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Sydney’s Chinatown is currently in transition. Asia-led globalisation in the past few decades has intensified flows of people, commodities and financial resources across the Asia-Pacific region, and this has brought significant challenges and opportunities to Chinatown. Given the major developments at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), on Broadway and at Darling Harbour, Sydney’s Chinatown is a rapidly changing part of Sydney. What will happen to Sydney’s Chinatown in the next five, ten or 20 years?

Moreover, it is widely reported that many traditional Chinatowns, such as those in London, New York and San Francisco, are under threat due to gentrification and urban development. With commercial rents rising and government supporting more high-value land use in Sydney’s central business district (CBD), what will be the future of Chinatown?

Has the idea of Chinatown become obsolete in the face of the rapid pace of globalisation and modernisation? In the future, will Chinatowns disappear completely from major cities? This report is intended to focus thinking about the future of Sydney’s Chinatown.

It describes the historical context within which Sydney’s Chinatown has emerged and evolved, as well as the global forces driving the current re-configuration of Sydney’s Chinatown—including the so-called Asian Century, and the intensification of Australia–Asia relations within a trans-national field we are calling ‘inter-Asian urbanism’. It seeks to answer a number of important questions:

  • What is Chinatown now? What is the demographic profile and business composition of Chinatown?
  • What are the boundaries of Chinatown: where does it begin and end?
  • What is the functional role of Chinatown? How far has Chinatown, over the past decade, become a ‘bridge to Asia’ for both Sydney and Asia?
  • Should Chinatown continue to be given a distinctly ‘Chinese’ or ‘Asian’ flavour in terms of public art and urban design, or should it be treated in the same way as the rest of the CBD? The researchers invite Chinatown stakeholders to consider our findings, to imagine what the future of Chinatown could be, and to provide feedback to this report. 
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