Alice Mong is the Executive Director of the Committee of 100, a Chinese American leadership organization founded in 1989 by IM Pei and Yo-Yo Ma to promote the betterment of Sino-US relations and ensure opportunities for Chinese Americans and Asians Americans. In her current position, Ms. Mong manages the expansion of the Committee’s programs to build understanding between the U.S. and Greater China and encourage the full participation of Chinese Americans in American society, culture and politics.
Ms. Mong majored in international relations at Ohio State University and began her career with the Ohio Department of Development. She eventually built a strong coalition from the governmental, educational and business sectors of that state on issues pertaining to China and went on to head the Department’s regional office in Hong Kong. Alice then obtained a joint Executive MBA degree from Northwestern University (Kellogg School of Business) and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
International relations between China and America is an ongoing task but if done properly reaps rewards for both countries. At Committee of 100, Ms. Mong’s cultural and social ties between China and the outside world, begins with the Committee’s annual conference in the United States. These conferences bring in opinion leaders in business, academic and government to talk about topics of the day: how to improve US-China relations and the state of Asian Americans in certain sectors.
Alice has been in the news a lot recently, due to the National Election and its focus on Asian American voters. Don’t be surprised to see more of her over the next few months. In the meantime, we wanted to find out more information about Alice and her job at Committee of 100 to give you a better understanding of the woman behind this organization and its voice for Asians and Asian Americans.
ASIANCE: Tell us about your job function at Committee of 100.
Alice Mong: I am the Executive Director for the Committee of 100 and have been at this post for the past 5 ½ years. My job is the day-to-day operations of this Chinese American leadership organization founded in 1989 by IM Pei and Yo-Yo Ma to promote the betterment of Sino-US relations and ensure opportunities for Chinese Americans and Asians Americans. With a full-time staff of 7 and an office in Hong Kong, I work with the 155 members of the Committee on 4 major initiatives: our annual conference, surveys, education and mentoring.
Although their numbers are generally smaller, they ultimately want the same respect and understanding shown to any other minority group; after all they work just as hard. We sometimes are just not very good at asking for it.
ASIANCE: What are some immediate goals you wish to achieve through your job and what are some long term goals?
Alice Mong: Immediate goals are making sure that Committee of 100 and its members is a good resource for the media as they cover this historic Olympics in Beijing, first time in China. We believe the Olympics in China this year has increased people’s interest on China today and Chinese culture. As Chinese Americans, we are the natural bridge to promote the better understanding of these 2 countries and cultures.
Long terms goals are to continue to educate both Americans and Chinese about each other. We believe with increased understanding and exposure to each other, mutual respects can be developed. There is no reason that the people and leaders of these 2 countries need to view each other with suspicion. According to our recent mirror survey of American and Chinese attitudes toward each other, the people of both countries generally view each other favorably.
ASIANCE: What is a typical work day for you?
Alice Mong: A typical work day includes talking to members regarding media requests, sometimes from Greater China. Our members are role models and well known in Greater China.
Conference calls regarding membership, annual or regional conferences, and our other initiatives. Also, meeting with other non-profits throughout US and Greater China who are interested in working with C100 on certain projects.
ASIANCE: Where is your family located?
Alice Mong: I live in New York City where the C100 is headquartered. My family including my parents and siblings live in northern Virginia which has been our base on and off since the entire family immigrated to the US in the early 70s.
ASIANCE: What is special about your heritage to you?
Alice Mong: My heritage as an American of Chinese descent is special to me especially during this time of China’s rise. I see opportunities ahead as a Chinese American as we continue to build the cultural and social ties between China and the outside world. Recent Chinese history has shown that when China is inward looking and closes its door to the outside world, that is when its people have suffered. I am proud of my Chinese heritage but feel especially blessed in being a Chinese American which gives me access to best of both cultures. The rich history and family ties that is part of being Chinese but the values and creativity and opportunities of being a first-generation American.
ASIANCE: What changes (positive or negative) have you seen over the last 10 years?
Alice Mong: I have spent half of my life in the US and half in Asia. The first 10 years of my life I was in Taiwan and I had an opportunity of working in HK for 11 years with frequent travels to China. So the changes I have seen in Asia, especially in China, these past 10 years is tremendous. There is a sense of confidence in China and being part of the world, as there are no longer the gray Mao jackets but a lot more diversity than ever before. Technology, like mobile phone and computers and the rise of the consuming power of the young people (most are the product of the 1-child policy) are helping to transform China. In the cities, there is wealth but people are still chasing for something better. In the countryside with more poverty, people are also searching for a better life. Positive is the can-do spirit and the negatives are the pollutions that come with its dynamic economic growth.
In the US, the positive changes I see are the rising participation of minorities in business, politics and the arts. There is a voice in some sectors for people who look like us, however that may not still be true in all areas.
ASIANCE: What advice would you have for Asian Americans?
Alice Mong: My advice is the same as the advice my parents gave me, work hard, study hard and give back to your community when you are able to. When you go, you can only take what you wear on your back so try to leave a positive impact while you are on this world.
My own advice to Asian Americans is to focus on the positives. Life is hard and sometimes even unfair and others will put obstacles in our way, so there is no need for you to put more obstacles in your own path.
ASIANCE: Any Asians/Asian Americans that you admire?
Alice Mong: My parents top the list. All 155 of my members who are all Asian American pioneers in their own field. One is the first 2-star general in the US Army and a real-life JAG (Judge Advocate General). One member created YouTube and he is not even in his 30s! One is the most decorated figure skater in US skating history. Non-members aside, I admire the Japanese Americans leaders like Norm Mineta, Senator Daniel Inouye, Congressman Mike Honda, General Eric Shinseki. Despite being interned during WWII, these Asian Americans came out of the camps to serve their country loyally and with distinction. They truly embody the best of the American spirit!
Watch Committee of 100’s Mission Statement
ASIANCE: How does Committee of 100 encourage Asian Americans and U.S.-China relations?
Alice Mong: We do so through our annual conference in the US, generally in April. We also began our Greater China conference about 4 years ago. At these conferences, we bring in opinion leaders in business, academic and government to talk about topics of the day: how to improve US-China relations and the state of Asian Americans in certain sectors. For example in DC, we had the Asian American congressional staffers talk about the contribution they are making and what drove them to be in DC. Their experience is important, especially for young Asian American interested in a career in Washington. We aim to be the Davos (Switzerland) of US-China and Asian American issues. We also do our work through Surveys. Our landmark surveys have included American Attitudes toward Chinese Americans and Asian Americans which was first conducted in 2001. We are updating that survey this year. We have also conducted Chinese and American Attitudes toward each other which was an unprecedented mirror survey conducted a year ago trying to find out what is the American and Chinese general public’s attitudes about each other and how they fare compared to the business and elite sectors.
ASIANCE: What would you like to see change or improve in terms of careers, marketing and awareness of Asian Americans, in general?
Alice Mong: I think in general Asian Americans like others, simply are looking for respect. They would like to have what other minority groups have. Although their numbers are generally smaller, they ultimately want the same respect and understanding shown to any other minority group; after all they work just as hard. We sometimes are just not very good at asking for it.
ASIANCE: What do you do during your free time?
Alice Mong: What free time! When I do have it, it use to be movies but lately it is getting together with friends from all sectors and get together for dinner to talk politics. My friends are generally political and news junkies. Love museums.
ASIANCE: Do you have any hobbies?
Alice Mong: Old movies, especially musicals and attending theatre performances.
ASIANCE: Are there any charities that you participate in?
Alice Mong: Just volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters which has a New American Program that is helping children of new immigrants integrate into a new culture.
For more information on the committee and its members visit www.committee100.org