Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Hangzhou Prepares for G20 Summit | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55357716

Policemen secure the road near the venue of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Hangzhou – Hangzhou city in southwest of Shanghai had changed in the past few months as it prepared for the G20 summit.

The Chinese city felt like a ghost town ahead of the arrival of leaders from the world of the 20 countries after the government encouraged residents to clear out and cranked up security for the summit.

What mostly attracted the Chinese and regular visitors of the city was the scarcity of passers in the streets and lack of traffic, which used to be part of the daily routine in Hangzhou.

Roads and malls around the main venue in the center of Hangzhou were largely deserted with just a smattering of cars and people around while shops were shut and locked. Even construction was stopped in the city, which is very uncommon for this economic city.

Chinese officials chose Hangzhou for its economic and political symbolism. The city witnessed the transformation from an economy based on low-cost industry to developed technology.

The city, a tourist hot spot, is home to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holdings and to textile factories as well as steel. Such companies had succeeded in benefiting the local market, hiring local manpower and expanding globally.

Politically speaking, the city is close to the heart of the president Xi Jinping who said he spent five amazing years in Hangzhou.

The G20 summit could be the second largest transformation the city witnessed. Officials spent billions of dollars on renovating and enhancing the roads.

The city also closed over 255 factories inside it and on its outskirts to reduce air pollution. Officials also reduced number of cars and even took out taxis.

Authorities declared a week-long holiday for the summit, shut down the city’s famous West Lake beauty spot and offered free travel vouchers worth up to 10 billion Yuan ($1.5 billion) to encourage people to visit sites outside the town.

Residents welcomed those changes saying they should have happened sooner. A business man told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Hangzhou needed those changes a while ago, and they shouldn’t have waited for an international summit to make them.

The business man added that pollution levels reached a “suffocating degree” and are unbearable.

A Chinese student studying in London wondered about the ramifications of closing hundreds of factories during the summit. She said that many families depend on their work in these factories and local and national economy need them.

Experts on Chinese matters said that all those measure don’t solely aim to purify the Chinese sky and welcome the G20 leaders in a clean environment. The real reason behind those changes is to reflect the strength of the ruling party.