- Guangzhou has ambitious cultural policy plans, which support work towards nearly doubling the number of libraries and a fivefold increase in Guangzhou’s museums by 2035.
- There are also plans to grow its digital sector, making it a hub for animation and games and integrating media, film and TV.
- Investment and development of culture is designed to create a series of distinctive cultural neighbourhoods, with libraries, museums and cultural parks alongside industry and business.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 7,434.4 sq. km
- Total population: 14,904,400
- GDP (PPP) million: $644,886
With a history extending back more than 2,200 years, Guangzhou marks the beginning of the maritime Silk Road. It is China’s oldest port and is known as the ‘millennium commercial capital’ for its business relations with the wider world. Culturally, it is home to Lingnan traditional culture, which survives today in both built heritage and intangible cultural traditions. It also has substantial environmental assets, with 42% green coverage in the city region, and is listed as an International Garden City by the UN. Today, the City Government is committed to raising the standard of living of all its citizens, and has also been awarded the UN’s Best Practice Award for Improving Human Settlements.
The city is proud of its traditional Lingnan culture, while also promoting the urban culture of the modern city. Its more traditional cultural assets include Cantonese opera, Cantonese music and the Thirteen Hongs of Canton – the area where foreign trade first came to the city. There are also Communist Party historic sites, such as the location of the Third National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the Cemetery of the Guangzhou Uprising Martyrs, the site of the Former Guangzhou Commune among others.
The leading agencies responsible for culture are the Guangzhou Administration of Culture, Radio, Television and Tourism, and the Guangzhou Development and Reform Commission. The latter is responsible for the overall planning and coordination of the city’s economic and social development, including reforming the economic system. Both will have their work shaped by the Government’s 15th Five Year Plan for Guangzhou’s economic and social development, which also looks ahead to long-term ambitions to 2035. Its central goals include a more developed provision of culture to serve the public; preserving the city’s cultural heritage in its tangible and intangible forms; capacity building to create new and high-quality cultural products; modernising the tourism industry and supporting international cultural exchanges.
This work has already begun in the form of huge citywide programmes. Since 2017, the Summer in the City of Rams event has run for half a year, with a particular focus on mixing cultural forms to entertain and develop the cultural tastes of local people – as well as attracting many tourists. To support the cultural industries themselves, the Government has developed disparate trade assets into the major Guangzhou Cultural Industrial Fair. Finally, novel economic models – including partnerships between Government, business and residents – have created projects that both preserve cultural heritage and increase liveability in the modern city. The micro-renovation of Yongqingfang district, which created the city’s first intangible heritage community, while also preserving built heritage, is a successful example of this.
In addition, the Guangzhou Government has committed to new cultural infrastructure on an impressive scale: 194 recently built or planned cultural spaces, including galleries, book bars, cultural tourism centres, and digitally led spaces integrating culture, business and tourism.
Some challenges remain: the balance of development between urban and rural regions of Guangzhou remain uneven. Although urban provision is growing in strength, the night-time economy needs to be developed, and ambitions around new forms of tourism, and using digital technology to support culture are still at an early stage.
Although the city’s cultural sector is still relatively small, and grassroots cultural institutions need help to grow, Guangzhou’s ultimate aims could not be more ambitious. For its residents, it hopes to offer more, better and different cultural experiences, connecting citizens to their cultural heritage, while improving their quality of life. It also wants to become internationally competitive and build a reputation as a world famous cultural city.