The fate of China Town echoes the fate of the High Street. The world changes, and we regret the good bits that used to be. We ignore the bad bits though.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find that in a few decades mythical ‘High Streets’ and ‘China Town’ become tableaus in museums or theme parks. It would be a shame but probably the only way for nostalgia to be valued enough over the relentless march of commerce.
Ah, I can comment here, but not in the article on trans? Unherd is becoming like the Spectator opening and closing comment sections at will?
I see your comment is now visible; I’m still in purgatory for a very modest and ‘unproblematic’ comment on the same article. Clearly the censors are jittery
Ethnic neighbourhoods generally grow up and move out, leaving behind the restaurants, cultural institutions and honorary consulates.
Hard-working immigrants want something better for their children, and the children move out to the suburbs within a generation or two.
The restaurants that were so cheap because staff was mostly family also change during this process. C’est la vie in modern, Western countries that attract immigrants by providing opportunities.
Neighborhoods change all the time. It sounds like the Chinese didn’t arrive in London until the 1950s, not exactly, “…(S)everal thousand years of history — all that they’ve been through, the wars, the famine. The Chinese have survived. It’s a work in progress.” So they displaced what was there in London before the 1950s. People used to “do Chinatown” even when I was a child. Granted, my Chinatowns were in Philadelphia, New York City, and San Francisco. But my Mom and I would go to a Chinatown in the 1970s or 1980s and get authentic Dim Sum, followed by a stroll around the neighborhood to look at trinket shops and antiques dealers, painted dragons and open air fish markets.
Ask the Italians about Chinatown, New York City. Chinatown has slowly, inexorably eaten Little Italy. Little Italy used to be, “bounded on the west by Tribeca and Soho, on the south by Chinatown, on the east by the Bowery and Lower East Side, and on the north by Nolita” (Wikipedia.) But now it’s down to about two Italian flags hanging from a single doorstep. It’s all Chinese now.
I actually do wish the restaurants hadn’t changed. It’s hard to find a purely Chinese restaurant these days in any mid-sized to large Western city because they have become “Asian Fusion.” I do not trust a chef to make authentic Chinese food if they also offer tempura, pho, Korean fried chicken or Pad Thai.
Every decent city should have a Chinatown.
Nothing wrong with Chinatown evolving. There are still too many old school Cantonese restaurants that are all essentially the same and frankly not that good. More diversity of Chinese cuisines as well as more street food like places would be very welcome – there was so much excitement around a couple of temporary street food stalls for the Lunar New Year, we could do with more of that.
I’d say that better Asian (incl. Chinese) restaurants are now around Bloomsbury as, I’m guessing, they have to actually work to be good and not just keep going with the same chicken chow mein from 30 years ago.