Sister cities are an essential link in U.S.-Taiwan relations. They promote cultural understanding, people-to-people contact, and commercial exchange between the U.S. and Taiwanese people, and in doing so deepen and enrich the bilateral relationship. Sister city arrangements between communities in the U.S. and Taiwan date back to the middle of the 20th century, and new sister city pairs have been regularly added ever since.
One of the earliest sister city relationships was established between the cities of Taipei and Houston on June 15, 1961. In the spirit of friendship, Taipei presented Houston with a special Chinese Pavilion as a bicentennial year gift in 1976. Then Taipei Mayor Lee Teng-Hui dedicated the Pavilion, which still stands in Houston’s Hermann Park. Today the Houston-Taipei Society continues to nurture the sister city friendship. Since 1961 Taipei has expanded its sister city roster to over 45 communities around the world, including 12 different cities in the U.S.
Another long-enduring U.S.-Taiwan sister city relationship embraces Kaohsiung and Honolulu. In fact, any visitor walking into Honolulu’s Chinatown will have to pass two marble Chinese lions guarding the entranceway, which were presented as a gift to the city by Kaohsiung to commemorate the arrival of Chinese settlers in Hawaii 200 years previously. The American people have generously reciprocated: in 2011 the American Institute in Taiwan sponsored the Kaohsiung International Container Arts Festival and sponsored teams of artists from four of Kaohsiung’s sister cities, including Honolulu, to create art representing their cities of residence.
Sister cities are also increasingly complementing work in cultural and educational exchange by promoting mutual economic prosperity. One exciting new area of cooperation is the field of transportation. In October 2011 the Taoyuan Mass Rapid Transit System and the Dallas (sister city) Area Rapid Transit signed a cooperative memorandum to promote the sharing of operational experiences, and the next month the Taoyuan International Airport and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport signed an alliance agreement to facilitate promotion of direct passenger service and share information and best practices.