China’s tallest building, a bottle-opener shaped 101-storey skyscraper that opened in Shanghai last year, is struggling to find tenants. But construction has begun on a dragon-shaped 121-storey skyscraper to dwarf it by 2014.
In Beijing, construction crews have thinned to a trickle and dozens of cranes crowding the skyline are standing still since the pre-Olympics building boom. The capital’s 73-storey tallest tower is unfinished. The leaning twin towers of China Central Television, planned as one of the world’s costliest media headquarters, have not yet opened.
But despite the economic crisis sinking China’s property market, Chinese boomtowns are building showpiece skyscrapers now symbolic of the rise of the world’s third-largest economy. “China’s construction boom (including skyscrapers) will continue,’’ Jonathan Woetzel, a Director in McKinsey & Company, Shanghai, told the HT over e-mail.
Last year, Woetzel co-authored a report on China’s urbanisation and projected that China could build 20,000-50,000 skyscrapers, (over 30-storey high) and almost the equivalent of up to 10 New York cities, in the next 20 years.
“The race to build the tallest building is even fiercer in some of China’s second-tier cities," said the State-run China Daily this week, citing an ‘edifice complex’ of local officials.
Woetzel affirmed that over the medium and long-term, China’s continued urbanisation will be inevitable despite the global downturn. “Migrants will come to cities in even greater numbers," he said. “Building construction will continue to tap increasing demand generated by more urban residents and increasing incomes."
This week, the World Bank in Beijing forecast 6.5 per cent economic growth for China this year, down from a previous 7.5 per cent forecast.
But the Bank said that China’s real economy is still ‘holding up’.
Media reports say that southern Guangzhou, the export center hit by factory shutdowns, is building a 71-storey tower designed as China’s first skyscraper powered by wind and sunlight.
Shenzhen, where housing prices fell by almost 16 per cent in January, is building its tallest tower too.
We don’t know if these towers will open on schedule and find tenants, but voices within China are becoming critical.
The China Daily report quoted a planner who questioned the steep daily maintenance cost of skyscrapers and said that ‘in some cities the buildings are often half-empty’. According to the paper, a record 4,000 high-rises rose in Shanghai in the last three decades.