On February 16, 2021, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Asia Pacific Center announced that Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) had donated $2 million through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles (TECO-LA) to support two of its academic programs. The Asia Pacific Center, housed within UCLA’s International Institute, promotes and engages in research related to inter-Asian and transpacific cultural and social connections, including in Taiwan –– primarily through public programs, conferences and lecture series, scholar exchanges, and fellowships and travel grants for UCLA faculty and students.
MOFA initially signed an “Agreement on Cooperation” with UCLA on November 17, 2020. In the February announcement, the Center clarified that $800,000 will fund a new program, “Taiwan in the World,” while $1.2 million will go toward establishing a “Taiwan Studies Endowment Fund” to help permanently support the “Taiwan Studies Lectureship” program (TSL).
UCLA is no stranger to gifts and outreach from TECO-LA, one of Taiwan’s many de-facto consulates. In fact, this donation falls in line with a long history of exchange between UCLA and the small island nearly 7,000 miles away. Taiwan is consistently among the places of origin of international students to UCLA, which offers over 350 courses on Taiwan and China and features nearly 60 China studies faculty –– many of whom have expertise in Taiwan specifically.
The Taiwanese Ministry of Education provided the initial funding for the launch of TSL in 2014 and renewed this funding in 2017. In 2018 and 2019, the J. Yang and Family Foundation, headed by Taiwanese-American immigrant Jackson Yang, donated $2 million to support TSL and fund scholarships for students from Taiwanese high schools and universities. Through TSL, UCLA has maintained deep relationships with National Taiwan Normal University, National Chengchi University, and National Taiwan University. UCLA’s Richard C. Rudolph East Asian Studies Library has also been designated a “Taiwan Resource Center for Chinese Studies” by the Taiwan National Central Library.
The Taiwanese government has continued to deepen educational and cultural ties elsewhere in California, with tangible benefits for the state economy. Over the past decade, the Taiwanese government and various Taiwanese educational institutions have signed a number of memoranda of understanding (MOU) with Californian universities, including Stanford University and UC Irvine, to cooperate on research activities and talent exchange. With Taiwanese students in California contributing more than $199 million per year to the state economy, many more local universities will likely seek to deepen these ties.
Angus Lam is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He recently graduated with High Honors from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where he majored in Political Science and Sociology.