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Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month Spotlight: Xiaobing Feng

May 31, 2018

Xiaobing Feng is the President of the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Employee Resource Group for the Department of Commerce and her story is featured in honor of the AAPI Heritage Month. 

Photo of Xiaobring Feng at a site visit to a United States-Taiwan joint venture facility, Pratt & Whitney, in 2015.

Xiaobing Feng at a site visit to a United States-Taiwan joint venture facitlity, Pratt & Whitney, in 2015.

As the Regional Manager for Asia and Pacific in the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Advocacy Center, I advise and counsel U.S. businesses on developing advocacy strategies to successfully compete for billions of dollars in public procurement projects overseas. In helping “level the playing field” for companies, I work with senior Commerce Department officials, colleagues at the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee agencies, and officers posted at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. I also collaborate closely with foreign embassies in Washington, executives of U.S. companies, and foreign decision-makers on behalf of American business interests abroad.

I would like to share my unique background as an Asian American professional. I grew up in Harbin, China, the capital of Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost province. The city is known for its extremely cold winters and internationally famous for its annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.

When I was fourteen, I was honored as “Worker of the Year” at the Harbin Car Horn Factory. The Cultural Revolution was in full swing throughout my childhood. Instead of having the opportunity to study in the classroom with the chance to take an entrance exam for college, I was sent to the horn factory to experience the virtues of manual labor. This, I came to understand, was to atone for being the child of successful party cadres and the great granddaughter of a well-known educator in the former Manchurian aristocracy. Nonetheless, I continued to prepare for the entrance exams on my own, and when the revolution was over two years later, I was ready to pursue my lifelong dream: a college education.

Apart from delaying my life for two years, the experience in Harbin instilled within me a passion to understand the fundamental factors that affect a society: economics. This desire led me to work as a research specialist at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences. Unexpectedly, the Academy soon sent me to the Chinese Party School for intensive leadership training. I eventually came to the United States as a visiting scholar to undertake graduate studies in Sociology at the University of Houston. My hope was to graduate then return home to start the first Sociology Institute in China. My plans changed, however, when I fell in love and married a college classmate in Houston, Texas, where I became a U.S. citizen and started a new life.

After working for private firms in the United States and abroad, I started an export consulting firm helping U.S. manufactures bid for public tenders in China. These experiences led to a passion and belief that a greater understanding of trade could help address worldwide problems, many of which are still ongoing today. Trade policy is no longer confined to tariffs and quotas, but is inextricably tied to a nation’s social and economic policies, as well as its overall development strategy. With these ideas in mind, I joined ITA in 2001. This November, I will celebrate 17 years working at the Advocacy Center. It’s also a time for personal reflection. I am proud to have contributed to our Commerce mission by helping companies close more than 150 deals, supporting more than a half million U.S. jobs.

Growing up, my mom was the most inspiring person in my life. At age of 17, she ran away from her arranged marriage and joined the Revolution. While only receiving three years of elementary-level education, my mom never stopped learning. She became the CEO and President of Songjiang Textile Cooperation, and turned the struggling facility into a profitable operation. Following her footsteps, I feel honored to serve, knowing what I do every day can make a difference in the quality of many people’s lives here in the United States and abroad.

My advice for young Asian professionals is to follow your passion, never stop learning, and serve others.