Friday, 19 September 2008

East or West, Which is Best?

Ken Livingstone is no longer Mayor of London but he remains keen on design. This is why when the Financial Times sponsored a London Design Festival talk on creative cities, Old Ken as he is fondly called, was one of the three panelists summoned to the table. The other panelists were China expert Philip Dodd and the master of successful design cities- Tyler Brule- Founder of Wallpaper and Monocle magazines.

Since the oppressive success of the Beijing Olympics and the declaration by the World Tourism Organisation that China will be the biggest tourist destination by the year 2020, China has been on the lips of designers and politicians around the world. It is no wonder that the focus on successful state capitals at this debate was Beijing, China.

The Bird's Nest: China's National Stadium.
Photo credits: EO

China’s image enjoyed a long overdue varnish through the eyes of the limited numbers who attended the Beijing games. The Bird’s Nest has become the nation’s iconic symbol and their national design campaign from the grand opening ceremony to the day-to-day sights and sounds and the droves of voulounteers helped to create an effective modern spin on traditional Chinese culture.

This brand success is no accident. Preparations for the Olympics cost a modest estimate of 40million US Dollars. These funds were channeled into training volounteers, English lessons for the scores of taxi drivers who drove visitors around Beijing, the new subway lines, the new airport terminal (largest in the world), connecting Beijing to Tianjin with the fastest train in the world (two hours away by road reduces to 23minutes at 350km/hr) The list is endless.

Tyler Brule- Founder Wallpaper and Monocle, Philip Dodd- China Expert and Former Mayor of London- Ken Livingstone.
Photo: Ade Omoloja

The debate leap frogged the established success of Beijing as a successfully designed city to the question of how England is to learn from China considering China’s seeming complexities, the language barriers and the 2012 London Olympics.

Philip Dodd offered the answer brilliantly: “Five million Chinese are learning English and 500 English people are learning Chinese, it is clear, they will understand us far sooner than we understand them”

Although Chinese numbers may be tough to beat, Ken Livingstone concurred with Philip by recommending that Chinese is taught in primary schools across England.

40, 000 Chinese nationals live in Lagos and enjoy their own newspaper in Chinese script as the number of Chinese investments grows by the day. Yet the crucial question for us is, how many Nigerians are learning Chinese? How is Nigeria managing its relationship with China? What can Nigeria learn from China as a successful tourist destination and a growing success as a brand?
What is the design master plan for Nigeria by the year 2020?

The annual tradition: A photo with Ken Livingstone
Photo credits: Ade Omoloja
This 2020visionng article is powered by Interswitch.

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