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NATMA 2G Meeting with 僑委會徐佳青徐委員 OCAC Minister Chia-Ching Hsu

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

July 13, 2023

Cheryl Wu, MD

Our national NATMA president, Dr David Yang, having met with the vice president, set up a meeting between two NATMA 2G members and the OCAC to further discuss initiatives undertaken by both sides. On a hot Thursday in July, Arthur Chyan, DO, a high risk OB Anesthesiologist from UCSF, and myself, arrived to have lunch with the dynamic and brilliant Minister Chia-Ching Hsu at the Overseas Community Affairs Council in Taipei. We walked in to a tall office building and proceeded to the 16th floor, and were led into a spacious, well-lit office with an enormous world map behind a large desk. Given that Ms Hsu travels all around the world to overseas affairs in the Taiwanese ex-pat communities, the world map seemed apropos. Ms Hsu was National Taiwan University educated, and received an MA degree in Sociology at the Phillips-University Marburg in Germany. She also holds an MA in Health & Welfare Policy at National Yang-Ming University. Ms Hsu's political star rose quickly after being elected as Councilor of Taipei City, as she became the Spokesperson, then the Deputy Secretary General of the Blue Party (Democratic Progressive Party). Now she is the Minister of the OCAC during President Tsai's term, and she is the first publicly elected official to hold this office.

OCAC was founded in 1926 with the formation of the newly minted Republic of China (ROC, which of course, would later settle on our beloved Taiwan), with a mission to connect overseas Taiwanese (and Taiwanese identifying) 同胞 compatriots via cultural, educational, economic and community exchange. Here, Ms Hsu's brilliance truly shines. Having an uncanny ability to remember the smallest details and a visual photographic memory (I doubt she'd ever forgotten a face), Ms Hsu is able to quickly understand relationship dynamics among individuals, in small groups, and within a large community. A systemizing thinker, she is also able to swiftly identify which problems prevail in an organization, or really, any group of people. All this combined with an unflappable demeanor (the second time I met her, she had just come off a long flight, and having traveled 40 days straight - no one could tell), an always pleasant smile, and an incredibly sharp mind, Ms Hsu is a formidable leader, and absolutely someone you want on your side.

We began the conversation with Ms Hsu's aspirations for Taiwan's emerging dominant tech sector on the world stage. As we have seen in the past week, the Taiwanese government has taken great pains to set up and nurture, really, the entire island into a giant incubator of sorts. The distance between an innovative idea in someone's mind and creating an MVP is remarkably short, as there is a strong Taiwanese govt culture of empowering innovators to develop their ideas and providing support. No wonder we constantly hear about the amazing tech that comes out of Taiwan. Now, the barrier of entry can be quite high of course (many, many of the scientists I've met at the ITRI and the Science Park hold multiple degrees and have extensive training), but we got to witness up close how a top-down infrastructure can support rapid technological innovations and advancements. Ms Hsu understands well the paramount challenge before us; coming from a small nation (23 million population) with a ruthless Goliath neighbor, how do Taiwanese companies enter into a crowded and highly competitive market such as the US? How do we showcase what Taiwan has to offer the world? What she does know intuitively is that the answer lies in our global community network and connections. After all, that is exactly what the Taiwanese people are good at: everywhere you turn in Taiwan, there is someone to help you, someone 熱心 kind-hearted enough to take time out of their busy day to help make yours better. Arthur and I were hanging on to her every word so we can think about how to help Taiwan.

At this point, our conversation turned to community organizing, the immigrant story, and the children of immigrants. As the Deputy Director of the OCAC, Ms Hsu is invited all over the world to attend many, many community events coordinated by local Taiwanese organizations and entities. The OCAC also provides direct support, often even financially, to these NGOs. Ms Hsu explained to Arthur and me that she often has to act as a liaison, a guide, a teacher to overseas Taiwanese ex-pats. She works to empower them to tap into their new (but often not so new!) country's local resources and other non-Taiwanese organizations. I understood she was talking about forming cross-cultural alliances, something even we New Yorkers in the world of advocacy find hard to do. The dominant group often works hard to break that up. Even with the recent affirmative action debacle, we Asian Americans have been used as a wedge in the fight for seats at higher education between the powers that be and other BIPOC. But imagine if we formed alliances from day one with other community organizations? Ms Hsu is ultimately talking about how to forge authentic connections while integrating into the new country, without having to lose sight of who you are. Ms Hsu acknowledges the difficulties of being an immigrant in a foreign country, and that survival is often the main modus operandi in their mind. But she also astutely cites a tremendously missed opportunity for Taiwanese immigrants (and their children!) to truly become a connected part of the global diaspora.

Now the conversation turned to 2Gs, ie, the second, or even third, generations of Taiwanese immigrants in the US and other countries. Given the strong migration patterns out of Taiwan in the second half of the 20th century, many of these overseas families (including my own!) have now taken root into the 2nd and even 3rd generations. Her vision for those of us born abroad comes in three phases: she exhorts us to establish our identity in our new home country, to expand into the community we live in, and to connect meaningfully and openly with each other and others. We talk about this in the US - the immense need to form authentic connections with each other, regardless of skin color, gender identity, religion, sexuality, ability etc, while honoring and accepting who we are. Even if we are able to completely dismantle the patriarchal/white supremacist structure upon which our country was built, the question still remains - how do we build a better system to replace it? How do we authentically show up for each other and truly see each other? Ms Hsu seems to be a personification of that answer: she shows up, she empowers, she makes an effort to understand, and she supports. She speaks of the respect we must pay to a community, and the importance of valuing the needs of that community, especially the new generation.

Next, Ms Hsu turned her attention to NATMA. As a 40-year-old organization, NATMA has accomplished a LOT, such as international medical missions, establishment of multi-state chapters - in the pre-internet age! - life-long friendships, and close collaboration with the Taiwanese govt to set up meetings like the one I'm having now. But in a decades-old nonprofit organization, there are some long-overdue changes that must occur to modernize. Ms Hsu described the steps we as 2Gs must take to bring NATMA up-to-date, and offered her unfailing support from the OCAC. She understood that one of the barriers NATMA faces is one that plagues immigrant families, and many nonprofits as time goes on: generational and cultural gap. Ms Hsu validates that by quipping that she sees many of the same issues plague other overseas Taiwanese community organizations. She followed up by assuring that we will have her support.

Finally, as the lunch meeting was wrapping up to a close, Ms Hsu shares that it's important to figure out ways to 互利 mutually benefit the self and others. Often in society, certain populations bear the burden of assisting others, while receiving very little in return. Ms Hsu instead puts the emphasis back on us - asking us to consider how we can aid our own careers first, and then consider how to help Taiwan. She seems the be the ultimate embodiment of a kind parental figure, a loving leader - as she understands the success of her job lies in the success of the Taiwanese citizens who live across the world. This meeting has given us a lot to think about, as well as a great to-do list.

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