Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Making Sustainable Creative/cultural Space in Shanghai and Singapore

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Making Sustainable Creative/cultural Space in Shanghai and Singapore

Article excerpt

Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, creative-economy strategies have become attractive, even fashionable, in several cities in Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Taipei, and Seoul. A variety of factors motivated the diffusion to Asian cities of what were essentially the culture-driven strategies for urban regeneration popularly adopted in British, European, and U.S. cities in the 1980s and 1990s (Bianchini 1993; Kong 2000; Miles and Paddison 2005). The Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s prompted national and city governments to look for alternative economic strategies, particularly given their reluctance to abandon their aspirations to become global cities. At the same time, the culture-led strategies in the West had had "the most dramatic consequences both physically in transforming the urban landscape and in building their economic performance" (Miles and Paddison 2005, 833). Although the exact manner in which knowledge about the creative economy has circulated and diffused has differed from destination to destination (Kong and others 2006), a normative policy script has clearly captured official imaginations in the Asian context. Such a policy script can be characterized as follows: To compete in the new creative economy, cities should seek to implement particular initiatives such as encouraging creative-industry clusters, incubate learning and knowledge economies, maximize networks with other successful places and companies, value and reward innovation, and aggressively campaign to attract the "creative class" as residents (Gibson and Kong 2005). Such an approach has been most marked in cities, but policies promoting growth of the creative economy as a competitive strategy have emerged at various scales and in increasingly diverse places, from municipalities to national and even multilateral trading regions (Yusuf and Nabeshima 2005).

CULTURE-LED URBAN REGENERATION, THE CREATIVE CITY, AND SUSTAINABILITY

The main focus of the literature on culture-led urban regeneration, the creative city, and creative economy has been on U.K. and U.S. cities. Writing in the context of the latter, Richard Florida argued that cities should focus on attracting creative people and promoting creativity as a way to achieve regeneration (2002). Though severely criticized, Florida's arguments have captured the attention of policymakers in many parts of the globe. In the context of the United Kingdom, the British government's recognition of the value of cultural investment to urban regeneration is born of a sense that culture is "a source of prosperity and cosmopolitanism in the process of international urban competitiveness, ... a means of spreading the benefits of prosperity to all citizens, through its capacity to engender social and human capital, improve life skills and transform the organizational capacity to handle and respond to change ... [and] a means of defining a rich shared identity[,] ... thus engender[ing] pride of place and inter-communal understanding, contributing to people's sense of anchoring and confidence" (Comedia 2003).

Just how much such strategies actually address local issues of identity, interaction, and understanding, apart from economic ones, is often questionable, however. Deborah Stevenson argues that "the 'social' of social inclusion has become synonymous with the economy to such an extent that participation in society (full citizenship) can only be achieved through participation in the economy" (2004, 126). In this way, culture becomes implicated in reproducing inequalities as opposed to automatically revitalizing the public sphere (Miles and Paddison 2005, 836). In fact, Steven Miles and Ronan Paddison go on to argue that "the most dangerous aspect of cultural investment is that it simply does not sit comfortably in the context for which it is intended" (2005, 837). Other writers sounding caution include Graeme Evans, who is concerned that the measures of impact are all too often focused on economic impacts rather than on long-term sustainability (2005); Peter Johnson and Barry Thomas believed that effects such as enjoyment, appreciation, and such softer aspects of the arts' impact are left insufficiently acknowledged and promoted (2001). …

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