Extravagence out of control: China’s Tower of Babel

In a China where millions of citizens still live in chronic poverty, with little or no access to the basic necessities that we take for granted (clean water), where migrant workers by the millions are forced to leave their rural villages for the big cities where, exploited, they typically earn barely enough money to feed their families, is this ‘Tower of Babel’, christened “New Countryside in the Air” by its developers (see link below), which is nothing more than a trophy built to make a name for self-indulging village chiefs, a venture too far that will prove to be a conspicuous failure? A future monument to the excessive greed, decadence, and wasteful squandering which are inevitable by-products of a totalitarian society starved of freedom of expression, political accountability, and economic transparency?




Huaxi village, Jiangyin County, in Jiangsu (which according to the People’s Daily is China’s richest village, with an annual income of over €4 billion!!!!) is building what will be the world’s 15th tallest building and 8th tallest in China. In a rural village? Says the “elected” (likely the only candidates) village chief of Huaxi, Mr. Wu Xi’en, “..it is now the time to get rid of that image (that rural areas always have low houses) and build a new high-altitude rural area“.


Key features of the “New Countryside in the Air”:


  • Design height: 328 metres / 1,076 feet (Hong Kong’s Central Plaza, its 3rd highest building, which dominates the Wanchai skyline, is 374 metres))
  • Floors: 74 stories (Hong Kong’s Central Plaza has 78 stories)
  • Total investment: 2.5 billion RMB (about €260 million… the original planned cost was €155 million)
  • Construction area: 20 million + square metres.
  • Residential accommodation: 2,000 people
  • Restaurant seating capacity: 3,000 people enjoy meals at the same time (including Asia’s largest revolving restaurant)
  • Elevators: 35 elevators with speed at over 10 m / s, the fastest in China.
  • Surveillance equipment: The world’s most advanced !!
  • Fire extinguishing equipment: The world’s most advanced!!
  • Opening date: 2011, the 50th anniversary of the village’s founding.

I wonder how the system really works at the local village level in China, where village officials are not subject to the same regulations as civil servants, and where villagers, although provided with rights to watch over such officials, dare not speak out against abuses of power (including forced seizure of land, the misuse of village assets on loans to companies owned by relatives of the village bosses who run their districts like fiefdoms, embezzling government compensation for land use rights or selling out collective property in closed-door deals) by greedy village heads for fear of reprisals.


Astonishing, up to €260 million invested by a village in a village!!  And what of the planning permission process? Wouldn’t there need to be approval for such an investment at a provincial level? Where was the provincial supervision? Didn’t anyone care to step back and ask if the money could not be better spent, or in the very least attempt to assess the risk exposure of the local government and the banks that helped finance this construction?


What does this probable “white elephant” say of the ideals over which the founding fathers of the People’s Republic fought a brutal civil war? All those vices traditionally blamed on the decadence of the colonial exploitation that China had to endure now have a free reign to thrive, despite numerous campaigns over the decades to weed out such “spiritual pollution”.


When China’s property bubble explodes and the China economy eventually and truly hits the buffers (the one cardinal rule all economists agree on is that what goes up eventually comes down), this edifice to gluttony that is the “New Countryside in the Air” will loom large in the ensuing post-mortem which, doubtless will cite the excessive waste and missed chances to help those most in need and create a more equal society.


.. By the 60th anniversary of the village there are plans to open Huaxi Dragon Tower, which at 118 stories will be 538 metres (1,765 feet) tall.

 New Countryside in the Air

Tower of Babel

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