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Chun Han Wong 王春翰 @ByChunHan
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When the Shekou Museum of Reform and Opening first opened in December, visitors were greeted by this sculpture depicting a 1984 visit to Shenzhen's Shekou district by Deng Xiaoping and other senior leaders. 1/
At the time, the museum said the sculpture showcased Shekou's achievements in its front-line role in economic reforms. Photos of the sculpture appeared prominently in publicity materials. It was a museum centerpiece. 2/…
The museum was commissioned in 2015 by China Merchants Group, a state-owned conglomerate. Senior Shenzhen officials, including the mayor and the propaganda chief, attended the grand opening on Dec. 26, 2017 -- China Merchant's 145th anniversary. 3/
The propaganda chief, Li Xiaogan, peppered his speech with references to Xi Jinping's slogans and the 19th Party Congress that concluded two months earlier. He said he hoped the new museum would become a base for patriotic education. 4/…
Nearly 80,000 visitors—including officials, state-media reporters and students—visited the museum between Dec. 26 and late May, when it announced an imminent "upgrading" starting June 2. The result, it said, would be an improved experience for visitors. 5/…
The museum initially said it would reopen in July. That estimate was later revised as mid-to-late July. And then early August. Eventually the date was set for Aug. 10. 6/
As reopening day approached, the museum's website was updated to show a new name and logo: the Shekou Museum of China's Reform and Opening-Up. (see new and old versions below) 7/
I showed up on the morning of Aug. 10 not knowing what to expect. I only had a hunch that any refurbishment to this museum, undertaken just months after its grand opening, was likely to result in changes reflective of political currents in Xi Jinping's China. 8/
The first impression was decidedly striking, a Party flag motif on the building's exterior, adorned with the words, "China's Reform and Opening-Up." Large yellow numbers marking the decades from 1978 to 2018. 9/
The moment of truth. As I entered the museum, where I expected to see the sculpture featuring Deng, I saw video screens flanking a beige wall adorned with text. A quotation, in Chinese and English, from a speech Xi Jinping gave in February. 10/…
To belabour the point somewhat, here's a photo comparison of what the museum lobby looked like before and after the June-August "upgrading." 11/
I summarised my observations about notable changes to the museum's displays in a @WSJ article. Here's a link:… 12/
The museum comprises two exhibitions. The main one recounts the history of economic reforms. The other is dedicated to Yuan Geng, a Communist revolutionary turned entrepreneur who led Shekou's development. The redesign primarily affected the main exhibition. 13/
For a flavour of what the museum's original layout and displays looked like, check out these links. 14/

The redesign retained most Deng-related displays (except the sculpture). It notably added new displays on Xi Jinping's late father, Xi Zhongxun, who was Guangdong party chief from 1978-1980. (see photo comparison of equivalent displays before and after the redesign) 15/
The Deng sculpture is gone, but the photograph showing the scene it depicted remains on display. 16/
The main exhibition concludes with a section on Xi Jinping's Belt and Road initiative. There's no mistaking who the star is in this particular gallery. 17/
A mockup ship's bridge once stood at the end of the main exhibition. Not any more. The concave wall where a simulated ship's view was projected now screens a video promoting Xi Jinping's Belt and Road initiative. 18/
The museum's activity room features a curious coda to the refurbishment: a video recounting the preparations for the museum's December grand opening. Among its highlights, glimpses of the now-removed Deng sculpture. 19/
As mentioned earlier, most Deng-related exhibits were retained in the post-redesign museum. Including this chair that Deng once used during his 1984 visit to Shekou and samples of his calligraphy. Deng wasn't written out of history here, but he now shares the stage with Xis. 20/
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