The Building Boom?
60 Minutes did a piece just a couple of weeks before we left: about all the empty high rises that are surrounding China’s big cities. We saw 100’s, maybe 1,000’s, of 20-, 30- and 40-story residential buildings, rising like benevolent monoliths outside of every city and town we visited. The Chinese don’t tear down their old towns for the most part – they build a new town around the old one, converting farmland to high rise footprints. We could not get the guides to really talk about this, and by Beijing I had given up. But the tower crane business must be a good one to be in these days, because they are everywhere, 6 or 8 in a cluster, as 6 or 8 highrise towers are raised as one, each with its own crane. I don’t believe there is anything anywhere that can compare to this.
Cities are ringed with high rises, and the high rises are miles deep outside the centers of the biggest cities. According to some we spoke to, no one from the countryside can afford these homes, and there aren’t enough people from the cities to buy up all of them. The government recently cracked down on the ownership of multiple apartments so it is unclear how they will be filled. And the government subsidized the building of these huge empty cities. Where does the money come from? What will happen to all these buildings? How can a communist economy continue to pay for this kind of development?