Keeping Up Appearances
It already struck me a few times while walking through Wuhan, but apparently it’s a popular thing to do throughout China, as you can also read on the Pop-Up City Blog: While the commercial spaces of some new developments have not been rented out yet, the developer creates fake stores – sometimes it even includes the window dressing – to create an attractive and lively image of the neighborhood, while the spaces actually are vacant. It feels somehow like an extended interpretation of the Broken-Window theory, ‘as long as it looks like there are many attractive shops along the street, not only it will prevent disorderly behavior in these spaces, but in the end we hope it will also function as a marketing tool to attract the by us desired shops to the neighborhood’
The accompanying image shows a bright new apartment complex close to my home in Wuhan, Hankou – with shops at the ground level – that recently has replaced a ‘dilapidated’ working class neighborhood. For this article I wish not to criticize the underlying urban gentrification process – often local residents and businessmen are keen to accept the compensation they get offered by the developer, having an opportunity to improve their own housing conditions considerably.
Though personally I find it a slightly sad observation that through these new developments -as in the mind of their developers- a modern society in progress, is still reflected through images of luxurious shopping rather than a balanced mix of shops that cater the neighborhood – which is the actual demand in reality – while at the same time the arrival of global western brands is still more celebrated than the conservation of businesses with characteristic local cultural influences.
Thus apparently a shop dedicated to Grimm’s fairy tales fits nowadays China better than for example a bookstore dedicated to the Chinese legend of ‘the Journey to the West’.
I’m happy to let you know what shops will eventually open, so to be continued (maybe?)…