China Is Removing “Foreign” Names

Civil affairs ministry reaffirms plan to eradicate names that ‘violate the core values of socialism, damage national confidence’

WeChat Official Account: ExpatRights

Beijing has reiterated its commitment to rid Chinese cities of “big, foreign and weird” property and place names, sparking a backlash from the public.

The campaign began last year when six government departments introduced a joint policy requiring provincial and county authorities to identify all such properties within their jurisdictions and rename them by the end of March.

On Friday, the Ministry of Civil Affairs reaffirmed its support for the plan, but reminded local governments to implement it “prudently and appropriately”.

Many Chinese properties, especially hotels and apartment buildings, incorporate famous foreign places, like Manhattan, California or Paris, into their names, but under the new rule, they all have to go. According to a report by local newspaper Sanqin Metropolis Daily, in one city in Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province, at least 98 apartment projects, hotels, townships, communities and office towers need to be rebranded.

But for some people, the plan is nothing more than a waste of time and money.

“If projects are forced to change their names, what about the name on the property certificate, the enterprise licence and tax registration? Do they have to be changed too?” asked Zhu Yun, a woman who lives in Guangzhou, the capital of south China’s Guangdong province.

“And what’s the standard for the new names, and who’s going to do the renaming? It’s just a waste of people’s energy and money, and will do nothing for the national culture or confidence.”

Zhu Min, an octogenarian who also lives in Guangdong, said the scheme had echoes of a darker time in China’s history.

“It reminds me of the bad times of the Cultural Revolution,” he said. “At that time, a great number of streets, roads and stores were forced to rename, because they contained elements of old customs and old culture.”

The debate has also been raging online, with tens of thousands of people airing their views on social media.

“Cultural and national confidence is about respect for multiculturalism,” one person wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

Despite the outcry, the civil affairs ministry said the implementation of the scheme was “an important measure … to carry forward the national and local culture”, Xinhua reported.

“The relevant regulations and guidelines of the campaign should be strictly observed to prevent the campaign from being expanded in an arbitrary manner,” it said.

The plan announced last year stated that “big, foreign, weird” place names and those based on homonyms “violate the core values of socialism, damage national confidence, and affect the production and lives of the people, and must be rectified and cleaned up”.

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