“To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch a fish”
The 2012 Strait Talk Symposium ended with a final presentation intended to both summarize the intensive dialog the fifteen delegates were engaged in over the past week, but also to engage the greater community with Taiwan-China issues.
Founded in 2005 at Brown University, Strait Talk was founded on the principle that communication between peers is a powerful tool to create change on a global scale. Every year fifteen delegates from China, Taiwan, and the United States gather at Brown to create a space for peaceful dialog. After a long week of intensive conflict resolution dialogue with our facilator, Dr. Tatsushi Arai, expert panels on topics such as cybersecurity, politics, and economics, and a significant amount of time forming personal relationships, the fifteen delegates presented a summary of their consensus document. The consensus document is a collective work agreed upon in totality by every one of the delegates and outlines the actionable steps necessary towards creating a sustainable peace between Taiwan and China.
The final presentation began with a rare insider look at the difficulties behind peace building efforts and a feeling of the fundamental differences between the freedoms enjoyed by some and the restrictions placed on others. A simple vote decided that the final presentation would not be videotaped for future reference so as to protect PRC delegates from any potential backlash.
From there, the delegates quickly leapt into a look at the importance of grassroots initiatives in building peace. Of primary importance was getting to know each other’s need and forming a mutual understanding. Being cognizant of the greater community led to being able to understand the bigger picture. From this perspective, the delegates focused on three main topics: governance and identity, international relations and economics, and security.
The delegates found the topics of governance and identity to be inseparable. They then proposed to tackle multiculturalism to evolve a more flexible civil society including different political systems, cultures, and groups. They then turned to Intergovernmental collaborations to foster exchange of officials of both sides and promote the exchange of students. And finally they proposed changes to cross-strait education by encouraging teacher/student exchange, joint publications, and histories.
The delegates then highlighted their section on security by looking at the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, but also the 16th anniversary of the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait Crisis, two events where nations went to the brink of war and destruction. An important bifurcation was made between political and military security with the PRC worrying about Taiwanese independence with the ROC worrying about military security across the strait. In the short term they proposed Intergovernmental cooperation on non-traditional security threats and official demilitarized zone. In the midterm strategic resource development was mentioned and in the long term an exchange mechanism and joint military exercises were suggested.
The last topical section began with the 2003 outbreak of SARS when Taiwan was not a member of the WHO, which hampered efforts at countering the outbreak. The delegates then proposed, under the premises of the 1992 consensus, Taiwan’s participation in functional organizations dealing with health and hygiene. A mutually beneficial economic arrangement would also enable both sides to practice most favored economic status whereby arrangements given to one side by a third party will be accepted, in principle, by the other.
Finally, several of the delegates gave personal stories leading up to and around the idea of the peace project. Strait Talk requires each of its attending delegates to commit to a plan to inspire and promote strait peace back home. In particular, one of the delegates mentioned coordinating medical and relief efforts with personnel from both Taiwan and China. While the delegates usually did not mention the steps necessary to achieving some of their recommendations, from the peace projects it appeared as though they were aware that peace building begins with small tangible steps.
This concludes the Strait Symposium 2012 at Brown University, now in its 8th iteration. We all should commend this year’s delegates on their hard work and look forward to their contributions, large and small, towards a lasting cross-strait peace.