2010 Symposium| Final Presentation

            As the Chinese saying goes, “there is no banquet that does not end.” After a week of interactive conflict resolution discussions and public lectures from renowned professors, the Strait Talk Symposium 2010 culminated in a final presentation held on the 4th of November 2010 that was open to public. Not only was this a chance for delegates to summarize for themselves the many conversations that they had over the past week, it was also an opportunity for any one who is interested in the Cross-Strait issue to understand what these delegates from China, Taiwan and the USA agreed was the pathway to peace in the future.

            This afternoon’s presented started with an introduction by this year’s Symposium Chair Alina Kung, who gave an outline of what Strait Talk stood for. As a former US delegate herself, she spoke of the need for delegates, each holding on to deeply-entrenched assumptions about each other, to challenge themselves through more than 30 hours of intense interactive conflict resolution. At the end of the process, delegates produced a final Consensus document – a written collection of the points that every single delegate believed. It represented the common vision that all delegates had for peace in the Straits.

            Before moving on into the contents of the Consensus document, the delegates chose 3 individuals among themselves to deliver their reflections on the past week. Michelle Jackson, representing the American side, thought that her role in the discussion accurately mirrored what the US played in the Cross-Strait conflict. She approached the issue not from an emotional standpoint but rather an academic one, and this was vital in the mediator role she often found herself playing. Sheryl Song, of the PRC, emphasized the strong emotional bonds she forged with the Taiwanese delegates over the course of the week, remarking that it was the lack of communication between the two sides that has led to the enduring nature of the conflict. Angel Tang, a delegate from the Taiwanese team, was grateful for the chance to engage in debate about an issue that is often hard to approach back home. What touched her most was the collective passion that each and every single delegate had, and their unwavering commitment to peace in the region.

         The Consensus document itself was next introduced by Justin Lee, an American delegate from Brown. During ICR, delegates were encouraged to come up with creative solutions and this was agreed upon by every individual. This year’s consensus consisted of 4 separate but equally important components: politics and governance, security, cross-strait global context, culture and identity. It is the hope of the delegates that this Consensus document can eventually reach think tanks, NGOs and policy-making circles within governments involved in the Strait issue.

Under the header of Politics and Governance, the delegates acknowledged the rise of Taiwanese consciousness as an inevitable and burgeoning force. As China seeks to consolidate its internal stability, there has been a concern that rising autonomy for Taiwan would compromise that stability. The delegates agreed that it is mutually beneficial for Taiwan and China to reframe cross-strait relations and make a distinction between Taiwan and other internal separatist movements. Political reforms, the watch word within China currently, needs to be handles at a manageable pace, and delegates all agreed that the Taiwanese government should support the ongoing democratization in China. The development of civil society within China should also take a leaf out of Taiwan’s book.

            Without security, there can be no economic prosperity to speak of, and the delegates agreed to expand the concept of security to include environmental security and personal security. Collaboration in disaster reliefs on both sides can be a platform from which further cooperation can be based on, and will be beneficial for fostering mutual trust. There should also be a confidence-building military summit that is aimed towards protecting the security of the region, as opposed to the antagonistic posturing that has characterized cross-strait relations in the past.

 

            This year is the first that the global context has been incorporated into a consensus document, and delegates proposed that Taiwan and China should take advantage of pre-existing mediums such as sports conferences and professional conferences to foster trust. In order to gain greater access to international bodies and political status, Taiwan should be involved in international organizations as an observer and this should be done in collaboration with China to prevent conflicts of interest.

            Last but not least, the delegates agreed that cultural exchange was essential for fostering better relations. Through arts, media, sports, education and cultural tourism, people from both sides of the Straits can get a better understanding of the other side, thereby enhancing mutual understanding and strengthening emotional bonds.

 

            During the Question and Answer segment of the presentation, a question was posed that asked about the role of the US in the region. The US delegates replied that one of the challenges of US role today is necessarily shaped by its role in the past where it has supported Taiwan almost unconditionally. The delegates believed that the US should play a diminishing role in the region, supporting both sides in so far as the common goal is one of peace and stability. Another question was posed about the areas of disagreements, the delegates all expressed that these grey areas was indeed a huge obstacle during the past week. To illustrate the point, delegates talked about how they have not agreed upon a definition of sovereignty, and therefore refrained from using that word in their document.

            The founder of Strait Talk, Johnny Lin, was back at Brown to witness the 6th iteration of the symposium he started as an undergraduate. He chimed in to emphasize that even though some of the suggestions put forth by the delegates may seem radical right now, they are by no means impossible. To illustrate this, he pointed out that while cross-strait flights were dismissed as a radical idea back in the 2006th Symposium when it was conceived by delegates, it has subsequently become a reality and has since become a milestone in the improved relations between Taiwan and China.           

            Having concluded their presentation, the delegates looked physically spent from a week of intense discussion but their eyes were bright with the hope for peace in the future. They will be off to Asia Society in New York to deliver their Consensus document before heading back to their respective schools. This concludes the Strait Talk Symposium 2010 and we hope you have had as much fun following our updates as we have delivering it to you. Thank you, and Hurrah for world peace!