Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chinese in Europe - a glimpse of the future

Trying to familiarize myself with my new home in Milan, I took a stroll around the city and finally ended up in the Chinese district in the north of the city center. Ever since I read that Milan supposedly has the second biggest Chinatown in Europe, I've been very excited to get there and to see what was going on in there. The Financial Times journalist James Kynge believes that China is slowly taking over Italian production of fashion, starting with the manufacture of clothes in China, and ending with outsourcing the design of Italian fashion.

When I got there, I could see that incredible Chinese activity firsthand. Chinese workers, putting huge boxes of clothes into fashion stores, waiting to sell them to the next customers. Chinese men biking across the main road with heavy boxes of clothes loaded onto their bike. Chinese housing agencies, selling and renting out buildings and apartments of the district. And everywhere you see small offices with the label "Import - Export". I couldn't help thinking that they there was an entire city district, working hard to import Chinese products into the European market, and working even harder to export European money back to China. Kynge holds that many Chinese workers came here illegally to work in small jobs and earn money for their families back in China, slowly shifting wealth from Europe to southern Asia. And I could see myself that those workers tirelessly unloading more boxes of clothes were very committed to their job, even on a Saturday evening at 5 p.m.

I'll start surveying that Chinese district a little and try to find out more about it, try to find out why Chinese people came to Europe and how they harmonize with Italians in Milan. I have an inkling that this Chinatown gives a first impression of what the world may look like - maybe not in 20 years, but probably in 50 years time.

I have to admit that I was also seduced by all the cheap stores at the end of my visit, and I went to do my share of shopping. By now, maybe my money will already be invested in import-export businesses in China, fashion production in Shenzhen or maybe in high school and university education for Chinese students.

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