Strong anti-China bias is present in California's congressional race
Strong anti-China bias is present in California's congressional race

California: In a controversial California race for the US House of Representatives, incumbent Michelle Steele attacked her Asian-American rival, Jay Chen, calling him the "choice of China," a Beijing lover and a supporter of the Communist Party.

In a country that has recently seen a surge in anti-Asian violence and hate speech, this may seem like business as usual, but there is an important difference. The Asian-American, steel Vietnamese community is also a subject of conflict.

While it is ironic that two Asian candidates are running against each other in California's 45th Congressional District, which is southeast of Los Angeles, some see it as a symbol of the growing political influence of the Asian community.

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Others feel that the competition highlights the vast diversity that exists within the "block" of Asian Americans, which includes Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Afghans, Samoas, and others.

"We hope all candidates can focus on legitimate issues that their constituents care about and avoid mud-slinging," said Bob Sakaniwa, policy and advocacy director for the civic organization Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote. Going the other way will have negative consequences for the community.

One of the first Korean-American women elected to Congress in 2020 was Republican Steele, aged 67. She immigrated to the US at age 20, opened a clothing store with her family, and served on the Orange County Board of Supervisors before running. Congress. She is the daughter of parents who fled North Korea.

His Democratic rival is Jay Chen, 44, a lieutenant commander and intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve. The son of Taiwanese immigrants who fled the mainland and was born in the US, he went to Harvard University on a military scholarship and runs a real estate company.

The razor-thin race has garnered more attention. Time magazine titled a story, "Fight for Asian-American Voters Gets Messi in California." Another article in American Prospect referred to the "Craziest House Race of 2022".

While Steele has emphasized anti-communism, tighter border security and lower taxes, Chen has advocated for better gun safety and lower health care costs.

Even though Steele is the incumbent, CD45 is the new ground for him as a result of the redistribution of Congressional districts after the 2020 Census. The "Little Saigon" neighborhood in Orange County, which has historically been anti-communist, wary of China and home to the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam, is now in a decision-making position.

Several "red-baiting" steel advertisements depicting Chen as a CCP pawn have been published in Vietnamese. A deceptive political poster that reads "China's Choice, Je Chen" and is painted red and yellow of the national flag, only in small letters acknowledges that Steele's campaign has paid for it.

In a 30-second video, two Chinese actors portraying members of the "Chinese Communist Party Intelligence Division" laugh at the idea of ​​a secret Chinese agent traveling to the United States, referring to Chen as "a socialist comrade". Praise. The banner read, "He is the perfect fit for Communist China."

Steele's campaign has also mailed Vietnamese leaflets containing a photoshopped image of Chen instructing children with a copy of the Communist Manifesto and images of Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh. In 2010, Chen supported the Beijing-funded Confucius Classroom program for Chinese education in middle schools.

Asian-American organizations retaliated to Steele's attacks by holding demonstrations outside her campaign headquarters, where they raised American flags shouting "Stop dividing communities" and denounced "McCarthyist tactics".

Steele's rhetoric has raised concerns that it will worsen anti-Asian violence, harassment and verbal threats because it comes from an Asian candidate.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, then-President Donald Trump made references to "kung flu" and the "Chinese virus". From March 19, 2020 to March 31, 2022, a civic organization called Stop AAPI Hate reported 11,467 such incidents.

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According to Long Bui, an associate professor at the University of California, Irvine, calling someone a tool of China has gained political currency recently, especially in the wake of Trump. "Red-baiting easily turns into race-baiting, which harms the Chinese and, by extension, all Asians."

However, he pointed out that there were more protests as time went on, adding, "It shows that many people are more and more reluctant to tolerate such messages."

In a statement, the Chinese-American Citizens Organization Committee of 100 urged Steele's campaign to "focus on the issues" and stop using "harmful and false stereotypes" that can fuel anti-Asian bias.

The group's president, Zhengyu Huang, said in a statement that "a congressional race between two candidates of Asian descent should be an opportunity to highlight the diversity and accomplishment of the Asian-American community." Instead, one candidate is casting doubt on the loyalty and patriotism of an American military veteran by using racist taunts and advertisements.

In recent weeks, Chen has intensified his anti-communist and anti-China attacks on Steel, calling her out for running "one of the nastiest, ugliest campaigns in the entire country." Chen initially ran his campaign on electoral issues and his military record.

However, Chen has also come under fire for feeding stereotypes about Asians, claiming during a scene in Steel that an interpreter was required to "figure out exactly what she's saying."

Chen defended himself by claiming that he was only making fun of Steel's "convoluted" Republican Party talking points after Steel accused him of making fun of her Korean accent.

2020 saw Steel win in a district that was mostly white and nearby. However, the newly drawn CD 45 has one of the highest percentages of Asian Americans (more than 33%) along with thriving Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and Indian communities. Orange County, which has historically been a Republican stronghold, is becoming more diverse.

Given the sensitivity of Vietnamese citizens, especially older generations who criticise the Hanoi government and China's invasion of Vietnam in 1979, Steel's aggressive anti-communist tactics at first appeared to succeed.

According to Dzung Do, a local TV anchor and editor-in-chief of Nguoi Viet, the biggest Vietnamese-language newspaper in the US, there are indications that showing someone the red card may be less effective. While young Vietnamese are still anti-communist, the older generation is ageing and they are consuming more varied information.

"Do they really support communism, or are they just playing with my emotions?" said Do. It's challenging to assess its effectiveness. The response won't be known until after the election.

Polls favour Steel slightly. A request for comment from Steel's campaign went unanswered. In a statement, Chen's campaign claimed that Steel is spreading lies "in a desperate attempt to hold onto power and distract from her failed record" by inflicting violence on Asian Americans. It made no mention of Chen's choice to engage in a negative messaging campaign against Steel.

Although Steel stated to the website LAist last month: "My record of standing up to the CCP, its economic theft, and human rights abuses is clear," she has maintained a low profile by declining debate invitations, interview requests, and appearances at campaign events.

Analysts speculated that, as Chen's side strikes back, her reserve may be a reflection of her own weakness regarding Chinese and communist-related issues.

For a Fox 11 Los Angeles TV programme that Steel declined to participate in, Chen stated, "I'm willing to answer questions, I'm willing to speak to the press and the voters, as well as engage in debates and forums." But she turned them all down. And that, in my opinion, illustrates a fundamentally different perspective on democracy.

A recent Chen Facebook advertisement reminds voters that Steel gave a certificate of recognition to a representative of the Communist government of Vietnam in 2016. Another criticises her husband Shawn Steel, the former chairman of the California Republican Party, for developing close ties with Beijing.

Several Chinese nationals with ties to the Chinese Communist Party sought influence in the Trump administration, according to a 2019 Wall Street Journal report, and Shawn Steel introduced them to senior Republican Party officials.

The Democratic Party's opposition report, which supported Chen and was 427 pages long, claimed that Michelle Steel "is all talk and no bite when standing up to China." When it mattered, steel was not tough on China.

One advantage, according to analysts, is that the election has highlighted the enormous diversity and influence of Asian voters, the group of voters in the US with the fastest rate of growth in terms of race or ethnicity. With more expected this cycle, a record number of Asian-American and Pacific Islander lawmakers—21—were elected to Congress in 2020.

People who think all Asian-Americans are the same ought to pay attention to this race and realise how incorrect that is, said Bui.
This election cycle has seen numerous races where Beijing has been demonised, with Ohio and Missouri serving as notable examples. However, some have argued that the first-generation immigrant should know better.

According to James Lai, an ethnic studies professor at Santa Clara University, there is a risk with Steel's attempt to portray an Asian American as a "forever foreigner" in the attack advertisements. "Given that Steel is Korean-American and Asian-American, what does this also say about her?

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Others contend that even though i stated, "I don't think their responsibility is any greater than any other candidate, white, black, green, or whatever. "No candidate should choose a path that won't benefit the community," the candidate said.

Do, who grew up outside of Saigon and saw North Vietnamese troops march past his door as the city fell in 1975, said he wasn't taking a public stance on the race but had aimed to correct false information and inaccuracies through his media platforms.

But the race is bizarre and one of the oddest he has ever seen, he continued. "It's so challenging to guess. They are neither Vietnamese nor Asian, but both of them, Do said. But one of them will speak on our behalf.

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