NEW YORK — Nearly every day since Donald Trump became the Republican presidential nominee, Tinna Xie has logged onto the Chinese social networking site, WeChat, to exchange views with fellow Chinese Americans around the country.
There is a common thread that draws Xie and others to the online group: they’re all Trump supporters.
Xie came to the United States more than a decade ago to study communications at Arizona State University. She now works as a journalist in the Phoenix area. She said that while it may be hard to assess exactly how much support Trump has within the Chinese American community, it could be more substantial than what many might assume.
"There's even a group of Chinese Americans on WeChat who created a contest to increase Trump supporters in this election," she said. "The person who gets the highest number of Trump supporters, by the last day of voter registration [which will be in two weeks for most states], will win $500."
Still, many Trump supporters in the Chinese community, Xie explained, want to remain discreet because of the divisive nature of Trump’s presidential candidacy.
Support for Trump from among Chinese immigrants may seem surprising, given the candidate has routinely criticized China in his campaigns, blaming the nation for job losses and the economic plight of American workers. But Xie said that Trump's views on immigration, education and the economy resonate with her and other Chinese immigrant voters.
"My friends agree that Trump is a lot better for the U.S. economy than [Hillary] Clinton," she said. “And Trump will not support affirmative action.”
A number of Asian Americans — particularly Chinese students and their families —believe affirmative action policies leave them disadvantaged in the college admission process.
Asian American voters currently make up about 4 percent of the U.S. electorate. While still relatively small in comparison to other groups, they are the fastest growing demographic in the country and account for sizable percentages in key swing states like Nevada and Virginia.
Once reliably conservative, Asian American voters have increasingly turned toward the Democratic Party, voting for Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 races. A Pew study released in August showed that since 2008 Asian support for Democrats grew at a faster pace than any other ethnic group.
Another survey of 1,000 registered Asian American voters showed 62 percent supported Hillary Clinton, compared to just 16 percent who expressed a positive view of Trump.
But Asian American political identity is still evolving, and Trump’s appeal to Xie and others is a sign that as a group their party loyalty remains open.
Joe Wei, managing editor of The World Journal, one of the largest Chinese-language publications in the country, acknowledged that support for Trump among Chinese speakers has proliferated on WeChat. He counted several on-line forums dedicated to boosting support for the candidate.
“WeChat plays a very important role in disseminating information and advancing support for Donald Trump,” he said. “However, there is a strong understanding that those Chinese Americans who support [Trump] are newer immigrants [who arrived] in the last 10 to 20 years.”
Wei said that unlike earlier immigrants or Chinese Americans born in the United States, “political preferences among this group are guided by Chinese values, rather than by American values.”
In other words, newer immigrants have fewer reference points – and therefore identify less – with things like race relations, gender politics and other social issues boiling at or near the surface this election season.
Rong Xiaoqing is a reporter for the Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily. She recently wrote an op-ed on support for Trump among newer Chinese immigrants, and said that many saw in Trump “a successful businessman” who got where he is “by working hard and [by] being smart."
She added, "This is in line with Chinese values."
But Xiaoqing agrees with Wei that those Chinese Americans who support Trump have less of an understanding of the American social and political landscape.
"China is a homogenous country, and people there have little patience with political correctness," she said, adding that few understand how the targeting of one minority group can easily impact others.
Chinese American voters who support Trump, she said, believe that he will bar Muslims from coming into the United States and deport undocumented immigrants, meaning that "the good immigrants will have a safer and a better life.”
"In my view,” she said, “that's a delusion."
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