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A picture of China now

The pessimism expressed here for some time about China is now being expressed more widely.

Yesterday, via one of my favourite blogs, that of Mick Hartley (I especially like Hartley’s own photos), I found my way to some other photos by David Gray, of China and its newly minted ruins of the last decade and more. My favourite of these is the very first in the set displayed at the end of that link, which has what it takes to become “the” Chinese picture for right now.

It looks very impressive from a distance …


… but if you look at it closer up, it turns out to be a structure constructed by an idiot, full of steel and concrete, accomplishing nothing.

A few weeks ago, Samizdata’s travel and much else besides correspondent Michael Jennings, who has (of course) recently been in China (he has recently been everywhere), was talking of doing a piece about the mad building spree now, still, going on in China. I’d still love to read such a piece, but I fear that Michael may have missed that particular boat, in terms of revealing anything very shocking.

Happily, he did comment at length on an earlier short Samizdata posting about the Chinese construction bubble.

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7 comments to A picture of China now

  • Antoine Clarke

    Growing corn in soil that’s contaminated with chemicals? That’s China all right!

  • Actually, you were talking about me doing a post on China, Brian, rather than I was talking about it myself. And it seems you still are. It’s coming along, although getting a little out of hand. Perhaps it will be the first book like publication of Samizdata press. I’ll get it done by Christmas, though. Promise.

  • No pressure as in this sense?

    I think what I said in that comment I made in April that you linked to stands up well, at least.

  • Charlie

    We have one of these in the US. It was like a pilot program the Chinese government had in the 90’s. “Splendid China” it was called. I assumed you all in the UK had one too. They abandoned it a few years after it opened. I guess it was so successful that they did it on a more massive scale back home in China proper.

    Here”s a few links to some photos. They look kind of similar.




  • Rich Rostrom

    When I look at the close-up of that picture, I see that is a rather small structure, which cost maybe $250,000 to build.

    It was a special purpose structure for an enterprise that failed, at a cost of probably $5M-$10M.

    Such things happen in any dynamic economy, and they’re not especially significant.

    This is not the Burj-al-Arab, or the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang.

    There may be large monuments to failure in China, but this isn’t one of them.

  • RRS

    Jim Chanos,

    The fabulously right short player has been negative on the Chinese “economy” for some time. His statements in a recent appearance that contruction accounts for 70% of the business activity, and exports for 4% (or less?) with manufacturing waaaay down the list, coupled with a residual “toxic” loans portfolio from a few years back (never dealt with, or “written off”) is something that merits looking into and analysis by us “ordinaires.”

    A potential good move may be found in the proportionately decreased role of the PLA and its regional military strongmen in the manufacturing segment. If their response in that sector is indicative of forward thinking skills (they seem to have been focused on immediate cash returns), there may be less to worry about from military agressiveness being effectively executed from China.