China's Copycat Cities
The Middle Kingdom is cloning Western monuments, palaces, and entire towns -- often at a frenetic pace and with uncanny accuracy. But why? American and European commentators -- not to mention residents of the original cities -- are variously amused, indignant, and, above all, puzzled. This is not, however, the first time China has imported Western architecture on a grand scale. Now, as in China's past, imitation isn't intended as flattery. The ancient parallels for these copycat projects suggest that they are not mere follies, but monumental assertions of China's global primacy.
- In addition to the wholesale replication of Hallstatt, countless other facsimile cities and monuments have popped up across China -- and more are in the works. Replica British towns near Shanghai and Chengdu, for example, feature Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian architecture complete with quaint market squares and signature red telephone booths. Likewise, a Bauhaus "German Town" near Shanghai designed by Albert Speer, son of the Third Reich's chief architect, boasts bronze statues of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller.
- China is also home to several charming Dutch villages, at least two of the world's largest Eiffel Tower replicas, and an opulent copy of the 17th-century Château de Maisons-Laffitte. More eerily, perhaps, a full-scale, no-expense-spared replica of the White House stands outside Hangzhou, while less exacting copies of the U.S. Capitol, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Sydney Opera House can be found in the village of Huaxi in Jiangsu province and elsewhere. And a long-term project is under way to create a vast financial center at Yujiapu in the municipality of Tianjin based explicitly on Manhattan. The plans even include a Rockefeller Center and twin towers to be built by the Chinese arm of Tishman, the contractor for the original World Trade Center towers in New York.
- The phenomenon has also been taken to reflect a Chinese obsession with Western tastes. Urban-design critic Harry den Hartog has referred to the projects as "self-colonization," comparing the re-creation of Dutch, German, British, and Italian towns around Shanghai to the concession territories that the imperial powers developed there and in Tianjin after the Opium Wars. But China's relationship with the West has changed immeasurably since the mid-19th century, when the country was known as the "sick man of Asia." Within the context of China's economic rise, the present-day importation of styles and architecture feels more like muscle-flexing than a symptom of sickness.
Full article below:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/29/chinas_imperial_plagiarism