In the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, where culinary delights from Jim’s Bakery to Ba Le and Alice’s Kitchen usually greet visitors, a noticeable change is unfolding. These beloved establishments, typically bustling, are increasingly closed on Tuesdays, revealing a potential symptom of the economic challenges looming over the region.
Economic Headwinds and Local Businesses
The aftermath of supply chain disruptions from the pandemic continues to affect food costs, adding to the strains faced by local businesses. California’s recent minimum wage adjustments, while beneficial for wage workers, pose challenges for small enterprises looking to expand operating hours. The dominance of delivery apps has also left a lasting impact on dine-in establishments.
Waldo Yan, co-owner of the recently opened 626 Hospitality, highlights the growing burden on brick-and-mortar businesses. Even as he launched his specialty ice cream shop in Arcadia, he opted to close on Tuesdays, dedicating the day to essential administrative tasks.
“Days off are a distant fantasy at this point. Weekdays are a huge tossup,” Yan remarked.
Chinese Tourism Downturn and Economic Consequences
Traditionally resilient to domestic economic shocks due to its popularity among Chinese investors, tourists, and home buyers, the San Gabriel Valley now faces a more challenging landscape. The significant downturn in the Chinese economy, compounded by pandemic-related travel restrictions, has disrupted the region’s usual economic flow.
Paul Thomas, deputy CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, notes that the pandemic has slowed down business in a culture that values face-to-face interactions. The Chinese preference for establishing trust through in-person meetings has faced obstacles in an increasingly virtual world.
Global Economic Shifts and Political Impact
The economic pressures in China have triggered a political crackdown on merchants, entrepreneurs, and private wealth. Recent International Monetary Fund reports cast doubt on China’s potential to surpass the U.S. economically, marking a significant shift in global economic dynamics.
Clayton Dube, director of USC’s U.S.-China Institute, compares the current state of U.S.-China relations to a half-century low point, harking back to Nixon’s historic 1972 visit. The aftermath of Trump-era tariffs, strained rhetoric, and pandemic blame games has created a challenging backdrop.
Educational and Tourism Impacts
The economic repercussions are felt beyond businesses. University of California campuses are witnessing a decline in admissions for international students, particularly from China. Chinese tourism to California, once a robust contributor to the state’s economy, has seen a stark decline, with only one-third as many visitors as in 2019.
Ray Jan, deputy director of the Rosemead Chamber of Commerce, reveals that approximately 10 to 15 tourism agencies in Rosemead have closed. Several hotels, built in anticipation of tourism that may never materialize, now stand as a testament to the uncertainty facing the region.
Changing Dynamics and Future Prospects
The flow of Chinese capital, goods, and tourism has significantly shaped the San Gabriel Valley over the past two decades. However, the question arises: will the trend of Chinese residents buying homes and students attending local universities persist? As the Chinese economy tightens, there is a possibility of a shift in immigrants’ aspirations, with more seeking to make a life in the U.S.
"I think all of that could change as the economy tightens in China. As fewer Chinese people are able to identify with their government’s increasingly authoritarian policies, more immigrants may be trying to make their lives in the U.S."
The San Gabriel Valley, once a haven buoyed by Chinese investments and tourism, is navigating uncharted waters. As Chinese tourism slows, businesses, educational institutions, and communities are adapting to a new normal. The impact of global economic shifts, coupled with local challenges, underscores the resilience required to forge ahead. Only time will tell how the region will transform and define its future in the face of these complex dynamics.
Column: As Chinese tourism slows, San Gabriel Valley seeks new normal.
Adapting to a Shifting Landscape: The Quest for Stability Amidst Chinese Tourism Slowdown
Why are Chinese Tourists Coming to San Gabriel?
San Gabriel stands out as a sought-after destination for Chinese tourists, with a particular focus on the bustling business district surrounding the San Gabriel Mall. This surge in tourism has spurred the development of new hotels, driven by a distinct preference among many Chinese visitors to stay in San Gabriel. Remarkably, this choice persists even when their itineraries include visits to the more traditional Southern California tourist hotspots.
What is the San Gabriel Valley Known For?
Contrary to being solely recognized as a prominent Chinese American cultural center, the San Gabriel Valley is celebrated as a nexus of broader "multigenerational and multiethnic Asian American diversity." In the 21st century, the ethnoburbs within this region have not only expanded and flourished but have also evolved into vibrant and diverse communities. However, this growth has brought about challenges, notably in the form of increasing congestion.
Why are There So Many Mandarin Businesses in the San Gabriel Valley?
The proliferation of Mandarin – and Cantonese -speaking businesses in these suburbs is a direct response to the evolving demographic landscape. These suburbs have witnessed a significant influx of Mandarin-speaking residents, necessitating businesses to cater to this linguistic diversity. The historical tapestry of the San Gabriel Valley, akin to much of the American West, involves the settlement and pioneering contributions of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and south Asian communities dating back to the mid-19th century.
When Did Chinese Immigrants Move to San Gabriel Valley?
The influence of Chinese immigrants in shaping Southern California dates back to the 19th century. However, a substantial influx of Chinese migrants into the suburban landscape of the San Gabriel Valley became particularly pronounced during the 1970s. This period coincided with a notable trend of white out-migration, marking a pivotal juncture in the demographic evolution of the region.
How Many People Live in the San Gabriel Valley?
The San Gabriel Valley, comprising over 30 cities and boasting a population of 1.8 million residents, stands as a dynamic economic region. Encompassing 385 square miles, this expansive area extends across portions of northern and eastern Los Angeles County.
How Many Asians Live in San Gabriel Valley?
California’s San Gabriel Valley is home to nearly half a million Asians, with nine cities boasting an Asian majority. Derived from the 2019 San Gabriel Valley Economic Forecast and Regional Overview Report, the region showcases a substantial ethnic Chinese population dating back to the 1970s, marked by a significant influx of immigrants from Taiwan.