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Chinese Americans look to homeland

SAN Francisco has one of the largest overseas Chinese communities in the United States. Americans of Chinese ancestry make up over a quarter of the city's population of about 800,000. Having settled there since the 1800s and even before, the large and vibrant Chinese community has made San Francisco their home, creating a unique, mixed culture and the oldest Chinatown in North America.

Now as China develops rapidly, Chinese Americans are also looking back to their ancestral homeland for opportunities of the future.

According to Judy Hu of the Chinese Historical Society of America, Chinese Americans gathered in San Francisco because it was the gateway city to America in the days when people arrived there by boat from the Far East.

Chinese immigrants first arrived in America to work as laborers on the transcontinental railroads, but since then Chinese Americans have moved into diverse professions including finance and banking, software development, information technology, consulting, construction and food services.

During the 30 years of the San Francisco-Shanghai sister cities relationship, the Chinese-American community gained more awareness of their place in America with the Civil Rights Movement, according to Hu. Now there are many more Chinese Americans in public service and the arts.

"We definitely have more of a voice politically and in the arts as well," Hu says.

The sister city relationship has been very positive in San Francisco, according to Hu.

"It cements the past history with the current and forward-looking futures of these two countries."

This year the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) will hold its yearly conference in San Francisco. The conference is rotated through chapters in the 25 metropolitan cities in America.

Attracting up to 2,000 people, the three-day event consists of keynote speakers, professional development workshops and networking.

According to Phil Hui, vice president of NAAAP, professional Asians had faced "cultural" difficulties in American workplaces.

"An example of this: Asians are taught to respect their elders and to speak when we have something nice to say. This negatively impacts our daily work because in the American society, workers who are bold and outspoken are rewarded," says Hui.

Opportunities in China are increasingly a "hot topic" among Asian Americans.

For the past two years NAAAP has partnered with executive recruiting firm Wang & Li of Beijing and Shanghai to provide insight on professional opportunities in China. Larry Wang, founder and managing director, has traveled to the USA to give presentations to several of NAAAP's chapters including San Francisco and Boston.

"Feedback has been very positive," says Hui. "Many of our members are actively pursuing opportunities in Shanghai, Beijing, and to a certain extent, Shenzhen (Guangdong Province) as well."

This includes Chinese Americans in multinational companies seeking transfers to work in their company's China branches, and individuals coming here to teach English.


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