How to measure cross-strait peace

By Tung Chen-yuan 童振源  / 

Sat, Jun 12, 2010 - Page 8

The state and direction of peaceful relations between Taiwan and China is a matter of global concern, so it would be helpful if we could develop a set of indices to empirically measure the situation and help compile an overall cross-strait peace index.

Such an index might be used to encourage progress in cross-strait relations and provide a much-needed warning in the event that either side does something to provoke conflict.

The degree of cross-strait peace is measured by objective factors such as military conflict, preparations for conflict and the will to resolve disputes through peaceful or non-belligerent means. In general, the absence of cross-strait military conflict can be called peace, though even with the absence of such conflict, it remains an open question as to whether the situation is stable and sustainable or could easily descend into military conflict.

As such, a peace index needs to do more than just demonstrate an absence of military conflict — it must also measure the stability and sustainability of peace.

Since it is hard to directly observe whether the two governments are willing to resolve disputes through peaceful means, stability and sustainability can be assessed according to three factors — the existence of institutional mechanisms to safeguard peace, regular interaction between the two governments and the extent of goodwill or animosity between ordinary people in Taiwan and China.

To achieve full marks, cross-strait peace must simultaneously meet four criteria — the absence of open military conflict, the existence of institutional mechanisms to safeguard peace, regular interaction between the two governments, the absence of animosity and the existence of considerable goodwill between the two populations.

However, these factors are covariant with multiple interlocking causes and effects, so the cross-strait peace index also needs to incorporate composite weighting.

For example, continued cross-strait consultations should be able to change the degree of animosity between people on the two sides. Talks can help improve interactions between the two governments and hasten the establishment of institutional mechanisms to safeguard peace in the Taiwan Strait.

Below, the content and scoring methodology applied to the four criteria and the composite weighting score is explained.

With regards to military conflict, failure to renounce the use of armed force to resolve cross-strait problems results in a score of minus 25 points. If any of the following occur, the score will be as follows: targeted military deployments, minus 25 points; war games, minus 10; military mobilizations, minus 15, and for military conflict, minus 25.

Looking at institutional mechanisms to safeguard peace, the scores are as follows: If the two sides sign a comprehensive economic agreement, 15 points; a diplomatic agreement of understanding, 20 points; establishing a cross-strait mechanism to build mutual trust in military affairs, 30 points and for a peace agreement, 35 points.

As to mechanisms for regular interaction between the two governments, the following scores are given: If there are no verbal attacks on leaders of the other side, 5 points; not accusing one side of altering the status quo or undermining peace, 5 points; sustained cross-strait consultations, 15 points; talks between vice ministers on either side, 10 points; talks between officials of ministerial or higher rank, 15 points; exchange of permanent representative offices, 25 points; and high-level talks between the two sides, 25 points.

Regarding the index of goodwill between ordinary people on either side of the Taiwan strait: If the Chinese government shows goodwill toward people in Taiwan, the score is 25 points; If it displays animosity toward Taiwanese, minus 25 points; If Taiwan’s government shows goodwill toward people in China 25 points and animosity, minus 25 points.

Composite weighting is applied as follows: Mechanisms to safeguard peace (A) carry a 65 percent weighting, mechanisms for official interaction (B) 40 percent and cross-strait public goodwill (C) 35 percent. Next, the overlapping effect is set at 35 percent for A and B, 20 percent for B and C and 10 percent for A and C. If open military conflict breaks out, the peace index will be 0. If the scores add up to more than 100, then the index will be capped at 100.

We can now consider the current state of cross-strait relations. China has not renounced the use of armed force against Taiwan, so the score for that is minus 25. China does have military deployments targeted at Taiwan for a further minus 25. There is no institutional mechanism to safeguard peace in the Taiwan Strait, so the score for that is 0.

Both governments have refrained from making personal attacks on leaders of the other side so that is worth 5 points. A further 5 points are added because neither side is currently accusing the other of changing the status quo or undermining peace. The two sides are also currently engaged in sustained consultations, scoring 15 points.

Cross-strait public goodwill is estimated at 35 points. Taking all these factors into account, we conclude that the current cross-strait peace index is 64.1 points.

Tung Chen-yuan is a professor in the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at National Chengchi University.

TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG