Thames Town – the ‘authentic British-style town’ in Shanghai – is something that has been in the works since 2001. I hadn’t heard about it until this morning where pictures of the town’s pub and fish-‘n-chips shop provided the daily little anecdote for the morning newsreader. There has been some anxiety, apparently, in little ole Dorset, where they have something that looks like this,
(in case you can’t make it out, what we have here are two versions of the Rock Point Inn and the Cob Gate Fish Bar, pics courtesy of Shanghaiist).
Uhm, I don’t even know where to start with what kind of anxiety this causes me. Is it the idea of theme parks invading real life (or vice versa)? Or is it a question of copyright? Gail Caddy, the proprietor of the Dorset pub and chippy, is miffed that the Chinese forgot to ask her permission. Thing is, it’s a British development project, so Caddy’s irritation is misdirected.
Perhaps it’s this chilling line on the town’s official website that did it for me: “Embraced by lush greenery and beautiful scenery,the English church is an exclusive living space to begin a life of happiness and bliss.”
François Sicart has written an article on how, despite developments like this, there is evidence of what he terms a “New Nationalism” in China. Maybe it would be more accurate to say because of developments like this? See, the word that keeps appearing in my head is, rather, imperialism. Colonialism. A new mutant strain that should tell us that something, somewhere, has gone very, very wrong.
Debord and the Situationists, it turns out, were right again. The people to watch out for are the townplanners. Urban geography is the most insidious weapon of all.