Can Chinese cities be branded?
City authorities can no longer aim solely for improving their residents’ living standards, they also need to become attractive to visitors and investors, and so they create their own brands. This branding is necessary because of the increasing competition among cities.
Earlier this year, Per Olof Berg and Emma Björner edited a book on the branding of Chinese mega-cities. This book proposes different perspectives on this phenomenon by comparing Chinese mega-cities (that is to say Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Shenzhen) and other international mega-cities. It studies several aspects of China’s mega-cities, from promotional films (chapter by Marina Svennson) to the emergence of green cities (chapter by Jorgen Delman).
For Berg and Björner, city branding is more complex than corporate branding, because, firstly, cities may have more images than companies; and secondly, unlike companies, the ownership structure is not clear. Who actually owns the city? Who decides on a city brand? This question is clearly linked to governance.
This interesting book is divided into three parts. After looking at the development of mega-cities in China, the contributors offer several case studies of city branding in China, and then analyse Chinese mega-cities’ global competitiveness.
In Chapter 16, Can-Seng Ooi notes that some Chinese cities copy other cities and construct similar brands, but the author also argues that this trend is adopted not only by Chinese cities, but most international mega-cities as well. Although they pretend to offer a unique experience to visitors and investors, most mega-cities are emulating each other. They simply do not want to risk being too different, because they want to be recognisable as world-class mega-cities, so they adopt similar policies.