Hangzhou's past and present make perfect setting

An empty bridge is seen after the police closed the West Lake before G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China on Sept 1.
An empty bridge is seen after the police closed the West Lake before G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China on Sept 1.PHOTO: REUTERS

Negotiations on the first Sino- US joint communique during then US President Richard Nixon's 1972 landmark visit to China ran into roadblocks until Premier Zhou Enlai moved the talks from Beijing to the idyllic city of Hangzhou.

China might have been hoping for a similar effect on talks among leaders when it decided to hold the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Hangzhou, a move that surprised many who had bet on the capital, Beijing, or financial hub Shanghai as the host city.

Other reasons include the city's embodiment of China's ancient past as a "paradise" in the eyes of poets, and its present as one of the fastest-growing cities with a vibrant services sector and as the base of e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Preparations similar to those for the Apec Summit in Beijing in November 2014 have been rolled out in Hangzhou. These include closing factories to ensure pollution-free skies and offering free admission to nearby tourist spots to entice locals to leave the city so as to reduce traffic jams.

Hangzhou has also built a new airport expressway, repaired roads and even added fake balconies to hide air-conditioning units. To ensure security, the authorities have tightened checks at train stations and airports, banned the elderly from dancing at scenic spots and shut down eateries run by Muslim Uighurs.

In the past, Hangzhou was a "paradise" in the eyes of poets. Now, it is one of the fastest-growing cities with a vibrant services sector and is the base of e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Such efforts are not without controversy. One resident who took to the Internet to criticise the G-20 preparations was reportedly detained for 10 days. But an official poll claims that 96.8 per cent of the residents are happy to see it host the summit.

Kor Kian Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2016, with the headline 'Hangzhou's past and present make perfect setting'. Print Edition | Subscribe