A once-sleepy village in the countryside of eastern China celebrated its 50th anniversary Saturday by unveiling an incongruous addition to its skyline: a skyscraper taller than New York City’s Chrysler Building and as high as the tallest building in Beijing.
The 74-story Longxi International Hotel towers 328 meters (1,076 feet) above the village of Huaxi and cost 3 billion yuan ($472 million) to build, according to the state-owned China Daily newspaper. The building ranks as the 15th-highest skyscraper in the world.
The high-rise has more than 800 suites, accommodating up to 2,000 people. It also features an exhibition hall, revolving restaurant, rooftop swimming pool and gardens.
Huaxi, in east China’s Jiangsu province, is still classified as a 50,000-person village… China’s wealthiest village. In fact, it was partly financed by the villagers. The 200 households became a shareholder by each providing 10 million Yuan. “The building is a symbol of collectivism,” Zhou Li, deputy Party chief of the village and manager of the Huaxi Village Tourism Co, told China Daily.
“The building exudes wealth and excess,” wrote The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts, who was given a tour before the official opening. One of the most impressive (outlandish) features is a one-ton gold statue of an ox, said to be worth $47.2 million. The statue greets visitors at a viewing area on the 60th-floor of the tower.
It may model itself on Dubai, but Huaxi is still officially classified as a village. Its original residents, just 2,000 families, have shared in the bonanza of its transformation. Reuters reports that they each have at least $250,000 in the bank, as well as enjoying universal health care and free education. Officials from elsewhere in China tour Huaxi to find out how this once sleepy village, with just 576 residents in the 1950s, could have become so rich.
Huaxi village was formerly a typical poor farming community in East China. But thanks to the flowering of township enterprises and the “opening-up policy” that stimulated the local economy in the past three decades, the small village is now a powerhouse symbol of China’s economic expansion.
Huaxi in 1957 was a small village of 576 residents with total assets of $340. In the last five years their revenues have been $35.42 billion USD. The village has grown from a small farming community to an industrial hothouse built on high-tech agriculture, steel manufacturing and textile production. Wu Renbao, secretary of the local branch of the Communist Party is widely credited with the policies that helped the village achieve such success. Over half of Huaxi’s income comes from the Iron and steel industry.
Last year, the village bought two helicopters for sightseeing tours. So far, about 3,600 people have participated in the pilot program. “The air flight project and our new skyscraper are our ways to improve the quality of tourism,” said Zhou Li, deputy Party chief of the village and manager of the Huaxi Village Tourism Co, adding that with these steps, the village aims to accelerate the urbanization process, which makes living in a village the same as living in a city.
Wu Xie’en, Party secretary of Huaxi village, said at the opening ceremony that the skyscraper could help ease the pressure on the village caused by limited land as well as raising living standards of its people.
What remains unclear is where the hotel, with its 826 bedrooms and dining facilities for 5,000 guests, will find its patrons. Local officials confidently predict a tourist rush, but if it does not materialize then their golden ox may come to resemble nothing so much as a great white elephant in the sky.