China’s Urban Boom — (Part 11) Building A Century in Fifteen Years


Shenyang, China — With a population over 8 million, Shenyang is the largest city in Northeast China. Shenyang is an industrial center and serves as the transportation and commercial hub of China’s northeast – particularly with Japan, Russia, and Korea – with a good land and air transport network, abundant natural resources, and a skilled workforce. With a 150 year history as the center of heavy industry, Shenyang came to represent China’s painful transition from state-run industry to free market business. By 1990, the city had come to a virtual economic halt when its massive factories went bankrupt and left millions jobless. Massive, bleak housing blocks developed during communism’s peak still blot the reviving cityscape as today’s new development takes hold, funded by Shenyang’s diversification into modern and lighter industry. Investment subsidies are granted to multinational corporations that set up offices or headquarters in Shenyang.

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2 responses to “China’s Urban Boom — (Part 11) Building A Century in Fifteen Years

  • teknophilia

    It really is quite impressive, but I wonder how much longer it can last, they’re demolishing buildings before they’re done, and then rebuilding them and also creating entire ghost cities

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      Yes, it is quite impressive. Marshaling the financial and material resources, engineering the logistics and support infrastructure, and managing to coordinate a symphony of players in these projects is an amazing feat. On the other hand, as you pointed out, inefficiencies, redundancies, and planning failures create scenarios of relatively new buildings being blown up, “uninhabited ghost cities” like Ordos, and the world’s largest mall standing nearly vacant. But, like the rich uncle who can start building a new lake home, change his mind, and start anew, China is rich, rich, rich… and so are the developers and investors advantaging themselves during China’s growth. Sure, buildings can be blown up before completion because someone found what they considered a higher need and could afford to demolish and start anew. Sure the world’s largest mall is a vacant failure, as the developer was a billionaire who wanted to build a massive monument to his ego in his hometown. Sure, Ordos and other cities can be built and sit “vacant”… because, in fact, nothing developed remains unsold; they’re just not occupied. Those who purchased condos and apartment buildings have the wealth to sit on their purchases until more middle-class and upper-class Chinese step up to fulfill the investments. That’s how it is when you’re rich. China is only exhibiting the behaviors of extremely wealthy individuals writ large — i.e., they can afford to be wasteful or make massive mistakes. This fact alone speaks huge volumes of the disparity between the U.S. and modern China. One should note, though, that China is reorienting incentives to slow down the economy a bit so as to allow some breathing space and more centered thinking.

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