Taiwan diaspora increasing in US, but sway on policymaking is limited
Published: May 26, 2021 08:58 PM
Local residents wearing masks wait for buses in New Taipei City on May 15. Photo: AFP

Local residents wearing masks wait for buses in New Taipei City on May 15. Photo: AFP

Among the members of the Biden administration's cabinet, United States Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, has recently garnered worldwide attention. She presides over crucial trade issues, and her status as a descendant of immigrants from Taiwan has drawn attention regarding her stance toward China.

Tai is not the only influential political figure with a Taiwan background in the US. At the end of April, US President Joe Biden announced Heidi Shyu as his nominee for undersecretary of defense for research. Christopher P. Lu, of Virginia, was nominated to be representative to the United Nations for UN Management and Reform, with the rank of Ambassador.

The appointment of officials with a Taiwan background is in line with Biden's goal of building a diverse administration, but it has touched the sensitive political nerve with the international media at a time when relations between the Chinese mainland and the US are still at a low ebb. 

"Their political orientation toward the Chinese mainland cannot be generalized," Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times.

He said the Chinese community in the US is very complex, with a wide gap in identity and political views. Moreover, the real key players in the Biden administration for Taiwan policy are senior diplomatic and security officials such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser John Sullivan.

Over the past two decades, there have been many officials and lawmakers with Taiwan roots in US politics, such as former US Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.

The growing number of "Taiwanese Americans" in politics is no accident. The island has witnessed several peaks of immigration to the US and many people from Taiwan have been living in the US for many years, so they have become increasingly familiar with the "rules of the game" of American politics. Some Americans are also beginning to notice this relatively active group, hoping to use this resource for their own benefit, analysts said.

Xin said that under normal circumstances, the second and third generations of immigrants with a Taiwan background in the US recognized the US far more than Taiwan or the Chinese mainland, and once they sit in the position of the US government, one of the most basic principles they need to abide by is to serve the interests of the US.

Otherwise, they will be unstable in this position.

These officials with Taiwan background in the US may have some influence on the bilateral relations, but they are by no means decisive, he noted.