Arts, Culture and the Making of Global Cities

Arts, Culture and the Making of Global Cities

Creating New Urban Landscapes in Asia

Lily Kong, Ching Chia-ho and Chou Tsu-Lung

While global cities have mostly been characterized as sites of intensive and extensive economic activity, the quest for global city status also increasingly rests on the creative production and consumption of culture and the arts. Arts, Culture and the Making of Global Cities examines such ambitions and projects undertaken in five major cities in Asia: Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore. Providing a thorough comparison of their urban imaging strategies and attempts to harness arts and culture, as well as more organically evolved arts activities and spaces, this book analyses the relative successes and failures of these cities. Offering rich ethnographic detail drawn from extensive fieldwork, the authors challenge city strategies and existing urban theories and reveal the many complexities in the art of city-making.

Chapter 2: The National Grand Theatre in a city of monuments: discourse and reality in the construction of Beijing's new cultural space

Lily Kong, Ching Chia-ho and Chou Tsu-Lung

Subjects: asian studies, asian economics, asian geography, economics and finance, asian economics, cultural economics, regional economics, geography, cities, human geography, urban and regional studies, cities


In the wake of the Reform and Opening Up of China, under the guidance of the central government, Beijing has been active in the construction of new cultural space. At the same time, following its successful bid for and subsequent hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games, China has also undertaken to build Beijing into a world-class metropolis. The construction of the highly controversial National Grand Theatre is a good example of this effort. The National Grand Theatre, built on the empty plot of land to the west of the Tiananmen Square and Great Hall of the People, took the Beijing municipal government eight years and three billion renminbi to complete. Designed as a national cultural establishment, it was completed in 2007. Given its relatively short history, any assessment and evaluation of its impact on Beijing’s cultural sector and on its development as a global city will be premature. Nevertheless, it is clear that, already, the Grand Theatre has become the pride of the Chinese people, and a must-see for international tourists. Using the National Grand Theatre as a case study, this chapter examines the reconstruction of the cultural landscape in Beijing, underpinned by its aspirations to be a global city. It offers a review of the controversy surrounding the construction of the National Grand Theatre, highlights the contributions of new cultural space in the global city-building enterprise and foregrounds the differences in various social groups’ responses to the construction of the Grand Theatre.

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