Related topics

Blackout Reveals Taiwan’s Woes

July 31, 1999

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Taiwanese expressed worry Saturday that a mass blackout had exposed the island’s vulnerability to a Chinese attack, and questioned whether Taiwan would be able to defend itself.

The outage that cut power to 7 million households for four hours early Friday served as evidence to some people that China could attack Taiwan without even sending troops. All China needed to do to paralyze the island was bomb a key utility tower or hack into the power company’s computer system, observers said.

``How can we stand up tall in the world, and how can we expect the public to have confidence in our national security?″ Chen Shui-bian, presidential candidate from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, asked Saturday.

If the weakness existed in the power supply, it could also exist with Taiwan’s telecommunications, aviation or banking systems, said Chen, an army colonel, in the China Times.

Despite 50 years of political division, China maintains that Taiwan is a rebel province to be reunited with the mainland by force if necessary.

The blackout hit at a time the media was reporting an increase in Chinese military activity and rising tensions with Beijing.

Plunged into darkness, Taiwanese speculated that the blackout was a prelude to a Chinese attack, and officials scrambled to find out the cause and allay fears.

After four hours of darkness they located the utility tower that caused the trouble lying on a caved-in mountainside in southern Tainan County. It was a vital tower that transferred power generated in the south to the power-short north, officials said.

Power was restored, but people continued to worry.

``China is capable of dealing us a major blow with their massive weapons,″ military analyst Lin Yu-fang said. ``Paralyzing our power and communications systems could be their vital first move.″

The blackout also caused massive damage to many factories, including one for computer chips and one for optical electronics. The island’s industrial damage estimated at $87 million.

The computer industry is the backbone of Taiwan’s economic development, and authorities have vowed to turn the island into a high-tech land in the next decade.

``We wonder if the base of our security and economic development is built on loose sand,″ a China Times editorial said.

There was no looting or other major public disturbance, however, during the blackout _ testimony to Taiwan’s social order and stability, Police Chief Ting Yuan-chin said.

Robberies and other petty crimes fell during the blackout because of intensified police patrols, he said.

Update hourly