By Ralph W. Beha

Every four years or so, in the run-up to our presidential election. the United States goes through a ritual flogging of “China” (as though “China” were a monolithic entity in an almost super-human personal form).  Blaming everything from job losses created by automation and technology to income inequality and globalization on “China” has become a predictable, if unfortunate, political gambit, on both sides of the aisle. 

In the past, the noise has usually subsided and the administration, regardless of party, has gone on to forge a coherent policy of engagement, drawing the Chinese government into international organizations, forging multilateral treaty solutions to thorny situations, and conducting useful, if protracted, negotiations on matters of bilateral concern.  During the past several decades, these engagement efforts have led to a broad and deep opening of China to the West, reductions in geopolitical tensions, alleviation of poverty in China, and highly productive and prosperous trade and investment, academic, and cultural relations and understanding between the peoples of the U.S. and China.  

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By Jackson Venjohn, contributor

Jackson VenjohnIn 2018, I spent eight weeks in Beijing at Capital Normal University studying Mandarin in a language-intensive program.  I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing Asia first in Beijing because it is the cultural and political center of China. That summer was particularly impactful because I arrived at the beginning of formal trade friction between the United States and China.  I had the opportunity to discuss Sino-U.S. economics with professors, students and newly made Chinese friends in Beijing. 

In July 2018, at the International Monetary Forum at Renmin University in Beijing, I heard perspectives on the current U.S.-China trade situation from Chinese and American students attending the world’s top universities.  The forum was particularly thought provoking as I recognized that with the possible exception of U.S.-Japan economic friction in the 1980s, looking back on history, there are few historical examples that are appropriate to compare to the current trade situation.  The lack of historical basis makes forming an opinion and siphoning out truth on the current complex and controversial trade situation difficult, yet evermore fascinating.

This summer, I was able to return to East Asia for nine weeks in Taipei, Taiwan.  Before that, I spent a week in Hong Kong with the purpose of understanding the greater Guangdong region better and strengthening relationships with business professionals in Hong Kong.  My weeklong stay coincided with the first week of political demonstrations in Hong Kong. At the time, the magnitude to which these demonstrations would develop was unknown. In that way, I did not consider the situation thoroughly until several days after I had left. 

Until arriving in Hong Kong, I had underestimated the differences between mainland China and the Special Administrative Region: language, culture, landscape, economics and politics.  As Cantonese is the native dialect in Hong Kong, it felt unusual and uncomfortable being in an Asian city where I could read the characters but could not communicate verbally except through English.  However, after several days in the financial center of Asia, I began to grasp just how special Hong Kong is. The vertical nature of the city’s seemingly innumerous skyscrapers fueled by the world’s freest economy and capital markets, is extraordinary given Hong Kong’s steep, mountainous terrain.  Pairing the sweltering June heat with humidity seemed to make every trip outside feel like a workout.

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By Charles Li

i am an americanIn recent years, there are a few bills and laws being introduced throughout the country with the goals to disaggregate the Asian American community.  They are together referred as Asian American Disaggregation Bills or Asian American Ancestry Registration Bills.  

In Minnesota the bill was SF 2597 All Kids Count Act, and it passed through Minnesota Senate in March 2016.  Governor Dayton signed the bill into law in May 2017.  The pilot implementation of the bill is set to start this fall in several school districts and charter schools, including Minnetonka Public School and St. Paul Public Schools. 

Nationwide, these Asian American Disaggregation Bills, pushed by such advocates as Ted Lieu, Judy May Chu, and Mike Eng, are usually disguised under the pretense of facilitating “racial preferential treatment" policies.  In year 2012, the Department Education  under the Obama administration issued the official directive for “the Disaggregation of Asian and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Student Data and the Use of Those Data in Planning and Programmatic Endeavors.  On May 4, 2016, former President Barack Obama announced his disaggregated data collection initiative.  While these bills claim to promote medical research, education, etc., their nature is to disaggregate Asian Americans, which account for only 5.6 percent of the American population, and to further label and divide them by their ethnic origins.  In Minnesota, the bill was said to be for better student accountability reporting, in particular on test results, graduation rate, connecting with student ethnic origin information.  However, in another aspect, linking test results and graduation rate with race and country origin seems to be racially problematic due to historically discriminations based on race.

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By Lawrence Lau, China-U.S. Focus, Sept.  4

The 70th anniversary of the victory of the Allies over Japan in the Second World War is now upon us.  This War created tens of millions of victims, perhaps even as many as a couple of hundreds of millions, in Asia.  I was one of the victims of the War, but a relatively lucky one.  My parents lived in Hong Kong before the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbour.  They were fortunate enough to escape from Hong Kong after the Japanese Army invaded and occupied Hong Kong in 1941, to move back to Guilin, in the Province of Guangxi.  Towards the end of 1944, in one of its last offensives, the Japanese Army made a big push for Guilin.  My family became war refugees once again and tried to flee to Chongqing, the war-time capital of China, on land.  My mother was pregnant with me then.  We had to travel through the Province of Guizhou first.  We made a transit stop at Zunyi, a regional administrative centre of Guizhou, when my mother could not go on any more.  However, there was “no room at the inn”, so I was born right in the Office of the Regional Administrator of Zunyi.  I was very lucky indeed to have survived (I turned seventy last December).  That was why my Chinese name is Zunyi.  In the mid-1950s, information came out that years earlier, in 1935, Chairman MAO Zedong consolidated his leadership of the Chinese Communist Party at the critical Zunyi Conference.  Zunyi has since become, like Yenan, a mandatory stop on every red tourism itinerary.  But at the time I was born, very, very few people knew about the Zunyi Conference.

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By Anthony James, Staff Writer

I leaned against the wall in the dorm hallway. It was back in my college days, and I was spending time between classes expounding on light topics with a few fellow students. It is not important that these particular friends were white, but where the conversation headed it became relevant. The discussion topic was a local Asian eatery. One of the students joked that even though he had never been there, you'd "better not bring [your cat] near there 'cause they'll steal it and eat it." I don't quite remember how I replied, but I remember not confronting them on the offensiveness of their comments. As with comments I've heard from others, pressing some sort of political correctness wasn't worth my time. These particular students would never think of themselves as racist or insensitive. We had a common friend who was Vietnamese American, but you would never hear them say what I heard in front of him. Needless, I didn't communicate with either classmate much after that event, and as far as I know, neither knew that I am biracial, born part Chinese and part Norwegian-American.

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The path to power in China is still dominated by revolutionary political divisions

Op-Ed Commentary: Chris Devonshire-Ellis

May 2 – Recent events in China, ranging from the jostling of power for seats on the Central Commission for the CCP, the downfall of Bo Xilai, and the recent escape of activist Chen Guangcheng from house detention in Shandong have all displayed to varying degrees the changing faces of China’s evolution. In fact, in over 20 years in China I have never personally seen anything quite like the vying for influence being acted out in today’s contemporary political scene. The fact that they are observable at all says perhaps rather more for certain factions that are involved in the path for reform than the oft-lauded “freedom via internet” that many believe is behind an unprecedented media coverage of the struggles and power plays currently underway.

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