Orla Lin, 35, a pharmacy assistant at Get Well Pharmacy in the Chinatown in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, immigrated to the U.S. 14 years ago from China’s Fujian Province. Lin, whose daily responsibilities include helping her mostly Chinese-American customers get their medications, said she planned to vote for President Obama because he had a more diplomatic approach with regard to U.S-China relations.
“Obama just looked differently from Mitt Romney when talking about issues on China,” said Lin. “I am confident Obama will maintain a good relationship with China as long as he wears the pants.”
Lin is representative of the support President Obama commands over his rival, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, among Chinese-American voters. According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 49 percent of Chinese-Americans identify as Democrats, compared to 26 percent who identify as Republicans. A telephone survey conducted by Lake Research Partners in April showed 59 percent of Asian-Americans planned to vote for Obama compared with 13 percent for Romney. This stark contrast is likely due to key differences between the candidates’ stances on immigration and diplomatic relations with China.
“I think Obama will continue to benefit the relationship with China if he is reelected,” said Sam Gao, 34, a first-generation Chinese-American immigrant working for Health Plus Amerigroup Real Solutions in Brooklyn. “I am not sure about Mitt Romney.”
Unlike Romney’s tough approach to China, Obama tried to maintain positive relations with China since he took office in 2008. At the G-20 Summit in April of 2009, President Obama announced the establishment of the “U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue,” which focused on cooperation with China in a wide range of areas including economy, trade, counterterrorism, science and technology, education and culture.
According to a White House press release, President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed that “the United States and China have a need to work together, as well as with other countries, to promote the smooth functioning of the international financial system and the steady growth of the world economy.”
In a state visit to China in 2011, President Obama stated that he “welcomed China’s rise,” adding that “China’s peaceful rise is good for the world, and its’ good for America” — a viewpoint strongly disagreed by Mitt Romney.
In stark contrast, Mitt Romney accused China of stealing jobs from the U.S. and consequently, President Obama, for failing to be tough on China in a 30-second campaign ad.
“If you weren’t satisfied with the economic cooperation with China, you shouldn’t have anything with us,” said Fay Liu, 18, a second generation Chinese-American and student at Kingsborough Community College.
Liu expressed her dissatisfaction with Romney regarding what he called China a “currency manipulator” in the final debate on foreign policy and his hardball strategy with China, citing her dissatisfaction as a reason for the voting decision.
“I was not happy about it,” said Liu. “And a lot of Asian friends of mine criticized him for that.”
Junqiang Wu, 25, a Chinese-American living in Brooklyn, NYC, said one of the main reasons he supports Obama is because of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a memorandum issued by the President to allow U.S. immigration law enforcement prosecutors to practice prosecutorial discretion when charging individuals who came to the U.S. illegally as small children. He believed this policy would allow a large number of undocumented Chinese immigrants to stay in the U.S.
“His immigration policy benefited Chinese immigrants who came here without paper documents,” said Wu. “But now, they can stay here, have the chance to find a job, or even become a citizen.”
Working as a legal assistant for the Law Office of Giacchino J. Russo & Associates, Wu is concerned that Romney would repeal it if he took office.
“I will not vote for Mitt Romney,” said Wu. “What if he changed the policy to something that was harmful to Chinese immigrants?”
Zhiluan Yu, 30, a Chinese-American who supported President Obama, said he was satisfied with the past four years under the Obama administration.
Having been in the U.S. for ten years, Yu now owns a 99 cents store with his wife in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, both of whom came from Fujian Province in China for the “American Dream.”
“Now, I just need to enjoy my life with contentment,” said Yu. “I don’t want things to change backwards after the election.”