The cultural invader known as Disney has now entered the mainland via Shanghai, one of the country's economic centers. A 4-million square-meter area in Shanghai's Pudong New Area will be used for the super park. While some people cheered for this, I think all Chinese people should feel sad about the project, especially when it's being built in Shanghai. Some people may disagree with my view – many countries have built Disney theme parks, so why shouldn't China? And why is Shanghai the wrong city? I'll present several reasons to support my argument.
Firstly, to build a Disney theme park will appear too-American.
If you have ever been to a Disney theme park, you'll find the park actually is an American carnie with all kinds of entertainment equipments. Except for the air, everything in the park is loaded with American culture and nothing about the Disney theme park is unique. I believe Chinese people also have the ability to build this kind of theme park, but with a theme using Chinese characters.
I believe there are two reasons why Chinese people have not created a super park with a theme created by ourselves. One important reason is that many Chinese people prefer to imitate others rather than to individually create things. Another reason is that our educational system is more and more inclined to western countries' style. Many kids now wear western countries' labels. Secondly, from an economic standpoint, Shanghai is not the best city in China to build a Disney theme park.
The fast economic growth of Shanghai has made it a rich city. The Chinese government has given many favorable policies to support Shanghai's development, including the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway, Shanghai-Hangzhou magnetic suspension train and the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Building a Disney theme park in Shanghai must make other provinces feel a bit jealous. The theme park will benefit the entire area's development, so every province will be happy to build one on its own land. Furthermore, the project has made property prices rise around the site of the Shanghai Disney park. I'm afraid the current bad real estate situation of Shanghai will worsen because of the park.
The last reason is that the Shanghai Disney park will have a negative influence on the Disney theme park in Hong Kong.
Because Shanghai is near Hong Kong, the new park in Shanghai will negatively affect the Hong Kong park in the long-term. I believe this is also against China's national interests. I think China can build its own cultural theme park in central China, Beijing or Dalian. If a Chinese theme park on the mainland and the Disney theme park in Hong Kong can make an alliance, this will not only be favorable for the diversified cultural needs of travelers, but will also promote cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong in tourism.
In my opinion, China doesn't need Disney, and Chinese people have the ability to build a world-class entertainment park with a Chinese theme.
Note: Sun Xiliang is a professor at Zhongnan University.
(This post was first published in Chinese on November 3, 2009 and translated by Wu Huanshu.)