IRVINE, California (AP) — Joaquin Lim hopes the upcoming meeting between new Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama will mark a fresh start for relations between the country where he was born and the one where he has lived for the past four decades.
The 63-year-old U.S. citizen didn’t pay much attention to international politics after he came to the U.S. But when he ran for local elected office in the 1990s, Lim said he reconnected with his roots and has kept an eye on China’s rise.
“As a country grows, as more attention is placed on a country … people like myself who might have been detached got reattached,” Lim said.
Many Chinese-Americans hope that the high-level visit of the Chinese leader to meet with Obama on Friday and Saturday at a secluded estate in the California desert will enhance rapport between the two men and pave the way for closer ties between the two nations.
The meeting could ease fears by some Chinese-Americans that they could face a backlash from the broader U.S. population if tensions rise between the two economic and political powers.
“A lot of people regard China as a threat or a potential competitor,” said Yong Chen, associate professor of history and Asian American Studies at University of California, Irvine. “Many people want China and the United States to have good relations so that Chinese-Americans will not be treated in a hostile manner.”
Census data shows about 4 million people of Chinese heritage live in the United States, with more than a third in California.
In Los Angeles and its sprawling suburbs, Chinese-Americans have a history dating back generations. The city hosted 460,000 Chinese tourists last year. China is also the city’s biggest foreign trading partner, according to the mayor’s office.
In a nod to the region’s importance, Xi visited Los Angeles last year as vice president.
International relations experts say taking this weekend’s meeting outside Washington — where such conferences are carefully scripted — is a good move to help the two leaders build rapport. While the leaders will likely discuss cybersecurity and trade, the event is seen largely as an opportunity to establish cooperation, said Stanley Rosen, professor of political science at University of Southern California.
Dominic Ng, chairman and chief executive of East West Bank, hopes the visit might help the leaders work together on cybersecurity.
If tensions over the issue continue to rise, Ng said Americans might be reluctant to hire or promote Chinese-Americans who work in computer programming or engineering jobs that require American security clearance.
“This is one of those ticking time bombs that can be a problem for Chinese-Americans,” said Ng, who chairs the Committee of 100, an organization of prominent Chinese-Americans that encourages constructive relations between the countries. “We hope with a more productive collaboration between the two presidents they will come up with some concerted efforts to tone down this U.S.-China, winner-loser, or one-has-to-beat-the-other type of mentality.”