Archive for June 14th, 2007

China: Suffering Pollution, Losing Culture

The majority of Chinese citizens in urban centers are suffering under environmentally unsound conditions according to a recent Environmental Protection Administration report, says The New York Times.

At the same time, China’s government officials are beginning to publicly recognize the negative effect that rampant modernization has had on important historical and cultural sites.

According to Xinhua, vice-minister of construction Qiu Boaxing compared recent development trends to the massive destruction of cultural relics and sites that took place during The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution:

“This is leading to a poor sight – many cities have a similar construction style. It is like a thousand cities having the same appearance,” he said.

Tong Mingkang, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, agreed.

He lashed out at some local governments for their “reckless decision” to dismantle valuable historical sites which were in poor repair and erecting fake cultural relics at the site.

“It is like tearing up an invaluable painting and replacing it with a cheap print.” [Xinhua]

It’s difficult to guage whether these comments will be taken to heart.

The situation is complex; while modernization is an inevitable part of joining the new world economy, there are certainly elements of cultural sterilization, gentrification and greed at play. While the concerns of local citizens are foremost, travelers are perhaps next in line to feel the depressing impact of global homogenization and poor environmental conditions.

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