Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week sparked concerns from US allies in Asia, support from Republican senators and sharp criticism from China.
But what did people find at home? More specifically, how did Chinese Americans and Taiwanese Americans react in the San Francisco Bay Area?
We spoke to residents whose thoughts came to the nuances befitting a journey full of geopolitical implications.
In Chinatown, the oldest and largest in America, in San Francisco, residents reacted with a mixture of anger and concern. Some said they feared the trip by Pelosi, their representative in Congress, would fuel anti-Chinese sentiment and fuel attacks on Asian Americans.
“At this point, we don’t want to generate any more negative feelings against the Chinese,” said Melvin Lee, property developer and community leader. “That’s the biggest concern.”
The Chinese community in San Francisco supported Taiwan from the 1950s to the early 1990s. But today it’s much more connected to mainland China, in part because of immigration trends and the rise of China’s power and influence in the world, according to David Lee, a political science teacher in San Francisco who specializes in voting trends of the Chinese community.
Taiwanese Americans in the Bay Area reacted very differently. Several said they were excited about what they considered to be the culmination of Pelosi’s decades-long support for Taiwan.
“The fact that Speaker Pelosi has visited Taiwan and held public events is exciting,” said Marie Chuang, a council member in Hillsborough, a suburb just south of San Francisco. “Nancy Pelosi has always been very pro-democracy, pro-human rights, so it’s no surprise she wanted to be there. She recognized the importance of the image.”
Angela Yu, 42, a Bay Area resident who started a podcast about her Taiwanese American identity, said it was encouraging and “very meaningful” to see Pelosi “stand up and show support for Taiwan” despite President Biden’s discouragement. .
Annie Wang, the niece of Mrs. Yu, and co-host of the podcast, said she was still processing that the visit actually happened. She was pleasantly surprised that a US official had expressed unequivocal support for Taiwan. She said she hoped the United States would back the speech with action.
Taiwanese Americans said they understood fears that Pelosi’s trip would be seen as a provocation. But some took their lead from friends and family living in Taiwan under the threat of Chinese military action.
“It’s like looking at the captain of the ship: if the captain isn’t panicking, then neither am I,” said Wang, 42.
Chinese flags fluttered above rooftops in San Francisco on Tuesday, often next to American flags. Only a few buildings flew the Taiwan flag. Stephen Chan, the owner of a jewelry store in Chinatown, called Pelosi’s trip “pointless” and compared it to Donald Trump’s description of the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus”. In both cases, Chan said, “Americans poured oil on the fire.”
Chieh-Ting Yeh, a Mountain View resident and co-founder of the Global Taiwan Institute, said that “the question everyone seems to have is, is this provocative?”
He said that among Taiwanese Americans, “for the most part, everyone is very happy” that Pelosi went ahead after her travel plans went public. Yeh said it would have looked worse if she had been seen as intimidated by the Chinese government’s threats.
Chuang, the Hillsborough councilor, said she did not think Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would become a source of tension between Taiwanese and Chinese Americans.
“There are a lot of people who escaped communism and came to Taiwan and then ended up in the Bay Area or the United States,” she said, “because in the end we know that freedom and democracy is the goal.”
Where we are traveling
Today’s tip comes from Elizabeth Eaves, who lives in Sacramento. Elizabeth recommends a trip to far northeastern California:
“If I could, I’d go to Modoc County in the upper eastern corner of California to see the butterflies and drive through the Warner Mountains, hidden behind two volcanoes. The population is under 10,000 and the dirt roads are smooth and fine. There are more butterflies in the Warner Mountains than anywhere else in the country. Modoc National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management have all the information you need. There is the famous Lava Beds National Monument and places like Surprise Valley and a small town called Likely.
Driving in the Warner Mountains to see the butterflies would be a dream. I have lived in California for all my 78 years and have been to all the places almost anyone could name. This state is huge, varied, beautiful and most of the places people go are crowded. Modoc County and the Warner Mountains are the essence of its wild beauty and rich geological and cultural history. I take a deep breath and let the Warners remind me why California is worth living here all my life.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We will share more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
And before you go, good news
Until this week, Patrick Combs hadn’t seen Searcy Hughes since the day she was born, June 29, 1988. The birth was memorable enough to make the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle the following day.
“SF student delivers baby to curbside on his way to work,” reads the headline.
Thirty-four years ago, Combs helped deliver Hughes after her mother gave birth on a sidewalk in San Francisco. Hughes was soon given up for adoption and she didn’t know the full story of her birth until she reconnected with Combs.
On Wednesday, Combs and Hughes walked arm in arm to the spot where Hughes was born, near the corner of Fell and Buchanan Streets. Combs, who flew out of San Diego for the reunion, recalled that when he first held Hughes, he thought she wasn’t alive.
“Then your eyes opened like the headlights of a Fiat — then you looked at me and started crying,” Combs told Hughes, who now lives in South Dakota.
“I didn’t remember what your mother looked like until I saw you,” he continued. “That’s how you look like her.”
Read more in The San Francisco Chronicle.
Thank you for reading. We’ll be back on Monday.
PS Here is today’s mini crosswordand a clue: Fuzzy fruit (four letters).
Soumya Karlamangla, Allison Honors and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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