Asian interns in US politics on the rise

Updated: 2013-08-27 10:49

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

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With Asian American and Pacific Islanders now the fastest growing population in the US, the trend is starting to be reflected in the political arena.

"There is an increasing number of students of Asian ethnic background applying to government internship programs, particularly students from China," said Becky Cheng, acting district office director for US Congresswoman Judy Chu, a Democrat from California's 27th District.

Cheng is also a senior official of the Asian Pacific American Legislative Staff Network (APALS), which places students in intern posts.

APALS has seen a steady increase in interns every year and presently has more than 500 registered, she said.

While most of the Chinese applicants can speak English, it is often times not their first language, which creates a unique situation: while these interns might have a tough time communicating with English-speaking constituents, they can be an invaluable asset to constituents who speak only Chinese.

"This is actually a positive opportunity for those young professionals who are bilingual," Chen said. "It is a chance for them to show off their language skills, which can be crucial to their career."

The Chinese interns who want to get a foot in the door of US politics experience interviews unlike any they've ever encountered.

Christine Sun, who is interning at the Office of Assemblyman Ed Chau, told China Daily she thought all interviews just focused on her abilities and past resume.

"But this interview took an entirely different perspective. I was asked for my thoughts on international and social issues, opinions, and potential solutions," the 18-year-old high school graduate said.

Cheng noted the growth in numbers of Chinese Americans in the US will further improve their status in the future.

For example, last year, in addition to showing up in greater numbers at the polls, a record number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders(AAPIs) also ran for office, she said. Thirty-six AAPI candidates mounted campaigns for the US Congress in 2012, more than triple the number of AAPI candidates who ran in 2010.

Congresswoman Judy Chu, the first Chinese-American women elected to the House of Representatives, now leads the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in Washington DC, she said.

"The increasing efforts on collaborations between the US and Asia will definitely improve the political awareness and social status of Chinese Americans in the US," she said.

(China Daily USA 08/27/2013 page2)