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Politics & Policy

This East Bay city just got its first Chinese American councilman

Jeff Wang speaks at the Union City City Council inauguration event on Dec. 13, 2022. | Courtesy photo

Jeff Wang has made history twice now in Union City.

Six years after becoming the first Chinese American on his local school board, he took the oath of office that made him the East Bay city’s first Chinese American councilman.

And though the seat is nonpartisan, his recent inauguration makes him one of the rare Republicans to hold elected office in the liberal Bay Area.

The 61-year-old is active in local GOP circles and has registered as a Republican since 1992, but he said his governance style is “more inclusive, cooperative and cross-party.”

Jeff Wang speaks at a community event in Foster City, California, on Jan. 15. | Han Li/The Standard

The Shanghai native immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s to earn a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wisconsin. Education remained the focus of his career, leading him to teach in different colleges and launch a consulting business. Education eventually became the focus of his political advocacy—in particular, his opposition to affirmative action. 

“I fought against affirmative action and helped in the lawsuit against Harvard University,” Wang said. “Chinese Americans should pay more attention to politics.”

In 2014, he positioned himself as an Asian community leader in a high-profile fight against a pro-affirmative action bill that would have changed the California Constitution so public schools could consider race in student admissions.

Peter Kuo, a Chinese American immigrant and California Republican Party’s second-in-command, said he applauds Wang’s historic East Bay election.

“I am extremely excited to see the people of Union City elect an immigrant and a successful businessman to serve at the city council,“ Kuo told The Standard. “I am confident Mr. Wang will serve all the people in his district with their best interests in mind.”

Though he’s called Union City home for the past 26 years, Wang said his life in the Alameda County suburb has turned a new leaf now that he’s one of its elected leaders.

While in office, he said he wants to expand policing, bring tech companies to town, bolster services for seniors and celebrate the city's diverse immigrant community.

Han Li can be reached at