Opinion: Michelle Wu’s victory reflects the increasing representation of Asian Americans in US politics


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American progressives just love the thrill of making history. On Tuesday night, they celebrated another historic moment when Michelle Wu (吴 弭), a Democrat and the daughter of immigrant parents, won the Boston mayor’s race. The 36-year-old became the first woman and first Asian American to be elected to the seat in the city’s centenary history.

Besides, the win wasn’t Wu’s first historic success. In November 2013, she was elected to the Boston City Council as the first Asian American woman; and three years later she became the first black woman to serve as President of the Council.

Wu’s victory becomes even more meaningful in American identity politics when you consider that Wu was not from Boston. Historically, Boston has only elected white men for mayor and, according to local media, typically elects mayors with lifelong Boston roots. On the contrary, Wu grew up in Chicago and only moved to Boston in 2007 when he attended Harvard.

As on similar occasions before, Wu’s victory quickly found resonance in China’s elite circles and was hailed as yet another sign of the increasing representation of ethnic minorities, including Chinese Americans, in white-dominated US politics.

Deng Jin, a Harvard University graduate of the prestigious Nieman Fellowship, said on social media that Wu’s victory reflected two trends: the continued rise of minorities on the US political scene since America elected the first black president in Barack Obama; and in particular the growing interest of the Chinese in politics.

“I’ve seen a lot of friends and their children who are still high school students [in the U.S.] reject the traditional philosophy of life of staying away from politics and instead actively participate in political campaigns such as local elections and presidential primaries, “she wrote,” Andrew Yang’s presidential candidacy was a case in point. ”

These two trends, she continued, showed that the population supports liberal values ​​and that the US is going through a demographic change with structural changes. Other minorities are treated as equal to whites, she said.

Deng’s view is not isolated. Do you remember the fanfare in China in 2011, when Gary Locke became the first Chinese-American to become the US ambassador to Beijing? The day he left Seattle for Beijing, a photo of him carrying his own backpack and ordering his own coffee at the airport went viral on Chinese social media platforms. Many praised his modest and reserved style.

Before his trip to China, Locke won the gubernatorial race in Washington state in 1996, becoming the first Sino-American governor in American history. And in 2009 he became the first Sino-US Secretary of Commerce and one of three Asian Americans in Obama’s cabinet, including Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

But Wu’s success is unique as every choice is unique. She is considered the protégé of Elizabeth Warren, one of the leaders of the American progressive movement, who was one of Wu’s professors at Harvard and called Wu “family”. She also worked on Warren’s campaign for the US Senate in 2012. In the complicated US electoral system, Wu obviously has advantages that Andrew Yang did not have in his failed bid for Mayor of New York this year. And so their success cannot be 100% copied elsewhere.

Zhenhua Lu is a senior editor at Caixin Global.

The views and opinions expressed in this opinion section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial positions of Caixin Media.

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