Michigan’s Chinese/American Community: American As Apple Pie

Mar 28, 2020 by

There is nothing more American than fellow citizens volunteering to help out their neighbors in a time of need.  

Greek philosopher Aristotle over 2000 years ago told us that the essence of life, “Is to serve others and to do good.”

Chinese Americans in Michigan are stepping up in big and small ways to try to do their share, and beyond  to help their neighbors, friends and fellow citizens during this coronavirus pandemic. The Michigan Chinese American Coalition (MCAC) was formed in late January 2020 to assist in combating the deadly coronavirus.

A loose group of Chinese Americans in the metro Detroit area initially came together to help the people of China who were suffering because of the coronavirus that incubated in Wuhan, spread across China and has now reach all continents.

They sent funds and equipment to

over 17 hospitals in China and quickly pivoted to home, America in mid February when it was apparent Covid-19 was spreading in Michigan/ and could infect many. They promptly stopped shipping to Chinese hospitals and began to stock up medical coveralls and masks for local MIchigan hospitals. Over the last two weeks, they have donated supplies to 18 federal and local hospitals. They understand the virus knows no political boundaries and respects no wall.  It will sicken and possibly kill regardless of your race, color of your skin, immigration status or political identification.

Discovering this group I asked, “Who is the leader, who is in charge?,” In very Chinese style, they each deferred and collectively said, “We are all workers, using our knowledge, skills, talents, time and money to be helpful as we can to this combat this invisible war without bombs that harms us all.”

Initially,  a half dozen people discussed what they can do to help as they watched  the COVID-19 create carnage in their home country of China. Using technology in the US and China they reached out educating Chinese American groups in the US and on the other side of the Pacific of the mounting need.

This is no small feat as the Chinese community in Michigan, like America itself, is not monolithic. The group comes from

Chinese mainland or People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, they are conservative and liberal, Republicans and Democrats with one common bond; a love for their adopted country and a desire to do their part to help their fellow man. 

The group is pleased by not only the fund raising success and getting help to hospitals and people in need but also that the Chinese American community has coalesced around this shared vision and common agenda to help in this time of need. 

The group established several  committees: fundraising, procurement, logistics, distribution, and sharing the message to encourage greater giving.  As of this writing they have raised nearly $200,000.

At this point, we have donated to the following hospitals:

Detroit Receiving Hospital, John D.Dingell VA Medical Center, Detroit, Henry Ford Hospital, Beaumont Hospital Dearborn, Ascension Providence Novi Hospital, Ascension Providence hospital, Southfield, Harper University Hospital, Mercy Heath St. Mary at Grand Rapids, Spectrum Health at Grand Rapids, Beaumont – Neighborhood Family Medicine, Sparrow Health System, Lansing, Ascension Providence Rochester, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital, Munson Medical Center, Traverse City, Henry Foes Alligence, Jackson, IHS Health System at Ann Arbor, Trinity Health – St. Mary Mercy hospital, Livonia.

University of Michigan- Ann Arbor.

 MCAC has formed local chapters as far away as the UP,  Traverse City with strong support from the Western Michigan Chinese Association and Grand Rapids and Midland area. 

Joe Miao one of the initial organizers quipped, “Helping our fellow Americans in this time of need has helped galvanized our diverse Chinese community here in Michigan. This level of comradely has never happened in Chinese American history in the State of Michigan. 

Giving Back

Giving back is part of the members and supporters DNA. Grace Cai said, “Many of us were educated in Michigan, own businesses here and have raised our families here, this is our home, and we simply want to do our small part to contribute in this time of need.” 

MCAC has donated various personal protective equipment including: masks, full body coveralls, gloves, and eye protection goggles to the Michigan hospitals.

They are hopeful that their effort can alleviate some of the infection risk healthcare workers in Michigan face. 

“United we stand, and with solidarity we will win this fight together”, said, Charlee Liu who’s day job is an engineer with General Motors.

These selfless volunteers are giving back at a time that some of them have been shunned, disrespected and have had xenophobia slurs spit at them or someone they love.  

At a time when China’s rise as a global economic and military power has unsettled many in the West, the coronavirus and how some politicians have attempted to exploit the pandemic for political gain has fed latent bigotry against the people of Asian decent. We cannot allow rhetorical poison, as lethal as carbon monoxide gas, that is seeping into the public consciousness.

The members of MCAC are showing, through their words and deeds that when must join forces to fight and defeat this dreadful and deadly virus. They are demonstrating that together, we are truly better. 

The MCAC and their humble members are as American as apple pie. They are quietly giving back to people in need. Their action shows a sense of humanity that makes us all proud.

French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s frequently commented on Americans’ tendency to form voluntary civil associations to accomplish grander community good. He believed it was an important foundation for the egalitarian and democratic society that he studied. Indeed, it was then and is still been practiced by Americans today.

If you wish to help MCAC you can contact Yahang at 517-775-5644

Tom Watkins is a former Michigan State Superintendent of Schools, state mental health director and President and CEO of the economic council of Palm Beach County, FL who has spent nearly four decades working to build cultural, educational and economic ties between the US and China. He is a regular contributor to US/ChinaFocus 


Reach him @tdwatkins88@gmail.com

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