We strongly believe that the national memorial to the Chinese Labour Corps has social and cultural benefits, and these in turn mean that it will have significant economic benefiting the locale in which it is located.
The social benefits of the memorial are wide-ranging and include impacts both for the Chinese community in the UK as well as wider society. The rediscovery of the Chinese contribution to the Britain’s Great War effort is changing the way the Chinese community in the UK perceive themselves and their relationship to British society. It marks a shift in the historic timeline of Chinese migration and contribution to the UK, and for the first time, Britain’s Chinese community can begin to talk about the Chinese contribution to the UK which starts before migration in the 1950’s and 60’s. The impact of this should not be underestimated in a community in which history plays such an important role. In a tangible way, the Chinese community’s sense of belonging has been strengthened.
For better or for worse, the British public’s perception of China impacts upon their perceptions of the Chinese in Britain. From the perspective of the wide British public, the notion that China is someway a threat if not an outright enemy is also being challenged by the Chinese Labour Corps’ narrative. They are a marker of China’s long standing friendship and common cause with the British people, and a pointer to China as the fourth ally in the fight against fascism in the second world war. Shifting perceptions of China, from cold war adversary to an historical supporter of Britain’s causes, can only have a positive impact upon social attitudes in general.
The memorial will be of world class design and craftsmanship, and a significant addition to the public realm within which it will be located. It will have an intrinsic aesthetic appeal as well as its commemorative significance. It will add to the cultural diversity of London, and undoubtedly contribute to the appeal of London as a tourist destination, particularly from Chinese tourists from the mainland, but also from the Chinese diaspora, including Canadian Chinese for whom the Chinese Labour Corps has particular significance.
As has been mentioned, to the Chinese, history plays an important cultural influence. The direct linking of Chinese and British history will provide an irresistible pull to Chinese tourists in the UK. By the time the memorial is unveiled in 2017, it is estimated that Chinese tourists will contribute £1bn to the UK economy. The importance of the growth in Chinese tourists is being met by Visit Britain has a dedicated China Welcome Campaign and targets Chinese tourists with material such as the video below.
Why Chinese tourists are so sought after is very simple. According to a recent report, the average Chinese visitor spends £647 a day, excluding accommodation. By 2023 it is forecast that Chinese visitors to the London will spend £1.85bn. The national memorial to the men of the Chinese Labour Corps will, by virtue of drawing significant numbers of Chinese tourists, will bring a substantial economic benefit to the neighbourhood in which it is located.