Economic Globalization on Chinatown Identity

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Over decades, in Singapore’s vigorous economic development, the city-state has been constantly evolving. Without exception, globalisation has shed its mighty impact on Chinatown which enjoys hundreds of years of history. While on the surface, unique architectures in Chinatown have been rather well preserved under the effort of the government’s 1986 conservation plan, this article goes further to perform a close inspection on how globalisation affects the social activities in Chinatown and in turn changes the Chinatown identity.

Concept

We view identity of a place as how people closely related to the place identify with it as individuals and as groups. Consisting this identity are tangible elements like architectures which are vitalized by intangible social activities. The identity of a place is perceived at different levels by different viewers. There are insiders and outsiders. In this case, the identity of Chinatown is by and large developed, enriched and preserved by this insiders closely related to it in an informal way, mainly local inhabitants and shopkeepers, while outsiders being the government and foreign visitors.

Experience with the Chinatown identity

Walking into Chinatown, I was overwhelmed by shopping stands lining the two sides of the street which sell souvenirs to tourists. Under this boisterous scene, however, it was surprisingly hard for me to get a touch of the identity of Chinatown. I decided to hear from the tourists one of whom later exclaimed that the place is of strong Chinese identity to him, “look at the surroundings and all those decorations”, he said. Is simply looking Chinese enough to constitute Chinatown’s identity? I wondered. Beneath the physical outlook with colourful Chinese style archite...

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...tionally measured sense of belonging. Based only on this shared identity, if one day Singaporean economy slows down its rapid development it is all but normal for Singaporeans to leave for a greener pasture.

The authentic identity of a place and of the nation in fact should be the identity that grew bottom up with contribution from every normal citizens. The government though has to bear economic consideration, should respect the authentic character of identity of places and of the nation. It may aid in instilling elements relevant to national interest only when fully recognizes the existing intangible aspect of social identity. In the process of decision making, the government should try to make stakeholders fully involved. Only when the development of place identity and national identity takes place as a natural process can this identity grow firm and deep.

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