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Guangzhou city profile | city data
  • 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

Guangzhou is the centre for Lingnan culture with a history stretching back more than 2,200 years. Standing since the beginning of the Maritime Silk Road, it is known for its inclusive, cosmopolitan culture. This is reflected in a built heritage that includes Buddhist, Taoist, Christian and Islamic places of worship as well as historic areas of the Old City. It also has two sites included in UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: Guqin Art (Lingnan School) and the Cantonese Opera.

In more recent decades Guangzhou has primarily been known as an industrial centre, part of a heavily urbanised region of Southern China. It welcomes talents from a range of cultural backgrounds, with the population growing by 400,000 to 14.9 million from 2017 to 2018 alone. Its work to open up economically and its international outlook have made it successful in attracting business, including many of the world’s top 500 companies.

Bookshops are an important part of the city’s informal cultural scene. There were around 668 in Guangzhou in 2017, many with programmes including reading and reading clubs, coffee drinking and exhibitions, creating a community space. During the South China Book Festival in 2018, there were more than 400 reading fairs and exhibitions held in bookstores. Guangzhou also has many historic districts, which are being preserved with new laws and planning guidance, while re-adapting old sites for new uses such as creative industries, leisure, science and technology, hotels and dining. The now-fashionable Yong Qing Fang Cultural Quarter is one recent renovation blending old and new.

The City’s cultural policy is directed by the Guangzhou Municipal Cultural Heritage Administration, particularly the Municipal Culture, Radio, Television and Tourism Bureau. This has launched a series of ambitious cultural policy plans, which support work towards nearly doubling the number of libraries and a fivefold increase in Guangzhou’s museums by 2035. Through this work, the Cultural Heritage Administration hopes to drive economic growth through newer creative industries and build Guangzhou’s reputation as a cultural centre to match its success as an industrial city. Crucially, the Administration has built support from private business across the city. It is supported by Guangzhou Cultural Industry Research Center of Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, a new kind of think tank conducting applied research, and the non-governmental Guangzhou Cultural Creative Industry Association.

Supported by the Administration, Guangzhou Cultural Industries Fair has been held three times since 2017. It has become a major event in the city, integrating China International Comics Festival EXPO as well as other festivals covering documentary films, an international art fair, and the Tianhe Summit. The sector is already seeing rapid growth: creative industries accounted for about 5% of its GDP in 2018, but this is expected to have grown to a remarkable 13.9% in 2019.

Plans for Guangzhou to 2035 include growing its digital sector, making it a hub for animation and games and integrating media, film and TV. The municipal government also wants to make the city an international art centre, with both state-owned private art academies supporting works that cultivate core values and promote China’s traditional culture. It will also seek to develop its design culture and apply to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) as a ‘City of Design’.

Ambitious for increasing economic growth and soft power through culture, the Administration is also aiming for harmony and balance. Its ultimate aim from this rapid culture-driven development is a series of distinctive cultural neighbourhoods, with libraries, museums and cultural parks alongside industry and business, offering a liveable space to its growing body of citizens.