Protecting china's cultural heritage sites in times of rapid change: Current developments, practice and law

China's long cultural history is unique and extremely rich, with countless sites providing evidence of this. Apart from the well-known World Heritage Sites these include old suburbs, archaeological sites, monuments, cultural landscapes, shipwrecks etc. In recent years, the Chinese government has rediscovered the great value of China's cultural heritage and introduced numerous legislative acts for its protection. Since the introduction of the "Open Door Policy" of the 1970s significant progress has been made despite the need to completely redevelop China's legal system after the Cultural Revolution. However, the increased efforts of China's authorities in protecting China's heritage are facing the consequences of the country's rapid economic and social development. Old parts of cities are being replaced by modern housing areas, cultural landscapes are disappearing, and many heritage sites are being destroyed by construction projects or disrepair. Heritage protection agencies lack the necessary staff and funds to protect heritage sites from further destruction or from being looted by criminals who supply the illicit art market. This article argues that, in the face of rapid economic development exacting its toll on the remaining Chinese heritage sites, it is urgent to examine how these sites can be preserved and included into the development process without letting them stand in competition to it, as their loss would be a tragedy for all humankind.
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