For the Friday File the New York Times reports that there are ten White Houses, four Arcs de Triomphe, a few Great Sphinxes and one Eiffel Tower in China. In 2012 London’s Tower Bridge was duplicated in Suzhou, and was claimed by media to be “Even More Magnificent than the Real One”.
So what is with the popularity of copying these icons as your own? “According to Cheng Taining, an architect at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, many officials see foreign designs as shortcuts to achieving a look of modernity and worldliness.“Chinese officials like foreign things they’ve seen. They will tell you ‘Please design a building that looks like that building overseas.’ That’s obvious in the numerous cloned buildings in China. Officials believe building a ‘White House’ or a ‘European-style’ street confers status.’’
In 2014 Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the preservation of China’s cultural legacy an appealed for the stop of “weird buildings” that were “oversize, eccentric, weird” in favour of buildings that are “appropriate, economical, green and pleasing to the eye.” Besides London Tower Bridge there are over 56 copycat bridges in Suzhou including the Sydney Harbour bridge and the Alexandre III Bridge from Paris. These bridges are used for wedding photo shoots and the popularity of the bridges can be reflected in the number of accidents caused by the wedding shoots. When asked why she wanted to be photographed in her wedding dress on the Suzhou London Tower Bridge, a bride answered “The effects in the bridge shoot will be quite good, and you don’t even need to go abroad!”