Last winter, before the 45th President of the United States was elected, Mochi asked Chinese Americans why they voted for Donald Trump. With less than 25 percent of Chinese Americans voting for Trump in 2016 (and only 18 percent of all Asian Americans), we wanted to know their reasons for going against the grain. Since his first day on the job, the President has made headlines by repealing the Obamacare mandate and passing a tax reform bill. His nomination for a conservative Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, was approved and resulted in significant immigration policy changes. We went back to these Chinese Americans voters to ask how they think the President is doing.
Last year, Julie Chang, a working mother in Arizona, was looking forward to Trump making these types of changes. Chang says the news media tends to focus on what Trump is doing wrong: “I think he’s doing okay, but at the same time I just don’t feel super informed. I’m tired of listening to negative news.” In fact, she says she’s fatigued with all forms of media.
To determine whether her reluctance was reflective of other people’s experience, particularly women, Mochi spoke with a group of supporters across the U.S., Chinese Americans for Trump (CAFT). These Chinese American women are most concerned about immigration, affirmative action, national security, and the economy. What they share is a desire for balance in politics and a civil society better than what they experienced in China.
Lorain from Florida still has painful memories of persistent starvation from over eight to 10 years living in socialist China. She was “heartbroken” listening to Bernie Sanders campaign for socialist ideals. “I was thinking ‘I need to do something.’ If nobody said anything, maybe one day we will fall back to communism and suffer that whole pain again.”
Lorain arrived in the U.S. 14 years ago from a country that censors criticism of its leaders, so she was in disbelief that people could openly criticize their presidents. “I got attracted to politics right away and watched CNN and Fox News.” She found herself disagreeing with what she considered liberal commentaries on television and quickly realized that she upheld conservative values, which Trump, as a Republican president, represented.
Having a conservative judge like Gorsuch was important to Andy Zhang of Arizona. As a leading organizer of CAFT, he helped other states organize their own chapters. Zhang said he’s “absolutely” happier under the current administration. “Things have changed for the better,” Andy says. “Illegal crossings have gone down by 70% in Arizona. Trump did this by issuing an executive order asking authorities to uphold existing law.” He is pleased with Trump’s support of law enforcement, claiming that this positively impacts his community.
In 2015, 64 Asian American groups filed a joint complaint against Harvard University for racial discrimination in admissions. While President Obama dismissed the case, many who were interviewed for this article credit the current administration for the Department of Justice threatening to sue Harvard if school officials declined to hand over requested materials in the ongoing investigation. “You should look at the socio-economic situation of each student, but not race,” Zhang says.
Upholding a meritocracy in college admissions and the business world is important to many of these voters. Grace Su from Michigan came to the U.S. nine years ago. In addition to obtaining a Masters in Education and several certificates in project management, she has done translation work for MBA programs and managed her own business for several years. “People who work 9-to-5 are paying the taxes for people who aren’t doing much. Illegal immigrants know to call 9-1-1 and get free care at the hospital.” She admired Trump’s tough stance on affirmative action and is happy she campaigned for him. While canvassing last year, she met college students who wanted all education to be free; “I told them money has to come from somewhere — taxpayers, their parents.”
Lily Cummings from Florida has one child in college. Issues of national security, economy, and education prompted her to side with a Republican administration. Twenty-two years ago, she came to the U.S. as a student, earning a Master’s in Accounting. Over time, she noticed that affirmative action impacted not just students but workers, as well. “They fired Chinese engineers left and right because Obama had called top execs to apply affirmative action,” Cummins says. “They should hire someone most qualified for the job, not based on skin color.”
Shu-Chin from Arizona recalls watching political debates in the early 1990s to help improve her English. “I was a Bill Clinton supporter and I voted for Obama twice. But then I looked at how the country became too left under Obama. He tripled the deficit, so I was disappointed.” Trump’s speeches during the election resonated with her. She is happy with her decision to vote for a Republican this past year due to the new tax cuts and a focus on decreasing illegal immigration.
Having worked over two decades in upper management for Fortune 500 companies, she has observed inefficiencies at the hands of government interference. When she was at Intel, she remembers, “We laid off so many Americans and hired foreign engineers because they were willing to work for less pay.” She argues that Trump’s merit-based issuance of H1-B visas will help American college graduates obtain jobs that were going to non-residents.
Cummings also argues that Trump’s immigration policies are good for low-level jobs. If the Chinese engineers cannot work in the U.S., they can still find a job in China and make a good living, according to Cummings – “I believe in America first, as Trump said.”
These voters left their country of birth and have come to earnestly engage in the culture and politics of their adopted country. Legal cases that hurt Asian Americans prompted Su to become involved in politics. “I realized that as a new group, we need to know who to vote for and [what] issues to fight for,” Cummings says. “I encourage [the] Chinese community to care about politics because we are Americans.”
Just like how other Americans have diverse political opinions, not all Asian Americans are liberals; that balance is important. “I think the U.S. is so strong and so great because it’s not too left and not too right,” says Cummings. “Too left is very dangerous. If we are too far right, then we deserve a president who is more left.”