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China’s ‘disposable cities’ are not built to last

A tower is demolished as part of a redevelopment project in Chongqing, China. Due to a number of factors, new buildings in China usually don't last more than a couple of decades. (CHINA DAILY/Reuters/Landov)

In China, shoddy urban construction is a growth industry. Wade Shepard writes for CityMetric that the demolition of relatively new buildings provides a quick economic jolt by enabling more construction projects. “The incessant round of demolition and construction keeps the economic wheels of the country spinning,” observes Shepard, author of Ghost Cities of China.

Everyone seems to profit from these “disposable cities,” he writes. Contractors and developers save money by cutting corners on building materials, labor and craftsmanship. The Chinese government buys back properties to resell to developers. The steady demolition and construction helps to inflate employment levels.

Another incentive involves taxes. In China, property taxes are paid in full upon purchase. “Ever-lasting real estate just isn’t in the financial interests of local governments,” Shepard explains. As a result, new buildings in China’s cities are only intended to last about 25 to 30 years, the article says. In some cases, structures less than a decade old are knocked down to make space for replacements. 


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