City Profile Investigation: Hangzhou

Lauren Mok Class Z

How does urbanization and globalization affect the cultural identity of Hangzhou?

Overview of Hangzhou:

Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province, in Eastern China. It is well known for its beautiful scenery and culture, and has become the fourth most metropolitan area in China. Hangzhou's economy has developed rapidly ever since its opening up in 1992. It is considered an important manufacturing base and logistics hub for the coastal area of China. Not only is Hangzhou economically developed, it is also renowned as one most scenic cities in China, and has an UNESCO world heritage site, which is the famous West Lake. The native residents of Zhejiang and Jiangsu have a Wu dialect, though Mandarin is the main language used. Hangzhou's cuisine is also one of China's eight fundamental cuisines. Hangzhou's economy and culture relies on tea, specifically Longjing tea, a type of tea native to Hangzhou.

What is urbanization and globalizaition? What does it do to Hangzhou?

Urbanization is the process of becoming urban, moving to cities, changing from agriculture to other pursuits common to cities. Some of the causes for urbanization include industrialization, social factors, employment opportunities, rural urban transformation, modernization, and the spread of education. Hangzhou has become an urban city because of these factors. As mentioned before, Hangzhou is famous for its culture and beautiful scenery. However, many foreigners come to Hangzhou not for the scenery, but for the money. Hangzhou is becoming more and more urbanized, and the pull factor of the city has become the economy. The city’s GDP jumped from 96 billion yuan in 1995 to nearly 510 billion yuan in 2009. However some raise questions about the sustainability of this growth. Hangzhou has a shortage of public and living space, and rapid population growth is putting pressure on the job market and the environment. The rapid urbanisation of Hangzhou has caused the destruction of traditional neighborhoods that are replaced with modern buildings and community spaces that are usually architecturally dull and unpleasant to inhabit. Globalization also plays a huge part in the city's increase in GDP, and Hangzhou has become more open to western ideas and practices, which causes the city to become more connected to the western world.

How does globalization and urbanization affect Hangzhou and its cultural identity?

Globalization and urbanization may be beneficial to the urban areas of the city, but they are harmful towards the culture and heritage of Hangzhou. Hangzhou used to be known as “the Heaven on Earth” by the Chinese for a thousand years because of its sophisticated culture, exquisite beauty of landscape, romantic and enjoyable life. However, it is now known as the fourth most economically developed city. With the economy become the main focus, the culture and of the city is being forgotten, and the local citizens of Hangzhou are starting to lose the cultural identity. Due to globalization and urbanization, old historic buildings are being torn down, and the factories are polluting the once famously fresh air. Buildings are obstructing the view from the West Lake, which is famous within China for its history and culture. Globalization is having a homogenizing influence on local culture. While this phenomenon promotes the integration of societies and has provided millions of people with new job opportunities, it may also take away uniqueness of local culture, which in turn can lead to loss of identity, exclusion and even conflict. In an interview with Mr Hu, a Senior citizen currently staying at a nursing home on Wen Yi Xi Lu, Hangzhou, he said that he believes that the culture of Hangzhou is fading, and that the city is no longer famous for the scenery, but for the job opportunities and western culture you can find in Hangzhou. There are new malls being built around city, and all of them are filled with shops that sell western brands and western food. He also said that he agrees that there is a loss cultural identity, because people no longer want to speak the Hangzhou dialect, and they want to live a more western life, and eat more western food.

What does this mean for the cultural identity in Hangzhou?

Even though the cultural identity of Hangzhou itself may seem to be going down, the loss of cultural identity in this city is not as bad of those of Hawaii or Singapore, and the citizens are still proud to be from Hangzhou. In fact, many other citizens from other areas in China are visiting Hangzhou to learn more about their history as they are becoming more proud of their country as their country grows. Even though the problem of loss of cultural identity may not seem severe, it is important that the issue will be regarded. Without cultural identity, people begin forget about their past and their natural traditions, and their identity becomes less and less pronounced.

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