We'll always have Paris -- and so will the Chinese

Steve Kelman observes signs of increasing Chinese influence in the City of Lights.

I'm stopping in Paris for two days on my way back to the United States just to look around — lots of walking in famous and obscure parts of the city! — and to have a chance to speak French a bit. French was the first foreign language I started studying, in junior high school. But even in France, the rise of Asia is very visible.

China is not even close to replacing U.S. influence on French culture, of course. In the land of haute cuisine, the McDonald’s restaurants around the city are packed. Blue jeans remain the preferred summer dress. A new Abercrombie and Fitch location on the Champs-Elysees is drawing big crowds. Starbucks stores are sprouting up all over town. A newspaper article noted that when someone from France goes to the United States for the first time, everything seems familiar even though he or she has never been there before, thanks to the many American movies people have seen.

But the Asians are coming. Mostly, they come as tourists and consumers of French sophistication (or should I say iconic French luxury brands?) rather than producers. On a previous trip, I had seen the lines of almost exclusively Asian tourists waiting for admission to the gigantic, colossally high-ceilinged Louis Vuitton emporium on the Champs-Elysees.

I was amazed during this trip, however, when I took the Metro from my hotel to a bakery called Pierre Herme for breakfast, right next to the Saint-Sulpice Church, which had enjoyed a rush of tourist visits after being featured in a key early scene in “The Da Vinci Code.” I had read about the bakery in an article in the wonderful weekend edition of the Financial Times several years ago. I cut out the travel articles I like and put them in files, awaiting trips to the locations described, often years later.

The article I had put aside described the praline phyllo pastry at this bakery as the single finest baked goods concoction in the world, so I wanted to try it. Imagine my surprise when I arrived around the time the place opened at 10 a.m. to see the doors still shut but two young Chinese women waiting for the store to open. This store obviously appears in some Chinese guidebook to Paris, and — voila! — a new line of Chinese has been born. (There was a sign asking customers that, if lines outside the store became very long, to be polite to passers-by and consider patronizing the cosmetics shop next door while waiting to get in.)

However, there are also signs of influence going in the opposite direction. During my stay, my hotel — in the American Westin chain — hosted a big kickoff of the Chinese Language Year in France. The hotel was filled with Chinese guests, signs in Chinese directed people to the appropriate rooms, and a member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party was honored with a reception and dinner.

By the way, one still hears a lot of Japanese being spoken on the streets of Paris, not just Chinese. By informal count, there seem to be, interestingly, more Japanese restaurants in Paris than Chinese ones, definitely the case if one excludes restaurants in Paris' two Chinatowns. And the information provided on the airport bus into the city is still translated into Japanese but not Chinese, which might represent a cultural lag or the fact that Chinese tourists typically travel in groups with their own tour buses to take them from the airport.

I saw another China-related factoid on a Facebook status update from a former student of mine from the United Kingdom, now a journalist for the Financial Times. The Economist, probably the world's most influential magazine, has announced that it will be starting a China section in the magazine each week, complementing its sections on the United Kingdom and United States.

The United States has been the only country outside the United Kingdom to have its own dedicated section in the magazine and has had it since 1943. When I started reading the magazine, its news sections were United Kingdom, Europe, United States and International for the rest of world. Over the years, International has been divided into Asia, the Americas, and Africa and the Middle East. Even at the height of the Japan-is-taking-over mania of the 1970s, The Economist never gave the country its own section. But now China is getting its own.

The Economist has a great track record of predicting trends. (In 2007, it warned constantly about the dangers of a financial crash.) Therefore, its decision to add a China section is an interesting statement about where the world is heading. At least they haven't eliminated the U.S. section.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.