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Chinese Americans making political inroads

Updated: 2016-07-21 10:26
By WANG LINYAN in Cleveland (chinadaily.com.cn)

Yan Xiaozhe, a Chinese American from Iowa, strolled along Cleveland Public Square on Tuesday afternoon, while nearby, protesters chanted slogans and bicycle-patrol police stood on alert amid crowds of onlookers.

Yan was not just any tourist in Cleveland. A Chinese community leader, he was "a guest of the Republic National Convention".

"I was invited as an independent, so I have come here to learn and to observe, to see what I can decide in the next few months before Nov 8," said Yan, who immigrated to the US from northeastern China's Jilin province 25 years ago at the age of 29.

This was Yan's first time to an RNC and he said he was pretty impressed. "I think America is at a crossroads between Hillary and Trump," he said. "It's very controversial. Maybe it's the most contentious presidential election in 20-30 years — a lot of drama, a lot of big changes."

Yan, who is founder of the President Youth Leadership Initiative, is one of 20 people from Chinese communities across the US — mostly California, New York and Florida — to attend the four-day RNC as guests. Their presence partly shows the attention the GOP has pinned on the Chinese community, as well as the growing participation of Chinese Americans in the mainstream American political process.

"I think it's very important to get involved, to have your community's voice heard by the mainstream," said Yan, who added that he is undecided between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

That sense of involvement was also apparent with David Tian Wang, a 32-year-old from Los Angeles who co-organized an RNC Asian Pacific American National Forum at the Hard Rock Café in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Tian Wang, a supporter of Trump, started an organization called Chinese Americans for Trump, which has grown from three people in June 2015 to a nationwide organization with more than 6,000 registered members today.

"We help him canvas, write policy focused on education reform and raise funds," Wang said.

Wang said he's happy that Chinese Americans are increasingly getting politically involved and "spearheading" Asian Americans' way into mainstream America.

"It's because we are angry with what is going on in the US," he said. "There are killings every week, and there's discrimination happening everywhere. There was the Peter Liang case, which I started a protest for on Feb 28. There was the Jimmy Kimmel-ABC ‘kill all Chinese' case. I also started that protest."

Elaine Chao, the former secretary of labor who spoke at the Hard Rock forum on Wednesday, acknowledged the importance of Asian Americans' participation in the governance process of the US.

Chao said when she first came to America, there were so few Asian Americans involved in anything outside of science, engineering and being professors. "Now we see so many Asian Americans in so many different occupations," Chao said in an interview with China Daily.

"So as Asian Americans become more assimilated, become more comfortable with the language, become more secure financially, they are going to participate increasingly in mainstream America. And that is a great thing," she added.

Marina Tse, former deputy assistant secretary of education under George W Bush, said she sees more Chinese-American faces at the RNC and also a lot of Chinese Americans coming from all the states having discussions and panel meetings.

"It's so great that they have an interest in participating in our political process now. That's what we haven't seen before," Tse told China Daily. "I have been here since 1971, and have seen an increasing Chinese-American population in mainstream politics. I have seen the difference.

"There's a tendency that when you speak up and people listen, it becomes a reality," said Tse, whose motion to put Chinese history on the syllabus of 10th-grade world history was adopted when she was on the California state board of education.

"The more participants, the more issues we address, the more changes we are going to have," Tse said. "So I can see that (Chinese Americans) are becoming more influential, and also more important. They are playing a role in our society."

US public officials outside the Chinese community are also positive about this development.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is glad to see that the Chinese community is growing more influential in politics on both sides of the aisle.

Reyes, who also spoke at the forum, said in an interview that the Chinese-American community had obviously been "overrepresented" in areas like academia and business, but "underrepresented" in politics.

"So I encourage them to continue to try to be educated and involved in politics," Reyes said.

Nancy Kong contributed to this story.

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