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Creative Chinese Countryside? Township-Village Enterprises as Incubators


Mengchuan Liu a, Yi-Wen Wang b*, and Christian Nolf b


a School of Environmental Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom

b Department of Urban Planning and Design, Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University, Suzhou, China

* Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT  Since the turn of the century, creative industries have displayed considerable power in transforming the social and economic landscapes of most global metropolises, including such Chinese mega-cities as Beijing and Shanghai. However, the story of creative industries does not end there. Recent studies have focused on the role of creative sector in the countryside. It has been argued that the creative sector can effectively contribute to diversifying socio-economic development in rural areas by increasing employment, enhancing the quality of life, and promoting social inclusion and community development. With the aim to chart new paths for China’s rural revitalisation and address the country’s ‘three rural issues’ (i.e. agriculture, rural areas and farmers), this paper examines the potentials and challenges to developing the creative sector in rural China. It first reviews academic debate about expanding the development of creative industries from urban to rural areas. Drawing on the research and classification of creative industries in rural Western Ireland, this study identifies industries characterised by ‘content creation and production’ and ‘creative design services’, which would have potential in rural China. The major impediments to and crucial factors for developing rural creative industries in China are investigated and appraised within the framework of ‘creative people, creative place, and creative support’. After analysing emerging practices in Jiangsu Province, this paper highlights the potential of abandoned industrial complexes in rural parts of China’s coastal regions, which can act as incubators for creative industries. Those former manufacturing plants are the remains of township-village enterprises (TVEs), which constituted part of China’s flagship policy for rural regeneration in the 1980s. Not only do they have special architectural attributes favourable for creative production, but also represent the socio-economic entity of the village collective and are the carriers of cultural meanings and memories. This paper concludes with a set of recommendations for both public and private sectors. It calls for a more proactive stance from governments to promote the creative sector in rural areas and revitalise rural economies and communities through the reuse or regeneration of former TVEs.

KEYWORDS  cultural and creative industries; China; rural revitalisation; township-village enterprises (TVEs); adaptive reuse; industrial heritage

Received  July 23, 2019; accepted December 9, 2019.

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