在论及这两件事情之前，需要谈谈为什么美国的军事霸权不位列其中。这是因为尽管美国有作为世界警察的军事能力，也在近二十多年似乎战事连绵，作为一个民权和民主的国度，美国历史上很少因理念之争发动战争，为其领域之外的利益而的发动的理念之战就更少。回想即使在富兰克林，罗斯福总统经年备战后，还需要日本直接偷袭珍珠港成功才迫使美国参与二战。更近一些，在非洲甚至欧洲的几次种族灭绝性的屠杀发生后，美国都似乎介入得不甚情愿，甚至几次都直到事件的尾声才有所动作。美国对2010年埃及以及辐射周边的阿拉伯之春的介入也只是了了。后来即使是约旦的阿萨德政权面临大面积的人民反抗而大厦将倾，甚至在俄国军事参与扶持阿萨德政府，同时造成周边严重的人道主义危机的时候，美国的参与也非常有限。相关于这些华裔的来源地来说，其实还有一点更重要：试想假使美国真的因为香港或者台湾和中国大陆发起战事（这在不远的将来仍然有明显的可能），这将会带给所有美籍华裔 — 无论来源地后派别 — 至少两大问题、甚至是难题。第一，美籍华裔必须在这场战争中选择站边； 第二，因为战事的两边都是华人和华裔，华裔在美国作为一个少数族裔有很大可能会一同受到猜忌甚至因为战争伤亡而遭受社会反弹。所以尽管美国的军事能力是其在境外施展影响的后盾之一，美国军事介入这些华裔来源地应该没有太高的可行性，且从华裔的角度来看更不一定是可取的。
Chinese American vs. Their Origin
by Heng Ling
The 2020 census estimates that there are approximately 3.8 million people of Chinese descent living in the United States. To people outside of this group, they are all “Chinese Americans”. But it is far from a cohesive group for those within. One of the biggest internal distinctions lies perhaps in their actual geographical origins.
By one account, most of the Chinese Americans came from 4 places, they are: mainland China (almost 60%), Taiwan (15+%), Southeast Asia (15+%), and Hong Kong (a little less than 10%). But in total, such distinct origins number at least 15. (see https://libguides.southernct.edu/c.php?g=15048&p=4147383)
Whereas everyone may have come to the US for different reasons, people’s attachment to their origin — where their homes and families used to be — is a shared human nature. It shouldn’t be any surprise that such attachments inevitably extends to political, regional and cultural differences, as well as their historical and current connections and relations.
Taking Chinese Americans from Taiwan as an example, there are at least two sub-groups: one with ancestry on the mainland; the other with ancestry native to Taiwan. The former tend to continue to feel antagonistic toward mainland Chinese — their parents or grandparents moved to Taiwan were essentially forced exiles resulting from the civil war with the communist, who took over the mainland. And the latter carries the desire of their ancestors — who has lived on the Taiwan island for much longer — for independence of Taiwan from the mainland/rest of china. Despite the difference, these two groups are, for the time being, united by their common enemy – the mainland communists. So politically, one of their desire is for increasing American involvement in the Taiwan Straits, especially militarily. As this may be the only means to keep the mainland communist away from Taiwan — especially in recent years as the mainland communist china became increasingly prosperous economically and increasingly modernize their military. If the US would effect any economic constraint on mainland china, that would be helpful to slow the mainland communists down. More military ties between Taiwan and the US, great! Getting the US to sell Taiwan more military hardware, can’t wait! Actually getting the US administration to be more openly hawkish toward mainland china economically and even militarily, now that’s monumental!
The Chinese Americans from mainland china are a bit more complicated. There is a sizable portion who absolutely hates the communists to their bones — their families were hurt or even murdered by the communists, they themselves might have been persecuted at some point. So this group may not necessarily care for Taiwan’s independence, but they share the same animosity to anything mainland communist with those from Taiwan. Then there is also the (mostly younger) group who had grown up during the last 30 years when China modernized under the communist party. Many had seen their own families (still in mainland china) becoming more prosperous and wealthy because of the particular path the Chinese Communist Party had led. Especially when compared to what happened in Russia, many feel certain amount of gratitude for what they and their families have now. So their feelings toward the Chinese Communist Party are not as hostile nor driven. Not having been in the US for very long, this group may not yet feel completely at home here because, among other reasons, the Chinese Americans remain a minority in the US, This group generally do not have much appreciation of the racial issues in the US because the mainland china where they grew up is ethnically near homogenous. And because of shared recent life experiences in and outside of China, many in this group may continue to feel more at ease with others from the mainland, and even continue to rely heavily on friendship and connections from families and friends in mainland china for support. So the idea of US government somehow constraining or even restricting the economic prosperity of mainland china is mostly unthinkable. Many in this group do not see any reason why Taiwan would even consider independence at this point, as the mainland is economically far more powerful than Taiwan now and the economic ties between Taiwan and the mainland china are prevalent, and may even be the lifeline of Taiwan’s economy. Ultimately, everyone knows that there is a common defense pact between Taiwan and the US. So if any fight ever breaks out across the Taiwan Strait, US will very likely end up fighting against the mainland. Well, this would clearly be disastrous to this group. So of course any military posturing from the US to bolster Taiwan can not be any good.
And we shouldn’t forget those from Hong Kong. One only need to recall that there were many (official counts are around 1/2 million, but some believe to be in a multitude of millions) people who had swam across the bays — battling tide for between 4 to 8 hours and evading gun boats — during the 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s to run away from persecution and famine on the mainland to Hong Kong to realize that things are not simple in this group either. To understand the perspective of those living in HongKong — and hence many of the Chinese Americans came from Hong Kong — it’s worthwhile to review its history quickly (for additional details, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Hong_Kong）.
Until the British colonized it from the Chinese Dynasty following the First Opium War in 1842, there was not a city in the area. Its name came from a fishing village in the vicinity. In the ensuing 50 or so years of the dying Manchurian dynasty’s rule over china, additional surrounding areas were ceded or leased to add to Hong Kong. At the end of WWII, Its population was decimated by the Japanese occupation to around 600,000 (from a prewar population of 1.6 million). And the ensuing civil war in China between the Communists and the Nationalists brought a population boom in the late 1940’s, as the communists gradually won over on the mainland. However, the communist left Hong Kong alone (for reference, the communists did attack and take control of HaiNan Island, a far larger land mass separated from the mainland by a 10+-mile strait; and for comparison, Hong Kong is separated from the main land by a river inlet). In 1982, British government attempted to negotiate extension of the lease of the New Territory — then a part of HongKong — prior to the expiration of its 100-year term, with the mainland Chinese government. The end result is the proposal of a “One Country, Two Systems” plan which would allow Hong Kong be handed back to China in its entirety in 1998, with a promise that the democratic government of Hong Kong should persist for at least 50 years following the handover. That handover saw a wave of immigration of Hong Kong people abroad, including to the United States. Since the handover, the mainland Chinese government have on multiple occasions attempted to exert more control over Hong Kong, one particularly heinous act is the proposal of a bill in 2019 which would allow extradition of political prisoners from Hong Kong to the mainland without trial. Hong Kong people have staged protests to resist each of these attempts, some with more successes than the others. Meanwhile, the economic ties between Hong Kong and the mainland have become increasingly dominant to Hong Kong’s economic prosperity. Over the years, the mainland Chinese government have initiated the construction of multiple ports along with designated special economic zones around Hong Kong and along the eastern coast of China, as well as developed additional financial network and centers on the mainland — while these are certainly necessary for the continued economic development of China, the potential of using these developments to effectively replace the functions of Hong Kong can not be understated.
The point is that much of the Chinese Americans with origin from HongKong are interested in seeing more support to bolster the relative independence of HongKong from the mainland Chinese government. Unfortunately, such efforts are severely limited by the fact that HongKong is within the mainland Chinese government’s sovereign control. Compared to Taiwan, Hong Kong does not have the option to actually becoming independent, nor does it host any military forces of its own. In fact, Hong Kong can not even maintain any independent diplomatic relationship with the rest of the world. Some Chinese Americans of HongKong origin have sought and supported more hawkish military and economic policies from the US, especially those targeted in support of the demonstrations in HongKong, with the expectation that the mainland Chinese government may be more responsive to economic threats. Many in this circle took refuge with the Trump administration because of its openly hawkish stance toward mainland china, and they sought and praised the Trump administration’s July 2020 action to end preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong (originally instituted around 1997). (Note that in this author’s perhaps naive understanding, the ending of HongKong’s preferential economic treatment removed one critical reason which had upto-now prevented the mainland Chinese government from taking control of Hong Kong more aggressively — as now there is little reason why any functions HongKong has served can not be replicated and/or replaced at some appropriate mainland Chinese locations. But this is a different topic altogether.)
And we have not even gotten into the differences between different ethnic Chinese groups!
Now, these discussions are not intended for disparaging any of these groups’ perspectives and political affinities. In fact, from the discussions, it is pretty clear that they are all natural and reasonable — all human — and even when there are misconceptions or misunderstandings, it is far more likely that such misconceptions and misunderstandings resulted from people trying to figure things out rather than being associated with some inherent flaw to the particular groups.
Nevertheless, emphasizing on these differences would miss the shared foundations of nearly all of these perspectives and interests. And it is this: every one is interested in America’s influence, even direct involvement, in making their place of origin better in some way.
Think about this for a moment, beyond the vocal and even financial support from Chinese Americans to the causes indigenous to each of these regions — which will continue to be highly desirable and even influential within those regions — what might be far more helpful and effective is for the US foreign policy with each of these regions to effect the desirable influences. And this is actually predicated on two things: one, that the US continues to hold the political and moral high ground as the torch bearer and the “shining city upon the hill” of democracy and humanity; and two, that the US remains economically prosperous and influential (if not dominant) on the world stage.
Before delving into each of these two, it’s worthwhile to speak about the conspicuous absence of US military power in the above — it is purposeful and intentional. Despite US’s world-dominant military might and its famed reputation as “world’s police”, and what appeared to be endless wars in multiple regions in the recent year, one should not miss the historical fact that the US, because it is a democracy, rarely engaged in wars for ideological reasons, especially ideological reasons concerning only some foreign land. Recall that even after FDR taking a multitude of years to prepare the US popular sentiment against the Axis, it still took direct attack at Pearl Harbor before the US openly declared war. More recently, US involvement in the genocide at various regions in Africa, and even the one in Bosnia (in Europe!) were all reluctant if at all, and in many cases only in the aftermath. It is consistent that the US did not engage with the Arab Spring movement nor its subsequent offshoots in other Arab countries during the 2010’s in any significant scale. And even when the Assad regime in Jordan faced an imminent collapse from a popular rebellion, which presented both the possibility of a humanitarian crisis as well as the opportunity for a real democracy in Middle East, the US’s involvement remained minimal and cursory, even as Russian heavily committed to bolster the Assad Regime.
What is perhaps even more important is to consider the following: suppose the US did intervene militarily in some of these regions, say on behalf of Taiwan or Hong Kong against the mainland Chinese (which distinct possibilities remain in the future), it would present the Chinese Americans — all Chinese Americans — at least two issues (if not problems). One: we will have to choose sides, and the side opposite the US will not be easy to take — and the side which the US is on may not be the one we want to take; two: because Chinese American is a minority group in the US and there will be Chinese on both sides of that conflict, the group as a whole may face suspicion as well as potential backlash as the cause for American lives. So, whereas it is certainly true that the backing of US military might is necessary for US to effect any influence in these regions, it is not clear whether direct US military based intervention is possible or even desirable.
Going back to the two included items. As US is a foreign power and outsider to these regions, the only real political influence that the US has — and for that matter, any other country or state may have — resides primarily in economic and human engagement and from the regard of the US from the people in these regions. Without the channels of contact facilitated by economic and human engagements (such as exchanges and tourism), people there may be easily shielded (by the local government) from the opinions and even policies of the US. And for criticisms of the US government and/or public opinion to actually become meaningful to these regions in its government ideology (such as democracy vs. authoritarian dictatorship), policy design (such as human rights, minority rights), legal mandate and maneuver (as in Hong Kong’s new extradition law), it would require the US society and government to retain legal, moral, and humanitarian high grounds. Imagine if the US become led by a Putin type leaders, surely any criticism about human rights and non-democratic acts of the government probably would not be worth the paper on which the criticisms are issued. Following this understanding, Trump’s cozying up with authoritarian leaders like Putin, Kim Jung-un, and Viktor Orbán can only be detrimental. It goes without saying that economic prosperity in the US is a requirement for effecting any economic influence in any of these region.
A word of caution on enforcing Iran or North Korean style extreme economic sanctions: study upon study have shown that whereas these government did suffer devastating consequences on the international stage, paths do exist for and have been undertaken by these government to steer their people’s anger toward foreign powers which resulted these government successfully steel their political and economic grip on their people. So far, these extreme economic sanctions have led to extreme and prolonged suffering of people in these regions, while the desired political and/or policy changes remain elusive at the best.
It should also be clear by now that for the US to effect its influences in these regions through economic and human engagement, the US needs to execute consistent and rational foreign policies in regard to each and every one of these regions over a multitude of administrations and a prolonged period of time. This is because first of all changes in these regions, especially those driven by foreign influences, will most likely take time to overcome the preference and ideology of the local government. Should the US foreign policy in regard to a particular region changes from administration to administration significantly, or if the US foreign policies with regard to any particular region around the world does not project consistency — even if the region is unrelated to any of these origins of Chinese Americans — the likely outcome is that the local government would either not know what to adhere to, or would decide that waiting for US administration change would work better than actually reacting to any particular administration. It is for this reason why significant changes in US foreign policy in its relation and regard to any particular region should only be made with extreme caution.
Finally, as the Chinese American is a minority group in the US, and the subgroups from particular origin are even smaller, whether US foreign policy with respect to these regions can be influenced and how to effect appropriate influences are at the very center of this entire undertaking. What should be obvious is that if Chinese Americans do not command the equal regard and respect from the rest of the US society, and if Chinese Americans as a group does not have an appropriate voice in the US politics, there is little chance that any subgroup of Chinese Americans from a particular origin would be able to imprint their desires onto US foreign policies.
If the “United we are stronger” sounds cliché, it also happens to be spot on in this case. As the only path to develop an appropriate voice and presence in American politics, Chinese Americans, regardless of their place of origin, need to unite together to control the rhetoric of the Chinese Americans as equal and equally respected Americans in this society. More broadly, only through the commitment to build — together with all of the Americans — an economically prosperous United States and ensuring that the political system and policies executed in the United States continue to be admired by and be the envy of people from all over the world, can there be real possibilities of effecting any real positive change to the people still living at we each come from.