Gung Hei Faat Choi

Though Mandarin is the official national language of China, the pronunication of the Chinese New Year greeting familiar to many Americans is Cantonese, Gung Hei Faat Choi (“Congratulations and produce wealth”). Happy Chinese New Year to you all, Chinese or not.

An oft-heard justification for a liberal immigration policy, “It helps the economy,” is overly simplistic and largely misleading, but in my view a compelling justification is that immigration brings diversity. A wonderful TV commercial run by the Bank of America a few years ago put it best: “Californians can celebrate three New Years each year,” with the picture showing January 1 and the Chinese and Jewish New Years. Actually, they could have thrown in a couple more.

But the topic also raises questions. First, how much immigration-generated diversity is “enough”? We in the San Francisco Bay Area are pretty darn diverse now, and have major problems doing well by the folks already here. It’s hard to get across the Bay Bridge almost any time of the day; BART is standing-room only for increasingly-long periods in the morning and evening; at my university, UC Davis, it’s gotten quite difficult to find a seat in the  student union cafeteria, let alone a seat in a classroom.  UC just raised tuition again, and in recent years the trend has been that students pay more and more but get less and less. After they graduate, many will wonder how they will ever be able to buy a home, even with two incomes. We have double the number of people in the state today than when I was growing up.

Second, in most if not all ethnicities, the culture and traditions do fade away from one generation to the next. NPR’s Kat Chow had a nice piece today on feeling guilty that she is not being “Chinese enough” to please her immigrant dad. Do we need a “pyramid” scheme to keep replenishing that diversity? And, as noted above, can we afford it?

For now, though, enjoy the holiday. As Ms. Chow said, during Chinese New Year it is customary to eat fish for prosperity (the word for fish is a homonym for one meaning “abundance”) and noodles for longevity (long noodles). I wish abundance and longevity for you all.

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17 thoughts on “Gung Hei Faat Choi

  1. I would find a history and a survey of attitudes and expectations of the descendants of the Chinese who built the western railroads in the 1800s to be interesting. I would expect it to be similar to the European immigrants who worked the mines and factories in the NY, NJ, PA area.

    I expect a citizen’s view of immigration is related to his family’s history and the circumstances under which his ancestors arrived or were resettled. IMO, too little recognition is given to the sacrifices of our ancestors – even those arriving as late as a result of the Vietnam war and especially the Native Americans (the Trail of Tears is not given the same recognition as slavery (and there was white slavery as well as black)).

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  2. In 2008, we visited San Francisco, which used to be a city that I was fond of. My wife and I thought that our children would enjoy it. It was not fun. It was Saturday. The traffic was incredible. I parked on street, and got an $80 parking ticket which my wife insisted on paying. The only thing that was nice was a tea at the Japanese garden. CA has become over-crowded, Costs are out of control. Rents are insane. Crowds are out of control. I have no interest in going back.

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    • You forgot to mention the huge and rowdy homeless population, the uber-PC city leaders and the refusal of the sheriff to hand over felony criminals to ICE. A bright spot is the gorgeous makeover of the area near the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge (toll plaza, Doyle Dr., Crissy Field, Presidio etc.). But those were developed by federal funds, which the city may proudly and defiantly lose due to its sanctuary status.

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  3. And Gung Hei Faat Choi to you and your wife, Norm.

    Interesting point, about any need to replenish diversity! Kind of like the H-1Bs becoming citizens and then face the discrimination of US workers.

    In my tiny little town, a working class town in the heart of wealthy north NJ, we are 60% Hispanic now with many newer immigrants, and 10% seniors. We have an abundance of multi-family housing and rentals left over from the iron industry and factories of years gone by. So we have a large share of those with lower incomes. Yet the state keeps up with mandates for low income housing – and like your post – how much is enough? We have already given our share to the state, leave us alone!

    We do have major redevelopment underway in this tiny town of 2 sq. miles. To get around the mandates for low income housing, the new buildings will be apartments, not something like condos. And the apartments along with retail and professional space, will be aimed at young professionals and millenials. This will increase the diversity, with more having higher incomes!!!!

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  4. How diverse is it, really, when most of our immigration, legal and illegal, is coming from one particular language group, Hispanics, and when one country, Mexico, accounts for 15-20% of our LEGAL immigration, and has for two decades?

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    • While that is true on the bottom end, it is not true on the top end. Visa overstays, who are often H-1Bs who illegally remain here after the end of the visa and other visa abusers account for between 4,000,000-6,000,000 of the illegal population. They compete for high-end jobs. They start up IT companies that abuse the H-1B system by “parking” H-1Bs there and using them to drive down the IT wages. These are probably 40% chinese/east asian and 40% Indian/south asian. The composition of the illegals is quite diverse, really, and can’t be attributed to any one group, although as you say Mexicans are probably a plurality.

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  5. Another point not usually talked about – too much “diversity” also brings in a grievance culture with every sub-group claiming to have been wronged/discriminated/not appreciated enough and so on.

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  6. Fish and noodles…. Sounds like an interesting dish! The closest I’ve come is a good, hot dish of Shrimp Lo Mein.

    The idea of immigration has always been, since Colonial days, that a newcomer was supposed to gradually “blend” in with society. I’ve heard that, instead of blending, we are seeing a lot more enclaves (I won’t use the word “ghetto”, which has acquired a negative connotation). This means that more and more immigrants are actually *colonists*. They set up colonies that are intended to reinforce the “old country”. We have always had “little Italy” or “Chinatown”, but there seems to be a movement towards immigrants trying to change society through legalism and/or pressure groups.

    For example, Muslims at some colleges demand (and often get) prayer rooms, ritual foot baths, and other “special” needs taken care of. Diet and holiday celebrations are two other areas in which society is being pressured to change, instead of merely having a “live and let live” mentality.

    I don’t suppose Muslims would be happy if a few friends move with me to, say, Turkey, and demanded that there be a national holiday for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter. Nor would people in India, many of which are Hindu, be happy to accept the idea that they must serve cheeseburgers to me and my friends.

    Neither the lawless, chaotic immigration of the Obama years, nor a closed-door policy, is beneficial. I don’t know what immigration rate or mix is ideal, but, it would be nice to have people talk about and debate those issues, not focus on extremes.

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    • The old American metaphor, of course, is the Melting Pot, in which the immigrant cultures melt into (and change) the mainstream. In Canada, the favored metaphor is the Salad Bowl and Mosaic, in which the groups don’t mix but somehow coexist and even revel in their diversity. The U.S. has been moving toward the Canadian view for some time now.

      As to having Western holidays imposed on Turkey, I’m sure you know the standard response: “The U.S. is different, because it’s a land of immigrants.”

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  7. The very interesting thing is that given the complete devaluation of the american higher education system/industry and its complete failure to educate the children of the citizens of this country, that as it collapses under its own weight it will be required to import more and more ‘students’ to keep the pyramid afloat.
    As this system kills itself the replacement for it, that doesn’t require facilities, grandiose staff expectations or even a dime of tax dollars, is already available and growing exponentially.
    The bad news for the current students, foreign born or otherwise, is that the ‘education’ that they are paying for is already obsolete delivered by a model that hasn’t changed in over 2000 years.
    The solution for universities as an immigration draw and the economic waste its has become can be easily solved by simply as James Burke said, “burning it down and moving it online”.
    Its already happening and there isn’t a thing anyone can do to stop it.
    As far as those visa students, talk about being the clean up crew to a party you weren’t invited to or what ?

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  8. I went to the Bay area for 3 weeks for company training.
    Rented a car for 4 days. Returned it after 48 hours when every 27 feet there was a $490 red light camera which comes with points in California no matter which state you’re coming from

    California especially san fran and the bay area are economic dumps. Life is stressful and no one is willing to admit that foreign money is the culprit. Proof? Vancouver and Melbourne do not have a silicon valley yet RE prices are just as high if not higher.

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  9. Social engineering by government intervention frequently has unexpected consequences. My very close to home example occurred as a result of the city “fathers” deciding to create low income housing in a traditionally middle income part of town (actually a city of nearly 400,000 now).

    As was explained by the police department gang unit when they visited the school, the new housing option drew people from all over the city. Where previously the various gangs had been relatively isolated from each other in their original housing areas, they now were battling for supremacy in the new ‘hood. This translated to numerous fights in the schools between the various gangs, including gunfire in the parking lot during a football game at the school’s stadium.

    The new neighborhood became one of the most crime prone in the city; there has been an effort to pull the area together with limited success. The murder of 4 women in one apartment on one evening has been a major setback. I have not driven through the area after dark in 25 years; I won’t go there in the daylight now although I had to drive through it every morning on my way to work 18-20 years ago.

    The neighborhood was older and in decline before the city council’s actions. Over time, the housing is likely to have become low income naturally and without the problems created artificially.

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