SEARCHING FOR ECONOMIC AND COSMOPOLITAN ROOTS: THE HISTORICAL DISCOURSE OF “HANKOU MERCHANT PORT NOSTALGIA” IN THE CENTRAL CHINESE CITY OF WUHAN 武汉

Andrew Malcolm LAW, Qianqian QIN

Abstract


In recent years discussions of historic urban place-making have emerged within the field of Chinese urban studies. Specifically, writers have discussed the role of new forms of historical place making in the marketing of urban spaces for property development and foreign direct investment. In these discussions cities like Shanghai, with its rich 1930s colonial history/heritage, have often been cited as typical examples of the way in which growth coalitions (and the entrepreneurial local state) market urban spaces in contemporary processes of capital accumulation. However, whilst Shanghai, has often been read as a singular and isolated case, broader research into historical place-making in Chinese cities is still under researched; whilst this paper, does not survey a vast range of cities, nevertheless, the authors of this work turn to the under-researched Chinese central city of Wuhan to explore whether historic place-marketing and place branding have been utilised by local growth coalitions. By exploring a series of empirical cases we claim that, like Shanghai, growth coalitions of developers and state led officials have drawn upon a range of powerful historic discourses to market the city; of the many historic discourses available, we argue that a narrative of “Hankou merchant Port” nostalgia has  been the most prominent in the promotion and marketing of a new historic imaginary of the city. Moreover, we suggest that the marketing of this imaginary (and others like it) shares similar features to Shanghai's place-branding, where historical discourses of economics and cosmopolitanism structure the 'histories' and 'heritage' produced. Whilst such manoeuvres often have positive economic benefits for Chinese cities, it our contention that the moulding of local histories, identities and heritage in this way, also has serious consequences for the politics of local history and identity.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4305/metu.jfa.2017.2.14

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