Small Enterprises, Big Impact: How Nanjing’s SMEs are shaping the future

Nanjing is the second-largest city in East China, with a population of over 9.4 million, known as the ‘Capital of Six Dynasties’ since 229 AD

Cultural Heritage

Nanjing’s history has endowed it with a rich cultural heritage, boasting 533 sites graded above the ‘county level’ in terms of their significance, including 27 of national importance and one designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Prominent attractions in the city include the Ming Tomb, the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, and the Nanjing City Wall. The United Nations has also recognised four of its intangible cultural heritage assets as significant, notably the artistry behind Nanjing Yunjin brocade. Nanjing boasts a remarkable total of over 2,400 heritage sites, along with 72 museums, 127 cinemas, and 34 theaters. Furthermore, the city exhibits a strong culture of volunteerism, with a staggering 1.86 million service records. In fact, the Pingan Volunteer Association earned the title of ‘Best Volunteer Organization in China’ in 2016.

In 2019, Nanjing attracted 147 million visitors, with tourism revenue totalling CNY 278.5 billion, a year-on-year increase of 13.2%. However, Covid-19 has caused a hiatus in many previously successful tourist events in the city. For example, its Chinese Spring Festival, which in 2019 attracted 5.71 million visitors, generating CNY 6.19 billion, plus an additional CNY 74.721 million from a simultaneous film festival, saw almost no revenue in 2020.

Embracing Change

Nanjing has invested in developing its night tourism offerings and was named the ‘annual city of night tourism’ by the China Tourism Influence Prize. Drawing from the city’s longstanding literary traditions, it is running a major City of Literature program from 2020-23. Underpinned by the latest digital technology, the city-wide event includes more than 200 venues. Similarly, its new commitment to studio theatres is large-scale, with 100 either new or upgraded venues planned. By harnessing the whole city to work alongside the government – tapping into a strong culture of volunteering as well as universities and cultural businesses – Nanjing aims to rapidly grow its standing as a cultural and tourist centre.

The Role of the Policymaker

The city is run by the Nanjing Municipal People’s government, which is in overall charge of cultural policy, with the Education, Science, Culture, and Health Committee mainly responsible for cultural sector legislation, and the Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism taking a lead on cultural heritage protection and tourism development. Nanjing Academy of Social Sciences acts as a think tank, offering research that underpins cultural sector policy.

Much of the cultural workforce is employed by small, medium, and micro-enterprises across the city. These play a vital role in the sector’s ecosystem and work cooperatively together. As of June 2021, Nanjing had 154,037 new art and cultural organisations and 540,000 new art and cultural practitioners, covering art forms including literature, theatre, music, dance, fine arts, and literary critics, artistic training, and cultural investment management. However, these businesses have also proved fragile in the face of restrictions and uncertainties of the pandemic, with their survival and development both at risk.

The Future

The challenge for Nanjing over the next few years is to upgrade both its infrastructure and grow public engagement. For example, there are 15 public libraries in the city, plus a further 114 library rooms based in community centres and cultural venues, offering 19.65 million books, but no independent municipal children’s library, and Xuanwu District and Lishui District have not yet attained national first-class standards for their cultural centres. Although there are cultural service centres in a few villages, community participation needs development.

© Images Courtesy of Getty Images/Canva

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