Contemporary France is renowned for its culture, and culture is a patently obvious aspect of French national identity. French art, literature, cinema, fashion, film, cuisine, wine, photography and theatre have all enjoyed periods of epic and global status. French ideas are the backbone of much contemporary philosophy, and the French language is treated by French governments as a vehicle for challenging the ‘Anglo-American’ (Hayward, 2007) orthodoxies of the world. Cultural diplomacy — the promotion of French culture and language across the world — is an important dimension of French foreign policy, and France periodically engages in cultural ‘wars’ with US administrations in defence of home-grown French assets such as Roquefort cheese, champagne and art-house cinema. France champions these cultural ‘products’ against alternatives — often Anglo-American in origin — deemed inferior, homogenized, or both. Typically, these battles end in triumphs for quantity and quotas, and are matters of trade and competition as much as tradition.
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