The head of the policy division of Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign is Lanhee Chen (陳仁宜), 34, the son of Taiwanese immigrants.
Chen, whose parents are from Yunlin County, is one of the few Asians in prominent positions in the Republican presidential campaign.
A politician with a strong academic background, Chen holds four Harvard degrees — one bachelor’s, one master’s and two doctorates, one in law and one in politics. He worked at a lobbying firm after obtaining his first degree in 1999.
He then worked as a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, where he studied healthcare and economic policies.
He joined the Republican Party in 2007, the same year that Romney threw his hat into the ring for the party’s nomination for the 2008 presidential election.
Chen served as a senior aide in the Health and Human Services department during the administration of former US president George W. Bush.
In 2008, Chen was named chief domestic policy adviser for Romney’s nomination campaign and joined the current presidential campaign in March last year.
In a profile of Chen in the Washington Post, freelance writer Molly Redden described him as “brilliant.”
Former US secretary of labor Elaine Chao (趙小蘭), who was born in Taiwan, said Chen was a rising star in the Republican Party.
It is rare that people of Asian descent are placed in such high positions in any US presidential campaign, she said.
Chen’s current post as policy director in the Romney campaign signifies that Republicans value ethnic diversity and shows the growing importance of politicians from Asian backgrounds in the party, she said.
Speaking of his Taiwanese roots, Chen, on the sideline of a campaign rally mainly for Asian voters in Tampa, Florida, earlier this week, said that he had enjoyed every trip he ever made to Taiwan.
Taiwan has changed a lot in the past decade, which is really exciting, said Chen, whose parents now live in San Gabriel Valley, California.
Taiwan is an extraordinary place that has a vibrant democracy, he said.
On the observation that many view his China policy as “hawkish,” Chen said China was an important trading partner of the US.
Romney does not intend to start a trade war with China, but neither will the US succumb to China, he said, adding that Romney believes that China should not manipulate its currency, put up trade barriers or infringe on intellectual property rights.
Unless China moves toward such changes, Romney will remain committed to holding China accountable, Chen said.