Is China Design more ambitious?

The Chinese government is prepared to invest in design concepts in a far more daring way than the UK or European governments. So says architect CJ Lim, director of Studio 8, which has been working on an ambitious project in China.

Speaking at China and the Creative Industries, a discussion at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London last week, Lim explained, ‘My studio has designed the second eco-city for China in Guangming, which is twice the size of Hyde Park.’

‘The Chinese government was willing to invest in us creating a big urban project, although we usually work on smaller designs,’ he says.

He added, ‘UK Government bodies are more cautious and less willing to take a chance on ideas.’

‘For younger designers the country is a great place to be. My consultancy would never have been offered the opportunity to take part in a scheme of this size in Europe,’ he continued.

Part of the Museums and Galleries Month debates, the speakers at the talk included Lim, chairman of Made in China Philip Dodd and political commentator and ex-Observer editor Will Hutton.

Dodd was not as positive about the role for overseas designers and architects working in China and said that the last room in the V&A’s China Design Now exhibition showcased mainly the work of foreign architects.

He claimed that there are lots of Chinese architects who seem to have been pushed to the sidelines.

In terms of creativity, he went on to say that he could see a historical pattern emerging in China. In the same way the film industry grew in Hollywood from the 1920s onwards as the city had a large urban population with nothing to do, he predicts that the creative industries, including design, will grow in China because people need to be entertained.

He said, ‘The Chinese people have 500 million mobile phones, and in the same way that America had to fill the big screens, designers will be able to work on developing the phones’ small screens.’

‘No one knows much about the creative industries in China, but what is interesting is that the Chinese are loyal to their own brands, which is why some of the big global players such as Yahoo! and Ebay have failed to displace the Chinese versions,’ Dodd added.

Meanwhile, Hutton lamented the poor level of protection provided to Chinese creativity, saying, ‘I find it astounding that, as the second-largest exporter in the world, the number of patents issued by China is miniscule – the country issues only 0.2 per cent of the world’s patents, as opposed to 34 per cent by the US.’

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