As a third and less involved party, Beijing has indirectly put Shanghai and Hong Kong in a highly competitive situation. When at the end of 2009, after a decade of talks with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the capital gave Shanghai the green light for the construction of the first Magic Kingdom in continental China, the economic outcome was rightly seen blatantly immense. Disneyland’s globally very vast audience and Shanghai’s continuous revaluation of its land and properties (as well as the infrastructures themselves) are the components for utmost success.
Just a few days after the news broke out, the innovation’s surrounding area skyrocketed on the real estate market, which proves that the housing fever won’t stop at the 2010 Expo; it will most like pursue the road to the amusement park’s inauguration in 2015. Beijing strategically gave in to both Shanghai’s municipality’s and Walt Disney Company’s request for the site to be opened on more international grounds.
It is no coincidence that the city “On the Sea” is also the more international one, defined by centuries of trade with the outside world. Similarly, Walt Disney is a western stable, an iconic symbol that has been internationally recognized and accepted by various cultures alike. Beijing simply wouldn’t have been apt to host this trademark just yet. The park will thus be built in Chuansha, a semi-like rural city only recently incorporated in Pudong’s jurisdiction — on the opposite side of Shanghai’s river. The company in charge of ruling the construction will actually be a joint venture composed by Walt Disney Company itself and a consortium of three different Chinese companies. A balanced compromise between the two nations was found more in their name, Shendi — a fusion between Shanghai and Disneyland — than in their shares. Shendi will gain 57% of them, leaving Walt Disney to be less earning than its Chinese counterpart, but to hold its position as the park’s primary shareholder.
The deal was finally inked last November, when a new Government agency, Shanghai International Tourism Resort Administrative Committee, was set up to manage the project. Still, the the excitement following this epochal decision left room for a small disillusionment, the site’s size being the main uncertainty. Legally, only 116 hectares of land have been granted by NDRC for the park’s construction, which comes to be about one-third of its original architectural promise. This means that the Middle Kingdom’s Magic Kingdom will be among the five smallest Disneylands in the world — even in respect to Hong Kong’s 126 hectare one, that, because of limited space, has failed to sell enough tickets at the box-office.
However, Shanghai’s municipalities are looking to get out more concessions from the government by requesting additional space during the construction process. Asking and granting legal authorization most likely reflects a political tug-of-war between China’s two most important cities, Beijing and Shanghai. Yet, the very first choice made by both parties to open the amusement park in the first place is having serious repercussions on Hong Kong’s stability regarding its own, established in 2005. Maintenance prices are almost surely going to work in Shanghai’s favor, where also the customer basin is significantly bigger than Hong Kong. Shanghai’s Disneyland allows for curious Chinese to be able to explore this mythical land without traveling abroad or to the former British colony.
This shift further legitimizes Hong Kong’s competitive concerns, to the point where it might have to redefine its values, as well as what it can offer as a city. Shopping and mass tourism will slowly and reluctantly be conceded to Shanghai, while Hong Kong will enjoy a more unique and sophisticated audience instead. The once more modernly perceived city, might thus go to offer more intellectual themes, like the environmental protection seen through a harmonious balance between man and nature, in an overall traditionally Chinese nutshell.