Trump picks Chao to run Trans­porta­tion

Elaine Chao, who was born in Tai­wan, pre­vi­ously served as sec­re­tary of la­bor

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By AI HEPING and CHEN WEIHUA in New York

Pres­i­dent- elect Don­ald Trump on Tues­day named Elaine Chao, the for­mer sec­re­tary of la­bor, to be his choice for trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary.

Chao, the first Amer­i­can woman of Asian de­scent to be ap­pointed to a pres­i­dent’s cabi­net when she was named by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush as La­bor sec­re­tary, is the wife of Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell.

If con­firmed by the Se­nate, she would be ex­pected to play a key role in Trump’s plan to get Congress to ap­prove $1 tril­lion for re­build­ing the na­tion’s roads, bridges and other parts of the na­tion’s in­fra­struc­ture and pub­lic tran­sit sys­tems. Repub­li­cans in Congress have re­sisted the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempt to fund an in­fra­struc­ture pro­gram.

Trump on Tues­day also chose Ge­or­gia Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tom Price to lead the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices na­tion’s health care sys­tem. Price has been a strong critic of Oba­macare and a main sup­porter of ef­forts to pri­va­tize Medi­care. He helped draft House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to pri­va­tize Medi­care, a po­si­tion Trump op­posed in the cam­paign.

Chao’s nom­i­na­tion was greeted with sup­port from two US for­eign pol­icy ex­perts.

Dou­glas Paal, vice-pres­i­dent for stud­ies and direc­tor of the Asia pro­gram at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace, de­scribed Chao as “deeply ex­pe­ri­enced in trans­porta­tion and an ad­mirable se­lec­tion to be Trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary”.

“As an eth­nic Chi­ne­seAmer­i­can with Tai­wan con­nec­tions as well as main­land roots, she has in­volved her­self for decades in Sino-US re­la­tions,” Paal said. “I hope the of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble for US for­eign and se­cu­rity pol­icy will pay at­ten­tion to her in­sights,”

Ted Car­pen­ter, a se­nior fel­low of de­fense and for­eign pol­icy at the Cato In­sti­tute, said the ap­point­ment of Chao will be one of Trump’s less con­tro­ver­sial se­lec­tions.

“Given her pre­vi­ous role as a cabi­net mem­ber in Ge­orge W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, the choice of Chao seems to be a con­cil­ia­tory ges­ture to ‘es­tab­lish­ment’ fac­tions within the Repub­li­can Party,” he said.

Car­pen­ter said the ap­point­ment also will be greeted warmly in China, but added that given the na­ture of the post, it will not have a ma­jor im­pact on US-China re­la­tions.

The Chi­nese govern­ment and peo­ple will pay far more at­ten­tion to other ap­point­ments, most no­tably sec­re­tary of state, sec­re­tary of de­fense, the as­sis­tant sec­re­taries of state and de­fense for East Asia and the Pa­cific, and US trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive, he said. Those ap­point­ments will have much greater rel­e­vance for bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, ac­cord­ing to Car­pen­ter.

Zhiqun Zhu, a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Buck­nell Univer­sity, said Trump’s pick of Chao has lit­tle to do with China or US-China re­la­tions.

“She was picked mainly be­cause of her mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties: a vet­eran Repub­li­can politi­cian, a woman, an im­mi­grant, and a Wash­ing­ton in­sider,” Zhu said, adding that the fact that Chao is mar­ried to Mitch McCon­nell, Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader, may also be very help­ful for Trump to smooth his re­la­tions with Congress.

How­ever, Zhu said that Trump has an am­bi­tious plan to re­vamp Amer­ica’s di­lap­i­dated in­fra­struc­ture.

“Chao’s ties to China could be use­ful to bring­ing in Chi­nese in­vest­ment and con­struc­tion­busi­nesses to help re­build Amer­ica’s in­fra­struc­ture in the next few years,” he said.

Chao served as the 24th US sec­re­tary of La­bor from 20012009. She served the long­est in that post since World War II, and the only mem­ber of Bush’s orig­i­nal cabi­net to have served the en­tire eight years of his ad­min­is­tra­tion. It was Bush’s fa­ther, Ge­orge H. W. Bush, who as pres­i­dent in 1989 named Chao deputy sec­re­tary of trans­porta­tion. In 1991, he named her direc­tor of the Peace Corps.

Af­ter leav­ing govern­ment ser­vice in 1992, Chao served as pres­i­dent and CEO of the United Way of Amer­ica. She left United Way in 1996 and joined the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, a con­ser­va­tive think tank in Wash­ing­ton as a distin­guished fel­low.

She joined sev­eral cor­po­rate and non­profit boards, in­clud­ing Wells Fargo, Dole Food Co and the Na­tional World War II Mu­seum. She also is a board mem­ber of News Corp, the owner of The Wall Street Jour­nal.

Chao grad­u­ated from Mount Holyoke Col­lege in Hadley, Mas­sachusetts, in 1975 with an eco­nom­ics de­gree. She re­ceived an MBA from the Har­vard Busi­ness School in 1977.

She has been given 35 hon­orary doc­tor­ates, the most re­cent a Doc­tor of Humane Let­ters from Ge­orge­town Univer­sity in 2015.

She mar­ried McCon­nell in 1993.


Elaine Chao and her hus­band, US Se­na­tor Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, are pic­tured at a cam­paign event for the se­na­tor in 2014. Chao, a for­mer sec­re­tary of la­bor, has been cho­sen by Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump to be the next sec­re­tary of the US De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion. Dou­glas Paal, direc­tor of the Asia pro­gram at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peacea

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