China clamps down on foreign street names like 'Manhattan'

China will clamp down on foreign-sounding and bizarre names after too many streets and developments called "Manhattan" or "Venice" have popped up amid decades of frenzied building, a government official says.

Civil Affairs minister Li Liguo said in a recently televised speech that the government will change over-the-top or imported names and encourage real estate developers and city planners to seek inspiration instead from China's rich cultural heritage.

"Some cities have multiple `Manhattan' or `Venice' roads," Li said. "It's not only an inconvenience to travelers but also erodes a sense of home."

The naming push comes at a time when China's government has sought to limit Western influence from mainstream culture and education. In recent months state media outlets have warned about "hostile foreign forces" broadly undermining Chinese society and hampering China's rise as a self-sufficient and proud nation.

A report by the official Xinhua news agency framed Li's remarks on place names as a matter of national sovereignty and ethnic dignity. Li, a member of China's Cabinet, called on greater cultural preservation and suggested that developers look toward Chinese icons for inspiration, such as Mount Tai or the Yellow River.

In recent years, though, it's common for property developers to evoke a French region or include words like "elite" or "chateau" in the names of shopping malls or housing compounds.

In Beijing's business district, there's a "Central Park" condominium compound while another upscale project is literally named "Yuppie International Condos." A few miles away, a three-bedroom pad at the "Chateau Edinburgh" apartments is listed for about $3,500 a month.