Article by the Global Times on the trend in China of seeking a UNESCO World Heritage plaque and the cash incentives attached to such status. The reporter uses the good example of the ongoing bid to turn 10 historic towers (articles on the subject can be found on the Cultural Heritage page) into UNESCO World Heritage sites, despite the fact that at least one is an entirely new construction, albeit on the original site. This is less unusual than it sounds when you consider that a large percentage of China’s relics are constructed of timber and the fact that China’s dynasties have a bit of a reputation for tearing down the previous dynasty’s monuments and structures.
But I digress.
Of concern is not only the misguided intentions behind lobbying for UNESCO recognition, but also the vast amounts of money that local governments seem to be pouring into the bidding process. And as the author mentions, money problems don’t stop there, as once you get the listing, you still have to maintain the site. I suppose it’s an ongoing process. Unlike with Europe, which has also gone through centuries of destroying their own stuff, but has also now had decades to come around to the idea of preservation for preservation’s sake, China has joined the preservation party a little late and sort of at a full sprint. Personally, I wouldn’t really have a problem with the motive behind preservation if it got the job done, but unfortunately you can feel when a site is being respected for it’s history and has a holistic approach to preservation and when it is just used as a cash machine. Even more unfortunately, I never get that feeling more than when I visit Chinese sites.