A LEADING Queensland-based Chinese businesswoman has slammed the tokenism of local ‘Chinatowns’ and says many need to be completely overhauled to foster better business relationships with Asian trading partners.
Gold Coast-based entrepreneur Jie Cheng says too many Chinatowns – including the one in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley ¬– have become nothing more than enclaves for restaurants and nightclubs.
Cheng says a successful Chinatown needs to have a “new-city’’ concept.
“Day and night it must have business-like action and activity, otherwise it is a dead city with no life,” says Cheng, through an interpreter.
“Chinatown must have not just restaurants, but education and government support services and other related cultural elements.”
Cheng is one of the driving forces behind a new Chinatown proposed for Southport on the Gold Coast. She wants it to be Australia’s best.
She has pledged $10,000 to the Chinatown Gold Coast project, which she says needs to buck the trend set by other Australian Chinatowns, which are simply a street containing Asian restaurants.
“When the city council builds the Chinatown precinct they must get a top-tier designer to build the number one Chinatown,” says Jeng.
“The traditional Chinatown in many people’s opinion is an area with Chinese restaurants, and that is the only thing people think of. But that is not the correct way to be a Chinatown.
“We need to start a new page in Chinatown history.”
Cheng, who worked in the Chinese tax department before immigrating to Australia, has a formidable reputation for getting things done. She became an Australian citizen in 2007 and has made her fortune exporting natural medicine products, like “kangaroo essence” tablets.
She is now organising trade missions between Australia and her homeland as part of a new venture, the Australia-China Chamber of CEO (ACCCEO).
Cheng brought her second Chinese delegation to the Gold Coast late last month, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Australia-China diplomatic relations.
The group included representatives from the Dongyang, Liaoning Province.
Cheng says the visitors are interested in making financial investments in the construction, real estate, green energy, education, agriculture and tourism industries.
Cheng wants to help senior executives from both Australia and China establish business relationships through ACCCEO.
“The reason I set up the Australian-China Chamber of CEO is to provide a platform for business to link between Australia and China and to provide different resources, direction and content for people who want to establish their business here in Australia and with China,” she says.
Cheng believes that if the Gold Coast can build a true Chinatown, overseas investors will support it.
Her vision is gaining traction. A traditional entry statement has been donated to Chinatown Gold Coast by Dandong mayor Dai Yulin.
“I was chased by Mayor Dai, he kept asking when can he put the money in?” says Cheng.
There are plans for the new precinct opened in 2014, but the energetic Cheng says “two years is too slow”. She also wants the new Gold Coast Chinatown can represent more than just the Chinese culture.
“With the Chinatown, you have a welcoming symbol, but that welcoming symbol is not just for China, it needs to have a more international platform,’’ she says.
“There must be an international element inside the running of the Chinatown and the management of the Chinatown. ‘’
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