Will China Fall Prey to the ‘Skyscraper Curse'?

China is set to pass the United States in numbers of skyscrapers. According to MotianCity, a research organization in China, currently there are 470 skyscrapers in China, 332 under construction and 516 in planning. By 2022, the number of skyscrapers in China will reach 1,318 compared to 563 in the US.

In addition, the tallest building (828 meters) in Dubai will then be replaced by a 838 meter high tower in Changsha. The total investment on the construction of skyscrapers will reach more than RMB 1,700 billion. However, whilst some Chinese citizens are in celebratory mood over these construction achievements, many are worried about the ‘skyscraper curse’.

According to the Skyscraper Index put forward in January 1999 by Andrew Lawrence, the world's tallest buildings often rise on the eve of economic downturns. Investment in skyscrapers peaks at the time when an economy is about to recess.

Shanghai Putong's skyline in 2009. Photo by Remko Tanis (CC: BY-NC-SA)

Shanghai Putong's skyline in 2009. Photo by Remko Tanis (CC: BY-NC-SA)

Below is a selection of discussions about the Southern Metropolis’ report [zh] on the skyscraper story from Sina Weibo comment thread [zh]:


热狗方包: I don't think [the vision to become top of the world] cannot be realized. In ten years time, the Chinese economy will be in the mud.


美容瘦身研究会:This is not just a culture of extravagance. If we don't have political reform, the country will be doomed to failure. When export collapses, consumption shrinks, the disparity between rich and poor further deteriorates, the more government invests will result in more corruption and deficiency. When the USSR collapsed, the government investment was 70% of the GDP.


你的六等星:The benefit of the 1,700 billion investment, if spent in education and public health would be more substantial than the skyscrapers. How come the government won't do that?


矿工菅井利羽:Crazy. Are we setting up targets for terrorists to attack us with all these skyscrapers. All the developed countries in Europe, America and Japan do not find skyscrapers desirable. Only the nouveau riche countries, like Dubai and China are so eager to build such towers.


D9只耗子:The craze for skyscrapers is the symptom of upcoming economic depression.


在田人:The city is like human's organ. Health is most important. Whether a city is healthy depends on its functionality, its ability to withstand disaster, its citizens’ attribution and civic manner. The extravagance outlook of the city is just a fragile mask which can be torn off easily by a rainstorm or a big fire or a epidemic. Who is happy about the skyscraper race? Will ordinary citizens be happy about it?

裸奔—蜗牛:给几点建议:1,入口处放体重秤一把 2,请气象局严格监控刮风下雨,飞禽动向,以防某只鸟飞行中打瞌睡不小心撞上,造成严重后果。3,看门人,电梯工给双倍工资,因其是高危职业,随时有顶锅、进号子的危险。

裸奔—蜗牛:A few suggestions: 1. place a scale in front of the entrance; 2. the weather observatory body should monitor the wind and rain, also the birds’ move, in case some sleepy birds crash onto the wall of the buildings and bring disaster. 3. should give double salaries to the door keeper and lift maintenance workers, all these are highly risky jobs and they probably have to take all the blame when disasters happen.


飞上蓝天390:the higher the skyscrapers are, the poorer people are, the quicker they will fall.


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