The Chinese in America

The following quote was by Van Cleve Morris:

We speak of an alien literally as a peson who is not, at the moment, at home in his contry.  But, unlike a mere tourist, the alien realizes he is not at home but does not wish or is not allowed to return to his homeland; for reason or another, he has taken up residence in his new country with the intention of calling it home.  Now, consider his situation.  He recognizes that, as an alien, as an "official stranger," he is neither accepted nor rejected.  His presence makes no difference, one way or the other; he is no bother to have around, but, on the other hand, he would not be missed.  His departure, were it to take place, would go unnoticed; the community is totally indifferent.  His acknowledgement of these conditions would probably incline him, I think, to feel a certain unease.  Not despair, necessarily, but the unease of not "feeling at home."

But this author was not really talking about alien residents from other countries.  The true subject of the book is indicated by the title, Existentialism and Education.

The anxiety here under examination is of the sort one might feel upon realizing that he is "not at home" in the world, that he is somehow an alien in an "adopted land."  It is not the emotion of hysteria, or anything so spectacular, but just the dull ache of knowing that one's existence is of no significance, that one could depart unnoticed, and the cosmos and all its parts would be totally indifferent to such a leave-taking.

These moments of existentialist angst have probably occurred to most people at some point.  So this will hopefully prepare for a more sympathetic reading of the translated article below.

(ChineseNewsNet)  The Chinese in the Eyes of Americans.  By Wu Qixing.  May 21, 2004.

Did the survey sponsored by the Committee Of 100 surprise you?  What is the Committee of 100?  Are the Chinese the model minority group in the United States?

The Committee of 100 is a non-profit organization formed by Chinese-American elites who have the most influence in the United States.  In February 2001, they asked a professional survey company to conduct a study on the image of Chinese-Americans in the eyes of Americans.  The results were surprising.  Within that study of more than 1,000 American adults from different fields, 

These survey results shocked the Chinese-American society.  The Chinese-Americans always thought of themselves as a model minority, but now they found themselves being so poorly thought of, even worse than African-Americans.

Later, the same organization conducted another study about the percent of Asian-Americans that were present in corporate boards of directors.  After a long and detailed study, the results have been published recently.  The results are just as unsatisfactory.  According to the study of Chinese-American presence on large American corporation boards released on April 1st, 2004 (and this was no April Fool's joke), Chinese-Americans are rarely found in boards of directors at about 1%.  This shows that the influence of Chinese-Americans within the American corporate world is far less than other groups.

The reporter pointed out that at the end of 2003, there were a total of 5,875 persons on the boards of directors of the Fortune 500 corporations.  Of these, 59 were Asian-Americans at a 1% incidence.  By comparison, the percent of Asian-Americans within the total population is 4.4%, so this is much lower.  The 59 Asian-Americans are concentrated in high-technology and insurance.  In computer-related, software, electronics and telecommunications, there were 17 Asian-Americans.  In insurance, there were 14 Asian Americans.  By region, the US Northeast and the Pacific Northwest had the most Asian American board members.

The incidence of Asian-Americans was lower than blacks.  In the S&P 500, 75 companies have African-Americans on their boards, and 29 others have Latinos.  From the viewpoint of educational achievement, Asian Americans are supposed to be much more accomplished.  This is another shocking outcome.

Even though the representation of Asian-Americans on corporate boards is low, their average income of Asian Americans are not low.  According to the Census, the median household income of Asian Americans is US$55,113 compared to $47,149 for non-Latino whites, $33,946 for Latinos and $29,982 for African Americans.  Asian-Americans also more likely to have college degrees.  47% of them do so, compared to 27% in the total population.

Also, Asian Americans are more likely to have investment assets.  The percentage of Asian Americans with more than US$500,000 increased from 1% to 5% between the years 2000 and 2002.  The average assets of affluent Asian-Americans amount to US$2.9 million compared to US$2.2 million for other groups.  Even though the Chinese-Americans do not make corporate boards, they know how to make money and are relatively more affluent.

Chinese Americans constitute the largest group of Asian Americans.  They describe themselves as the model minority group.  So who is it that they are not present in large numbers on corporate boards where they can use their creativity and skills?  Where has all the Chinese American elite gone?

If we take a look around us, it is not hard to see the answer.  Chinese Americans establish their own businesses inside Chinatowns and Little Taipeis in the form of small restaurants, small barber shops, small medical clinics, small grocery stores, small insurance companies, small health food stores, small bookstores and even small tourist agencies.  They have one or two outlets, they have three to four employees, they have fifty to sixty customers.  Every one owns their own company, they make a small profit each day, they accumulate by saving, they use it to buy homes, they try there best to evade and avoid taxes, they send their children to the best public schools to become doctors and lawyers, and when the children graduate, they will start their own small clinics and small legal offices and continue the pattern.  That is nice.

This is the relationship between the two studies sponsored by the Committee of 100.  If Americans have negative perceptions of Chinese Americans, then their non-presence on American corporate boards is the answer to the problem.  The Chinese prefer to have their own little company where they enjoy themselves and make their money.  They are much less interested in the corporate ladder.  This creates a serious problem because the Chinese Americans cannot hope to have a voice in the American mainstream society.

Of course, the Committee of 100 consists of people who have some influence on the American mainstream, such as architect I.M. Pei, the cellist Yo Yo Ma, and so on.  But they number only about a hundred people.  Based upon the latest information, the Committee of 100 consists of 123 people.  Like the number of Asian American board members, this number is far too small.  There has to be more than 100 Chinese American elite.  From the organization of the Committee of 100, we can see the limits of the Chinese.  These elite elements formed a group of 100 people, which is just a small organization among American organizations.  There are other Chinese American organization, but they are also small political organizations, some of them consisting of only one individual.  Why do they want so many small organizations instead of a general Chinese association?  That's because the Chinese would rather have more organizations in which people can be heads of organizations instead of being directed by others.  Furthermore, some of these organizations serve special interests.  We don't need any survey research to know why Chinese Americans are underrepresented in the mainstream American society.

Benefits and responsibilities are complementary to each other.  Within the United States, if you want to receive benefits, you are expected to have responsibilities.  There is no just thing as getting benefits without any responsibilities.  But the Chinese are a people who want the maximum amount of benefits with the least amount of responsibilities.

Many Chinese come to the United States with the same attitude as the gold rushers of 1859.  They want to make money here, but they don't want to bear the responsibility of citizenship.  They want to live here, but they don't want to blend in society.  They want to make money in this country, but they don't want to pay taxes.  Today, many people still want to make a lot of money and then go back home in glory for retirement.  This explains why Chinatowns are spread all over the United States, because the Chinese do not want to integrated into mainstream society.  They would rather stick to their language, their own lifestyles and their own values to form their own little society.  The attitude of the 19th century Chinese workers during the gold rush continues to persist today in the 21st century.  This is the footnote to the survey results from the Committee of 100.