Tourism as an Agent of Peace and Reconciliation in Cross-Strait Relations

Tourism as an Agent of Peace and Reconciliation in Cross-Strait Relations

Jorge Tavares da Silva (University of Aveiro, Portugal) and Zélia Breda (University of Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5053-3.ch008
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There is a non-violent conflict over Taiwan's sovereignty, between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC). For PRC, this division cannot persist forever and does not exclude a possible military solution. While political divisions remain, the population on both sides of the strait interact, existing sociocultural and economic dynamics. These are usually interpreted as people-to-people dynamics, in which individuals act as peace agents or citizen diplomats. Tourism is a good example of this phenomenon, considering the increasing visitor flows between both sides. This dynamism sometimes pressures the political power to transform the conflict, but also acts as a throwing weapon in times of hostility. After 2016, the political landscape in Taiwan changed, and tourism became one of the sectors involved in political tensions. This chapter explores several dimensions of tourism in this conflict, particularly its role in peace and reconciliation between Mainland China and Taiwan, but also its vulnerabilities regarding high-level bilateral relations.
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Tourism emerged as a product of modernisations and has become one of the most popular industries in the contemporary world, providing opportunities for rapid economic development (Garg, 2012). Multiple sectors benefit from tourist flows, including transportation, hotels, and cultural activities. National finances stabilise the accounts by collecting revenues, and are even a factor of resistance to unstable financial crises. About 1.4 billion people travelled the world in 2019, having increased by 6% in relation to the previous year (UNWTO, 2019). All this dynamism works as a factor of socialisation and a potential changer of conflicts, as defended by many scholars (Becken & Carmignani, 2016; D´Amore, 1988; Farmaki, 2017; Litvin, 1998; Wohlmuther & Wintersteiner, 2014). This can play a positive role in the reconciliation of countries in the aftermath of armed conflicts, and in cases when people are subjected to political barriers or even in contexts of not recognised governments or nations (Butler & Mao, 1996). Tourists could be a new kind of diplomats, may work as agents of peace, opening bridges and helping to reconcile peoples. Kim and Crompton (1990, pp. 353-366) considered that “tourism is a vehicle for implementing people-to-people diplomacy” and can significantly contribute to more integrated political processes, as they demonstrate with the case of the Korea conflict. This kind of interactions are considered as track two diplomacy, because they happen outside, but eventually link up, the formal government sphere (Davison & Montville, 1982). These new citizen diplomats have the potential to influence decision-makers as a pressure group, and facilitate discussion at the grassroots level (Azar, 2003). These initiatives are at the level of citizenship, both individual and collective, assenting in the maxim “peace is not made between leaders, but between peoples” (Garrison & Philips, 1989, p. xiii; Silva, 2012a, p. 118). Travel and flows of people can affect the thinking and action of government diplomacy by addressing root causes, beliefs and needs, thereby laying the base for formal negotiation processes or reframing policies. Comprised in a large group of informal diplomatic initiatives – including government contributions –, tourism belongs to a general system approach to peace named multi-track diplomacy in a kind of “pyramid of peace” (Diamond & McDonald, 1996; Lederach, 1999; Silva, 2012a). It goes beyond track two diplomacy, joining a formal and informal set of diplomatic dynamics, a systemic gear difficult to divide into parts.

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