EXCLUSIVE: Asia-Pacific policy with Hawaii GOP chair, David Chang

Danny de Gracia interviews Hawaii Republican Party chair, David Chang. Photo: AP

HONOLULU, August 10, 2013 — As economic and political changes shift the world’s attention towards the Asia-Pacific region, the importance of Hawaii and its people is growing with each day. One of the unique leadership personalities in the islands is David Chang, a West Point graduate, business owner and chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party.

Chang, who recently toured several Asian nations, shared his perspective on America’s partnerships across the region and the importance of sound policies.   

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Danny de Gracia: David, you had the chance to visit several Asian countries and key U.S. partners in the Pacific area and you also got to meet with former President George W. Bush. What are some of the things that you learned on your tour?

David Chang: The trip to Korea with President Bush was for a groundbreaking ceremony for a large green energy development in Korea that I’m a part of. It was an honor to spend time with him and get to know him. It’s helpful that my family is from Korea, so doing business in Korea is a blessing since I can create win-win situations for the U.S. and South Korea, two of the most dynamic democratic nations in the world.

I’m traveling to Asia quite a bit for business and politics. My trip to the Republic of China (Taiwan) was a Taiwanese government sponsored trip with nine other RNC members. The purpose was to get to understand Taiwan economically, politically, socially and in relation to the People’s Republic of China. It was an incredible learning experience.

Many don’t realize that although a country of 23 million people, its greatest export to mainland China is democracy. There are currently 2.5 million mainland Chinese people — with 50 million waiting — touring Taiwan with the main purpose to understand the democratic process better.

An interesting fact is that Taiwan’s nightly political shows are [heavily] watched by mainland Chinese people! Despite the fact that we do not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, they are an important ally in the region, especially when it comes to human rights and spreading important democratic values.

DDG: What’s your perspective on Hawaii’s future and place in the region? It seems like as the world starts to look more and more towards Asia, the importance of the Aloha State is going to increase. Where do you see Hawaii in the next few years?

David Chang is the Chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party.

Chang: Absolutely, Hawaii is playing a larger role in the world. As the middle class grows in China, Korea, Taiwan, India and other Asian nations, Hawaii is seen as the target tourist destination. This is important because of the brand of Hawaii is increasing in popularity and stature.

Also for many Asian countries, doing business in Hawaii is much easier, which can serve as a stepping stone to the mainland. One other aspect I see is its location and time zone. Hawaii is the perfect bridge between the U.S. and Asia. If we can position ourselves as the gateway to the East and West, Hawaii can be the preeminent place to live and do business in the future.

We have a lot of work to do however. We do need policies that lower our cost of living, help our teachers and kids with our education, help our business prosper and create good paying jobs. Only then do I believe can we take our rightful place internationally.

DDG: What’s it like running a small business right now? In this economy, would you say that things are getting easier or harder?

Chang: The past few years have been tough. I have learned that in today’s economy, size is not as nearly as important as speed. Speed in innovating, marketing, operations, sales and adapting to the marketplace. In some ways with technology and social media it is easier to brand yourself, but in other ways it is even more difficult since there are so many variables to consider.

In the end, I have learned that character and integrity still lead the way and those companies will survive. I am more of an entrepreneur than anything, looking to create value out of nothing. It is risky, but also very rewarding.

Through the recession and business deals that did not go as planned, I learned that success isn’t what you can accomplish, but what you can overcome. That distinction is crucial in realizing that failure is a stepping stone to success and that both success and failure are usually the same path. I have been blessed to have great clients, mentors, partners and employees, which is the only reason I have been able to survive!

DDG: Are there any policy changes or reforms you’d like to see in Congress right now? What do you think should be some of the top priorities for policymakers right now?

Chang: Right now the debate is whether there should be higher taxes or lower taxes. I am more concerned with smarter taxes. Our tax code is almost 74,000 pages with numerous deductions, taxes and exemptions. We need to simplify our tax code and regulations where we are able to lower our overall tax burden, help businesses and workers prosper so we can increase our tax base. This becomes a win-win situation.

Along the same lines, it isn’t a matter of more government or less government, but smarter government. The government is a crucial part of our lives, so we should work harder to make it more effective and efficient. This will help balance our private and public sector for a symbiotic relationship that doesn’t crowd each other out or compete with one another. 

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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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