chapter  13
18 Pages

Shenzhen’s evolution from tabula rasa laboratory of new Chinese urbanism to creative post-industrial UNESCO City of Design


The influence of creative industries from outside of China through market mechanisms and urbanization since the 1990s has been noticeable in big cities with more international flows of trade and tourism. Cities like Beijing and Shanghai would benefit from their positions of ‘creative economy supremacy’ in the country by possessing ‘territorial capital’ of location, culture and history (Capello et al, 2009). This trend could be traced back to the establishment of the PRC in 1949 through the evolution of manufacturing, modernization, industrialization and finally urbanization of Chinese cities (Buck, 1976). China has adopted different pathways in politics, economy and social practices. Under the Communist Party and Socialist regime, the State controlled all creative outputs via the Propaganda Department of each city. Art was used as a form of communication and function of the media (Harvey, 1989). For example, artists were deployed by the Propaganda Department to design exotic exaggerated public posters during the 1960s and 1970s to promote China as an industrial and political force externally. Cultural production was tied to industrial production as they were seen to be the same function serving society (Bettelheim, 1975). This relationship between the production of art and industry was maintained until market reforms in 1978, when liberal attitudes towards independent art began to emerge with changing politics. Art as a pure contemporary form evolved from the late 70s through to 1989 when the ‘85 New Wave’ generation of artists arrived on the scene (Van Elzen, 2010). With Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door policies and market reforms in the 1980s through 1990s, cultural production began to be less dependent on the State, and moved towards independent creativity, increasing its dialogue with the world outside China.