[Update: Liberation has the most comprehensive overview so far available (in French, bien sûr).]
Like me, you might have thought that you could just forget for a while about Sino-French relations. After all, hadn’t lovely first lady Carli Bruni silenced all the domestic critics and seduced the entire nation of China with her sashaying ways in Shanghai, her thoughtful entwinement with the little President under the trees in Beijing, her having been serenaded by a Chinese ensemble with songs from her enrapturing “Quel’quun ma dit” album?
Well, things have a way of remaining unsettled when you’re dealing with two societies that are, at their very respective cores, revolutionary.
I don’t have all the data necessary (or the time, to be honest, nor the proper Francophone mindset amid my Teutons) to lay out a complete narrative of the origin of the protests here, but here are the pieces that might allow one to do that:
This excellent photo gallery from Le Monde;
Background from Huanqiu Shibao [法国将上演历史最大规模华人游行 抗议华人遭抢];
Basically this all goes back to June 1, when a Chinese wedding party was interrupted by some banlieu thugs, prompting one of the Chinese males at the party to produce a weapon and fire some shots in the air; apparently tensions have been building for three weeks now.
This is one of those stories that is rather important, as it impacts Chinese views of France (and vice versa) but I’d be surprised to see it picked up in, say, the New York Times. One of the things I’ve learned in the last ten years of studying Chinese history is the power of a single incident to really lock in declines of Chinese perceptions of Western countries. We’ll see what actually happens, to what extent Huanqiu Shibao plays the whole thing up as a challenge to Chinese prestige and as an opportunity for mainland compatriots to (rather uselessly) offer aid and nationalistic slogans, which is what’s going on presently on the BBS boards.
And, oh yes, musn’t forget: Viva les allemands francophone!