County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) again is scrutinizing Loudoun’s sister city partnerships—with an eye toward culling those that exist in name only.
In 2016, after Randall voiced concerns that the county’s sister city partnerships were ceremonial or being neglected, the board adopted criteria for designating the them as active or inactive, based on visits of elected officials, student and cultural exchanges; collaboration on economic development; and staff exchanges. Five of the six sister cities were designated active.
The county designated its relationship with the sixth, Karsiyaka Municipality in Turkey, as inactive.
Loudoun uses its sister city partnerships as an avenue for cultural exchange and economic development.
One of Loudoun’s five active partners—Gangneung City in South Korea—will be hosting many of the indoor events in the 2018 Winter Olympics. During an annual review of the county’s sister city agreements in the board’s finance committee Nov. 14, Randall said Loudoun should take advantage of the hotel room and tickets that Gangneung City plans to make available and send a delegation.
But another partner, New Taipei in Taiwan, could be on the chopping block.
“I actually don’t believe that one of our sister cities that we have right now, just by having one visit to us in many, many years, continues to meet the criteria,” Randall said.
According to county administration and economic development staff, the Department of Economic Development’s international business development manager, Robert McCollar, visited New Taipei in 2016 for the SelectUSA roadshow, which was intended to bring representatives to the U.S. in touch with Taiwan’s technology industry. In March, Randall hosted New Taipei Deputy Mayor Shu-chuan Lee at the Loudoun County Government Center to discuss strengthening the partnership.
“Simply having a delegation from another country visit us once every few years is, in my mind, not enough to keep the sister city in place,” Randall said.
“We have had an up-and-down relationship over the years with New Taipei, and that has a lot to do with their internal politics and their priorities,” said Department of Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer. He agreed it is the least active of Loudoun’s sister city partnerships.
“There frankly were some political calculations, I think, on their part really at the time,” said finance committee Chairman Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “They were seeking out a number of these relationships in light of the whole Sino-Taiwanese relationship.”
Taiwan is claimed by the People’s Republic of China, but maintains that it is a sovereign country and functions as one. The Republic of China fled the Chinese mainland in 1949 during the Chinese Civil War. Taiwan technically maintains that it is the legitimate government of China.
The United States maintains unofficial relationships with Taiwan and an ambiguous stance on its statehood.
Besides New Taipei and Gangneung City, Loudoun’s other sister cities include the county of Main-Taunus-Kreis in Germany; Goyang City in South Korea; and Shunyi District of Beijing, China. Aside from Main-Taunaus-Kreis, all of Loudoun’s sister cities are in east Asia.
Randall and Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) also said it could be time to look for sister cities elsewhere.
“We could be talking about Australia, we could be talking about South America, we could be talking about Africa,” Randall said. She also brought up India.
Rizer said he prefers to focus on doing a few sister city partnerships very well.
“I think that one of our challenges is, with our limited resources and really one asset in our office to do international business development, I would rather spend a lot of time doing a few things, than a little time doing a lot of things,” Rizer said.