Strait Talk Symposium Kicks Off at Berkeley

By Adam Collardey

Clayton Dube, Executive Director of the US–China Institute at the University of Southern California, delivered a lecture titled "Taiwan Elections: Process, Outcomes, and Implications" at Fromm Hall on the main campus of the University of San Francisco last Thursday evening.

The lecture coincided with the first day of the 4th annual Strait Talk Berkeley– San Francisco interactive conflict resolution symposium, a student-centered program that brings together students from China, Taiwan, and the United States. The participants undergo an intense week of activities designed to influence their perspectives and create new approaches to conflict resolution for the cross-Strait relationship. The student participants will present their final consensus document this Wednesday, April 11th at UC Berkeley.

The recent presidential campaigns in Taiwan saw a victorious KMT party win for incumbent president Ma Ying-jeou, while the gap narrowed between the Blue and Green alliances, including the northern county of Yilan voting in favor of the DPP’s presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen.

Key issues for this year’s election included economic performance and prospects, cross-Strait ties, and the integrity and fairness surrounding issues such as judicial independence, corruption, campaign fairness, and outside influences.

While the DPP lost the presidential election, they gained seats in the legislature. The DPP's presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, was Taiwan's first female presidential candidate. The DPP used the novelty of small piggy banks to rally supporters behind campaign fundraising, while all parties showed unprecedented use of new media, including iPhone apps, commercials, and consumer products, not to mention the usual lively campaign rallies.

The majority of people in Taiwan have an interest in preserving the status quo of the cross-Strait relationship. Taiwan’s National Zhengzhi University conducted a study in September 2011 that showed 34% of the Taiwanese polled would like to see a decision made at a later date, while 26% would like the status quo to continue indefinitely. 17% would like Taiwan independence at a later point in time, and 11% would like to see unification with China at a later point in time. Only 6% of the Taiwanese people wanted independence now, and merely 1% wanted unification now. Even in the international arena, the United States has pursued a strategy of ambiguity surrounding cross-Strait issues, in order to avoid upsetting any of the involved parties.

After Clayton Dube’s presentation, Thomas B. Gold, Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley, commented on the Strait Talk program and the optimism he gains from watching programs like it grow. In regards to the election in Taiwan, Professor Gold noted that "leaders everywhere are glad at the outcome of the election" and that it was "one less thing to worry about" in the current “Whack-A-Mole game” of pressing issues for the international arena.