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