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     The glass ceiling, meant to hold them back, actually worked to their advantage, Koo and others say. Filled with resentment at this cultural barrier, they were inspired to leave their employers behind and launch off on business ventures of their own. Many were richly rewarded for taking the risk, some spectacularly so.
"They're going to have to think internationally, or one day they'll find some international company has arrived in their backyard and is eating their lunch."
     "I decided to take the route of advancement through mainstream Silicon Valley companies, rather than working with smaller Asian-owned start-up companies," says Bobby Toda, 47, an independent technology and financial consultant, formerly an employee of Apple Computer, Conner Peripherals, Seagate, Sony and Hewlett Packard. "I set up the Asian sales channels for Seagate and Conner, both hard-drive companies. For Seagate, in 1983, very few American companies were over there. For Conner, I built their Asian sales organization into a $450 million a year operation. We broke a lot of industry sales and growth records in the process."
     Still, for other Asian Americans, particularly recent Asian immigrants, the economic picture in the 21st Century may as well be a painting on the wall. "For every Asian Pacific American household with an annual income of $75,000 or more, there is roughly another with an annual income below $10,000," according to economist Paul Ong, associate professor of urban planning and the chair of the Interdepartmental Program in Asian American Studies at UCLA. But that's only the cycle of prosperity at its root stage. The Asian American population is not an economic nor cultural monolith by any stretch of the imagination.
     "We are a diverse group with interests, experiences, education and socioeconomic status ranging all over the map," says Koo. It is a group whose very influence and success should banish the irrational, paranoid images of immigrants sucking dry the nation's wealth. Without the Chinese, for example, our Information Super- highway might be a dirt road and no map. But these days, dangerous immigration reform legislation is percolating through the chambers of Congress. Many lawmakers want to pare the numbers of legal immigrants permitted to move to the U.S. They argue that immigrants from Asia are beating the pants off white, Hispanic and black Americans for jobs in technology and science industries, and the only way to give these other groups a fair shot at those jobs is to hobble the supply of the most competitive candidates. Talk about cutting off your economic nose to spite your cultural face.
     Many economists and business executives see detrimental effects to California should the flow of Asian immigrants be cut.
     "Technology businesses are very dependent on legal immigration from Asia," says Toda. "A great many of the legal immigrants are plugging into technology jobs in Silicon Valley and Orange County. If not for immigrants, these businesses would suffer." And when these businesses suffer, California's economic snapshot will weep real tears.
     California Asians will be taking on many positions of leadership in the coming century, from education to politics and business management. Many will be immigrants. 1990 U.S. Census Department figures help illustrate the prominence Asian Americans and Asian immigrants display in the academic field. About 55% of those 25 and older possess a bachelors or advanced degree. 85% of the California Asian entrepreneurs are immigrants, and 20% of them have a graduate or professional degree.
     "There are a lot of very highly educated Asians who entered the management field in Asian-based companies doing business here in California or in American-based entrepreneurial companies started by Asian nationals or Asian Americans. We'll start seeing a lot more of these managers moving into serious leadership positions in mainstream American companies," says Toda.
     Business is not the only field where Asians will be taking the helm. Politics will play an equally important role, for without a strong political voice, everything business accomplishes can be wiped away in a flash.

Asian Americans constitute 95% of the top 5% of students in American colleges and universities.
Below: Asian Americans fuel the demand for luxury home construction in Orange County's most prestigious neigborhoods.

     "Historically, Asian Americans have not wanted to get involved in politics at the grassroots level," says Koo. "It's just not in the Asian culture to want to stand out and be an individualist. Yet, if you're going to run for office or be a community activist, that is precisely what you must do--stand out and be an individualist. I think that in time, the reluctance to get involved will diminish."
     The idea of reluctance is totally lost on Matt Fong, California's state treasurer. Fong is fighting the IRS for a simpler tax system, and recently issued an initiative designed to use public and private pension funds to assist companies looking to expand operations in the Pacific Rim.
     Koo says California Asians will need to become activists on another front if they are to be genuinely successful in the 21st Century. They must, he insists, find ways to defuse the animus directed at them by other minorities for whom prosperity, power, and prestige have not come as swiftly. Tensions that now exist are sure to worsen unless California Asians reach out across the racial divide, he says.
     "We need to help society realize that any time an Asian American entrepreneur succeeds with a company that he or she builds from the ground up, that jobs are being created for the community at large, not just for other Asian Americans," Koo says. "We need to help society realize that scapegoating is counterproductive." Page 3

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