Red flags of China fly San Francisco's Chinatown

Historically, Taiwan-based Nationalist flags - blue sky, white sun above the red earth - flied all over Chinatown in San Francisco. Now, political winds shift Red flags of the People's Republic of China dominate the Chinatown skyline. Reports the LA Times, "the proliferation of red flags does not mean the famous 150-year-old enclave has suddenly embraced communism. But local leaders say the banners do mark a major break with the Taiwan-based Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, which has been an important power broker here for nearly a century." The shift is a major victory for the Beijing government in its attempt to win the hearts and minds of the important overseas Chinese community.
The most recent example of the conversion in San Francisco came when two leaders of the Chinese Six Companies -- the most powerful and important Chinese benevolent society -- broke with tradition and refused to take their oath of office before the Nationalist flag or sing its anthem at the association's elegant meeting hall, a Qing Dynasty-era building guarded by six stone lions, the LA Times reports.

In 2000, almost immediately after taking office, Chen appointed fervent Taiwanese independence supporter Chang Fu-mei as his minister for overseas Chinese affairs. Chang, a former research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, quickly alienated overseas Chinese leaders by saying that older immigrants from the mainland, such as the majority in San Francisco, were not as important to her policies as overseas Taiwanese were. Although she later apologied to the Chinese Six Companies, whose leaders took offense, the damage had been done. (Source: Rone Tempest, The Los Angeles Times, July 18. 2004)

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