So, how did you ring in the year 95?
Yes, 95. Taiwan continues to make official use of a calendar tied to the founding of the Republic of China on January 1, 1912. That day began year 1.
For anyone doing a double take, that’s the Republic of China, better known these days as “Taiwan,” though Taiwan wasn’t a part of China in 1912. (And plenty of people would argue it’s not part of China now.) The People’s Republic of China was founded on October 1, 1949. National day in Taiwan, however, is marked not on January 1 but October 10, to commemorate the 1911 revolution that overthrew the Qing dynasty.
This everything-begins-again-with-me dating system, which reflects the habits of the imperial dynasties the ROC was supposed to have eliminated, isn’t just a quaint local custom. Its continued use is heading Taiwan toward its very own type of Y2K problem. In just a few years, when the ROC reaches the age of 100 and has to jump to three-digit years, Taiwan will likely experience what I like to call the Y1C problem. (Yes, I know: I’m mixing systems in that C represents hundred in a system that uses M, not K, for “thousand.” But that’s the best I could come up with. I’m open to suggestions for catchy but correct names.)
As far as I know, nothing is being done yet to address this. Slow are the wheels of Taiwan’s bureaucracy. To give an example of this, the Y2K problem certainly did not lack publicity, outrageous hype even; yet in 2005 the high-profile English Web site of the Office of the President gave the year as being “105.” About six weeks ago, when I gave a presentation to officials in charge of various government agencies’ Internet departments, listing some of the things wrong with the Taiwan government’s English-language Web sites, I specifically brought up the example of the presidential office’s howler.
I took it as a good sign that today, when I checked that site again, I saw the year given as 2006. But then I glanced at the Mandarin version of the same site. The year there: 106.
Before the year 100 comes in 2011, somebody remind me to find a bank outside Taiwan for what little money I have.