SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
CHEN Tzu-Ching “At the finishing party of the 6th Asia Future Conference”
“See you next year at Taipei, Taiwan!”
My words above were addressed at the closing party of the 5th Asia Future Conference (AFC) in Philippines in January 2020 together with ex-President Shui Shing-chin、Chinese Culture University and Taiwan Raccoon (Atsumi scholarship students).
Do they remember the what volcanic eruption next day of Conference? Runway of the airport was closed by volcanic ash, and we had to wait long time at airport. They had to change their return flight in confusion.
We started our preparation for the 6th AFC after coming back from Japan. However, we have started our preparation since long time ago actually. It was the time when we visited volcano. Professor Shui advised us “Let’s have a liaison conference for preparation” at observation deck just before eruption.
One month later, we had a meeting in Taiwan. Ms. Imanishi and Mr. Tsunoda from Japan and three AFC members from Thailand joined.
We had tight schedule from morning to night for inspection of accommodations and trying Taiwanese sampling foods. Many opinions flied out how to make Taiwanese charm points known to people.
Taipei one-o-one (101) Building is famous as a landmark. Do you know the Grand Hotel in Taipei? It is 14-story Chinese Palace style hotel having red pillars and golden roof tiles and it is the first five-star hotel in Taiwan. We found banquet hall where people can enjoy prestigious feeling. We saw 11 meters high ceiling where coiling dragon throwing up beads in the sky. Each member thought if we would have our closing party there, we could have glorious atmosphere. And we decided to reserve this hall.
At that time, we did not imagine Covid would become so influential in the world. In Taiwan, we were on the alert and masks were rationed. I remember clearly that Imanishi-San asked me “Can I give you masks?” when she came back to Japan at the airport. And I replied, “No thank you, please keep it for yourself”. I did not imagine supply of mask became so insufficient.
On March 19, 2020, just after Imanishi-San and others went back to Japan, Taiwan closed borders and Covid spread throughout the world.
Amid a circumstance which we could not see a convergence of Covid, preparation committee members discussed many times whether we can have face-to-face conference. It is the best part of the Asia Future Conference to have opportunity to be able to have academic exchange through face-to-face discussions with scholars from various countries. However, we decided to postpone the 6th AFC which was scheduled to be held in Taiwan in August 2021 thinking “We can see some hope if we will postpone one year.” And we decided to have online “Pre-conference” on August 26, 2021, as a propaganda instead.
We could finish “Pre-conference” successfully aiming for actual conference. However, Covid took an unexpected turn having mutated to “delta” and “omicron” from “beta” and we could not decide style of conference, ‘online’ or ‘hybrid’ or ‘face-to-face’. As the preparation committee, we thought communication through face-to-face style, which is the best part of the AFC, is important. However, we decided ‘hybrid’ style finally because there were immigration restrictions. It was the first challenge for the AFC.
We had hectic atmosphere till few days before the conference and had to take temporary measures. The number of infected persons among panelists and interpreters increased one after another. At five minutes before the midnight of August 25, we got a sudden request from secretariat that information in English, which would be released on the 26th, should be interpreted into Chinese. We had a tense moment whether “we are in the time or not in the time” in the unit of second. We realized now that we can start our conference with various network and team members were mobilized.
On August 27, the conference started at Chinese Culture University which locates in a mountain of norther part of Taipei. Although there were various restrictions against Covid in Taiwan like ‘keep a distance’ ‘wearing masks’ etc. We got a lot of people at conference hall.
At the symposium, professors who are active in various fields, starting from an Epidemiologist Doctor Chen Chien-jean Ex-Vice President of the Republic of China, told us variously about COVID-19 as a keynote speech. According to one of the panelists, Doctor Huang Sheng-Jean (ex-Director of TAIPEI City Hospital), keynote and other speeches were perfect for our objectives of the Conference “Our issues shall be solved by ourselves”. We agreed fully. Thanks to proactive corporation from every member of Chinese Culture University, staff members from Japan and Thailand and preparation committee members, we could carry out keynote speech, symposium, round table talks and breakout sessions for three days smoothly.
We cannot forget corporation from a lot of people behind. I thank them from bottom of my heart.
I spent those three days nervously having so many roles as a member of preparation committee, commentator, moderator, presenter or co-presenter using Japanese, Chinese and English (I am not used to). It gave me a lot of motivation that my new research theme was evaluated as “Best Presentation”. I acknowledged that the Conference could establish fields that we can share results of new research or challenge and established also other fields that scholars from different fields or countries discussed from different viewpoints. I am so glad that I could participate the Conference.
The 6th AFC ended safely. I feel sorry for the fact that we could not manage face-to-face conference. However, I think era of hybrid style conference would become normal.
The conference from the 1st to 6th, we had no-Covid era, Covid-era, post-Covid era and with-Corona era. What kind of era will it be next? The 7th conference will be held in Bangkok where we had the 1st conference. I am looking forward what kind of subject would be talked.
Then, I like to pass the baton to Bangkok from Taipei.
See you in Bangkok in August 2024.
CHEN Tzu-Ching / SGRA member, Professor Ochanomizu University (Cultural Sciences)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala