Ex-HK TV star goes political in America

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Phillip Yin is a former Bloomberg and CNBC star based in Hong Kong. But it’s his time as the face of CCTV America that has drawn flak from competitors in the race for lieutenant governor of Washington state. Ross Darrell Feingold interviews the man who is “Yin In It to Win It”!


Phillip Yin (嚴正剛) recently launched his campaign to be the Washington State Republican Party nominee for lieutenant governor in the state election to be held simultaneous to the federal election on November 8, 2016. Many in Hong Kong are familiar with Mr. Yin from his time as a Hong Kong-based anchor and reporter for Bloomberg and CNBC Asia television. Mr. Yin was also the first business news anchor for China Central Television (CCTV) News America, an English-language channel based in Washington D.C. that began broadcasting in 2012. In addition, he has many years’ experience as a financial industry professional, with a focus on derivatives products.

The lieutenant governor’s responsibilities include expanding overseas markets for goods and services produced in Washington State, which makes Mr. Yin unique among the candidates as he has worked in and reported from some of the fastest growing and largest markets for Washington State products.

If elected, Mr. Yin would become only the third lieutenant governor of Chinese heritage in United States history. He could also join United States Senator Pat Toomey (Republican – Pennsylvania) as one of the rare  elected officials in America with working experience in Hong Kong.

Mr. Yin responds reflects on his campaign, his goals if elected, and the relevance of his Hong Kong experience to the to the lieutenant governor’s job.

It’s up to the people to ask the United Kingdom to protest if there is a disagreement on the implementation of the Basic Law or One Country, Two Systems. The economic reality is that it is hard to separate China and Hong Kong, and ultimately Hong Kong does need the support of China. I am a strong proponent of peaceful protests when citizens feel the need to demand more effective leadership and governance.


HARBOUR TIMES (HT): Tell us about your childhood. Would you describe your family as a traditional Chinese family or more American?

Phillip Yin: I had quite the traditional family, my father and mother came from Hong Kong to the United States to attend college at Syracuse, where they later met and got married. I was born in Arizona, and shortly after my father moved to Yakima, in central Washington, as an architect to design schools and libraries. My mother worked at the county courthouse. They later left to open a Chinese restaurant in Yakima. This is where I spent 18 years growing up with a mostly Chinese culture. As I got older I got more involved in sports, both baseball and tennis. I would say it ended up be more blended by the time I was in high school, but my mother and father maintained a strong Chinese culture at home including teaching me Cantonese.


HT: Were you involved in student government in secondary school or university?

Phillip Yin: I did participate in college with various student groups such as the Hong Kong Club with my good friend Karen, and also various Chinese clubs. I spent the first two years studying Mandarin, at which I clearly failed, but it was hard, as many international students simply had much better language skills, but nonetheless, I made close friends. I served in various roles such as treasurer, and social chair.


HT: When did you begin to consider running for political office?

Phillip Yin: It’s something I’ve thought about throughout my private business experience as an opportunity to give back. I love working for the private sector in both banking and media, but there’s a different challenge when it’s not working for your boss, but rather for the people in your state. This is something I’m still learning every day. Instead of one boss, I’ve got voters to represent.


HT: You previously worked in Hong Kong for CNBC and Bloomberg as an on-air reporter. How are these experiences relevant to serving as Washington’s lieutenant governor?

Phillip Yin: There’s a direct correlation. As a journalist, you are guided by unbiased and impartial reporting. You’re well trained to listen to both sides and to keep an open mind. Journalism has taught me to keep an open mind and be respectful of all opinions. The lieutenant governor job includes an important role as business and trade ambassador for the trade. To promote business from the state outwards, but also to promote the state as a destination for businesses and tourism. I’ve also enjoyed showcasing the opportunities in my state. My experience in Hong Kong has broadened my vision to include many more international opportunities and Hong Kong is a very successful example.

I invite Harbour Times readers to watch some of our content as they will surprised how impartial much of CCTV America’s programs and reporting from Washington D.C are.


HT: What struck you about how Hong Kong is run that might work for Washington? i.e. What are the top three policies or practices in Hong Kong you would recommend to Washington state policy makers?

Phillip Yin: If real estate prices were the same, there would be rioting in the streets, so let’s leave that alone. Hong Kong’s aggressive policies on attracting investment and commerce certainly come to mind. The HK government and the TDC, are good examples of creating a welcoming environment for businesses big and small. Another important part of that is education. Hong Kong is well known for its high standards in education so that Hong Kong remains competitive. I hope to mirror the same successes by promoting education from pre-kindergarten to university to ensure children have the best possible start in their academic careers.


HT: What policy issues are you most focused on in this campaign? Why are those issues important to voters in the Republican primary?

Phillip Yin: there’s no question, it will be promoting a strong economy that attracts the best jobs in diverse sectors. Washington is well known for the technology and aerospace industry, but we also want to attract great jobs from other sectors such as healthcare and manufacturing to our state. To create a good backdrop, it’s important that current and tax policies incentivise and don’t discourage companies from doing business with us. Of course the government has an important role – that means a more efficient government to addresses important social issues such as healthcare and safety which ultimately creates a higher living standards.


HT: Assuming you win the Republican nomination, how will you capture the lieutenant governor’s job from the Democrat incumbent in a state that usually votes Democratic?

Phillip Yin: Two points to make. One, the Democratic incumbent is rumored to be stepping down, which would create the first open seat in twenty years. Two, in the last gubernatorial election, the Republican candidate lost 48.5% to 51.5% This small margin surprises a lot of people. If we run a well-managed campaign that focuses on important issues such as jobs, I strongly believe we can close the gap and put us in a position to win.


HT: According to the United States Trade Representative, in 2014 the value of Washington State’s exports was US$90.6 billion, up 206% since 2004. What can the state government do to improve on this already impressive figure?

Phillip Yin: While that number is impressive, much of that figure comes from large companies such as Boeing. There are many smaller businesses that will benefit from a pro-jobs, and pro-business, lieutenant governor. Washington must be careful so as not to become complacent. Every recession teaches us where we can improve.


HT: The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal recently ranked Hong Kong as tied for first place in the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom. What lessons from Hong Kong economic environment would you seek to replicate in Washington State?

Phillip Yin: I’m very proud of Hong Kong and yes, that is great! Competitive taxes and incentives for startups while protecting the current workforce is all very important to ensure Washington can be as competitive as possible.


HT: As an American of Hong Kong heritage, and a Republican, should political leaders in the United States be more supportive of Hong Kong people’s demand for direct elections of the chief executive? Should the United States treat this as an internal affair for China and refrain from comment?

Phillip Yin: [I] Have followed this for long time, it remains an unresolved issue. Hong Kong is a part China now, albeit a special part. Those agreements should be respected and it’s up to the Hong Kong people to choose their representatives carefully. But it’s obvious that China has great influence on the government and businesses in Hong Kong. I strongly believe in freedom of speech and democracy, but the issue in Hong Kong is more complicated than some critics will admit. It’s up to the people to ask the United Kingdom to protest if there is a disagreement on the implementation of the Basic Law or One Country, Two Systems. The economic reality is that it is hard to separate China and Hong Kong, and ultimately Hong Kong does need the support of China. I am a strong proponent of peaceful protests when citizens feel the need to demand more effective leadership and governance.


HT: If you win the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, will you also support the Republican nominee for president, regardless of who it is and what his policies towards China are?

Phillip Yin: I’ll support candidates who meet a high level of integrity, and who also values the importance of international trade while respecting the cultural differences. I want to emphasise the purpose of trade is to create benefits on both sides. I intend to support policies that promote stronger and more trusting ties between trading partners such as the United States and China, but as in all politics, both sides need to be held accountable to ensure fairness.


HT: The New York Times recently published a story that criticised you for working as a journalist in the Washington DC bureau of China’s CCTV. Was this criticism fair? Did the story unreasonably question your patriotism because of your ethnicity?

Phillip Yin: No one regardless of citizen or race should be subjected to any discrimination or coercion.

At CCTV-America I defended  freedom of speech and the importance of human rights. The New York Times corrected their original headline, and they also issued a correction to highlight the editorial separation of CCTV China and CCTV-America in Washington D.C. We had separate editorial guidelines, separate producers and writers, and separate reporters and anchors. I’m very proud of how my team fought for showcasing facts and being as fair as possible on our global business show. I invite Harbour Times readers to watch some of our content as they will surprised how impartial much of CCTV America’s programs and reporting from Washington D.C are.


HT: Do you have any special memories of Hong Kong either from childhood or from your time working in Hong Kong?

Phillip Yin: We still have family in Hong Kong and I miss the exciting business environment very much. It’s the only place on earth I can propose to friends and colleagues that we meet after work and thirty people will show up within a few hours. I met my wife in Hong Kong and was welcomed by her wonderful friends. The hospitality and friendship I’ve made in Hong Kong both professionally and personally have made a tremendous impact on me. And of course, the food is amazing.


HT: Do you plan to visit Hong Kong between now and the Republican primary in Washington State on August 2?

Phillip Yin: If my campaign manager will stop filling our schedule here in Washington, there is a possibility of visiting Hong Kong to meet my good friends and supporters.



Editor’s Note: Are you aware of other candidates for political office, or elected politicians, around the world who worked in Hong Kong prior to seeking office? If so, e-mail us at editor@archive.harbourtimes.com