COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Higher education officials in South Carolina signed a historic agreement with Taiwan, the Republic of China, earlier this week.

According to the state Commission on Higher Education, the memorandum of understanding will expand the educational ties between South Carolina and Taiwan.

The MOU was signed between CHE President and Executive Director Dr. Rusty Monhollon and Elliot Wang, the Director-General of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China.

“This will provide a formal basis for collaboration and cooperation for educational initiatives, and increase opportunities for both American and Taiwanese students,” Dr. Monhollon said during the signing event. “I think there are opportunities to learn more about one another, to expand bilingualism in both South Carolina and Taiwan, and build a strengthened relationship.”

South Carolina is one of a handful of states to sign this type of agreement with Taiwan so far. Director-General Wang noted that several other states in the region who signed MOUs earlier this year are already moving forward to develop initiatives. According to officials, these include the first Taiwan center for Mandarin study, two Mandarin language projects for adult learners and several university-to-university projects between American schools and counterparts in Taiwan.

During an interview, Wang said he envisions something similar in South Carolina. “We’d really like to see more English teachers from here teach English in Taiwan because Taiwan would like to become bilingual by 2030. And vice-versa we hope to send more Mandarin teachers to teach Chinese in the US states in the future.”

This agreement follows a larger effort for cooperation between the United States and Taiwan. An education initiative established in 2020, with support from the U.S. Department of Education, expanded opportunities for American students to learn Mandarin from Taiwanese teachers and increased opportunities for American teachers to help Taiwan reach its goal of becoming a bilingual society by 2030.

Officials say South Carolina and Taiwan have maintained a sister-state agreement since the 1980s.

Monhollon and Wang say both also have strong economic ties. Taiwan is purchasing military and civilian aircraft manufactured in South Carolina, and the country is also the leading producer of semiconductors used in the global microchip supply chain.

Wang said, “We would really like to see the South Carolina government provide more incentives for Taiwanese advanced chip companies to invest in South Carolina.”

During the past legislative session, both the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate passed resolutions in support of Taiwan.

The resolutions encouraged closer ties between it and South Carolina, including encouragement of “further business, educational, cultural and people-to-people exchanges” in S. 700.