su-ling)