Since China entered the global free market in the 1990s its city centres have come to look more and more like those of the other free-market economies. As Chinese cities expand at breakneck speed, the government now sets quotas to ensure that a high percentage of buildings are designed by architects from Europe and the Americas.
History tells us, however, that culture follows power. Will China soon switch from importing the cultural products of the western world to setting a new cultural standard in those same countries? Will our cities start to be influenced by Chinese architects and urban designers? This seems extremely likely. But what form will this influence take? We might start by looking at a cultural phenomenon that I call “hybridised returns.”
It has long been observed that cultural influences, taken from one country to another, change to suit the local culture—and a hybrid emerges. This how the romance languages developed from Latin, for example, and also the way in which institutions were westernised in Japan after 1853.