For young Shanghai residents like Sui Yiyan, summer is something to be savoured after months spent hunkered inside — even if it means braving the crowds. Sui, a freelance designer, recently spent an evening with friends at ArtHouse, a converted warehouse in one of the city’s trendy art areas, which has extended its hours as part of Shanghai’s state-backed “Night Festival”. 

Government promotion of Chinese nightlife culture is nothing new, but it has gained fresh importance in the wake of coronavirus. Long seen as a financial hub, Shanghai’s cultural prominence has soared in recent years, and now the city is counting on its museums, galleries, and bookstores to stimulate consumption. 

To facilitate the “Night Festival”, authorities have extended subway hours, created pedestrian zones, and added temporary parking areas and it’s cultural destinations have responded in turn with a splurge of promotions. Institutions from Shanghai Museum to Sinan Open Air Museum are offering enticing discounts, prominent downtown bookshops are co-hosting a late-night reading festival, and even street vendors — long the scourge of urbane-minded city authorities— have been welcomed back with street markets popping up across the city. 

While the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture and Tourism has prioritized bringing cultural destinations together under an umbrella event, commercial players are also playing their part in spurring rejuvenation. The city has partnered with private and state-run companies alike, retailer Bailian Group, for instance, has offered more than $1.2 billion RMB in coupons over the past two months. 

Consumer spending may be rising in importance, but health and safety remain the priorities. Visitors must pre register for events through WeChat and wear masks and practice social distancing upon arrival. Even still, after months sequestered indoors the pull of spending a night on the town seems to be winning out. 

The Takeaway

  • Recouping Revenue. Beyond stimulating local businesses, the government-backed initiative allows cultural institutions a chance to recover revenue lost during coronavirus shutdown. 
  • Longer hours, Younger Visitors. Extended openings make post-work cultural visits possible. This allows institutions to build new relationships, particularly with younger audiences, with a view to developing long-term patronage.

Edited by Richard Whiddington