Chinese Influence on Northern Virginia: Cultural Contributions and Famous Faces
Asians are the second fastest growing demographic in Virginia. While that includes all residents of Asian descent, from India to Pakistan to Burma, it also includes China. Chinese residents are flocking to northern Virginia in numbers never before seen, drawn by real estate investing, the promise of good jobs, affordable housing, and the chance to be part of thriving Asian population. While those are influences of the state on residents, the Chinese have also helped to shape the state itself in a number of ways.
Great Wall Supermarket
While the Great Wall supermarket chain might be based in New York City, it’s certainly had an effect on northern Virginia, and caters to the state’s growing Chinese and Asian population. Led by president, CEO and founder Lihui Zhang, Great Wall fuses East and West in a unique combination by providing Asian foods in a Western style supermarket layout. Currently, the company has a location in Falls Church, but there’s always the possibility that it will expand to other areas.
When it comes to influence, the ancients new best. “An army marches on its stomach” is an old axiom for the fact that without food, no one does much of anything. Food is an integral part of American society these days, and one Chinese embassy chef turned restauranteur is having a big impact on the entire state of Virginia. Peter Chang made waves when he cooked for the Chinese embassy, but he’s since turned that passion into profit. Today, he operates three successful restaurants in the Richmond and Fredericksburg area. He also intends to push out into D.C. In addition to his established restaurants (each of which is a standalone eatery), Chang intends to open a chain in Virginia, staffed by handpicked Chinese students who learn directly from him.
Good for the Community
Peter Chang isn’t limited to influencing the culinary choices of Virginians. He’s also a humanitarian, and was instrumental in starting a charitable movement geared to providing cold water to high school athletes. Chang partnered with the principal of Massaponax High School (Dr. Joe Pisani), and will donate 5% of each check to provide the school with five-gallon water coolers for every classroom on campus.
Author and lawyer Helen Wan is a native of northern Virginia, and grew up in Burke. She made waves with her debut book, The Partner Track, which took an uncompromising look at diversity in the legal workplace, and the effect of ham-fisted attempts to make companies more culturally aware. She has earned praise from sources from the Wall Street Journal to the Washington Post, and as a result of the book’s success and acceptance, as well as her honest portrayal of the hurdles facing Chinese and other minorities in today’s workplace, she has been invited to speak at groups including the Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
These are just a few of the ways that Virginia’s Chinese residents have influenced the state.