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The second post in our INSIGHT series exploring Chinese Design events. We will delve deeper into the sphere of Chinese design, exploring trends, issues and current affairs. Longform articles will be written by EightSix contributors and thought leaders within China who will add their voice to the growing emergence of this Asian design powerhouse.

This week, Elliot looks at the biggest design events in China, Beijing Design Week and Shanghai Design Week, and why one is in a class of its own, whilst the other lags behind.

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I began to write a piece about the merits of Shanghai Design Week (SDW) and how it competes with Beijing Design Week (BJDW) in terms of exposure for Chinese designers. This is not the case.

The designers, creative businesses and anyone with interest in design in China and Shanghai will have been rather underwhelmed with Shanghai Design Week. From the lacklustre line up of designers to the scarcity of events, Shanghai has a long long way to go before it even compares with BJDW.

But why? Shanghai Fashion Week is on the collective consciousness of designers around the world, with international media exposure and a larger influence on the global stage, but SDW just doesn’t.  Rather than paying lipservice to the idea of design and the idea that Beijing has a design week, more should be done to promote the work of young Chinese designers to overseas audiences. It should be an opportunity for Shanghai to show off its UNESCO status as a City of Design – and truly be a city for design.

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The general concensus is that Beijing is the more creative city than Shanghai – which is more money oriented. Looking at the line-up of events in Beijing, all over the city, with real insights and discussions into the state of international design and Chinese design, it is a real dialogue between those with a lot of experience and younger Chinese designers. Work is showcased in imaginative ways and spaces, often with the public involved. The Beijing city government do a great job in aiding the festival and remaining fairly hands off. I feel that SDW is less hands off, and as a result the quality of the event suffers. Shanghai on the other hand is not very forward thinking with a porcelain exhibition and a wood carving exhibition. These are not aspirational products at the forefront of Chinese design.

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Shanghai has the tools, the knowledge and the community to pull this off. Why not a series of installations in the subway, with one of the largest networks in the world the exposure would be fantastic. Why not open up the discussion of Design in China to a younger audience, and try and offer something different from Beijing – each festival supporting each other. Design in China is still in its infancy and without a united front, it will be slower progress to a unified Chinese design identity.

Come on Shanghai, we know you can do better.

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This series is exclusive to EightSix. Please do not use any of the materials shown, whether in part or in whole, without prior permission from the editors. All images are copyright their respective owners. Shanghai image Copyright: Blackstation.

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