Much-needed makeover for Shenyang

Decades of in­dus­trial lifestyle gets checked by new-age art as cul­ture firms sprout

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By LIU CE andWUYONG in Shenyang Con­tact the writer at li­uce@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Xu Bili is busy ne­go­ti­at­ing with a French cu­ra­tor to in­tro­duce a new art ex­hi­bi­tion to Shenyang, cap­i­tal of Liaon­ing prov­ince.

“I want to in­tro­duce more in­ter­na­tional arts and a mod­ern lifestyle to Shenyang, to make the city stand out from oth­ers and be full of fun,” she said.

The Chi­nese-Bel­gian, 30, to­gether with her hus­band and a part­ner, founded 1905 Re-cre­ative Space in 2011 in Shenyang.

It is a com­mer­cial prop­erty that houses cre­ative work­shops, bars, cafes and such es­tab­lish­ments along­side art ex­hi­bi­tions.

The space is retro­fit­ted from a 79-year-old plant, which is pre­served as a relic of, and a tribute to, the city’s glo­ri­ous in­dus­trial his­tory.

Known as the “Ori­en­tal Ruhr”, Shenyang has been the man­u­fac­tur­ing base of China since 1930s. Here, there is never a short­age of “hard” signs such as huge fac­to­ries. The city, how­ever, lacks the “soft” touch of art ex­hi­bi­tions.

“The city is bor­ing for young­sters. And I can hardly find a stylish café af­ter 10 pm in the down­town,” Xu said.

“There is a cul­tural ‘gap’ in Shenyang. The old in­dus­trial civ­i­liza­tion does not sit side by side with moder­nity. That’s why, I want to build a plat­form com­bin­ing in­dus­trial cul­ture, mod­ern cul­ture and arts.”

How­ever, it’s not easy to find a clear for-profit model. Xu’s chal­lenge is to make a clear break with the lo­cal cul­ture as rep­re­sented by Er­ren­zhuan (a song-and-dance duet per­for­mance pop­u­lar in North­east China), and en­cour­age lo­cal con­sumers to de­velop a new mind­set.

For­tu­nately, she found a gold mine in the Sin­gle Lady Mar­ket site af­ter nu­mer­ous at­tempts. “The post-’80s and post-’90s women like lit­er­a­ture and arts; they are our most ac­tive cus­tomers,” she said.

Over the years, Xu-led 1905 has de­vel­oped open classes and work­shops on var­i­ous top­ics, rang­ing from paint­ing to cook­ing.

The cou­ple launched “We Are Here”, an in­ter­na­tional young artist ex­change project, in 2013. In the past three years, 18 Euro­pean artist­shad­vis­ited the 1905 space and cre­ated works to­gether with lo­cal young artists.

At 2015-end, their ven­ture’s an­nual in­come dou­bled from

Shenyang, cap­i­tal of Liaon­ing prov­ince, and the rest of the north­east­ern prov­ince, are

un­der heavy pres­sure to re­struc­ture their decades old man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor as part of sup­ply-side re­forms. Liaon­ing was the only prov­ince to re­port a neg­a­tive GDP growth—mi­nus 1 per­cent— in the first half of this year.

How­ever, the north­east­ern area, con­sist­ing of Liaon­ing, Jilin and prov­inces and part of In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion, was among the first in the coun­try to de­velop as a heavy in­dus­try base in the last cen­tury.

Shenyang, cap­i­tal of Liaon­ing prov­ince, and the rest of the north­east­ern prov­ince, are un­der heavy pres­sure to re­struc­ture their decades-old man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor as part of sup­ply-side re­forms.

Liaon­ing was the only prov­ince to re­port a neg­a­tive GDP growth— mi­nus 1 per­cent— in the first half of this year.

How­ever, the north­east­ern area, con­sist­ing of Liaon­ing, Jilin and Hei­longjiang prov­inces and part of In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion, was among the first in the coun­try to de­velop as a heavy in­dus­try base in the last cen­tury.

The re­gion largely re­lies on heavy and chem­i­cal in­dus­tries, en­ergy re­sources, raw ma­te­ri­als and a large pro­por­tion of Sta­te­owned en­ter­prises.

China’s first cam­paign to re­vi­tal­ize the re­gion spanned the 2003-13 pe­riod. As a re­sult, sig­nif­i­cant and his­tor­i­cal changes were achieved in in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion and the devel­op­ment of heavy in­dus­tries.

How­ever, the cam­paign has failed to achieve a break­through in struc­tural ad­just­ment and in­sti­tu­tional in­no­va­tion, and the re­gion’s con­tra­dic­tions and prob­lems have been ex­posed

the level at the end of the first year of op­er­a­tions. Eighty per­cent of the profit came from the post-’80s and post-’90s sin­gle women.

“The 1905 space has be­come an icon for lo­cal arts. It can meet al­most all of my needs

The re­gion largely re­lies on heavy and chem­i­cal in­dus­tries, en­ergy re­sources, raw ma­te­ri­als and a large pro­por­tion of State owned en­ter­prises.

China’s first cam­paign to re­vi­tal­ize the re­gion spanned the 2003-13 pe­riod. As a re­sult, sig­nif­i­cant and his­tor­i­cal changes were achieved in in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion and the devel­op­ment of heavy in­dus­tries.

How­ever, the cam­paign has failed to achieve a break­through in struc­tural ad­just­ment an in­sti­tu­tional in­no­va­tion, and the re­gion’s con­tra­dic­tions and prob­lems like learn­ing new things, art ap­pre­ci­a­tion and bars. If you don’t know 1905, you are out (of fash­ion),” said Zang Weiwei, 25, a lo­cal sin­gle work­ing woman.

Shao Jian­bing, a pro­fes­sor at Liaon­ing Univer­sity, said, have been ex­posed once again vis-à-vis China’s eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and up­grad­ing.

And the weak­ened over­seas de­mand and fail­ing com­mod­ity prices over the past year wors­ened the sit­u­a­tion and led to a slow­down.

Some tra­di­tional in­dus­tries in Liaon­ing, such as min­ing and equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing, saw a sharp rev­enue de­crease in the first six months.

Though many tra­di­tional in­dus­tries are in trou­ble, and strug­gling to get out of trou­ble through in­no­va­tion and up­grad­ing, emerg­ing in­dus­tries re­ported rapid growth in the

once again vis-à-vis China’s eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and up­grad­ing.

And the weak­ened over­seas de­mand and fail­ing com­mod­ity prices over the past year wors­ened the sit­u­a­tion and led to a slow­down.

Some tra­di­tional in­dus­tries in Liaon­ing, such as min­ing and equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing, saw a sharp rev­enue de­crease in the first six months.

Though many tra­di­tional in­dus­tries are in trou­ble, and strug­gling to get out of trou­ble through in­no­va­tion and up­grad­ing, emerg­ing in­dus­tries re­ported rapid growth in the Jan­uary-

Zang Weiwei,

25, a lo­cal sin­gle work­ing woman “It ap­pears sin­gle Chi­nese work­ing women, es­pe­cially in big cities, in­creas­ingly pre­fer to in­vest in them­selves rather than in mar­riage. Also, con­sump­tion pat­terns of the younger gen­er­a­tion have changed. They are more will­ing Jan­uary-June pe­riod.

Con­sump­tion, tourism and the ter­tiary sec­tor have also contributed more to the re­gional econ­omy. In the Jan­uary-June pe­riod, tourism rev­enue in­creased by 13.3 per­cent in Liaon­ing.

“Eco­nomic down­ward pres­sure will push Liaon­ing to speed up the re­form. Seen from this an­gle, dif­fi­cul­ties are op­por­tu­ni­ties too. The ter­tiary sec­tor may get a break­through for an eco­nomic re­cov­ery,” said Liang Qi­dong, vice di­rec­tor of the Liaon­ing Academy of So­cial Sci­ences.

The 1905 space has be­come an icon for lo­cal arts. It can meet al­most all of my needs... ” June pe­riod.

Con­sump­tion, tourism and the ter­tiary sec­tor have also contributed more to the re­gional econ­omy. In the Jan­uaryJune pe­riod, tourism rev­enue in­creased by 13.3 per­cent in Liaon­ing.

“Eco­nomic down­ward pres­sure will push Liaon­ing to speed up the re­form. Seen from this an­gle, dif­fi­cul­ties are op­por­tu­ni­ties too. The ter­tiary sec­tor may get a break­through for an eco­nomic re­cov­ery,” said Liang Qi­dong, vice di­rec­tor of the Liaon­ing Academy of So­cial Sci­ences.

to pay for cul­tural and leisure things.”

Shao’s view is a throw­back to econ­o­mist F.T. McCarthy’s 2001 the­ory of “The Brid­get Jones Econ­omy” (or the sin­gle women econ­omy), pub­lished first in The Econ­o­mist mag­a­zine. Ac­cord­ing to him, sin­gle work­ing­wom­enare more likely to in­dulge in im­pulse buy­ing. Data shows that sin­gle women’s spend­ing on food and fash­ion is 2.7 times that of mar­ried women in the same age-group.

Xu said, “I hope to cre­ate a fash­ion lifestyle for them (sin­gle work­ing women). Nearly all of my em­ploy­ees are post-’80s women who can re­late well to young­sters and en­cour­age them to de­velop lo­cal cul­tural and cre­ative in­dus­tries.”

BAI SHI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Two young per­form­ers en­act Er­ren­zhuan, or Beng­beng, a duet com­pris­ing song and dance, in Shenyang, China’s fa­mous man­u­fac­tur­ing base. For long home to age-old tra­di­tional lifestyle, it is seek­ing to rein­vent it­self by em­brac­ing mod­ern art forms.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY.

Con­sumers throng a flower and sapling art cor­ner at the 1905 Re-cre­ative Space in Shenyang.

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