This project proposes a crowd-sourced foresight approach to develop a set of scenarios that addresses conflict dynamics and resolution within China-USA-Taiwan/Republic of China (ROC) cross-strait relations. The method will engage participants in generating content for a Pax Pacifica vision and story-world, in which conflict dynamics have been transcended and a win-win solution created.
There is a great need to imagine a future in which China, Taiwan/ROC, the USA, and the many other countries of the Pacific Rim, work together in deep cooperation for the common good of the region. All too often, exclusive nationalist visions and narratives of the future prevail, where one country’s victory is another’s loss. The mutual exclusivity of hyper nationalist narratives for national power and prestige, or ultra hawkish foreign policy stances, ensures a future of conflict for the region. The vision for a Pacific Peace, a “Pax Pacifica”, is needed to provide new strategic pathways and leadership for the region.
Taiwan/ROC sits at the crossroads of both Chinese aspirations and the US’ powerful legacy. Taiwan/ROC is economically embedded into the Sino-global economic system, while likewise Taiwan/ROC remains in a legacy (Cold War) alliance with the USA. One might go so far to argue that Taiwan is at the nexus of US-China relations. Therefore, forging new win-win pathways for peace and cooperation in the context of cross-strait relations can provide new pathways for peace for the whole region.
Increasingly, nationalist, International Relations and ‘realist’ framings of social relations are limiting (Hoffman, 2012). We live in a global network society where peer-to-peer collaboration works transnationally. We experience social and ecological challenges (e.g. interstate crime and climate change) that require regional and global governance cooperation. New strategic visions need to be created that include these new realities.
Crowd-sourced and networked foresight methods are at the cutting edge of research into social change and risk assessment (Ramos, 2012). Singapore’s RAHS program (Risk Assessment Horizon Scanning) is an internationally recognized government based foresight system for the early detection of risks and the generation of geo-politically informed strategic foresight (Habegger, 2010). Other well recognized government initiated crowd-sourced foresight approaches include: Finpro (part of the Finish Foresight Network) supporting the internationalisation of Finish companies (Hiltunen, 2011), the UK’s Sigma Scan 2.0, the European Commission’s iKnow futures project, and the US’ Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), which funds two projects, Forecasting World Events and Forecasting Ace. In addition to such government based projects, a variety of civic and commercial organizations also run crowd-sourced foresight, such as TechCast Global, The Institute for the Future’s ‘Foresight Engine’, Futurescaper and Shaping Tomorrow. The common thread for all of these projects is their use of modern web technologies and network strategies to support government and society in anticipating change.
This project would draw from available commercial, civic and governmental resources to create a multi-media platform where public and expert participation and dialog can be crowd-sourced to generate and develop the scenarios, the narrative and the ‘story-worlds’ (e.g. transmedia approach) for the Pax Pacifica project. While residents of Taiwan/ROC would be the primary focus of participation, the project would be open to people from other countries.
Crowd-sourced foresight may also entail localized activities (workshops / events) that provide live engagement opportunities in the context of the on-line story-world, the experience and data of which will then be added to the crowd-sourcing platform. Finally, on-line group engagements will complement the crowd-sourcing, allowing a platform for non-local but experientially rich interaction and data input. In order to maintain coherence and cross cultural accessibility, critical content of the multi-media material should be accessible across three key Pacific Rim languages: Chinese (Mandarin), English and Spanish (as well as others where support is available).
Interviews would be conducted with key experts (approx. 20), which will provide valuable inputs into the development of the Pax Pacifica scenarios, which will also be uploaded publically to the crowd-sourcing platforms, to provide impetus and provocation for the public to engage, comment and add content. The interviews would work across demographic segments: business, civic, government, and across ethnicities and nationalities.
Scenario development method
The approach to the development of scenarios for this project will utilize the Transcend Method (TM), a conflict transformation approach developed by renown peace scholar / worker Dr. Johan Galtung. The Transcend Method is a methodologically and theoretically rigorous approach to the analysis and diagnosis of conflict situations. It is recognized by the United Nations as a leading approach, and has been used to address and solve over 40 conflicts worldwide (Galtung, 2000). It has also been used in the development of conflict transformation scenarios (Inayatullah, 2008).
The method’s central premise is that, the more alternatives to a conflict situation, the less the likelihood of violence. Conflicts arise when parties aim to prevail in zero-sum win/lose solutions. China’s vision of a China Century with the annexation of Taiwan/ROC is one such win/lose solution leading to potential conflict. The US’ ‘pacific pivot’ and China containment strategy may be another win/lose solution potentially leading to conflict. The method argues that conflict avoidance (withdrawal) and compromise scenarios are better than outright conflict, but not sustainable in themselves. Lasting peace is forged through conflict transcendence, where dialog leads to genuine win-win solutions for all parties involved.
Potential Project Outputs and Outcomes:
The project could provide a space for participants in Taiwan/ROC, but also across nationalities, both live and online, to dialog a vision for a future in which cross-strait conflict has been transcended and a “Pax Pacifica” is imagined, articulated and forged. Other less desirable scenarios would also be identified: the nationalist win-lose conflict scenarios, as well as compromise/negotiation and withdrawal/prevarication scenarios. The participatory and networked nature of the project methodology would ensure a strong degree of social learning, in which a variety of people from academia, civil society and commerce can draw from the research outcomes, ideas and insights. The results of the dialog and the developed ‘story space’ would remain an online resource for the public to use. Public access to the audio and visual archival resources would be maintained.
Galtung, J. (2000). Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means (The Transcend Method). Geneva: United Nations.
Habegger, B. (2010). Strategic foresight in public policy: Reviewing the experiences of the UK, Singapore, and the Netherlands. Futures, 42, 49-58.
Hiltunen, E. (2011). Crowdsourcing the future: The foresight process at finpro. Journal of Futures Studies, 16(1), 189-196.
Hoffman, J. (2012). Unpacking Images of China Using Causal Layered Analysis. Journal of Futures Studies, 16(3), 1-24.
Inayatullah, S. (2008). Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming. Foresight, 10(1).
Ramos, J. M., T. Priday, G. . (2012). Foresight in a Network Era: Peer-producing Alternative Futures Journal of Futures Studies, Forthcoming.