by Grant Din
AIISF Board Member Ming Chen Hsu’s life has been one of enormous challenges, great adventures, and substantial professional achievement. She has been a pioneer in her field and served under many government administrations when there were few women or Asians in these positions. Born in Beijing, China, she attended schools in China and Singapore. When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, her family was in danger because her father was in the Chinese government. They fled Beijing and were able to stay one step ahead of the Japanese. After moving to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chunking, and Kunming, Ming eventually left China alone in the hopes of studying in the United States.
Ming traveled from China to Calcutta, and then on to Mumbai, where she remained for six weeks because she missed her scheduled ship. During this period, a former teacher from the Shanghai American School who was then TIME magazine’s correspondent in India, invited Ming to attend the Gandhi-Jinnah talks on the partition of India. Eventually, Ming left Mumbai on the USS Billy Mitchell, a troop transport on its way back to America. Ming recalls a blackout every night and the ship stopping in Guadalcanal, where it picked up members of the first U.S. Marine Division, many of whom had been injured in battle. When the ship docked that night, Ming was invited to have dinner with the ship’s captain, as well as Medal of Honor winner General Ray Davis, the Commander of the Marine Division.
Finally, after six weeks at sea, the ship landed in San Pedro, CA, on November 19, 1944. In early December, Ming took a cross-country train to New York. She attended Barnard College of Columbia University and the George Washington University School of Government, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa. She also did graduate work at New York University as a Penfield Fellow of International Affairs Diplomacy and Belle-Lettres.
Ming began her professional career with NBC after graduation, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service wanted to deport her because she was no longer a student and, consequently, in the United States illegally. After several years of struggle and frustration, including four trips to Ellis Island for deportation hearings, the intervention of New York Congressman Steve Derounian (3rd district of NY), and the assistance of an NBC colleague helped Ming to finally become a citizen in 1964, exactly 20 years after her arrival in the United States.
Ming’s time at NBC led to a long and successful career. She worked her way up within the company, holding a number of executive positions at divisions and subsidiaries of RCA Corp., the parent of NBC. In 1979, she was named RCA’s Vice-President for International Planning and Marketing. She led RCA’s first delegation to Beijing in 1978 and has made numerous business trips to China and many other countries in Europe and Asia. In those years, it was unusual for a woman, and an Asian, to become a corporate vice president, but Ming had worked in all of RCA’s divisions and was well regarded.
In the early 1980s, New Jersey Governor Thomas H. Kean appointed Ming as his Special Trade Representative and Director of the Division of International Trade of New Jersey, where she led over 20 overseas missions to promote New Jersey exports and attract foreign investments to the state. Working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Ming attended trade exhibitions representing New Jersey in Moscow, New Delhi, and the Caribbean basin. These trade missions created many jobs in New Jersey. Ming appreciated this work in the public sector because she could work more autonomously and effect change more directly.
After eight years with Governor Kean, President George H.W. Bush appointed Ming to the post of Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1990, and served seven years in this position. Her emphasis was on government-related issues, in particular legislative and regulatory actions affecting carriers, shippers, and U.S. Ports. Starting in 2000, Ming served as senior advisor on shipping and logistics for NOL (Neptune Orient Line), where she was also actively involved in negotiations with the Chinese Ministry of Communications, which led to the U.S.-China Maritime Bilateral Agreement, signed in 2003. She also testified before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to promote the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1988, the most significant change to shipping regulations in recent years. In addition, Ming represented U.S. maritime interests in dealings with the European Union.
Currently a consultant on international business, Ming is also a writer, researcher, and lecturer on international affairs. She has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Working Woman, Newsweek, and Fortune. She has served as a member of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year, and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Advisory Committee on East-West Trade. Along with the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, her board service has included the Committee of 100, J.T. Tai & Co. Foundation, the Eisenhower Fellowship Foundation, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Committee on Conscience, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Nanjing/Hopkins Center, and the 1990 Institute. Ming has received numerous awards, including the U.S. Maritime Medal of Freedom and Woman of the Year Award from the Asian-American Professional Women’s Association.
Place of Origin
Place of Settlement
New York, NY