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Wang’s prize is especially significant for a Chinese government that wants to promote “soft power” _ influence abroad through social and cultural ties. Beijing has set up Confucius Institutes at universities and public schools in the United States and more than 100 other countries to teach Chinese language and culture.

“The Pritzker Prize is like a Nobel Prize in architecture,” the newspaper Beijing Youth Daily said in March. “Wang Shu, the winner, should be widely admired by his countrymen for his achievement.”

The win also could help to boost the status of other Chinese architects, said Nicholas.

“You see one Chinese architect win an award like this and you start to focus and say, there must be some interesting work going on in China,” he said. “It does have an overall glow for the whole industry in China.”

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Pritzker Architecture Prize: http://www.pritzkerprize.com/