PUBLI : Simeng Wang et Xiabin Chen, « Capitalizing on Opportunities during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Business Transitions among Chinese Immigrant Entrepreneurs in France », Journal of Chinese Overseas, vol. 17, n° 2, 2021, p. 293–317

Abstract

This article analyses busi­ness tran­si­tions among Chinese immi­grant entre­pre­neurs in France during the Covid-19 pandemic. Drawing on a histor­ical overview of the devel­op­ment of ethnic Chinese busi­nesses over the last century and an empir­ical study carried out in five different indus­trial sectors (import and export, retail, catering, hotel, and tobacco) of the French economy, we examine what chal­lenges these entre­pre­neurs have faced during the pandemic, what strate­gies they have adopted in response to these chal­lenges, and what has enabled them to shift busi­ness patterns and commer­cial prac­tices in this unprece­dented situ­a­tion. Our find­ings show that the Covid-19 pandemic has accel­er­ated the tran­si­tion of Chinese immi­grant entre­pre­neur­ship in France, from offline oper­a­tions to digital busi­ness. However, the pandemic may not be the direct cause of this busi­ness tran­si­tion ; rather, it has created unique condi­tions which facil­i­tate the tran­si­tion. Before the pandemic, some Chinese entre­pre­neurs had already made or partially made the tran­si­tion to “inte­grating online and offline busi­nesses,” “hiring beyond Chinese ethnic networks,” and “paying atten­tion to the local country’s policy direc­tions,” which helped them greatly reduce the nega­tive impacts of the pandemic. During the pandemic, two unprece­dented busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties were opened up : “fostering local produc­tion” and “seeking low-risk sectors,” which some Chinese entre­pre­neurs have proac­tively pursued since April/​May 2020. These may be the new trends for Chinese entre­pre­neurs in France in the future. Theo­ret­i­cally, our study suggests that busi­ness tran­si­tions among Chinese entre­pre­neurs in France need to be exam­ined beyond the frame­work of pure economic ratio­nality, taking into consid­er­a­tion the inter­sec­tion of new dynamics of Chinese migra­tion into host country and the cross-cultural, cross-insti­tu­tional, cross-thinking, and cross-border social engage­ment of the entre­pre­neurs them­selves before, during, and after the pandemic.

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