But this year, a Disney licensing company is taking over operations from the local communist government. It's the first time a private company has run the ice festival.
So instead of candles flickering in ice lanterns in front of a frozen replica of an ancient pagoda, Harbin now has Cinderella's castle with an escalator and neon lights, and people posing for photos with ice sculptures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Sometimes it's a too-small world after all.
Photo by StrudelMonkey