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Hands Off Our Heritage: Some Wary Of China's Reach

By SARAH DiLORENZO and NICK PERRY

GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN, France (AP) â¿¿ Life in this French village revolves around wine. The backyards of its tidy houses nurture the grapes that have made Burgundy famous the world over. At an auto repair shop, everyone seems to have an opinion about the recent sale of a local vineyard to a Macau casino magnate.

"It's a piece of French heritage that's heading abroad," says mechanic Bertrand Babouhot. Across the road, rows of gnarled vines lead to the rundown chateau that was sold. "It's like selling the Eiffel Tower to the Americans."

On the other side of the globe, farmer Margaret Peacock expresses similar outrage over the sale of 13 dairy farms in New Zealand's rural heartland to a wealthy property developer from Shanghai.

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EDITOR'S NOTE â¿¿ This story is part of "China's Reach," a project tracking China's influence on its trading partners over three decades and exploring how that is changing business, politics and daily life. Keep up with AP's reporting on China's Reach, and join the conversation about it, using the hashtag (hash)APChinaReach on Twitter.

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Such sentiments have long been directed at Americans and Japanese. Now it's China's turn, a sign that the new economic giant is beginning to usurp America's role as a leading trader and global investor.

Crushing grapes in France and milking cows in New Zealand represent much more than ways to make a living. Both are traditions that cut to the core of cultural identity, forming part of a national heritage the French call "patrimoine."

So when outsiders pay substantially above market rates to buy such assets, it often awakens deep feelings of unease. Many recognize that the foreigners are providing much-needed cash to often struggling industries, but they also fear losing a part of their country's soul and the intellectual capital that adds value to their economy.

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