Back in the fourteenth century, when Europe was at long last about to quit the dark ages and its merchants finally regained contact with much of Asia, the explorer Marco Polo sent back vivid accounts of the East that captivated the occidental imagination for generations. One city, however, beggared the famously prolix Polo’s powers of description; he simply pronounced the city of Hangzhou “without a doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world.”
This week, China seems particularly intent on conveying a simple message: China may have transformed over the course of seven centuries, but Hangzhou still remains, in the words Chinese officials have plastered on a new set of murals lining the city, “Paradise on earth.” As Chinese President Xi Jinping prepares to play host to world leaders like Angela Merkel, Narendra Modi, Theresa May, and Barack Obama, the city is making a concerted effort to provide a welcoming environment for the visiting dignitaries.
Local residents have been offered an official week-long holiday in order to decrease congestion, countless new trees have been planted, meticulous attention has been paid to pollution levels, and a 855,000 square foot meeting center with a 1.5 billion yuan price-tag will house the event. As Hangzhou official Zhao Yide told the Guardian, “ “We will use this opportunity to take the development of the city to the next stage.
Hangzhou is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world (for the sake of comparison, it regularly receives three times as many tourists as the city of Venice). Still, startlingly few foreigners are aware of the the city’s tremendous local reputation and almost all the tourists who regularly flock to Hangzhou are domestic. That’s a shame because, as many CCEC staff members attest, Hangzhou is an ideal vacation spot ( particularly for American teachers who have just finished their CCEC-sponsored teaching stints!). The city boasts some of the country’s largest stretches of traditional Chinese architectural, verdant lakeside parks studded with historic pagodas, the world’s largest public bike system, excellent hiking, and one of China’s pre-eminent art institutions.
On the commercial side, it seems somehow fitting that the haggling-culture that has always made Hangzhou one of China’s most famous silk markets is the also the place that global e-commerce giant Alibaba calls home.
The intense national focus on China’s first G20 summit seems to come directly from the top; President Xi maintains close ties to Hangzhou, having been responsible for the province as a whole for seven years. He has stated that the goal of the summit as a whole is to obtain an elusive consensus on economic issues and develop strategies to foster innovative growth around the world. Experts widely agree that, given the underwhelming pace of global economic growth and renewed uncertainty about European growth surrounding Brexit, the world will increasingly rely on developing countries within the G20 to power global consumption. Hosting the summit in such style highlights China’s renewed commitment to diplomatic engagement and reaching out, beyond the G7, to find solutions to common problems.
In a smaller way, CCEC is proud to keep doing its part to increase cooperation and dialogue between China, the U.S., and beyond.
Read more about Hangzhou and the upcoming summit here: