By  on May 30, 2008

To understand the future, you must first look to the past. So says Paolo Gasparrini, the man who established L'Oréal's business in Mainland China in 1997 and still oversees operations as president and managing director of L'Oréal China. During his tenure in China, Gasparrini has seen the country change in significant ways. But as modernized — and Westernized — as the population has become, one fact is crucial to understanding the market, the executive told attendees at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit, speaking before news broke of the devastating earthquake in the Sichuan province that day.

"China always strives to represent a balance between modernity and tradition," Gasparrini said. "China is the country of balance. So everybody tries to have a balance between the past and the present."

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