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The state-led use of industrial heritage in mega-events in China

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11:30 AM, Wednesday 31 Aug 2022 (20 minutes)
This paper investigates the role of industrial heritage during mega-events in a Chinese context. By adopting a comparative analysis of the use of industrial heritage in a few mega-events in China, the paper aims to summarize a framework of the state-led use of industrial heritage in promoting new rounds of urban social development. Over the past half century, industrial construction has played a crucial role in China’s urban development. However, in the process of rapid urban expansion and industrial upgrading in recent decades, the government has strongly urged the relocation of industries, leaving behind many industrial legacies in old cities or suburban areas. Although the awareness of protecting industrial heritage has greatly improved, the practice of industrial heritage protection is still a new thing and is mainly concentrated in first- and second-tier cities. These cities’ efforts reveal new paths for industrial heritage practices and new possibilities of its symbiotic development with Chinese cities. Under the guidance of sustainable development and ecological civilization, the government has formulated various urban renewal strategies, using industrial heritage as a means to add values to urban economic society and to preserve the uniqueness of local lifestyles. In this respect, the paper will focus on the discourse and practices of industrial heritage led by Chinese governments. The uses of industrial heritage in three major mega-events are examined, including Shanghai Expo, Guangzhou Asian Games, and the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics:  Shanghai Expo in 2010 presents a government initiative to reuse industrial heritage for the benefit of a mega-event. Old factories along the Huangpu River, such as the Jiangnan Shipyard, were converted into Expo venues and became an important part of the Expo Park, contributing their own unique historical, social and cultural values to the Expo.  The renovation of Taigucang during the Guangzhou Asian Games shows the government’s attempt to reuse industrial heritage in another direction. Due to its prime location, the Asian Games stimulated the transformation of dilapidated old dock warehouses into new urban commercial spaces labelled with cultural creativity.  The more recent reconstruction of the Shougang Park for the Beijing Winter Olympics demonstrates the greater ambition of the Chinese government to reuse its industrial heritage. Not only was it selected as one of the venues for the Winter Olympics, Shougang was also given an important task of redeveloping the western suburbs of Beijing. Heritage reuse, new technologies, ecology and environmental protection, tourism and leisure are the core concepts of the transformation of the Shougang Park. These different concepts can also shape a new development model for Chinese cities, especially in the use of industrial heritage. Taking the opportunity of mega-events, we observe that industrial heritage has played more important roles in enhancing the value of the entire region from an economic perspective; from a societal perspective, industrial heritage is displayed and reused in various cultural and technological forms, and plays a part in promoting new consumption practices and socio-cultural lifestyles.

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