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How cities can harness the power of culture

At the 2nd Tianfu Symposium of World Cultural Capitals, Chengdu, China  officials were joined by world culture experts from the World Cities Culture Forum to explore cultural development and urban opportunities for new economy.

Amongst were topics and experts from all over the world, one discussion panel investigated the role of culture in growing city identity. Paul Owens, Director of the World Cities Culture Forum, asked participants “How successful are cities in balancing authentic local culture as they grow into global cities?”.

Responding to his question, John Howkins, Chair of the Belt and Road World Cities Culture Centre, drew attention to the role of technology and the new economy in defining future reputations and creating entirely new culture sectors in the process. Howkins was reflecting upon new initiatives launched at the symposium that morning. Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Writers Association, Jidi Majia, proclaimed that “The wisdom of the people will create a more open and stable dialogue – this will be the wisdom of different people’s and different countries, great civilizations are inclusive and learn from each other”.

City officials from Chengdu launched the Tianfu Smart Media City project, a new initiative which sets out an ambition to integrate multiple smart media initiatives, including technology platforms such as 5G and new economy technologies such as AI, to build a new reputation on the global stage.

Participants enjoyed a presentation from Shan Jixiang, director of the Palace Museum and star of the recent documentary exploring the success of the palace. Shan outlined how the mission of the museum has been to open out culture, bringing more of the cultural artifacts for the public to view and share in the hidden stories of the Forbidden City.

Conference attendees heard from Robert Govers, international place branding expert, who talked about the importance of cities applying an imaginative approach to shaping city reputation. Many participants echoed the words and sentiments of Jidi Majia when he stated that “mysterious urban codes reside in each great world city”, perhaps making the definition of success, like a good poem, always close but slightly out of our grasp. The poet was clear about the importance and the character of Chengdu, referring to it as the city where light and poetry emerges.

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