Silicon Valley’s Cynical Treatment of Asian Engineers

Originally published at: Silicon Valley’s Cynical Treatment of Asian Engineers – Quillette

Silicon Valley runs on Asians. This is a well-known aspect of the tech world in general, but it’s especially apparent in elite sub-sectors. Even by 2010, Asian Americans already had become a majority (50.1 percent) of all tech workers in the Bay Area: software engineers, data engineers, programmers, systems analysts, admins, and developers. Census Bureau…

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And there goes the latest casualty to ‘racism’ based victimhood cuture: Chinese Americans.
If it’s true that 15 out of 20 of facebook engineers are “Chinese from China” then isn’t it just possible being raised in a collectivist culture as opposed to individualist one negatively impacts the communication skills that are required to climb the leadership ladder in western cultures?
Of course it’s ok to claim culture is the reason for success but never failure….

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This article is a fraud.

I proposed something like this to Q about 1 year ago. My title was going to be “The Green Card Archipelago”.

The reason why there are “Chinese Chinese” is due to the H-1B visa. Or the B-1. Or the L-1. Or the J-1. Or the OPT. There are hundreds of thousands of Chinese on these visas. Of course, for every Chinese Chinese on a visa, there are 10 Indian Indians on the visa. I’m actually surprised to hear that FB has a lot of CC. Most tech positions are filled with Indians.

The “fraud” comment is due to the article talking about “Chinese talent”. This is not why visa workers are used.

They are used because they are cheap - they pay 50% of USA salaries. They use work visa scabs because they cannot move to other companies, as the company holds the visa. They are not used because they are good. Friends who TEACH CS, who are old white guys, have very low opinions of the Chinese and the Indians. Mostly they have to “dumb down” courses due to the very poor English, and they have to watch these guys like hawks, because they cheat. All the time. Homework is done collectively despite rules that it be solo work. There are organized rings of “test taking ringers” who come in to take exams, in particular the TOEFL.

These work visas have been used, over and over and over again, to replace entire sections of USA citizen STEM workers. This has happened in the last 10 years to hundreds of companies. Disney, multiple insurance companies, multiple utility companies, the U CA IT department at USF. Trump stopped the TVA from doing this in 2018. Biden will not stop them. He hates USA citizen workers and wants more visa workers.

The other point that the article misses is that the use of H-1B is DEEPLY DEEPLY anti-female. 99% of all visa workers are male. The female workers, wives of H-1Bs, are on H4-EADs (a made-up work permit NEVER AUTHORIZED by Congress, just like OPT was NEVER AUTHORIZED by Congress). This is why women are far less represented in STEM.

I worked for 40 years in STEM, as a statistical scientist, programmer, and data analyst. I never worked in Silicone Valley, true. But I saw this entire swindle occur. There’s a reason for it, but this article did not cover that, because it is a superficial fraud on the entire process.

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Coding is important but being a good programmer is not what made, say, a Jeff Zuckerberg one of the richest men. In fact, lots of people can code. It is a skill that can be learned. Entrepreneurship is something different. It is visionary and behavioral and quite simply comes down to raw ambition. Maybe these Chinese prorammers should start their own companies if they are so valuable? Why not?

Are we supposed to believe that what prevents Asian Americans from being entrepreneurial is systemic racism? How exactly would that work? Big and innovative ideas are accepted in the marketplace only if “white” men come up with them? My Gosh, how stupid. Adam Smith’s invisible hand must be racist too!

Nothing on earth is preventing Asian or black entrepreneurs from achieving their goals.

Also, it is not the coding itself but what exactly is being coded that matters. IOW, the design matters. The designers work more in marketing. Knowing what products to develop or the needs of the customers requires a sort of genius that simply cannot be learned by rote.

We hear constantly about a “racial wealth gap” that can be explained almost entirely by the gap among the differences between the top 10% in black and white earners. This is caused by over representation of white men among billionaires. This is clearly not a result of discrimination or racism. It is cultural.

Thus, the question that should be examined instead is “Why are minorities under represented among entrepreneurs?”. If this matters to you, I would like to know why. What pressing social issue is at stake here? Who cares?

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Thanks. The innuendo of the thing is that Asians are smarter, and whether or not that might be true, the essential point is that they are cheaper.

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And the plain fact is that they are NOT smarter.

What they are is far far far more cliquish. Indians are strongly caste-oriented. High-caste Indians will not work with low-caste Indians, especially dalits. Since USA citizens are not familiar with the caste system (and with the last names, which are key indicators of caste), they do not understand how it works, and how it affects Indian workers. Indians will not work with women, and have prejudice against blacks which is well-known and well-documented. There are huge number of cases of false impersonations, in which a person who INTERVIEWS for a job is not the person who shows up for the job. Indian cheating is a national sport.

Once Indians are in HR, no USA citizen workers are hired again.

Chinese are one of the most arrogant cultures in the world - for the Chinese, everyone is inferior. My daughter roomed with a Chinese girl in college, by choice (international dorm). ALL of the foreign students were Chinese - it was U Illinois, which admits 20% of the class from China (shutting out huge numbers of students from Illinois, which is the state in which the university is situation). For the first semester, all was well. By the end of the 2nd semester, the truth of Chinese arrogance was clear. The Chinese hated all Americans, Koreans, Japanese, all non-Chinese.

When I was at my last job, I came in one Saturday to find the library of my Department (biostatistics) filled with Chinese, some from the department, some from other departments on campus. A “friend” in the department was concerned enough to catch up to me and explain this was a “special Saturday reading group” that, oddly enough, no USA citizens were invited to or even knew about. Like most Chinese in STEM departments, the pattern is that the Chinese begin with collegial relations but soon they publish only with other Chinese. Clannish, cliquish, arrogant.

Many Chinese who come to the USA are actually not researchers or scholars, but are simply pretending to be such, and are actually members of the Chinese army. They come to the USA and steal intellectual property. While some Chinese progress is due to Chinese, a TON of it is due to stolen data, plans, intelligence, patented information, and so forth from the USA.

Under Trump, Chinese intellectual property theft was being examined. Under Biden, I doubt anything will be stopped.

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Decent excerpt but I feel it misses some points. I work in tech and have encountered many of the things mentioned here.

Just as with tech workers from India, Chinese knowledge workers are rarely better than what can be hired in the States. That is not to say that there is something fundamentally wrong with the workers from either nation, just that tech companies are going with these workers because they can be hired much cheaper than Americans. Not because they are doing the same quality job. Absent the pay discrepancy the reason for hiring them vanishes. Meanwhile their efficiency is further reduced due to language and cultural barriers.

To be clear, they are not hired because they are better they are hired because they are cheaper. And you get what you pay for.

There are plenty of really good Indian and Chinese software devs out there, and they make just as much as an American because…

The average tenure of a Google employee, remember, is just 3.2 years.

You cannot let your quality employees churn at a rate like this and maintain your business. Well maybe you can if you have a company that has monopoly-adjacent network effects propping up your business model, but for everyone else… no. Hiring and training are efficiency killers.

But Asians make up just 25.4 percent of what Facebook calls “leadership” positions. That represents a nearly 50 percent cut in terms of Asian employees who start in the company and move up to leadership.

No other race exhibits the same low ratio.

Yes, but I doubt many of those other races also have such a high ratio of non-citizens on H1-B Visa’s who do not speak English.

To be clear, there are problems in tech and this book looks interesting. But I hope some of these obvious issues are addressed and dealt with further in the chapter.

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Yeah this one really took me by surprise. They will work together though. Still its jarring to know two different Indian devs, be very friendly with both of them, think that both of them are really cool guys … and then get them together on a project. One starts speaking rather rudely and dismissively to the other, and the other just kinda takes it in stride.

As an American it really is hard to fathom.

If they work for an American company they will. Or they will soon not be working for an American company.

However this more often manifests itself in a distinct lack of courtesy when speaking to a woman compared as opposed to outright rudeness. Although really I think this particular issue is notably better than it was 15 or 20 years ago. The vast majority of Indian men I interact with never seem to have any issues working with or for women.

Not in my experience. Someone in HR who can help navigate the cultural differences is a HUGE plus. They are also better able to deliver the “Look this is the way it is in America and you need to get on board” speech more effectively if cultural problems arise.

This is an excellent point. Thank you for bringing it up.

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SV pays lip service to ‘diversity’ but doesn’t really believe in it. In 2000, the Technical folks were overwhelmingly male, white (disproportionately Jewish) or Asian. This was just as true in 2020 and will still be true in 2040. Just reality at work.

The cost of firing (#firedfortruth) James Damore was a trifle compared to the potentially vast cost of actually changing hiring practices. It (changing hiring practices) was never going to happen and won’t happen now.

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Are these extraordinarily broad generalizations based exclusively on your own (and your daughter’s) experience, or do you have evidence to support your assertions? FWIW, my experience with Indians correlates with @Mythfortune’s post.

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The entire H-1B system is corrupt. It is little more than the 20/21st century version of indentured servitude. Once a person a person is lawfully admitted to the US, they should be free to work for any company (or start their own) as they see fit.

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Yes, but the ability of anyone to come in and compete with USA citizens should DEFINITELY be limited. We do not want an unlimited number of low-quality (H-1B) foreign workers coming in without any restrictions.

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GQT, I agree that immigration should be limited. However, I object to the H-1B system rather specifically. The US should admit a specific number of immigrants (using a points system) and once lawfully admitted, should impose no restrictions on those immigrants (other than as provided for in the Constitution).

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Silicon Valley has the reputation, and is often decried by conservatives as being “woke”. Are Chinese H-1B immigrant workers really that woke? I don’t know for sure, but with Chinese censorship, I wouldn’t think Chinese tech workers would be exposed to American social politics, unless they were educated in America. If Silicon Valley “runs on Asians”, then why the reputation? Are white male software engineers particularly woke?

I don’t work in Silicon Valley, but I work for a major engineering company in Cali. We have a substantial IT and software department. My interactions with the mainly white males in those departments have never given me the impression that politics is much of a factor in their lives at all, let alone radical left social politics. This is just my “lived experience”, so it is in no way an analysis of Silicon Valley, but instinctively, I wouldn’t think this left lean of the industry would be emotionally spearheaded by any of these engineers, regardless of ethnicity, but I could be wrong. Someone please educate me.

I was reading Google’s annual diversity report, and it’s fairly vague. I was hoping to see the demographic breakdown by department. I was mainly looking to see the demographics of the HR department. I found another report that specified in 2021 non-tech departments gender diversity only: 46.4 Female, 53.6 Male. Geekwire states that 43% of jobs at tech companies are non-tech, but did not specify Google. Non-tech jobs run the gamut from HR to shipping. Where is this “Woke” and sometimes censorious influence coming from?

Maybe Silicon Valley isn’t really that “woke” at all, and just like almost every other institution: a small but vocal minority is the squeaky wheel that gets the media grease.

What the author calls cynical, I think is just reality. Asians are just like every immigrant culture that has attempted the American Dream, they have their strengths and weaknesses as a culture. The author only wants to talk about their strengths, and does not want to except the fact that they must assimilate if they are to acquire leadership positions, which usually requires an American style charisma to be successful. But to be fair, charisma can be pretty hard to find amongst white male tech workers as well. I have tremendous respect for Asian culture and their impact on America from railroads to now tech. All in all, Asians make great Americans.

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The H1B system is largely a product of Clinton-era executive orders catering to Silicon Valley and technology generally. It’s a parasitic addition to an appropriate set of visa categories created by the 1986 immigration reform, which remains a sound system – if it weren’t being subverted left and right, by executive orders, abuse, attempts by state and local governments to illegally assert authority over immigration, and failure to enforce the law generally.

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During my graduate studies I was a Teaching Assistant in STEM. I taught computer programming. This was exactly my observation as well.

I think it is a cultural thing. I would think because of the long Communism, the people there never really understood, developed a sense for entrepreneurship. You are correct that it is a visionary and behavioral thing. Perhaps with time they also develop that sense, once they are exposed for some period of time. It is a question of culture and learning/mimicking others.

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Is America (the United States) systematically racist? There are a number of ways of looking at this, but they all yield the same answer. No.

  1. The US and Canada have very different racial histories. However, the black/white income gap is remarkably similar. See “Black Canadians and Black Americans: Racial income inequality in comparative perspective” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233008532_Black_Canadians_and_Black_Americans_Racial_income_inequality_in_comparative_perspective). The abstract reads.

“Using census data, we compare the economic status of blacks and whites in two neighbouring countries - the USA and Canada - examining the effects of international migration of people of colour upon systems of racial hierarchy. At first impression, the racial income gap is markedly smaller in Canada than in the USA. However, this is largely due to the relative sizes of first-, second- and third-plus-generation immigrants in each country. Once this is taken into account, we find that racial income and wage gaps are quite similar in the two countries, raising the puzzle of why nations with such divergent institutional histories produce similar levels of racial inequality.”

  1. One clue is to look at societies where ‘racism’ (the white kind) hasn’t existed for a very long time. The Haitian Revolution was 217 years ago. If ‘white racism’ was really such a powerful force, then Haiti should be highly successful. That does not seem to be the case. The following is from the CIA World Factbook.

“Currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with close to 60% of the population living under the national poverty line, Haiti’s GDP growth rose to 5.5% in 2011 as the Haitian economy began recovering from the devastating January 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of its capital city, Port-au-Prince, and neighboring areas. However, growth slowed to below 2% in 2015 and 2016 as political uncertainty, drought conditions, decreasing foreign aid, and the depreciation of the national currency took a toll on investment and economic growth. Hurricane Matthew, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, made landfall in Haiti on 4 October 2016, with 140 mile-per-hour winds, creating a new humanitarian emergency. An estimated 2.1 million people were affected by the category 4 storm, which caused extensive damage to crops, houses, livestock, and infrastructure across Haiti’s southern peninsula.”

  1. In World War II, Japanese-Americans were interned in various camps and typically lost everything. Yet, by the middle 1960s, they were more successful than whites in America. Back then, racism towards Japanese-Americans wasn’t hypothetical or limited to the internment camps. See “ALIEN LAND LAWS IN CALIFORNIA (1913 & 1920)” (Alien Land Laws in California (1913 & 1920) - Immigration History). Quote

“Japanese Americans responded to anti-Asian hostility by focusing on agriculture as an economic endeavor that would be less threatening to whites. Japanese Americans succeeded in establishing farms supported by ethnic networks that facilitated purchasing of supplies and equipment, transportation, and marketing. The governments of many western states targeted Japanese Americans by passing legislation that banned “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning or leasing land. Japanese Americans circumvented these laws by placing land under the names of U.S.-born children or under corporate ownership, practices restricted by later versions of these laws. Although these laws were clearly based on racially discriminatory categories, the Supreme Court upheld them as constitutional in the early 1920s. Many Japanese Americans were forced to relinquish their farms and moved elsewhere, a practice that became formal U.S. policy with incarceration during World War II.”

It should be noted that the Japanese-Americans in question were hardly elite. They were brought to America as farm laborers. However, even after the Word War II camps, they were highly successful. See “"Success Story, Japanese-American Style” (New York Times (1923-Current File); Jan 9, 1966)

““Asked which of the country’s ethnic minorities has been subjected to the most discrimination and the worst injustices, very few persons would even think of answering: ‘The Japanese Americans,’ … Yet, if the question refers to persons alive today, that may well be the correct reply. Like the Negroes, the Japanese have been the object of color prejudice … When new opportunities, even equal opportunities, are opened up, the minority’s reaction to them is likely to be negative — either self-defeating apathy or a hatred so all-consuming as to be self-destructive. For the well-meaning programs and countless scholarly studies now focused on the Negro, we barely know how to repair the damage that the slave traders started. The history of Japanese Americans, however, challenges every such generalization about ethnic minorities.””

  1. It turns out that all of the most successful ethnic groups in America are non-white. Some are wildly more successful than white. Some statistics. Median Household income for Indian Americans ($107,390), Jews ($97,500), Taiwanese ($85,566), all Asians ($74,245) is greater than Whites ($59,698). As can you see, non-white ethnic groups are at the top and Jews earn (far) more than non-Jewish whites.

These numbers are real, but have two major problems. First, Asian households tend to be larger than non-Asian households. Using personal income provides a better measure than household income. Asian personal income is also higher than non-Asian personal income. However, the positive gap is not as large as the household income gap. The second problem is the nature of the 1965 Immigration Act. The 1965 Act favored (rightfully so) highly educated immigrants over less educated immigrants. The cliché Indian-American immigrant to the US is a doctor. Of course, that is a cliché. However, it is a cliché because it has some element of truth to it.

  1. It turns out the school funding is not equal across the United Sates. New York state spends the most (over $24K per-student, per-year) and Utah spends the least (around $7K per-student, per-year). However, the results almost exactly the opposite of what ‘white racism’ theory predicts. Utah has higher test scores that New York state. Of course, ‘white racism’ theory would predict the Utah would spend more than New York state. That isn’t even remotely true.

  2. Police fatalities are not equally distributed by race. In 2019, just 17 Asians were killed by the police. For whites the number was 406, and blacks 259. ‘White racism’ can not possibly explain the amazingly low number of Asians shot by police. For a typical factoid, in one year, two Japanese-Americans were arrested for murder. Not 200, or 200,000. Just two.

  3. The Asian incarceration rate is 74.5% lower than the white incarceration rate and 95% below the black incarceration rate. ‘White racism’ can not possibly explain these astounding differences.

  4. It turns out that schools discipline rates are tracked by race. See Figure 15.3 of “Indicator 15: Retention, Suspension, and Expulsion” (Indicator 15: Retention, Suspension, and Expulsion). ‘White racism’ can not possibly explain these astounding differences.

  5. That statistics for SAT scores, college enrollment/completion, arrests, etc. are all readily available by race. You can even find COVId-19 vaccination statistics by race. Invariably, you will find racial disparities and invariably Asians will be on top. So much for the mythology of ‘white racism’.

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Thanks for your comments on this article. Very enlightening. Re-submit your article to Quillette!

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Notwithstanding the truth of much of what you say, they are intelligent. Don’t they say the average East Asian has an IQ of 105?