By Chang Wang, contributor
In May 2020, Governor Tim Walz appointed Chang Wang, a regular China Insight contributor, to the Board of Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM) to represent the Chinese Minnesotans at the Council and the State government. China Insight caught up with Wang for him to share his background and reasons for serving on the Board and the Chinese Minnesotan communities.
China Insight: Where are you from? How long have you lived in Minnesota?
Wang: I was born in Beijing, China. I have been living in Minnesota since 2003.
CI: What academic and/or professional steps brought you to where you are today?
Wang: Before coming to the U.S., I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in filmmaking from Beijing Film Academy and a Master of Arts. in comparative literature and cultural studies from Peking University in China. In 2000, I enrolled in the contemporary art history program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2003, I received a Master of Arts in art history and, at the same time, was admitted into the University of Minnesota Law School.
After receiving a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the U of M Law School and passing the Minnesota Bar Exam in 2006, I began to work for Thomson Legal & Regulatory (commonly referred by Minnesotans as "West Publishing"), first as Global Strategist and Legal Consultant, then as Chief Research and Academic Officer.
From 2009, I began teaching American law and comparative law courses in law schools in the U.S., China, Korea, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Australia, and Brazil. In 2018, I joined Kingsfield Law Office, which consists of a group of senior law professors who specialize in international law litigation and immigration law petition.
I have published six books on comparative law, in English and in Chinese.
CI: What is your current role in your profession and/or the community?
Wang: I am practicing law as a partner of Kingsfield Law Office.
I also hold associate and adjunct professorships at several law schools, teaching law regularly.
In 2016, I joined Governor Mark Dayton's Diversity and Inclusion Council's Civic Engagement Committee, participating in drafting the Civic Engagement Plan in Minnesota.
In 2017, Governor Dayton appointed me as a trustee of the Minnesota Zoological Board.
In 2018, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea of the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed me as a member of the Minnesota State Board of Continuing Legal Education.
I am also an Advisory Board member of the University of Minnesota China Center, which engages me in various community education programs.
In 2014, I published the first Chinese language book about Minnesota – "New Tales of the Twin Cities: The History, Law, and Culture of Minnesota." Chinese Minnesotans and Chinese students have well received the book.
Also, I frequently analyze and comment on U.S.-China relations, Asian and Chinese American culture, and current affairs. In addition to China Insight, I also regularly contribute to:
BBC Chinese (HK-based Chinese language news service);
Caijing (leading Chinese language magazine with world distribution);
Minnesota Times (local Chinese language newspaper for Chinese Minnesotans);
Chinese Minnesotans (Chinese language online platform).
CI: What do you believe you bring to the Board and the communities the Council serves?
Wang: Serving on the Council allows me to:
Contribute to the larger Asian-Pacific communities;
Build bridges among the Chinese Minnesotan community and other communities;
Educate and distribute authoritative and authentic information from the State and the Council to the Chinese community;
Utilize my knowledge and expertise in law and cultural studies to assist the governor and legislators in making informed decisions.
CI: What is your impression of CAPM's role within Minnesota?
Wang: I am impressed by the Council's work. The Council is charged with advocating on behalf of Minnesota's Asian/Pacific Islander (API) communities. I see the Council is actively building trust between the state government and Minnesota's API communities by advocating for the needs of API communities; engaging with diverse API communities, from newly arrived to long-established, to understand their evolving needs; and building and maintaining strong and diverse partnerships.
CI: What are its current focuses, esp. in reference to the Chinese Minnesotan community?
Wang: There is no single "Chinese Minnesotan community." The approximate 35,000 Minnesotans of Chinese heritage come from very diverse cultural, linguistic, educational and religious backgrounds. The Council is responsible for representing all Chinese in Minnesota and advocating for all API. The Council is always reaching out to and hearing from different groups about different viewpoints and various concerns. We are in the throes of a pandemic; as such, the Council has been actively supporting state government to ensure that it addresses a number of key issues, including a strong focus on the increased anti-Chinese/Asian sentiment, translated materials, and challenges faced by Chinese Minnesotans.
CI: What are some of your hobbies or interests?
Wang: As a Buddhist, I love all sentient beings. We have three "immigrant" dogs: Bill Sr.(father), Bill Jr. (elder son), and Bill the Regular (younger son), all related. They were born in Beijing but later came to the U.S. with us, for a better life and colder weather.
Left to right: Bill Sr., Bill Jr., Bill the Regular in Minnesota snow
Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and I am positive that I already had a connection with Minnesota in one of my past lives.
As an avid book lover, I have a collection of more than 10,000 books in my library. I spend a few hours per day reading history, biography, and literature. Some of my favorite authors are Asian-Pacific writers: Lin Yutang (Chinese), Viet Thanh Nguyen (Vietnamese American), Chang-Rae Lee (Korean American), Yi Chong-jun (Korean) and Yasunari Kawabata (Japanese), to name a few.
CI: What, if anything else, would you like members of state government and the Council's community across Minnesota to know about you?
Wang: In 2016, in a legal thriller movie, I played a leading role as a Chinese diplomat working in the U.S., I believe my unmistakable Chinese accent got me that role. (See photo on p. 1.)
Wang once served as the interpreter for President Jimmy Carter, who is Wang's role model for public service and integrity.
CI: How can the community reach you?