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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

November 26, 2012

Written by C.N.

My Visit to China: Some Sociological Observations

A couple of weeks ago, I made my first ever visit to China and I wanted to share some sociological observations with you about what I saw and experienced while I was there. My trip was under the auspices of my university’s International Programs Office (IPO) that’s in charge of all the study abroad programs on campus. From time to time, the IPO visits various study abroad sites around the world to make sure that they are high-quality programs for our students. Normally, the different staff at the IPO conducts these visits, but this time around, they asked me if I wanted to go to Beijing to check out the Council on International Educational Exchange’s (CIEE) programs in Beijing. It was an offer I could not pass up, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Specifically, the CIEE programs that I visited were based at Minzu University and Peking University. As the CIEE staff described to me, Minzu University was established in 1951 to basically assimilate members of China’s 56 ethnic minority groups (such as Tibetans, Uyghurs, Zhuang, Manchus, Hui, Miao, Yi, Mongols, etc.) into the majority Han culture. However, through the years, its focus and curriculum have evolved to become more tolerant and now promotes the retention of many aspects of culture and tradition among such ethnic minorities. Peking University is frequently called the “Harvard of China” and is considered to be the crown jewel of China’s university system. In its 2011-2012 ranking of universities around the world, the Times Higher Education listed Peking University as number 49 overall and as the top university in China.

Although I do not have anything to which I can compare these study abroad programs since this was my first such site visit, overall I found the CIEE programs at both universities to be comprehensive and impressive. There was a wide variety of academic and field opportunities for U.S. students at both schools to learn about Chinese language and culture inside and outside of the classroom. I found the staff there to be very friendly, professional, well-skilled, and enthusiastic about their programs. I also talked to a number of U.S. students currently studying abroad in these two CIEE programs and they all raved about the positive experiences they’ve had there. From what I saw during my site visit, I would certainly recommend these programs to my students.

Below are a few pictures from my visit to China. You can view a more detailed photostream at my Flickr page.

Inside Manzu University
Street scene just outside of Manzu University
Inside the Temple of Heaven complex
'No Name' Lake and traditional pagoda inside Peking University
The front of Tiananmen Square just after sunrise

China at a Crossroads

While I was in China and in my conversations with the CIEE staff and with both Chinese and U.S. students, a recurring theme was that China seems to be at a crossroads in its history and that there are two important issues within which China is struggling to find its balance in terms of where it wants to position itself politically, economically, and culturally within the global community. Each of these issues that I’ll discuss in more detail below represent a paradox or set of interesting contradictions that are playing themselves out within modern Chinese society.

I am certainly not the first observer, analyst, or scholar to discuss these issues, nor can I claim to have comprehensive expertise on such issues. Nonetheless, I would like to share my observations as a sociologist who wants to apply my academic interest in how Asians (and China specifically) fit into the contemporary global community in the 21st century and how Asian Americans fit into these international dynamics as well.

The first paradoxical issue concerns the growing sense of nationalism in China. This nationalism was most recently manifested in angry and sometimes violent protests against Japan over some small islands that lie between China (Diaoyu in Chinese) and Japan (Senkaku in Japanese) and are claimed by both countries. More generally, nationalism directed against foreigners has been evident in China for a while and from time to time, flares up and can turn ugly.

In my conversations with different people in China, they mentioned that a famous Chinese philosopher named Lu Xun observed about a hundred years ago that China frequently see themselves as either superior or inferior in relation to foreign powers, but never equal to them — it’s either a feeling of superiority or inferiority. With this in mind, nationalist feelings of superiority or inferiority need points of comparison. In modern times, China has two main international points of comparison — in Asia, it’s Japan and in the western world, it’s the U.S.

My contacts also observed that in most cases, the average Chinese citizen will rarely express such nationalist feelings directly to a foreigner, there was one instance in which this nationalism was directly visible to me and other site visitors in this trip. Specifically, a group of us (all from the U.S. involved in the CIEE site visit) was walking through Peking University when a Chinese male in his mid-40s came up to us and started speaking Chinese to us. Unfortunately none of us spoke Chinese, but even after we said that to him in English, he still kept speaking. We then pulled a Chinese American study abroad student (let’s call him ‘Keith’) who was accompanying us while we were at Peking University into the conversation. The Chinese man then turned his attention to Keith and as Keith relayed to us later, went into a tirade against the presence of foreigners in China. Although this man was not shouting, he was obviously very assertive in expressing himself. Considering the recent protests against Japan, this was probably a relatively mild form of nationalism that we experienced.

The contradiction here is that China very much wants to attain a position of respect and status within the international community and wants to continue attracting international investment and promoting global trade. In other words, it needs to engage with the international community. But on the other hand, a large part of the national discourse within China emphasizes China’s superiority over foreign powers and in fact, advocates limiting or even eliminating the presence of foreigners inside China.

An interesting component to this emerging nationalism in China is that much of it was initiated and encouraged by the Chinese government, at least in the beginning. As other analysts have pointed out, when it comes to particular issues such as the disputes with Japan, Chinese government officials have tried to maintain a sense of diplomacy in public while behind the scenes, frequently allowed or even facilitated nationalist rhetoric and citizen protests to serve their political interests. The problem however, is that the Chinese government may be losing control over this nationalist monster that they’ve created. As one of my contacts noted, when you keep feeding the citizens ‘wolves’ milk,’ eventually they’ll grow up to be wolves.

I have written about this kind of “cultural schizophrenia” in China before. On the institutional and national level, this sense of fluctuating between two extremes while trying to find your identity is actually similar to what many Asian Americans face on the individual level as they try to balance the ‘Asian’ and ‘American’ sides of their identity. In China’s case, as it tries to solidify its position in the international community, it’s likely that such internal struggles will continue to take place and it remains to be seen how the emerging contradictions between the government’s ‘Dr. Jekyll’ and the nationalists’ ‘Mr. Hyde’ will play themselves out.

Where Do Chinese Americans Fit Into China?

The second sociological dynamic that I observed while in China relates to where Chinese Americans fit into modern Chinese society. Like a number of other Asian American scholars, I have a growing interest in looking at how Asian Americans fit into Asian societies and how they use both their Asian and American identities to potentially bridge the political and cultural gaps between the U.S. and Asian countries. As such, I was very interested in hearing from Chinese American students and their experiences studying abroad in China.

In addition to ‘Keith’ (mentioned above), I also spoke at length to another Chinese American student; let’s call her ‘Kathy.’ They both described similar experiences of feeling caught in a “cultural limbo” while in China. That is, on the one hand, their physical appearance is Asian and more specifically, Chinese. But on the other hand, their nationality is American. This frequently means that upon first contact, most Chinese nationals assume that they are Chinese. But once they start talking, they are quickly seen as American, even though they speak Chinese pretty well.

Interesting times ahead

Both Keith and Kathy noted to me that once this happens, more often than not, Chinese nationals lose interest in speaking to them. I asked them why and they said that Chinese tend to be more interested in talking to ‘regular’ Americans — i.e., White Americans. In other words, even within China, while they are treated generally as Americans (rather than as Chinese), Chinese Americans are generally not seen as representing the ‘normal’ image or perception of what Chinese think of as ‘American’ — i.e. they are not White.

Nonetheless, Kathy and Keith told me that once they got used to this cultural dynamic, they were eventually able to create and embrace their own “Chinese American” identity that is neither completely Chinese nor completely American, but a fluid combination of both. Upon doing this, they said that they felt more comfortable using this identity to begin bridging the cultural gaps between China and the U.S. in small ways during their stay in China.

This process of creating an ‘Asian American’ identity that combines and bridges two sets of cultures is what Americans of Asian ancestry have been doing for centuries. It is with this understanding in mind that I think Asian Americans are positioned to take make tangible contributions toward applying their globalized and transnational characteristics and experiences to bridging the political and cultural gaps between the U.S. and Asian countries. In fact, scholars are beginning to examine and describe examples of Asian Americans in different social settings acting as ‘cultural ambassadors‘ in Asian societies.

Therefore, if countries such as China continue to pursue a position of respect within the wider international community while still retaining elements of their national identity, they can learn from Chinese Americans who have have years of experience and expertise in doing exactly that — integrating themselves into mainstream U.S. society while keeping elements their Chinese culture intact. This is not to say that it has been a seamless or smooth process and in fact, Chinese- and Asian Americans have been and continue to face suspicions and challenges regarding their ‘real’ identity.

Nonetheless, institutional changes taking place, such as the ongoing effects of globalization, greater transnationalism, and increased multiculturalism, have transformed the racial, ethnic, and cultural landscape of both U.S. society and the world in general. Within this new social environment, there are new opportunities for minority groups such as Asian Americans to assert an identity that legitimately incorporates elements of, and for the benefit of, different societies and cultures.

There is an old Chinese saying that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” From a sociological point of view, this is indeed a very interesting time for China and there are a number of interesting ways that Chinese Americans (and Asian Americans as a whole) can participate in forging a more inclusive path forward into the 21st century.


September 14, 2012

Written by Calvin N. Ho

Balancing American, Mainland, and Taiwanese Influences in Chinese Language Schools

Students at a Chinese language school in Vancouver. Photo by Felex Liu (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Students at a Chinese language school in Vancouver. Photo by Felex Liu (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Thank you, C.N., for inviting me to write for Asian-Nation. I hope to contribute to this blog a perspective on Asian America that looks both within and beyond the United States. The Asian American experience has been transnational since the very beginning, and has only become more so with economic globalization, the increasing affordability of travel and communications technologies, and the acceptance of multiple citizenship. Though the boundaries of the nation-state have not become irrelevant, I believe that we must look at Asian Americans as situated in the United States and in the larger global context.

With that frame in mind, I would like to introduce you all to some of the transnational dimensions of my current research on extracurricular Chinese language schools. What kinds of influence do the US, Mainland Chinese, and Taiwanese governments have in these schools, and how do the schools handle these influences?

I am currently conducting an ethnography of two Chinese schools. One school is located outside of an ethnic enclave and serves a predominantly upper-middle-class student body. The other, in the heart of an urban Chinatown, serves mainly students from working-class backgrounds.

It is in the interest of the Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese governments to support extracurricular Chinese language programs like these. As anthropologist Gladys Nieto (2007) argues, these schools foment cultural and linguistic ties between children of immigrants and their ethnic homeland. Not only do these programs open up the possibility that these children “return” to their ethnic homeland and invest in the homeland state’s economic and political projects, but they may also make them more sympathetic advocates for the homeland in their country of residence.

The US government has been marginally involved in these schools for decades. For example, many schools do not have their own facilities and will rent public schools or community centers for the day. With the designation of China as the world’s emerging superpower, federal and local government investment in Chinese language programs has increased dramatically. There are national initiatives for teaching and learning “critical languages” such as Chinese, and at least one school district has mandated that all students learn the language. Though these initiatives have generally ignored privately-run extracurricular programs like the ones I am researching, the opportunity is wide open.

These extracurricular programs are often in need of space, financial support, and affordable materials. They will apply for help from the three governments as they are able. What kinds of assistance they seek and from whom they seek this assistance depends on community politics, language ability, and connections (or, in Mandarin, guanxi 關係). How they balance the competing influences coming from the three governments depends on the same three factors.

(more…)


March 8, 2011

Written by C.N.

Academic Research: Globalized & Transnational Asian Communities

As part of this blog’s ongoing mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience, and for readers who like to keep on top of the latest sociological research, I highlight new research and studies in academic journals about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. An article’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its complete contents.

The widely-respected Amerasia Journal has just released a special issue that focuses on globalized and diasporic Asian communities around the world:

GlobaLinks: Community Institutions & Practices Across Nations

GlobaLinks: Community Institutions & Practices Across Nations

The UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press announces Amerasia Journal’s latest issue: “GlobaLinks: Community Institutions & Practices across Nations.” Guest edited by Michel Laguerre and Joe Chung Fong, both of the Berkeley Center for Globalization and Information Technology, the special issue brings together research on globalized diasporic communities in the U.S. and Asia from scholars based throughout the Pacific Rim. The contributions to “GlobaLinks” provide new insights on Asian American spaces and places from a wide array of intellectual perspectives, including history, cultural anthropology, urban studies, sociology, ethnic studies, and political science.

“GlobaLinks” recognizes that Asian and Pacific American communities are no longer limited by their institutional identities within local boundaries or defined by their political, cultural, or economic activities within national borders alone. Amerasia has worked with our guest editors to put together a selection of studies which examine social phenomena such as the self-political identity of communities, trans-Pacific youth, banking, voting and political campaigns, and community cultural development.

At a conceptual and theoretical level, “GlobaLinks” urges scholars to rethink and reconsider what key terms such as globalization and transnationalism mean in light of rapidly changing Asian and Pacific American communities. In his introductory essay, for instance, Michel Laguerre coins the term “cosmonation” to make the case that the global and the local are mutually implicated in a complex network of relationships that is not “top-down” or hierarchical as a nation-oriented model of homeland and hostland is.

A number of the articles present thorough historical studies and painstaking fieldwork in local communities to explain how they are connected to larger global frameworks. Through a detailed account of the original Little Saigon in Orange County, Christian Collet and Hiroko Furuya examine the lived and imagined spaces of Little Saigons to reveal how these local diasporic sites have transformed conceptions of ethnic identity and nation. Shenglin Elijah Chang and Willow Lung Amam use the neologism “glocal” to address the global experiences and local placemaking that transnational Taiwanese youth participate in on both sides of the Pacific, in Silicon Valley and the high-tech suburb of Hsinchu in Taiwan. Elaborating on the relationship between economic matters of community development and ethnic cultural practices, Eric Estuar Reyes explores the cultural formations and spatial conceptions of Filipino American community in southern California.

Other selections describe how local immigrant communities must negotiate larger social structures, be they economic or local. Banking, for instance, is a particularly fruitful field of investigation for Joe Chung Fong, since it reflects the dynamics of global capital flows as well as the cultural practices of overseas ethnic populations at the local level of the neighborhood. James S. Lai brings politics front-and-center to the global-local concerns of Asian American Studies, focusing on Chinese American political strategies in two suburbs — Cupertino in Silicon Valley and Sugar Land in the Houston area — with populations that are transnational, multiethnic, and multiracial.

In addition, the issue features a tribute by Tritia Toyota to former UCLA Asian American Studies Center Director Lucie Cheng, a pioneering figure in transnational approaches to the field, and a commentary by Vinay Lal on the nuclear age and its global and individual scales. Film and book reviews discuss cultural representations of transnational Asian American experiences, including Lane Ryo Hirabayashi’s review of Shinpei Takeda’s documentary El México Más Cercano a Japon, Jinqi Ling’s review of Karen Tei Yamashita’s award-winning novel I Hotel, and Roshni Rustomji’s review of Saleem Peeradina’s poetry in Slow Dance. Together, the pieces collected in “GlobaLinks” challenge our thinking about the global and local in Asian American Studies.

This issue of Amerasia Journal costs $15.00 plus $5.00 for shipping and handling and 9.25 percent sales tax for California residents ($21.39). Make checks payable to “Regents of U.C.” Visa, MasterCard, and Discover are also accepted; include expiration date and phone number on correspondence. The mailing address is: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 3230 Campbell Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1546.


December 16, 2010

Written by C.N.

Posts from Years Past: December

In case you’re the nostalgic type, here are some posts in this blog from December of years past:


November 9, 2010

Written by C.N.

Academic Research: Asian Australians

As part of this blog’s ongoing mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience, and for readers who like to keep on top of the latest sociological research, I highlight new research and studies in academic journals about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. An article’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its complete contents.

The following articles focus on emerging issues related to Asian Australians and their transnational connections with Asian Americans.

Amerasia Journal: Asian Australia and Asian America:
Making Transnational Connections

The UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press announces Amerasia Journal’s latest issue: “Asian Australia and Asian America: Making Transnational Connections.” Guest edited by Jacqueline Lo, Dean Chan, and Tseen Khoo, with former Center Director Don T. Nakanishi of UCLA, the issue connects scholars, writers, and cultural critics working in Asian American Studies with their counterparts in Asian Australian Studies. The issue provides a full sampling of topics from community politics to local film, media, and literature.

In his introductory essay, Don T. Nakanishi illuminates the important demographic, political, and historical conditions that have shaped Asian Australia and the possibilities for comparative approaches with Asian American Studies. . . The issue offers a transnational study of similarities and differences between Asian Australia and Asian America. As the guest editors write, “By bringing Asian America and Asian Australia together in conversation in this volume, we hope to provide new insights into the study of Asian diasporas in western developed societies that go beyond the dominant perspective of Asian diasporics as domestic(ated) racialized minority subjects within the nation-state.”

The issue is capped by commentaries from Ien Ang and Henry Yu on the significance of transnational perspectives to the Asian diaspora from Australian and North American vantage points. The topics covered in this special issue include:

Local Community Politics
This section explores the relationship between local politics and transnational identities from various perspectives. These include Ashley Carruthers’s anthropological study of Lao Australians, a discussion of diasporic Vietnamese literature by Scott Brook and Caitlin Nunn, and Audrey Yue’s detailed account of the production of underground “westie” martial arts films in the suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney. The essays reveal the way working-class Lao immigrants view their homeland as more cosmopolitan than the Australian neighborhoods in which they now live or how “westie” films enable Vietnamese Australian youths an opportunity to self-fashion their identities in ways that challenge both Australian and ethnic ideologies of masculinity.

Indigenous/Asian Relations
Jacqueline Lo and visual artist Mayu Kanamori elaborate on the ways in which Asian Australians, Aboriginal Australians, and Anglo Australians are represented through the arts. Lo discusses the dramatic production Burning Daylight, which explores Asian-Indigenous encounters that are typically left out of official Australian histories. Kanamori provides a powerful personal narrative that looks at the issue of settlement from Japanese immigrant and Aboriginal points of view.

Comparative Asian Diasporas
Olivia Khoo, Kim Cheng Boey, and Iyko Day do comparative work on Asian Australian Studies and Asian American Studies. Khoo’s novel concept of the “shrimp Western” explores the influence of American movie genre par excellence, the Western, on Asian Australian films, raising questions on how to define minority cinemas. Kim Cheng Boey examines the complexities of poetics by immigrant poets, comparing the returns to Malaysia, both physical and psychological, in the works of Chinese Australian poet Ee Tiang Hong and Chinese American writer and scholar Shirley Lim Geok-lin. Iyko Day compares the experiences of internment endured by Japanese Americans, Japanese Canadians, and Japanese Australians.

Literature and Arts from Asian Australia
Amerasia is pleased to include the writings and mixed media work of some of Asian Australia’s leading artists. In addition to Mayu Kanamori’s discussion of her photographic series, this issue features “Cocooning,” a short story by award-winning author Simone Lazaroo, and a poem “This is where it begins,” by acclaimed writer Merlinda Bobis. Thought-provoking images are provided by Matt Huynh and Jason Wing.


October 21, 2009

Written by C.N.

Georgia Celebrates “China’s National Day”

This is a little late, but I only recently found out that apparently, October 1 was “China’s National Day” in the state of Georgia:

Governor Sonny Perdue of the US state of Georgia has proclaimed October 1, 2009 as “China’s National Day in Georgia,” calling on local citizens to celebrate with the Chinese people on the occasion.

“October 1, 2009 marks the 60th (founding) anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. With our strong bond of friendship and growing economic partnership, the state of Georgia is pleased to celebrate with the People’s Republic of China on the occasion of its National Day,” Perdue said in a sealed proclamation dated on September 16. . . .

According to the Atlanta Chapter of the US National Association of Chinese-Americans, approximately 50,000 Chinese live in Georgia.

“The contributions of these individuals, along with the companies, universities and organizations with direct ties to both lands, help bring together two nations half a world apart,” Perdue said, adding that the linkage between China and Georgia continues to strengthen and multiply.

There is clearly a motive to further economic development and investment between Georgia and China involved, but nonetheless I applaud Governor Perdue and the state of Georgia for recognizing the value and contributions of its Chinese and Chinese American citizens to the strength and vitality of their state.

As I’ve written about before, as the world and American society continue to become more globalized, Asian Americans are likely to have more opportunities to assert our “Asianness” (more specifically, our transnational cultural ties back to Asia) as an asset to American society and economy, in contrast to the past in which such associations were a liability in our efforts to integrate into mainstream American society.

I hope Georgia’s recognition of the value and contributions of Asian Americans is a positive sign for the future.


March 30, 2009

Written by C.N.

Gary Locke and the Future of Asian American Identity

As news organizations are reporting, the Senate has confirmed Gary Locke as the new Secretary of Commerce. Below is an Associated Press news clip of President Obama introducing Secretary Locke:

If you’re keeping track, Sec. Locke is the third Asian American in President Obama’s cabinet, following Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Three Asian American cabinet secretaries is unprecedented in American history and needless to say, I join many others in expressing my elation and gratitude at President Obama’s picks for his cabinet.

For those who haven’t heard of Sec. Locke before, as Governor of Washington between 1997-2005, he was the first Chinese American governor in American history and the first Asian American governor of a mainland state. He was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party and a possible Vice Presidential candidate. However, he declined to run for Governor after his second term and returned to private life thereafter.

As illustrated in PBS’s excellent 2005 documentary Searching for Asian America, Sec. Locke is known for being very intelligent and detail-oriented and as such, in many ways personifies some common cultural assumptions about Asian Americans. That’s not to say it’s good or bad, just to say that he represents a “safe choice” for President Obama in that way and was an attractive option since Obama’s first two nominees for the position both dropped out.

But I think another reason that President Obama chose Gary Locke is because, as also pointed out in the PBS documentary, Sec. Locke has many ties to the land of his ancestors, China. Therefore, it’s probably safe to assume that President Obama felt those personal and professional ties to China would come in handy as our nation and its economy tries to navigate through this recession and the 21st century global economy in general, one in which China will play a major role.

As such, Sec. Locke is the latest example of a theme that I’ve been writing about for some time — how Asian Americans are forging a new identity for themselves, one in which our “foreignness” or more specifically our transnational cultural ties and networks back to Asia, are seen as assets, rather than liabilities as we assert our identities as legitimate Americans in the 21st century.

In other words, in this era where American society is inevitably becoming more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse and where economic issues are likely to be a paramount concern for Americans individually and American society institutionally, we as Asian Americans now have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to American society. In the process of doing so, we can also help to reshape the image and definition of what it means to be an “American.”

This expanded definition of being an American includes not just emotional attachment and patriotic loyalty to an American identity, but also involves helping to achieve greater economic prosperity for American society. As we’re seeing right now, economic issues have emerged as significant factors and challenges to American society and its overall sense of national identity.

Within this contexts, Asian American are poised to make significant contributions to rebuilding the American economy and helping it become more competitive in the 21st century. These opportunities can involve many different examples. First, we know that at the aggregate level, Asian American households have the highest median income of all the major racial/ethnic groups.

Even when it comes to personal/per capita level, as data is beginning to show, US-born Asian American have matched or even exceeded the income level of Whites. Of course, we have to be careful and recognize that not all Asian Americans are economically successful, but overall, I think our community is doing well.

In fact, a recent article at New America Media noted that said communities of color have an estimated $282 billion in purchasing power, with Asian Americans possessing about $90 billion of that.

There was also the recent commentary in the NY Times which suggested, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that one way to stimulate the economy is to let in more Asian immigrants, who would buy up all he sub-prime homes, work 14 hour days to do it, improve the national savings rate, and start up businesses that will employ American workers.

More realistically, we’ve already seen examples of Asian enclaves proliferating around the country — in both urban and increasingly suburban areas — that have resulted in these areas becoming revitalized, with new businesses, jobs, homes, and other amenities being created.

The point is, the economic contributions of Asian Americans to the American economy is undeniable.

The second way that Asian American can contribute to a new and stronger American society relates more to the cultural level. As I mentioned earlier, it is clear that the world in general and American society in particular is becoming more diverse, globalized, and transnational. With that in mind, Asian Americans occupy a very central role in this evolving process.

As the U.S. seeks to maintain its influence around the world, it has no other choice but to embrace these global trends and to build more mutually-respectful connections with countries around the world, particular in Asia. In fact, Hillary Clinton has been doing just that as Secretary of State — in February she made high-profile visits to Japan, South Korea, China, and Indonesia.

So with this mind, Asian Americans can serve as a valuable facilitators in these connections because on the individual, community, and institutional levels, we still have strong ties and networks to Asian countries. This can take many different forms — maintaining relationships with friends and family and sending remittances back there, or using our bicultural skills and resources to do business back in Asia, or bringing our educational expertise to work on issues and projects focused on environmental sustainability, social equality, or human rights.

In the case of Secretary Locke, I think he represents this new form of Asian American identity — a “real” American of Asian ancestry but whose Asian ancestry can be a significant asset and advantage in terms of making significant contributions to strengthening our country, our economy, and our society.

Many Asian Americans (and for that matter, Americans from all kinds of backgrounds) are in a similar situation and as such, also have the same opportunity to become leaders in their community and in our society in the 21st century.