December 6, 2007
Written by C.N.
One theme that I’ve written about, and that I think is very likely to become more common and prominent in the coming years, is how Asian Americans are increasingly using their cross-national social and professional networks to facilitate cultural or economic endeavors in Asian countries, most likely their country of origin (or that of their ancestors). As one example of this, the Los Angeles Times reports on the growth of a U.S.-style college in China that was created by a Chinese American:
Nine years ago, [Shawn] Chen launched SIAS International University with less than $2 million, 250 students and a healthy dose of gumption. Today, the school has more than 16,000 students and nearly 50 buildings — including a Roman amphitheater, French and Italian restaurants and an administration hall with a domed Capitol-like facade on one side and a Forbidden City tableau on the other. A swimming stadium, with an Olympic-size pool, is rising amid lotus and wheat fields.
The school’s faculty of about 700 includes 119 foreign instructors, mainly from the U.S. They teach English, history and literature and help students with debate club, cheerleading and marching band — things unheard of in this country. . . .
Chen went to the United States in 1985 and got a master’s degree in education at Linfield College in Oregon. After attending a typical no-frills, monochrome college in China, he basked in campus life in the Pacific Northwest. . . . Chen was so taken by American culture he named his children Brandon and Brenda, after the two characters in the early 1990s TV hit “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
In California, Chen made money trading lighters, shampoos and steel doors from China. With two partners, he paid $2.7 million for the four-story Best Western in 1996. Chen says the idea for SIAS came naturally as he traveled between China and the U.S., making contacts and building relationships. . . .
Chen saw the need — and the business opportunity — while serving on the board at three Chinese high schools in the early 1990s and organizing exchange visits between students in Chongqing and San Gabriel. He went on to arrange similar trips for government officials from China and California.
In 1996, he called a few friends and they put together a 20-page business plan. Chen took it to Henan, one of China’s poorest provinces and the most populous. Henan officials were hungry for investment.
This story is a great example of the kind of new Asian American identity that I’m talking about — Asian Americans using their cross-national cultural ties to achieve success for both sides of their identity — Asia and America. In the process, and for once, their “foreignness” is an asset, rather than a liability.
I predict that examples of this will only become more common as the world and American society both continue to become more diverse, globalized, and transnational, with Asian Americans leading the way in connecting Asia with America.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "US-Style College in China Started by Chinese American" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/12/us-style-school-in-china/> ().
Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=518