Ling Zeng got celebrity treatment at this week’s Donald Trump rally in Anaheim.
One after another, dozens of Trump supporters approached to snap pictures of Zeng and her friends, who wore matching T-shirts that read: “Chinese Americans love Trump.”
After a campaign staffer invited the group to stand directly behind Trump’s podium, the candidate took note.
“Look at this, Chinese Americans!” Trump bellowed as he shook Zeng’s hand.
Like Zeng, an immigrant from China who lives in San Diego, many of Trump’s Chinese American supporters are relatively recent arrivals from mainland China with strong nationalistic leanings, a certain reverence for wealth and a firm belief that U.S. immigration laws should be followed.
Many say they have been politicized by recent battles over affirmative action on college campuses, where some Chinese Americans fear their numbers are being held down by efforts to advance other ethnic and racial groups. That issue, along with a recent controversy over the police shooting of an unarmed man by a Chinese American police officer in New York, has opened fissures in the Chinese American community between older, more progressive generations and newer, more conservative arrivals.
“You do have an undercurrent of conservatives in the Chinese American community, specifically among first-generation Chinese,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of political science at UC Riverside. His research shows that foreign-born Chinese Americans are more likely to embrace conservative views on issues such as affirmative action and race in general.
“There’s a heightened sense of ethnic nationalism, and Trump’s rhetoric resonates with them,” he said.
“I like that he tells it like it is,” said Zeng. “And he worked hard, and gave his kids a good education. That is the Chinese way.”
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