Princeton University Library Catalog

Soccer, Shopping, and Suburbs: How Qatari Direct Investment Challenges French Identity

Coleman, Lauren [Browse]
Senior thesis
Meunier, Sophie [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
136 pages
Summary note:
This thesis seeks to understand the motives behind France’s puzzling obsession over and uneasiness towards Qatari Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), given the actual minuscule monetary impact of Qatar on the French economy. Connecting this recent Qatari example to previous iterations of similar phenomena involving American and Chinese investment in France, I argue that temporary periods of French obsession over particular investor nations originate not from these nations’ actual amount of economic involvement in France, but rather from the ways in which they present affronts to French national identity and aggravate preexisting French insecurities. The thesis first highlights the puzzle of disproportionate attention given to the surge of Qatari investment in France. I begin with a quantitative analysis comparing French coverage of FDI in Le Monde, a prominent daily newspaper, to actual data of FDI annual flows to France by country. I find that FDI flows from Qatar are grossly overrepresented by Le Monde’s coverage compared to the nation’s actual amount of investment in the French economy. Using a theoretical framework derived from past works on French anti-Americanism and resistance to globalization, I hypothesize that this discontinuity arises from the French perception that something specific to Qatar or its investments constitutes a transgression of French national identity on three grounds -- economic, political, and cultural. These aggressors include both structural clashes, such as France and Qatar’s differing political structures and values, to more immediate causes, such as Qatar’s specific investments and their tie-ins to French cultural sensitivities. Ultimately, I find that the three hypotheses are complementary in accounting for France’s overreaction to Qatari FDI. Qatar, while not a truly powerful player in the French economic landscape, causes anxiety due to France’s current uncertainties about its own future: economic recession, declining global political power, and changing culture due to the effects of globalization and immigration. While the specific aggressors for the American, Chinese, and Qatari cases vary, they are all similarly rooted in perceived impositions on French identity. Not only does this work represent one of the first and only analyses of French reactions to Qatari Foreign Direct Investment, it also creates links between seemingly disparate episodes of French resistance to FDI. As such, the thesis more broadly comments on the nature of the collective French psyche and how the French are questioning and redefining their own identity in the modern world, as their mentality is forced to shift due to the pressures of globalization.