It’s just another typical day in China; a historic building in Guangzhou has been converted into a nightclub, one of Guangzhou’s oldest cinemas awaits the destruction ball so that another generic shopping mall can take its place, while a Western supermarket has opened in China Plaza shopping mall. Hurray to development, so the official attitude goes. But while China’s history and culture is being replaced by one international brand store after another, and a shopping trip in one of Guangzhou’s glitzy malls is not much different to let’s say one in Harrod’s or Bloomingdale’s, one has to wonder if these development projects really are a cause for celebration.
It was precisely this question that sparked public outrage recently in Guangzhou when one of the buildings of the historic Whampoa Military Academy was converted into the Hei Hei nightclub. Listed as a protected relic by the Guangzhou government in 1987 and where the academy’s first headmaster Chiang Kai-shek once worked, the three storey building was one of the nation’s most important landmarks and known as the “cradle of China’s modern revolutions and military reforms.” Former Premier Zhou Enlai also taught here and many other prominent communists and nationalists worked side by side within the building. Although the building at 239 Yanjiang Lu was not the main campus of the Whampoa Military Academy, the site which housed the Guangdong Alumni Association was nonetheless an overall important part of the institution.
Public opinion deems Hei Hei nightclub’s takeover of the building as “not appropriate” and internet users have also launched a campaign to protect the building’s heritage. But according to online reports, all pleas to prevent the demise of this historic relic could be too late. In fact, it is claimed that the internal structure of the building has been completely destroyed, no doubt to make room for all those tacky neon lights and seedy VIP rooms (sigh).
Meanwhile, also in Yuexiu District, TASTE – a supermarket that mainly offers imported goods – has become the newest addition in China Plaza. The high-end food supermarket sells all sorts of imported goods such as apples, pumpkins and hamper baskets costing up to 10,000 RMB. Though the environment won’t be happy about the carbon footprint caused by imported apples when China has more than enough of its own home-grown ones, many consumers in Guangzhou will be delighted to see their favourite foods from home beaming gloriously from the shelves. In total, the supermarket stocks foods from over 40 countries, including Britain, the U.S., France, Italy and Japan. The supermarket also houses a food street serving Hong Kong, Chinese, Western and Japanese-style snacks. However, if imported apples priced at up to 160 RMB each (this is no typing error) isn’t staggering enough, the supermarket also stocks shark fin, a delicacy that is not only captured and killed in a brutal manner, but a practice that has lead to the decline of many shark species around the world. For the address of China Plaza click here.
Last but not least, Yonghan Cinema on Beijing Lu, one of Guangzhou’s oldest cinemas has been shut down to make way for yet another shopping mall. Yonghan cinema entertained locals since 1927 and was considered a symbol of the Cantonese lifestyle. However, since February 21st, the 83 year old movie emporium has shut its doors forever, while memories of the fun times at the movie theatre will eventually be forgotten and replaced with memories of buying a designer item of clothing. Look out for a new shopping mall with all the usual brands soon.
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