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The role of Chinatown in our cities

Asia is booming. Its economy has proven resilient during economic downturn and it is overwhelming to contemplate cities bigger than Australia’s population. Tokyo and Seoul are greater than 20 million and a further 10 Asian cities have populations over 10 million. That’s big!

Given Australia’s proximity to Asia, it is important we build a future with this region for cultural and economic benefit. Asian students and immigration bring valuable business opportunities to our shores whilst cultural diversity, and associated spectacular food, make our communities a more dynamic and interesting destination.

All over the world local China Towns are the material expression of the growing connection between east and west. Adelaide’s Moonta Street, perfectly located adjacent the Central Market and Gouger Street, is a good example of a focal point for people of diverse Asian backgrounds to share with locals and visitors alike.

Activating China Town with events is important. The Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations are traditionally not a single day, but 15 days, and this brings with it exciting opportunities to bring the city to life. Sydney has 30 events over three weeks (such as Chinese opera, dragon boat races, special banquets, art exhibitions, film screenings and history tours) which attract nearly half a million people. Such an expansion will be a work in progress over several years however 2012, the Year of the Dragon, seems an auspicious time start.

A long term vision for any local China Town must to be created to lure international finance and development opportunities to communities. Any China town offer the precinct significant development potential, especially for higher density housing, which can be pursued with international capital.

Such strategies can only help encourage more Asian students to study in Australia. International education is South Australia’s second biggest export, injecting about $1 billion to the economy and developing long-term personal ties between Adelaide and Asia.

It is in a communities best interest to ensure the local Chinese community flourishes. As well as being an important tourist destination and great place to eat, it is our gateway to Asian business and a statement that the local City government and community is in the politics of globalization. Cultural diversity is a strategic strength for any city and we must embrace international partnerships to forge a prosperous future.

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