When the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to include the China Danxia Landform in the World Heritage List at its 34th meeting in Brazil, it also gave rise to a wave of “heritage fever” in China. According to Ministry of Construction, China presently have 35 items including the West Lake in Hangzhou on the waiting list for world heritage recognition. There is even a saying that plenty more local intentions have lined up on the agenda for the next century.
Behind the fever, it was uncovered that applying for world heritage demands surprisingly huge funding as the six geologically-related Danxia Landform areas have spent over 1 billion yuan to win the recognition. Lang Mountain(崀山) in Xinning County as One of the six areas spent over 400 million yuan for the application when its GDP only broke 200 million till 2008. Where has all the money been? Why does Chinese government become so extravagant when it comes to world fame?
GZdaily reported that it is more about economic drive than just fame. Governments take delight in talking about the myth of world heritage boosting GDP by driving tourism. Take Ancient City of Ping Yao(平遥古城) as an example, since its gain of world heritage recognition in 1997, its tour ticket income rose from 1.25 million yuan to 75 million in 2008; overall tourism income jumped from 12.5 million to 670 million in 2008 and the tourism percentage in GDP also increased from 0.96% in 1997 to 13.91% in 2008. However, not all world heritages work out so successful – Lychee County in Guizhou Province is in over 200 million debts because of the chase after the name of world heritage.
It seems that China’s world heritage fever is backed by the norm of “Economic thrives in culture’s name”. In fact, price rise of tour ticket comes almost naturally after world heritage recognition. Many scenic spots such as Zhangjiajie(张家界), Xidi Hongcun(西递宏村), Jiuzhai Valley(九寨沟), Yellow Mountain(黄山) etc. all give their ticket price substantial rise. There is little probability for Danxia Landform to stay cool after spending more than 1 billion yuan to gain the world heritage fame.
On the other hand, Britain as one of the most active applicants for world heritage announced in 2008 that Britain would take a break in the game due to too much maintenance cost with too little tourism benefits.
Europeans take it for granted to protect cultural relics and scenic spot and tie it with protecting history and national honor. Economic benefits to them are more of realistic consideration than the goal of applying for world heritage itself; whereas China almost draws an equal mark between world heritage recognition and tourism development. In some places, protection is only by-product of world heritage recognition, local governments will exert to loan or raising ticket prices to make up the cost.