University News

Strait Talk hosts annual symposium

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

From Oct. 30 through Nov. 4, the student group Strait Talk hosted the sixth annual Brown University Strait Talk Symposium, addressing issues related to the cross-strait conflict between mainland China and Taiwan. The symposium included a conflict resolution exercise among 15 Chinese, Taiwanese and American delegates and several public events.

Symposium Chair Alina Kung ’12 said the events were planned by a steering committee of 15 to 20 people over the course of the last two semesters. In order to participate in the symposium, delegates went through an application process that included an online application and phone interviews conducted by members of the steering committee, she said.

Kung said there was “a very rigorous applicant pool” and that she was “very happy with the delegates this year.”

The 15 delegates — five each from mainland China, Taiwan and the United States — spent 30 hours in an “interactive conflict resolution workshop,” Kung said. “They also brainstorm, discuss and finalize peace projects and articulate a concrete plan for the future” in the form of a consensus document, she said.

“It’s remarkable that we were able to come up with a consensus document given our different political ideologies and values,” said Justin Lee ’14, an American delegate at the symposium. He also said the symposium succeeded on a personal level, as he felt that “lasting friendships” had been built across delegations.

The public events included three panels in addition to a Peacebuilding Talk and Workshop, a Peace Action Roundtable discussion and a final presentation where the delegates presented their work to the Brown community, according to an announcement from the Watson Institute for International Studies.

The panels addressed topics such as the growing connections between Taiwan and mainland China in the private sector, different understandings of the status of Taiwan in relation to mainland China, and issues about colonization in the region, according to the Watson Institute. Associate Professor of History Kerry Smith moderated one and gave the opening remarks for another.

“I was really happy with the panelists this year and every single one offered an interesting perspective,” Kung said. “Instead of repeating each others’ knowledge, they were able to reinforce it.”

The delegates attended each of the public events in addition to completing their hours of conflict resolution work. “The public events were extremely important because they grounded the conflict resolution that we were doing in actual facts and public policy,” Lee said.

This past weekend, the delegates and organizers of the symposium travelled to New York City for a presentation at the Asia Society. Kung said the presentation was “very well received” and that “the guests and scholars who were there raised very interesting and important questions for the delegates.”

This symposium followed a format very similar to that of previous years. But, Kung said, “this year we’ve reached a new high in the creativity and the diversity of the sponsorship we’ve received and increased our organizational capacity.”

“I was happy with the rigor of our public events, the investment and care that the delegates put in, and the responsiveness and commitment of the steering committee members,” Kung said.

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