Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chinese takeover of stock exchange? Used to be Chinatown neighborhood

Perhaps I just have an odd way of viewing things. But I couldn’t help but be amused by the news reports about how the Chicago Stock Exchange was going to be sold to Chinese business interests.

What 99.9999 percent of Chicagoans today think of as Chinatown
Specifically, the Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group wants to buy the stock exchange that has been located in Chicago since 1882 as a way of getting themselves involved in the U.S. financial markets.

A FACT THAT may appall those of us more xenophobic individuals, but one which I find ironic.

For the stock exchange is located at LaSalle and Van Buren streets in the South Loop neighborhood – not far from that tall, thin triangular building that serves as a detention center for those people awaiting trial on federal criminal cases pending in the nearly U.S. District Court.

But there’s something else that used to be on that strip of Van Buren Street – Chinatown.

Generations of Chicago know of Chinatown as being that great big pagoda at Cermak and Wentworth avenues, along with a few blocks surrounding that entrance site.

IT IS A place where one can find Chinese-oriented shops, along with the restaurants. I know many people who insist that a trip to Chicago isn’t complete without a stop or two in that area – whose residents are growing in such a way that the neighborhood’s boundaries are spreading further and further south in the direction of U.S. Cellular Field.

Anyone upset by Chinese interests being in control here ...
But that Chinatown didn’t develop until about a century ago – in those years when the world was at war the first time around, but the United States’ isolationist sentiments made it think it could stay out of the brawl.

But the Chinese had been in Chicago for decades before then, coming here because our city was more hospitable to their ethnic presence than many of those West Coast places like San Francisco – which now may want to think it always had an international character but then was more than willing to run them out of town for not being “white enough.”

Chicago’s original Chinatown enclave centered around Van Buren and Clark streets – literally one block to the east of the stock exchange.

ANYBODY WHO THINKS the Chinese have no business being at the stock exchange would probably be appalled at what the surrounding neighborhood once looked like.

... would despise what surrounding neighborhood once looked like

Old Chicago Tribune reports indicate the Chinatown business strip along Clark Street included eight grocery stores, two pharmacies, two butcher shops, two barbers, a cigar factory and a restaurant. Although in due time, all of that moved south as the Loop tried to adopt a wealthier image that priced small business types such as what often exist in ethnic enclaves out of the neighborhood.

Personally, I always get my kick out of seeing the La Cocina restaurant on Clark Street – the one whose sign includes a Chinese pagoda design even though they serve Mexican food.

A touch of the past in modern-day Chicago
Not that I’ve ever eaten there. But the fact that current occupants felt no need to erase the neighborhood’s past is something I find appealing.

AND NOW, THE Chinese could potentially restore a presence to the area if they succeed in taking over management of the Chicago Stock Exchange, although the deal is not expected to be signed off on until the second half of this year and would still need approval of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Although it is interesting to see that the Chongqing group says it will keep the exchange’s trading platform in place and has no plans to replace the exchange’s CEO.

Almost as though we can relax our fears because nothing significant will change in the daily character of life in Chicago!


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