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Trump taps for­mer Bush ap­pointee Elaine Chao for trans­porta­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AI HEPING and CHEN WEI­HUA in New York Con­tact the writ­ers at chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com.

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

Chao, the first 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 in­fra­struc­ture. 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 health­care 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 Chi­nese-Amer­i­can 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.

No ma­jor im­pacts

Car­pen­ter said the ap­point­ment would 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.

The Chao fam­ily is a typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of how Chi­nese im­mi­grants re­al­ize their Amer­i­can dream, said Diao Dam­ing, a re­searcher at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences in Bei­jing. Trump’s se­lec­tion of Chao as trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary would also help to wa­ter down his some­how very ex­treme stands on im­mi­gra­tion and women is­sues, Diao was quoted as say­ing by the China Na­tional Ra­dio on Wed­nes­day.

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.

She was picked mainly be­cause of her mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties: a vet­eran Re­pub­li­can politi­cian, a woman, an im­mi­grant, and a Wash­ing­ton in­sider.” Zhiqun Zhu, pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Buck­nell Uni­ver­sity

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