What's in a name? It's a big deal for China's hoteliers and real estate developers, if the brand is too 'big, foreign or weird'

By Zheng Yangpeng yangpeng.zheng@scmp.com / https://www.scmp.com/business/china-business/article/3015169/whats-name-its-plenty-chinas-hoteliers-and-property?utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=contentexchange&utm_source=EdgeProp | June 21, 2019 11:57 AM SGT
China's property developers and hoteliers are bearing the brunt of a government edict to standardise location names, as tens of thousands of apartment projects, hotels, townships, communities and office towers across several provinces are forced to rename and rebrand themselves.
The edict was the result of a 2018 policy by six government departments to get rid of "Big, Foreign, Weird" names, and names that played on homonyms. The policy required the country's provincial and county authorities to come up with lists of location names that fell into these categories by the end of March, with the instruction to rename them.
Several provinces including Shaanxi, Hainan and Zhejiang have each listed dozens of property names " mostly real estate projects and hotels " that fall under each of these categories, prompting county and district-level authorities to instruct developers to rebrand their projects.
"To stem the phenomenon, the government should trace the problem to its root, which is the business registrar that approved the names," said Zhao Huanyan, chief analyst for Huamei Consultancy's hotel division. "They should avoid approving names that undermine China's cultural confidence."
Names that exaggerate the size or significance of a project or location, with words like "world," "grand," "international," or even "central" will be subject to revision under the "Big" category.
"Weird" names include those that combine numbers and symbols like "No. 6 Compound" and "EE-New Town" in Shaanxi province, and those that contain derogatory words like Mieziqiao (Anti-capitalism Bridge) between Panyang and Maoyang towns in Hainan. Homonyms are Chinese characters that sound alike, but which mean entirely different things.
There is a Seine Residence in Tianjin, and another in Xi'an, while Shenzhen-based Overseas Chinese Town Enterprises (OCT) had replicated Switzerland's Interlaken district on the Chinese technology hub's outskirts. There's also a Thames Town in Songjiang district outside Shanghai, complete with Victorian terraces, red telephone boxes and statues of Harry Potter and Winston Churchill.
"It is very common for Chinese companies to adopt foreign names to make their projects sound upscale," said Huamei's Zhao.
A view of Thames Town in Songjiang district outside Shanghai on Friday 21 July 2006. Thames Town is one of several satellite townships that Shanghai is building in hopes of luring residents away from the city centre. Other European themes used included Scandinavian, Italian, Spanish, Canadian, Dutch and German. Photo: Bloomberg alt=A view of Thames Town in Songjiang district outside Shanghai on Friday 21 July 2006. Thames Town is one of several satellite townships that Shanghai is building in hopes of luring residents away from the city centre. Other European themes used included Scandinavian, Italian, Spanish, Canadian, Dutch and German. Photo: Bloomberg