TAIPEI (The China Post) — A twin city project between Oxford and a Taiwanese city could not only help strengthen bilateral relations but also bring academic communities closer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an Oxford city councilor told The China Post on Wednesday.
Speaking in a Zoom interview, Dr. Stephen Goddard, who is also a lecturer at Oxford University, said he explored such an agreement because “Oxford and Taiwan, as it is today, have a number of shared values.”
As a city councilor in Oxford, he added that Oxford is “a city of diversity, tolerance, of a great democratic tradition and Taiwan is a very clear example of values along exactly those lines in East Asia.”
“I think we have a great deal to teach and to learn from one another and I think that Taiwan as such, or a city, or a location in Taiwan would be a highly appropriate link with Oxford and I think that we would learn a very great deal,” he continued.
The Oxford City Council overwhelmingly passed a motion aimed at establishing a sister city, or twinning, agreement with a Taiwanese city on Monday. The motion, proposed by Dr. Goddard, was passed by a 42-1 vote, with two abstentions.
The motion also specifically asked for the leader of the council to write to the Taiwan Representative Office in the United Kingdom to formally request their assistance in arranging a link.
This initiative has thus drawn the interest of various cities around Taiwan. Hsinchu, Taichung and Tainan have already expressed their interest, but Dr. Goddard also unveiled that a gentleman contacted him as well to suggest the Tamsui District, New Taipei.
The motion has drawn the attention of universities across Taiwan too.
Chinese-language media reported early Wednesday that since Oxford was seeking a relationship with Taiwanese cities, Taiwanese universities, such as the National Tsing Hua University, have been trying to seek a sister university status with the University of Oxford.
In response, Dr. Goddard said that “I would be very surprised indeed if Oxford University were not interested in establishing links with Taiwan or strengthening its links with Taiwan.”
In the situation which globally we find ourselves in, he explained that “you will probably see in the news that Oxford University is right at the forefront of the fight against COVID and efforts to establish a vaccine.”
“Given that Taiwan, of course, as I mentioned in my speech on Monday, has been highly successful in combatting the pandemic, I think that is already something which the two countries, but also the two academic communities could very usefully exchange information and expertise on,” he continued.
Although the agreement would clearly be beneficial to both cities, one of the major concerns regarding the motion was whether the government of the United Kingdom, under the eventual pressure of the People’s Republic of China, would disapprove of such a relationship.
To this, Dr. Goddard said: “although no UK cities have twinning links yet with Taiwan, literally dozens of cities around the world do. So for example, I believe I am right in saying that there is a twinning link between Boston, Massachusetts, in the U.S., and, I think I am right in saying Taipei.”
He added: Now clearly the difficulties that you just outlined must have been negotiated when that link was set up and when links between other cities in the U.S.”
Finally, Dr. Goddard said “he should love to” visit Taiwan and would “be quite pleased” if he had the opportunity to visit in the course of this proposal. “But even if I don’t, it is, how to put it, high on my list of places that I should like to visit, along with many other places in the world. But I should love to!” Goddard remarked.
— Dimitri Bruyas contributed to this report and interview