According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Asian Americans (AAs) consist of people residing in the U.S. coming from or having ancestry from the Far East, Southeast Asia and Indian Subcontinent. However, historically the population of AAs was insignificant in number in 19th century or earlier. In early 20th century, AAs were chiefly Chinese immigrants who came to the U.S. as laborers working in the railroad construction and mining industry. They were referred as coolies and seriously and unfairly discriminated by the white Americans. Despite of the discriminating laws (1920-1940’s) more Asians immigrated to the U.S. from India, Japan, Philippines, and South China. Post WW II and after the abolishment of discrimination laws against Asians and especially after the elimination of quota limitation placed on Asian regions (1965), the population of Asian immigrants increased and diversified to include people with ancestry from various parts of Asia. Realizing the productivity of AAs, the U.S. opened the immigration door to Asians especially to Asian students. By the last census in 2010, the population of Asian AAs rose to 17,320,856 and grew to 22,408,454 in 2017 reaching 6.9% of the total American population, becoming the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. They are generally hard working, mainly distributed in the following states: California, 5.6M, NY, 1.6M, Texas 1.1M, NJ, 795K, Hawaii, 781K, Illinois, 669K, Washington, 604K, Florida, 573K, Virginia, 522K, and Pennsylvania, 403K, making significant contribution to the economy of the U.S.
Practiced in the US Census, people with origins or ancestry in the Far East, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent are classified as part of the Asian race whereas those with origins or ancestry in North Asia (Russians, Siberians), Central Asia (Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, etc.), Western Asia (Diaspora Jews, Turks, Persians, Kurds, Assyrians, West Asian Arabs, Afghans, etc.), and the Caucasus (Georgians, Armenians, Azeris, etc.) are classified as "white" or "Middle Eastern". For the purpose of this article, it is not necessary to exclude any American coming from Asia or having ancestry from any part of Asia as AAs. In fact, the author agrees with the objection voiced by many AAs that it is unnecessary and somewhat discriminating to further subdividing the AAs, not the Whites, into categories designating smaller regions in Asia. One of the reasons for such objection is the fact that some Ivy League schools practice discrimination in their college admission process against certain groups of AAs. Further defining AAs in subgroups only help such college discrimination, yet AAs are more educated and paying more taxes per capita in the American society.
The U.S. is a country of immigrants, progressing rapidly over two and half century with the influx of capable and productive immigrants. The immigrants are drawn by the liberal democracy and equal justice principles the United States Constitution proclaims. The U.S. had a number of wars of aggression against her neighbors during her early stage, but in the two World Wars, the U.S. stood by the side of justice defending and helping her allies, especially in the WW II when her Allies were attacked by the imperialist Germany in Europe and Imperial Japan in Asia. In the end, the Allies won the war and the U.S. became the strongest nation in the world. Her citizens, several generations of immigrants, are very proud of their country for standing up for justice and liberty and being a defender of democracy. This immigrant American spirit, built on the principles of ‘American can do’, freedom, liberty and human rights was vivid till 1990, the time the Soviet Union collapsed.
The collapse of the Soviet Union made the U.S. the superpower and the de facto leader of the world, there began a serious change in the U.S. The nation developed divisions, not just bipartisan politics, but divisions on many issues, war, fiscal and social issues damaging the fundamental principle of democracy - majority rules (minorities should yield to the majority so that policies can be established and executed smoothly). The U.S. government became less competent and less effective; the American society became more fragmented and more selfish focusing on applying liberal principles on self-centered interest making the country stagnant in progress in infrastructure, social welfare and nation building. The U.S. economy has transformed, abandoning human and labor intensive manufacturing industries and adopting capital intense financial industries letting printing money, manipulating currency and debt carry the day. American economy drops in percentage of world economy. American foreign policy turns to a selfish hypocritical behavior – saying one thing and doing the other. Take Europe for example, despite of the vanishing Warsaw pact, the U.S. encouraged the growth of NATO pushing member recruitment and more military and weapon deployment. Take Africa, the U.S. engaged with many African countries and involved with their governments but none had become a shining example of liberal democracy with prosperity. In contrast, China’s investment in Africa gained more African support in the U.N. In the Middle East, the U.S. policy caused prolonged wars with no peace insight which certainly did not benefit the people in the Middle East especially the countries blessed with rich oil deposit.
The U.S. Asia Policy is of concern to AAs. Instead of taking the collapse of the Soviet Union as an opportunity to rebuild Asia, the U.S. policy tends to divide Asia and create tension. The U.S. insisted on dividing the two Koreas rather than letting them unite and focus on economic development like the Germany did. Now, the world is facing another nuclear threat from North Korea (NK). If the U.S. media would do an honest survey on AAs (especially Korean Americans), not many would believe that NK would ever shoot a nuclear missile to the U.S., not today, never mind a decade or two ago. Asking any Japanese Americans, not many would believe that NK would shoot a nuclear missile to Japan either. People know that regional nuclear war has no winner but committing suicides. What is wrong to let Asian countries to focus on economic development and reach a balance of power on their own? Ask any AAs, how many would believe that only the U.S. can and must maintain peace in Asia, with her current Asia Policy? With China, India, Japan and Russia rising at their own rate, there would be a natural balance of power keeping peace; perhaps the natural course would be better than an outside country interfering and holding the Asian countries with strings to play a balancing act.
The AAs have a serious dual responsibility in this world simply because they would love to see that the U.S. (their home) and Asian countries (their motherland) in peace with each other. As an Asian American, one must be honestly assessing America’s Asia policy. The assumption that any Asian country would attack the U.S. today is based on a legacy theory with no concrete evidence. The legacy theory targeted Russia as the enemy, but it took two to tango in arms race. Russia has been wakened since the 90’s, but the U.S. military strategists switch target to China and NK. Must the U.S. have a target enemy to maintain her super military power? Assuming that any Asian country is destined to have a war with the U.S. or with its neighbor extending damage to the U.S. is a questionable logic. Japan was the aggressor in Asia attacked other Asian countries prolonged WW II but Japan is now the strongest ally of the U.S. Currently, the U.S. is walking away from globalization, pulling out of disarmament agreement with Russia and increasing military pressure in South China Sea. Where is the logic? The U.S. can leave Asia alone and concentrate on making America great again, but she is not. The AAs have a responsibility to themselves to understand the U.S. Asia Policy and steer it to the right direction. (To be continued in part II)
Ifay Chang. Ph.D. Producer/Host, Community Education - Scrammble Game Show, Weekly TV Columnist, www.us-chinaforum.org . Trustee, Somers Central School District.