On November 29, Trump’s transition team told the media that Elaine Chao would be nominated by the president-elect as the secretary of transportation. The news struck me as no surprise when I learned it from CNN. The choice makes sense and could “kill two birds with one stone”. By inducting Elaine Chao into the cabinet, Trump can appease the Senate, Chinese American community and even China.
First, Elaine Chao has got strong leadership and rich experiences as a politician. This is the primary reason for her nomination. Her family hailed from Shanghai and she was born in Taiwan and immigrated with her family to the US when she was eight. Chao’s father, Dr. James S.C. Chao had worked strenuously to become a successful business leader.
Elaine Chao, as the eldest child of the family, had helped her father manage a shipping company after graduating with an MBA from Harvard. Chao, who served as the deputy secretary of transportation under former President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1991 and secretary of labor under former President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009, is the first Asian-American woman to be appointed to a cabinet position by Trump. Her rich experiences as a politician would be invaluable to Trump who lacks practical experience in politics.
Second, the nomination would help forge an alliance with the Bush supporters among the Republicans. This year’s presidential election featured interesting chemistry between the Bush and Trump families. The leaked Trump video recording that had generated quite a controversy has something to do with the Bush family, while Jeb Bush’s dropping out of the Republican race directly led to Trump’s participation.
George Bush once criticized Trump’s extreme remarks and both he and his former president son had not voted for Trump. The Chao family has enjoyed an intimate relationship with the Bush family. Trump could use the connection to improve on his relationship with the Bush family, and those on their side, one of the major factions within the GOP. It is a smart move.
Third, the nomination would help Trump gain support of the Senate, because Chao’s husband is Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. McConnell has worked with five American presidents and is a leading figure in the Senate. As early as September, he and his wife Chao had voiced support for Trump. So, the nomination will pay back political dividends, while helping the Trump cabinet to gain support from Senate.
Fourth, it is a payback to Chinese Americans for their support. This presidential election has seen Chinese Americans hailing from the Chinese mainland extend their support to Trump. Although they are not in a large number, they have got a big voice by renting jets in 31 major cities to pull banners in support of Trump. After Trump nominated Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina, an Indian American to be the US ambassador to the United Nations, he has to strike a balance by electing Chao into the cabinet.
Fifth, the nomination would serve as good gesture to the Chinese Americans and have positive effects on the Sino-US relationship. The success of Chao would set a good example for other Chinese Americans who would like to take part in politics. One thing worth mentioning is that the Chao family is known to boast good relationships with both Taiwan and Chinese mainland.
Wan Xiaohong is a politics professor at South China Normal University.
(Opinions expressed in the article don't represent those of the Sino-US.com. The article is translated and edited by Rebecca Lin.)