Election Day is closing in, and the world will finally see which of the two American presidential candidates is victorious and which is defeated. Frankly, the choice of whether to support Hillary or Trump has been very fraught for many Americans. Chinese Americans are in a similar boat.
Traditionally, the majority of Chinese Americans have supported the Democratic Party, because it has been a consistent voice for ethnic minorities, while the Republican Party tends to represent the interests of whites. But in an investigative study in the United States, I encountered many Chinese Americans who do support Trump over Hillary. This is quite surprising considering Trump’s stance on immigration and his negative attitude toward minorities.
The change in attitudes among Chinese Americans toward the two parties’ nominees could have perhaps stemmed from the following reasons. First is discontent with the economy. One Chinese American friend told me that if Hillary were to become president, the next four years at least would be the same; if Trump is elected, there could be a chance of change.
The second reason is dissatisfaction with the Democrats’ social policies. For instance, the Obama administration recently issued an executive order that requires all public schools to open their restrooms to transgender people, deeply disturbing many Chinese-American family heads. Moreover, the Democrat-controlled California legislature passed a law in 2014 that requires public universities to increase their ratio of black and Latino students, clearly damaging the prospects of Asian-born students domestically, including Chinese. As a matter of fact, students of Asian descent usually must greatly outperform others in test scores before they can be admitted into such schools anyway. And this year, perhaps realizing that there are significant disparities between Asian-Americans as a whole, California Democrats are preparing to institute a law that further subdivides Asians. If this were to be implemented, it could further harm the interests of Chinese Americans.
Third is opposition to current immigration policy. Although Chinese Americans are also immigrants, they are largely legal immigrants; they are not accepting of those who illegally cross the Mexican-American border. Of those people, some even enjoy the full breadth of American social welfare, and Chinese-American taxpayers are obviously not thrilled. In addition, some are also quite fearful that terrorists might enter America through the same border.
Overcoming years of struggle, Chinese Americans are now one of the more successful groups in American society. Whether in terms of education, home ownership or average income, they are always ranked quite decently. It could be said that as far as societal features are concerned, Chinese Americans are whiter than whites, and more middle-class than the middle class. Even so, there is still widespread discrimination against Chinese Americans in American society. For instance, while their income is higher than the average white’s, this mainly stems from differences in education; among those with similar educational backgrounds, the income of Chinese Americans is still lower than whites’.
It thus used to be that Chinese Americans tended toward supporting Democrats, a party that emphasized the protection of ethnic minority interests. Yet while Chinese Americans as a group become more successful, their stance regarding other minorities is changing; the Democratic Party’s policy to protect marginalize groups may no longer be beneficial. For example, the right to bear arms and the need to limit arms is a major difference between Republicans and Democrats. I have a friend who says that because they have been victims of armed burglary, many Chinese Americans are now considering guns as a means to defend their families and assets. As such occurrences multiply, it cannot be said that even more Chinese Americans will not turn to the GOP.
While the majority of people I met were middle-class professionals, and what I saw and heard cannot represent the entirety of the ethnic Chinese population in America, it at least reflects a few substantive issues that the community is facing. America is a multifaceted society, and so too are Chinese Americans. Only time will tell how they end up voting.
The author is deputy secretary of the China Development Research Foundation, and a researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council.