Beijing is Cultural Center

In Beijing, it is more often to meet some celebrity by chance. Last time, we had dinner and saw Cao Ying 曹颖. At the Starbucks of Air China Building, the person sitting at the same table of me looks very familiar. After he left, I asked the waiter: “Who is this guy?” She answered: Wu Qi Long 吴奇隆. No surprise – I am not the age to scream when those celebrity appears, but the peaceful even expressionless face around me is a sign that it is more easier for many people to meet celebrities in that city.

Shanghai is a city tuned for every individual – nice 24 convenient store, nice weather (well… hmmm… It depends), decent life. Beijing is tuned for public life. It is what a capital should look like.

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21 thoughts on “Beijing is Cultural Center

  1. I am curious as to what readers think which is a better city to live – Beijing or Shanghai?

  2. If you are a Chinese, I would say both. If you are a foreigner, I would say Shanghai. Shanghai people are much nicer and admiring to westerns. Beijing people don’t care. Put it in a nice way, Shanghai culture has more common points with western compare to Beijing.

  3. Did the previous commenter put the words “Shanghai” and “culture” in close proximity?


    Actually, I think most Westerners prefer to live in Beijing. Shanghai is nice for the money, but otherwise…

  4. Are the people and/or government of Shanghai doing anything to develop culture in their city? I’ve read on many forums and newsgroups that Shanghai is pretty much a desert when it comes to culture and doesn’t have a high society (a.k.a. social circles that to go fine arts performances). True?

  5. Oui,

    Yes, we do admire those that make a success of themselves, but we also like going to movies, ballet, opera, musicals, plays, museums, and other fine arts activities and performances. It isn’t an either/or thing.

  6. I think Chinese admire American money more than Americans do. And like Tough_Lefse said, it’s not the money, it’s what you do with it. American culture teaches us to invest money wisely and give a portion back to the community, something that the rich in Shanghai are still learning how to do.

  7. Micah, what a troll. If you define culture as art museums, opera, and so on, America has never been a shining light. And I don’t believe I’ve seen people defining “culture” that way (preserving irrelevant old European pasttimes) for a decade or two. If it *is* about preserving old Europe, Shanghai certainly has more old European buildings than Beijing. China has had a culture worth preserving for several hundred years longer than Europe, but again that has nothing to do with America. America is a culture of newcomers, people with no past and no future, a “throw away” culture, a cowboy culture of bravado and consumption. It’s just really wacky to think of the ever-diminishing number of geriatrics going to “cultural institutions” to see old paintings and aging italian “stars” as an example of American culture.

  8. Jian Shuo, your blog really inspires me to visit Shanghai or Beijing someday, and it might happen soon! Where would you suggest tourists with budget constraint to stay in Shanghai? Is it better to travel with companions rather than alone?


  9. Joshua Allen, it’s not fair to project the dead-white-man-culture stereotype onto my post when I didn’t invoke it. When I say culture in the sense of my post, I mean people that are alive today and producing original art, creating a recorded history for their community. Shanghai is very lacking in that category, compared to places like Beijing for art, and Beijing/Wuhan/Chengdu for non-mainstream metal/rock/punk music. And as far as these types of culture, it is much more widespread in America than it is China (for various reasons).

    I admit that I forgot to consider architecture. Shanghai really is a gem in that category.

    And I think it’s worth making up our minds about whether you want old culture to be preserved or not: are they “irrelevant old European pasttimes” or “culture worth preserving”? Evidenced by people’s behavior, some things are worth preserving and others are not. What determines the value of a piece or practice of culture?

  10. Thanks BingFeng for your objective comments. I have lived in Shanghai for over a year. I like living in Shanghai very much, so much that I have considered making it my home base. However, I have also heard similar comments about Beijing – that it is much more cultural than Shanghai. I am interested in moving to Beijing to live for a while to explore the city and see which one I like better.

    I think I will give Beijing a try after reading your comments.

    Thanks again.

  11. Every person is different. In the US, there are people who love culture, there are others who love mney. The same is true in China. You could even find such different people in the same family, in any country.

    You may argue that there are MORE Chinese who crave for money than there are Americans but that comparison is very difficult to justify or quantify. For beginners, there are MORE Chinese people, and on average Chinese are at a lower economical tier than Americans now.

  12. I think there is no such a city in China like Beijing that is a perfect unity of the old and the new. Shanghai is modern enough, but it seems lack of a history. Xi’an is old enough, but it somewhat lags behind its peers on the extent of modernazation.

    I was born and brought up in Beijing. I like bingfeng’s “mult-dimention” comment. Beijing is a city of tolerance, where every one, no matter who you are, can find her/his place there.

  13. It’s a question of taste, and of where you visited first. I studied in Beijing as part of my degree, so I’ve ended up preferring Beijing. Friends of mine whose first experience was of Shanghai prefer Shanghai. Then again, if I didn’t speak any Chinese I’d probably prefer Shanghai as it’s a bit easier to get around without speaking Mandarin. Maybe I’d feel differently if I spoke Shanghainese.

    For me, Beijing’s appeal comes partly from all the memories; hours spent reading the papers in that little teashop opposite the Confucius temple, waiting for my girlfriend at the gates of her university when I was studying there (along with all the locals waiting for *their* girlfriends), even cycling through the vicious sandstorms. Shanghai doesn’t really have any memories for me, so I’m happier in Beijing. I think they both have their own culture, but Shanghai’s reminds me of Hong Kong – a desparate longing to be new, to be different, to be ‘now’. Beijing seems more comfortable. I think that Shanghai’s like a teenager, trying to show the world that it’s special; Beijing’s more like an old man, comfortable in its own skin. But again, there’s probably a totally different side to both cities. I mean they’ve even knocked down the Silk Street and replaced it with an anonymous building.

    Mind you I’m stuck in London for the next 6 months at least….hope I get the transfer back to BJ soon…

  14. I totally agree with Luka!!! I also agree with others who think for foreigners, Shanghai is probably the better city, because when you’re in Shanghai, its very simple to forget that you are in China, however anywhere else, including BJ, that would be very difficult…

  15. If I must generalize, Shanghai is the commercial center of China, while Beijing is the political center.

    Being a large country and historically “diverse” in its political power and cultural regionality, China has at least these two metropolitans, if not more (Tianjin, Chongqing, Xi’an, Guanzhou etc.). If we look around the world, industrialized nations have a mixed set up. France and England are very much centralized around Paris and London, where both cities are commercial as well as political centers. Some of the historically less centralized countries have a wider choices of cities to boast: with Germany having Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Duesseldorf due to its history of principalities; America has New York, LA, Chicago, Dallas, DC, SF due to its expansionist history.

    Having said that, the residents of both Shanghai and Beijing are very proud of their cities; none yielding to the other. Shanghai still makes about 20% of China’s GDP with only 1% of its population; Beijing boasts a high percentage of government officials as their permanent residents (not necessarily productive but with political power/pull.)

    On the issue of city planning, Beijing used to be China’s showcase city, having hosted the Asian Game, many international guests, and now managed to host the summer Olympics in 2008. Yet during the recent decade, China has been emphasizing a re-building of Shanghai (thanks to the Shanghainese who became the country’s President and Prime Minister of China during the 90’s), in order to attract business away from HongKong and other international financial centers. As the Summer Olympics in Bejing boasted a budget of 15 billion dollars, Shanghai’s World Expo plans to spend double of that.

    It will be hard to decide which city is “better” to live in. I am sure both attract its own group of faithful followers, as do many other cities around the world.

  16. “Olympic Games now making Ecological as well as Sports History’

    by American Cultural Ambassador David Jakupca of the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA)

    David Jakupca of the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA) suggests the sustainable practises used in Turin, Italy to make the XX Olympic Games the first certified green Olympic Games in Europe may have set an ecological standard for future Olympic Games, especially in Beiging, China..

    At Turin, Italy more than 2,500 athletes from 85 nations will be competing in 15 different disciplines have moved into eco-friendly buildings of the new Olympic Villages, constructed of pollution-free materials.

    These will be the first certified green Olympic Games in Europe, a face of which the Torino Organizing Committee XX Olympic Winter Games (TOROC) is very proud.

    Both the XX Olympic Winter Games and the IX Paralympic Winter Games of Torino achieved this green designation by applying the ecological tools provided by the EU – the European Community system for the control and management of the environment, the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, and the European Eco-Classification system.

    TOROC President Valentino Castellani said Olympics organizers decided to adopt these tools “to help us reach the objectives that we had set for environmental sustainability.” Ensuring a climate-friendly Olympics is one of the cornerstones of TOROC’s plans.

    “Mega events, both cultural and athletic, have a significant and long-lasting impact on the environment,” said American Cultural Ambassador David Jakupca of the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA).

    “I hope the experience of Torino will serve as a stimulus for the organizers of sports events in the future.”

    The Cleveland 2004 International Children’s Games environmental performance received an International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA) Environmental Award for “clean and green” games by adhering to strict standards not only in sport, but also in the environment and sustainable development.

    The ICEA Award aimed at contributing to the assessment of the environmental footprint of the International hildren’s Games, the award gives the green component of the Games a high score.

    Marks were given to areas such as environmental planning and evaluation, protection of fragile natural and cultural areas, waste management and water conservation, and the use of environmentally friendly construction technologies.

    The highest marks were awarded to the areas of public transport, improvement of existing infrastructure, and promotion of sustainable environmental awareness.

    “Beyond the value learned from good sportsmanship, the International Children’s Games should also be a showcase for the highest environmental standards of sustainable development,” said David Jakupca, Director of ICEA.

    During the 2006 Olympic Games, a delegation from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) led by Executive Director Klaus Toepfer will participate in a ‘green dinner’ on February 15 to celebrate the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol on February 16.

    The Heritage Climate TORINO (HECTOR) project is designed to make the Winter Olympics carbon neural. By supporting forestry, energy efficiency and renewable energy schemes both at home and abroad, the Torino Olympics will be able to offset the estimated 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide that will be generated during the 16 days of the Games.

    An extensive monitoring plan was developed for the entire Olympic area which includes 16 environmental indicators, including water cycle, air quality, soil use, energy consumption, waste production, ecosystems, landscape, and urban environment.

    Suppliers of good and services involved in the Games were considered and selected based on the ecological quality of their products.

    In line with the European eco-label for hotel services, TOROC is promoting an eco-label trademark to tourist sites and 12 hotels in the Olympic areas and provided the technical support necessary for them to obtain cortication. They are designed with a floral logo, symbol of environmental friendliness.

    A new initiative – Refrigerants, Naturally! – forms part of this environmental component of the Games. Two of the official sponsors of the Olympic Games, McDonald’s Corporation and the Coco Cola Company, are the founders of Refrigerants, Naturally! Together with Unilever.

    This voluntary initiative, supported by UNEP and Greenpeace, is promoting alternative point-of-sale refrigeration technology in the food and beverage industry that safeguards the climate as well as the ozone layer.

    Coca Cola has deployed more than 1,000 beverage machines at the Torino Games that use carbon dioxide as the refrigerant. These machines eliminate the need for ozone-damaging chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) and hydroflurocarbons (HFCs).

    If this technology were adopted globally on a large scale, it could make a significant improvement in this industry sector’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time safeguarding the Earth’s protective ozone shield, UNEP said.

    The TOROC waste management plan is designed with the goal of reducing to zero the quantity of waste destined for rubbish dumps.

    The plan combines recycling of 68 percent of the organic and other dry waste material produced during the Games with an efficient system of energy retrieval – 32 percent of the waste will be transformed into fuel.

    Waste production is being discouraged by the use of bio-polymers in disposable tableware and a reduction in the use of paper for communication and information purposes.

    Sports events like the Olympic Games require years of work on a vast scale in terms of infrastructures, facilities and buildings, the organizers recognized. These public works draw on natural resources like water, air and the land, and they leave affect the environment of the region involved.

    “This is why TOROC decided to adopt a long-term approach to the Olympic Games, considering right from the start the regulations and the tools provided by the European Union to safeguard the environment,” the organizers said.

    “The success of a big sports event,” said President of the Piemonte Region Mercedes Bresso, “is measured by its capacity to generate positive effects over a medium and long period for the territory that hosts it. When we organized the Olympic Games of Torino 2006, we thought first of all, that we had to leave a long-lasting legacy of development and sustainability for the citizens and for the territory.”

    Bresso said, “The Torino 2006 projects that we supported and funded are meant to develop permanent practices of energy savings and CO2 control, in line with the Kyoto Protocol.”

    About ICEA:

    International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA)

    P. O. Box 81496

    Cleveland, Ohio 44181 USA

    Phone/fax: 440-891-8376



    The International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA) is a force for socially responsible activity. ICEA’s mission is to “Assist in understanding of the relationship between Humans and their Environment through the Arts”. The International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA) was founded by David and Renate Jakupca in 1987 to meet the compelling needs of ordinary citizens for access to current, balanced, understandable information about complex global issues. Over the years, ICEA has gained a reputation for excellence based upon a unique library of specialized, current information on global importance and a wide range of imaginative programming and collaborations with other organizations to meet the needs of a broad constituency. With affiliates across the globe, the ICEA supports research, information sharing and effective action promoting a sustainable culture of Peace.


  17. I am a first time visitor to China and just have spent about 12 days in both Shanghai and Beijing. As I am not really into sipping beer in an european style bar I feel there is not much anymore which attracts me in Shanghai, but I certainly could have spent another interesting 2 weeks in Beijing.

    I’d say that for a foreigner visitor Beijing offers much more of interest. I found the people as helpful as in Shanghai if not more, but one must be a bit careful not to be overcharged for services and has to bargain hard.

    For living I can understand if somebody prefers Shanghai for superior variety of services offered, personally I’d prefer Beijing though.

  18. i am thinking of looking for a wife,could i do this on my own without agencies,would Beijing or Shanghai be the place to look .

    regards from uk

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