Like most major cities around Shanghai, Hangzhou, a city of 6.5 million inhabitants famous for its picturesque Westlake, has experienced a spectacular building boom, sporting the usual set of experimental skyscrapers with cut outs and pagoda roofs, as well as a dense net of flyovers that distinguish contemporary Chinese cities. The great dreams created by the 2008 Olympics also accelerated the building activities here. However, some more “elitist” projects stand out. The former Chinese Academy of Art, designed by Beijing-based architect Li Chengde in 2003, is a pleasant walk-in campus made of gray, ivy-clad bricks and blackened steel elements. In the interior there is a spacious garden featuring rocks, ponds, and Chinese-style bridges. The overall humanist impression of the Aalto-like environment might be marred only by the rather pompous design of the entrance.
Most recently, in the West and also in the East, postmodern playful symbolisms have rekindled an architectural interest in monuments. On the other hand, wherever monuments appear today in Western democracies, they are not supposed to spell out ethical messages linked to narratives of progress or well-defined historical orientations about countries or people. In post-world war Germany, for example, a certain anti-monumental approach is common. The past abuse of heroic architecture for fascist aims has made any attempt to represent political ideas through monumental buildings suspicious in the eyes of most Germans. As a consequence, buildings with monumental potential are often small scaled, lightweight, and playfully structured, which gives them the quality of “authenticity” in the sense of being just what they are.
Another task of monuments is to register grave errors and to deplore abomination. In almost no cases do new monuments today provide role models and have no “incitement to action” (p. 53). Carpo attributes this new modesty and the attitude which resists the monumental celebration of great deeds to the “non-socialist” world because in the capitalist world “we can hardly honor any act of valor accomplished after the end of World War II: the heroes we now tend to remember are most often the innocent victims of someone else’s crimes” (p. 54).
As a consequence, monuments have become part of the material world of anthropology rather than of history or politics. This in agreement with the UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the World Heritage Convention, which decided that the identification of cultural heritage as monumental architecture is a Western construct and that in the post-modern era of preservation, heritage does not need to have, or should not have, monumental value. 
Another task of monuments is to register grave errors and to deplore abomination. In almost no cases do new monuments today provide role models and have no “incitement to action” (p. 53). Carpo attributes this new modesty and the attitude which resists the monumental celebration of great deeds to the “non-socialist” world because in the capitalist world “we can hardly honor any act of valor accomplished after the end of World War II: the heroes we now tend to remember are most often the innocent victims of someone else’s crimes” (p. 54). As a consequence, monuments have become part of the material world of anthropology rather than of history or politics. This in agreement with the UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the World Heritage Convention, which decided that the identification of cultural heritage as monumental architecture is a Western construct and that in the post-modern era of preservation, heritage does not need to have, or should not have, monumental value. 
Diana "monument" in Paris
Makeshift memorial site for Michael Jackson at the base of the statue of Renaissance composer Orlande de Lassus on Promenadenplatz in Munich.
The absurd way in which both Hangzhou buildings make use of the arch becomes emblematic of a decorative-monumental procedure that is different from that of the Hong Kong clock tower. Normally, arches are supposed to heighten the sense of spatial distinction, as they suggest the existence of an ideal environment situated in a "within" that needs to be separated from the "without." It is, of course, possible, that “nothing” is inside, that the arch is merely part of a device of simulation. However, in that case there will at least be an “inside” whose economic or symbolic value can be designated as an act of simulation. In Hangzhou, the arches are "all there is" without leading towards any "inside." They continue to symbolize everything arches are supposed to symbolize but they do so in an empty and merely decorative fashion. Even their way of displaying follows the paradoxical rhetoric that all arches have in common, which is: being sober and unemotional though at the same time always dangerously close to kitsch.
Nietzsche’s opposition of the monumental and the decorative is anti-modern in the sense that it contrasts a “deep” historical-monumental approach towards the world with a superficial, “modern” one which grasps only the “image,” that is, the world’s decorative surface. Certainly Nietzsche does not condemn decoration per se. “Decoration” can be part of the monumental but it needs to be clearly subordinated to the latter’s rules and its language. To take a more recent example, Stalinist architecture developed cornices, obelisks, and figures that were decorative but participated in their own way in the discourse of monumentality. Only a self-sufficient decoration speaking about nothing but itself (and which is therefore de facto silent) is deprived of cultural power.
The monumental elements in the Chinese buildings described above are powerless. They do not even influence the attitude of the visitor because people do not attend these places but simply look at their monumental elements. Here it becomes clear that the strategy pursued by the stammering monumentalists is also different from the subversive procedure of Pop Art, which declared that decoration must be seen as the most essential element art has to offer. Opposing Adolf Loos’s view that ornament is a crime, pop artists would put the modern system of ‘monumentality vs. the decorative’ upside down, as has explained Mark C. Taylor: “For the pop artist ornament is not a crime but is the very 'essence' of art. When ornament is essential, however, essence becomes ornamental and vanishes in a play of appearances grounded in nothing beyond itself."  This is an inverting strategy. As to its essence, it remains modern to the bone. Pop Art “decorations” are exposed in art galleries or in public space just like monuments.
In agreement with Nietzsche’s thoughts are those of Lewis Mumford who claims that modernity simply cannot produce any monuments: "The very notion of a modern monument is a contradiction in terms: if it is a monument, it cannot be modern, and if it is modern, it cannot be a monument.”  What Mumford means is that history-denying modernity is unable to pay tribute to lasting beliefs. However, it is not the geometrical character of modern architecture that he condemns. On the contrary, simplicity and formalism of design can be very beneficial for expressions of monumentality. The problem is that modernist geometry does not intend to say anything because it is devoted to the speechless lack of ornamentation.
The scheme exposed above turns out to be very characteristic of the present Chinese political situation since the partly neutralized or domesticated monumentalism works along the lines of other "neutralizing" ideologies. Minority cultures, for example, far from being integrated in the social tissue of the Chinese Republic, appear almost nightly in insipid State Television shows to perform their folk dances. They are encouraged to do this not in order to develop their own cultural strength but in order to provide a spectacle. While they are presented as living monuments of a multicultural China, in reality they are nothing more than its decorations or, in the worst case, objects of touristic consumption because the political context of present China does not foster their real cultural development.
All this goes hand in hand with the pop versions of a new "Mao cult" selling badges bearing the portrait of the chairman as decorative accessories; or with the pop treatment of Chinese revolutionary songs by rock singers like Cui Jian in the 1980s. Far from being a simple parody of the revolutionary aesthetics (which would never be permitted), Lao Cui's "rock tunes dismantle and deconstruct the revolutionary ethos offered by the literal meaning of the words."  And when words are put in the alien musical context of Western rock music, their monumental character is neutralized to become merely decorative. The new Mao cult or the "Mao Zedong Fever" that broke out at Mao's birthday centennial in 1993, are manifestations of the same stammering monumentalism that is manifest in the architectural examples presented.
The most obvious examples of "decorative monumentalism," however, might be the "Eiffel Towers" that can be spotted on the roofs of thousands of suburban Chinese family homes. What would Roland Barthes have to say about them? Having no other function than conveying the social prestige of its owners, the Eiffel Tower, this Western symbol of monumental concreteness, becomes here fully "liquidized" into decorative fantasies symbolizing nothing other than a very vague idea of Western lifestyle.