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#AndrewSingerChina Newsletter Vol. 1, Issue 38



I spent two days last week in the virtual and in-person company of several dozen women leaders in the China and Asian American spaces. From authors to activists to academics, from business people to media personalities to politicians, and beyond, powerful energy filled the meeting rooms.

  • Twenty-First Century Women Leaders – China and Asian American Edition

  • One More Thought (Fung Bros on YouTube)


 

Twenty-First Century Women Leaders – China and Asian American Edition



The Mellon Foundation hosted a Zoom conversation, “Chinese American History, Asian American Experiences.” On the same day (and the next), SupChina (soon to be rebranded The China Project) virtually and in person held its annual Women’s Conference and Gala, “How Women are Shaping the Rising Global Power.”


The following are snapshots of several (but by no means exhaustive) memorable thoughts, ideas, and stories that I heard at these lively and inspiring events. Notwithstanding much angst shared concerning frightening geopolitical and economic tensions and disruptions, there were so many heartfelt, proven demonstrations of action, dedication, knowledge, and impact, as well as expressions (though to be honest, in some cases, pressed) of optimism that the challenges can be surmounted.


These are women working at all levels of global and domestic companies, firms, and businesses in varied and broad fields; students, professors, and researchers in universities; government officials, and everyday people.


Wedding photograph of Wong Lan Fong and Yee Shew Ning, 1926.

US National Archives and Records Administration


Dr. Erika Lee told of how she made a startling family discovery while researching her study of Asian immigration at Angel Island off the San Francisco coast between 1910-1940. When examining a box of records in the National Archives, she came across her grandparents’ file and found the above, never-before-seen photograph of their wedding. The picture (proof that they were wed) had been confiscated by immigration agents during their incarceration on the island.


Helen Zia, an author who identifies as an activist, tells stories that connect people so that “we can relate on a human level.” She argues that “unity is not a fiction.” Dr. Lee, Ms. Zia, and Dr. Mae Ngai reminded us that racist stereotypes in America against the Chinese since the 19th century have consistently remained the same, if not continually repurposed for new eras and centuries. Americans have a long tradition of fearing being overrun and facing unfair competition and feeling threatened by the other. And these fears are only rising.


Hope King, a journalist with Axios, hammered this point home in discussing an article she recently co-wrote. A new report out this month on American attitudes finds that fully one-third of the respondents believe that “‘Asian Americans are more loyal to their country of origin than to the United States’ – up from 20% last year.” I presume it is lost on most of these respondents that the “country of origin” for generations of Asian Americans is America.


But it is not lost on the Asian Americans themselves. According to the Report, “‘…only 29% [of Asian American respondents] said they ‘completely agree’ that they feel they belong and are accepted in the U.S….’ and ‘71% say they are discriminated against in the U.S. today.’” When 7/10 of a population group in the country say they are not accepted nor welcome and do not feel that they belong, and this is just one such group, America has a problem bordering on existential.


Frederick Douglass (www.bradycarlson.com)


American abolitionist Frederick Douglass opposed Chinese exclusion in the 19th century. He spoke eloquently and at length about this in an 1869 speech in Boston:

“I want a home here [America] not only for the negro, the mulatto and the Latin races; but I want the Asiatic to find a home here in the United States, and feel at home here, both for his sake and for ours.”
“The apprehension that we shall be swamped or swallowed up by Mongolian civilization; that the Caucasian race may not be able to hold their own against that vast incoming population, does not seem entitled to much respect. Though they come as the waves come, we shall be stronger if we receive them as friends and give them a reason for loving our country and our institutions. They will find here a deeply rooted, indigenous, growing civilization, augmented by an ever increasing stream of immigration from Europe,….”
“Man is man, the world over. This fact is affirmed and admitted in any effort to deny it. The sentiments we exhibit, whether love or hate, confidence or fear, respect or contempt, will always imply a like humanity. A smile or a tear has not nationality; joy and sorrow speak alike to all nations, and they, above all the confusion of tongues, proclaim the brotherhood of man.”
“Trust is the foundation of society. Where there is no truth, there can be no trust, and where there is no trust there can be no society. Where there is society, there is trust, and where there is trust, there is something upon which it is supported.”


The past four decades of globalization have not only resulted in China becoming an economic, political, and military powerhouse; it has also benefited America and the world. Yet, there have also been harsh losers and have-nots, at personal, societal, and national levels.


Tech wars, trade wars, governmental controls, economic inequalities, and a pandemic have all coalesced to shatter business confidence and momentum in many countries. Social, cultural, economic, and political protectionism are ascendant in both China and America. Like it or not, our two countries share many similar policy aims in these areas—promoting the localization of supply chains, striving to create energy security and independence, trying to address at some level climate change, and not being told what to do by outsiders.


In a video message, Ambassador Katherine Tai, the current U.S. Trade Representative, called the relationship between China and America one of “profound consequence.” She stated her goal of establishing “inclusive and sustainable economic growth for the world.” If only there was some common agreement and understanding among nations as to what this might look like.


Among several points made by Deb Liu, CEO of Ancestry and author of Take Back Your Power: 10 New Rules for Women at Work, the following three stand out.

  • First, power is having influence over events.

  • Second, know your playing field.

  • Third, the words we vocalize account for only a minor fraction (7 percent) of what is perceived by listeners. It is the nonverbal that plays an outsized role -- 55 percent is conveyed by body language, and 38% is conveyed by tone.


Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University


Merit Janow, Board Chair at Mastercard and Dean Emerita at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, spoke to the admirable and necessary goal of “building and expanding intellectual ties between China and America.” Unfortunately, a not uncommon refrain from several speakers, as evidenced here by Yale law professor and author Amy Chua, was that the reality of today’s U.S.-China relations is instead witnessing numerous losses—of academic and people-to-people exchanges, of textual dialogue, of respectful conversation, of empathy, and of connection.


At the personal level, my dinner companions included an inventor-entrepreneur who is currently a Schwarzman Scholar studying remotely at China’s Tsinghua University, two Manhattan immigration attorneys who work to keep people flowing for cross-national business, and two financial traders on the money side of keeping business moving. Each of these women play active roles in connecting with China, the rising global power.


Anla Cheng, CEO of SupChina, summed it up when she said that the Women’s Conference goal, witnessed by these women leaders, was to empower, to inspire, and to embolden, to be better informed, and to be energized. There is strength from working together.


 

One More Thought (Fung Bros on YouTube)




The Fung Bros, David and Andrew, are the Hot Pot Boys. They have a YouTube Channel dishing out commentary, comedy, and clarification on all things Chinese and Asian America. There is much banter back and forth on food, shopping, eating, Hollywood, art, politics, culture, social discrimination, race, class, identity, and more. They are closing in on 2.2 million subscribers.