Betty Yuan: One China stand leaves her feeling lonely BIO
Betty Yuan lives in the most populous Chinese community in the North America, but she said she often feels lonely. And the reason is her ideological disagreement with fellow Taiwanese in the Bay Area and Taiwan.
“I believe the future of Taiwan is, and will continue to be, heavily relied on the Chinese mainland, but they don’t agree,” she said.
Because of that difference, “several of my old friends hate me and terminated our many years of relationship,” said Yuan, who moved to the US from Taiwan with her family in 1981.
Now Yuan holds positions in seven community organizations, and she is involved intensively into a wide spectrum of businesses, including athletic and cultural exchanges, fundraising for education in rural China, restoring the historical truth about the Japanese invasion of China and to the peaceful unification between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.
“I work 365 days a year,” said Yuan. In the East Bay city of Fremont, she also operates a boutique insurance agency where she is the president.
Among her community activities, Yuan has focused on Chinese for Peaceful Unification — Northern California (CPUNC), an NGO mainly composed of Chinese from Taiwan, which advocates more communications and exchanges across the Taiwan Straits.
As the three-term president of CPUNC, Yuan said she is an adamant believer that there should be only one China.
“No matter whether you like it or not, the ‘Taiwan Independence’, ‘ One China, One Taiwan’, or ‘Two Chinas’ advocacy is groundless and doomed,” said the 59-year-old history major who in 1977 graduated from the Tamkang University in Taiwan.
Against the backdrop of the Feb 18 meeting between the Communist Part of China General Secretary Xi Jinping and Kuomintang Honorary Chairman Lien Chan in Beijing, Yuan applauded the leaders’ political wisdom and urged overseas Chinese to join hands to facilitate reunification.
Her feeling toward the Chinese mainland can be traced back to 1999 when she first time stepped on its soil as she accompanied her father, paid a pilgrimage visit to her ancestors in Gaoyou, Jiangsu province.
“The then-economic crisis plagued the whole of Taiwan and every islander was complaining about the plunge in living standards and lamenting the loss,” Yuan recalled, “the environment in general was depressing.”
But in a sharp contrast, she said that each relative she met in Jiangsu was optimistic, upbeat and confident about the future of themselves and the nation as a whole. “As an observer, I sought reasons for the differences, and gradually was convinced that the future of Taiwan is attached to a vigorous and prosperous Chinese mainland,” she said.
In that year, Yuan also met with then-Shanghai Mayor
• 1955 Born in Taiwan • 1977 BA in History, Tamkang University • 1981 Immigrates to the US • 1999 Visited the Chinese Mainland • 2000 Chinese for Peaceful Unification -Northern California • 2003 CEO of the Northern California Chinese Athletic Federation • Hobbies Basketball, Inspirational book, helping people Xu Kuangdi, a politician renowned for his erudition, vision and democratic manners. Yuan was invited to sit through Xu’s lectures on the Taiwan issue and the CrossStraits relationship.
“Amazing charisma, unbelievable depth and width of knowledge, I can’t help but admire Xu’s composure and demeanor,” said Yuan.
The trip to the mainland was a life-changing and defining event in her life, according to Yuan, and since then she has become a staunch supporter of the peaceful unification of Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.
“I hoped the same type of leaders could show up in Taiwan,” but she said to her dismay “what we had were Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, the worse and the worst.”
In 2000, Lee Teng-hui’s announced “Taiwan independence” caused wide range indignation and protest among the overseas Chinese. Some in San Francisco took the lead and established the Chinese for Peaceful Unification — Northern California. “From day one, I’m a devoted member of this organization,” said Yuan, adding the One China’ principle is nonnegotiable.
On Nov 3 last year, CPUNC sponsored a two-day America Summit for China’s Peaceful Reunification during which Yuan moderated the panel discussions and presided over the meeting. The conference was attended by 300, including people from Asia, South America, Africa and Australia, as well as Chinese officials and scholars, all of them advocates for the peaceful reunification of China.
“I was so touched to see those people could put aside their differences and brainstorm how to construct a breakthrough in the current Cross-Straits relationship,” said Yuan.
Historical changes have been made in the past five years due to the central government’s policies to further develop the Cross-Straits relationship, said Yang Yi, spokesman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, at the conference and he acknowledged that there are “historic sticky problems” still unattended, but said he is upbeat about the current strong momentum of bilateral trade and travel across the Taiwan Straits.
To date, mainland authorities have approved 180 investment applications with $1 billion in funding for business opportunities in Taiwan. Each week, 670 direct flights shuttle back and forth across the Straits. The Free Independent Traveler (FIT) program, which was initiated in June 2011 starting from Shanghai, Beijing and Xiamen, has been expanded to 26 cities.
Residents of these cities are able to arrange their independent travel plans to Taiwan without having to join a tour group. By the end of August last year, 300,000 Chinese mainlanders visited Taiwan through the FIT program, a 23 percent increase compared to the same period of 2012, said Yang.
However, progress in political and security talks is slow. For example, there is no concrete development regarding the vow of setting up representative offices in Beijing and Taipei with questions about what authorities in the offices would have.
“There is still a long, long way to go,” said Yuan. “We should not waste our time and energy but stay the course.”
As the CEO of the Northern California Chinese Athletic Federation, Yuan has been sponsoring annual sporting carnivals for overseas Chinese through sports and culture. “The universal language of sportsmanship unites us all,” said Yuan. Utilizing resources within different organizations, Yuan has arranged athletic and cultural exchanges among Chinese from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Chinese mainland.
She has also led a delegation of Chinese-language teachers in the US to visit their counterparts in China.
“I want to let them sense the necessity and importance why we need to accommodate the simplified Chinese reading and writing,” said Yuan. “Otherwise, some of our teachers would stick to the traditional Chinese spelling, which is much more complicated than the simplified pin yin and ignore what was happening outside of the box.”
“I work 365 days a year,” said Yuan, adding that she always tries to balance her busy life with quality family time.
She has two sons, and each week she drives to San Francisco to babysit her older son’s 1-year-old son, Cody.
“This is the happiest moment of my life,” she said.
Betty Yuan checks a souvenir among many of her collections as an active community leader in her office Tuesday.