Taiwanese Americans Are Politically Active For Taiwan, But What About US Politics?

A few weeks ago, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Presidential Candidate Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) was in Silicon Valley for a fundraiser.  The Taiwanese presidential election occurs in January 2012. This was part of her overall 1+ week visit to the United States, to: “at least in part at reassuring the administration of US President Barack Obama that if elected the DPP would strive to maintain cross-strait peace and stability.”

The main difference for Americans to be aware of between the DPP (“Green Party,” as represented by their logo) and the current ruling party, the KMT (Kuomintang, also known as the “Blue Party”) is their stands on self-rule, autonomy and relationship with the People’s Republic of China. To put it very,very simplistically, the DPP is for Taiwanese independence while the KMT is more for eventual “reunification” with China.  China considers Taiwan to be a “renegade” province. As you may or may not know, China has often stated that if Taiwan ever declares official independence, China would not rule out taking Taiwan by force. And the United States is, through the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), obligated to defend Taiwan if such actions occur.

In any case, I thought I would drop by to check out what such an event would be like.  I am self-admittedly more of a DPP kind-of-person, but being born-and-raised in the United States (my parents are from Taiwan), I am much more interested in American elections and politics. For like $10, I sat in the cheap seats, but I think most attendees and supporters donated $100 per person.

I had never seen such fervor and excitement for any political candidate (Taiwanese or American) as I saw when candidate Tsai Ing-Wen made her way throughout the room to greet and shake the hands of her supporters (she starts getting close to me at around minute 2:30). There was over ten continuous minutes of cheering and flag waving. I could have been in Taiwan and thought that maybe half of Cupertino, California was in that room! (I had heard that there were over 2,000 attendees.)

I thought it was great that there were so many Taiwanese Americans, which I’d say 90% were in their 50s or above and 1st generation Americans, being so politically excited and motivated. But why don’t I see such people (or that many at least) at Bay Area events for American politicians or candidates? I guess the love of one’s mother country never goes away for many immigrants and one’s self-identity, especially if one has lived in the U.S. less than their years having grown up in their native mother country. Language can also be an issue. I, like many in that room, still have relatives in Taiwan. I have many cousins, aunts and uncles living there, and have visited Taiwan seven times in my life. I only want the best for them in Taiwan. I guess it’s all how one perceives their self-identity – as a Taiwanese living in the United States as an American citizen, a Taiwanese American, or simply an American with no personal, linguistic, emotional or family ties to Taiwan.

But from a practical standpoint, if an older Taiwanese American is going to be active and motivated about politics in Taiwan, I would hope that those would be more actively involved in American politics. Local, state and federal elections have a more direct impact on their every day lives than any election in Taiwan.  I wonder what the best way to convert actively Taiwanese Americans, and Asian Americans in general, into American politics.

For those of you who might be interested,  you can view most of Presidential Candidate Tsai Ing-Wen’s speech which I videotaped here (in Mandarin).

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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