World Cities Forum in Chengdu, China Harnesses Power of Creative Culture

World cities from 25 countries, including Deputy Mayors and senior officials from London, New York, Paris and Moscow, gathered for the World Cities Tianfu Symposium in Chengdu, China to discuss opportunities and link together the influence of culture in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a development strategy proposed by the Chinese government which focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, primarily China, the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the ocean-going Maritime Silk Road (MSR). Deb Johnson, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator was one of 35 delegates invited to the symposium representing creative thought leadership in New York City.

BF+DA Executive Director Deb Johnson at the World Cities Tianfu Symposium in Chengdu, China

The city leaders joined leading figures from the Chengdu creative industries and cultural sector to witness the launch of a new report on the potential of world cities such as Chengdu to develop cultural and creative economies and enhance global trade. The report, produced by leading London cultural and creative industry consultancy BOP, assesses the potential of world cities to use culture as a means of facilitating trade and investment and describes Chengdu as a ‘pioneering world city’ in its policy and vision for investment in culture.

“I think what we saw at the symposium is that arts and design both offer interesting ways for people from different cultures to connect,” says Johnson.

“There’s something about the aesthetic language inherent in art that takes conversation out of challenging issues like politics and makes us think of society as whole…it’s a different language that bypasses communication with words to really communicating through an aesthetic experience,” Johnson adds.

The World Cities Culture (Tianfu) Symposium which is a partner event of the World Cities Culture Forum saw delegates sign a joint declaration committing to the establishment of a new World Cities Belt and Road Cultural Forum. This new forum has been especially designed to enhance the success of the Belt and Road initiative by bringing together world cities through cultural exchange in order to catalyze integration and investment.

The Deputy Mayor of Chengdu said, “We are pleased to welcome so many international officials to our city and to share a little bit of Tianfu culture with the world. It is rewarding to see that the recent investments by Chengdu into cultural industries such as fashion and design are paying dividend and being recognized in reports such as this. It is our vision to contribute to the success of the BRI by developing a cultural dimension to the initiative.”

Paul Owens, Director of World Cities Culture Forum and Founder of BOP said “More than ever before today’s cities need to be prepared to make the case for investment in culture and human capital. Our report shows that infrastructure and systems are fundamental to good growth but without the balance of making places for people, our cities will not succeed. Chengdu’s long history and prioritization of social harmony and aesthetics will hold it in good stead as it seeks to build a stable economy and international links.”