Speculation about Shenzhen’s Cultural Industry

Today, I’m following up yesterday’s cultural industry post with a friend’s highly speculative explanation for the apparent decline of the Century Handicraft Plaza. This conversation interests me because it provides a sociological explanation for economic success; the question isn’t what can be known, but rather, in the absence of knowledge, what ought to be assumed. Moreover, the assumption is interestingly at odds with Weber’s puritans, who saw wealth as a sign of God’s blessing. In contrast, my friend sees wealth and economic viability as signs of corruption.

Me: When I went to the Yongfengyuan store in the Handicraft Plaza, I was surprised by the fact that they were selling the same cultural products as last year and that the second floor showroom had been converted to office space. How can this happen to a national level cultural enterprise? Moreover, many of the surrounding shops had closed. So despite architectural renovations, the Plaza seemed abandoned.

Friend: It’s actually not too difficult to figure out. The cultural industry fair is over, so there’s no reason to keep pumping money into the Plaza. Also, Yongfengyuan makes expensive gifts that officials exchange, so the brand has probably been a way of channeling public money into private pockets.  Continue reading

How should we judge the success of Shenzhen’s cultural industry?

According to released statistics, in 2011, Shenzhen’s cultural industry accounted for 8% of the SEZ’s GDP, with a total 87.5 billion (875亿) yuan of goods and services. More importantly, cultural industry in Shenzhen grew at a rate of 20.5%, making it one of the strongest sectors of the local economy. Dafen and OCT Loft are often promoted as exemplars of successful cultural industry. Nevertheless, I don’t know how to interpret these statistics because when I visit some cultural industry sites — Dawang and 518, for example, I’m underwhelmed. begging the question, how universally successful is Shenzhen’s cultural industry or do these statistics more accurately reflects the determination of and concomitant investment by the government to push the economy in a certain direction?

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Today, for example, I visited the Century Handicraft Culture Plaza (世纪工艺品文化广场), which was one of the earliest attempts to transform Shenzhen’s economy from industrial manufacturing to creative industry. Continue reading