China – A country under construction

China – A country under construction

All over China neighborhoods are being demolished to make way for the future: bigger roads, huge shopping malls, and apartment blocks.

Recently, people started to voice their concern about China’s construction boom. Headlines like Success Hurts: China’s Building Boom Is Over or Sharp falls in China’s once-booming property market are all over the news. Honestly, I am not a regularly follower of China’s property market. Actually, I couldn’t care less about falling prizes or bursting bubbles, or whatever experts have to say.

I have been living in China for a while now, and have seen the changes with my own eyes. Yes, there are whole ghost cities, empty apartment blocks, and shopping malls. But don’t be fooled, most of those empty places will be crowded in just a few years’ time. Just taking the city I live in now as an example.


Bozhou – A city under construction

Five years ago, Bozhou was more like a village than a city. You would still meet the occasional donkey on the street, no western shopping malls and no tall apartment buildings.

The first western supermarket (Wallmart) opened 2011, the first McDonalds in 2012. Now I have counted at least four McDonalds, three KFCs, two new western Supermarkets are soon to be opened (including Carrefour), and to top everything up, Bozhou’s housing construction boom started three years ago.

I am just amazed. When Bozhou started to develop it’s northern parts, voices expressed the same concerns, we can now read in daily newspapers. “No one will move in!”, “All those shopping malls will stay empty”… Yes, the first two years most of those new build places looked ghost-like, but now everything is booming with life. And because of the success, Bozhou started to open up to the south as well.

That’s where I am living now. I feel excited to be part of this place. Yes, everything is under construction, tall apartment buildings everywhere, half empty, half constructed, but in the end, it will be amazing. Half of the apartments are already sold. Let’s not be fooled, in a country like China with a population of 1.3 billion, every apartment will find its rightful owner.

The government has done an amazing job here. When they started the project of Bozhou’s South Part, they not just included tall apartment buildings, but implemented a whole lake, trees, parks, schools, kindergartens, anything to make the city look nicer. At the moment there is an airport, and two fast train stations under construction.

China is changing so fast. Every single city in China is developing at a speed; no one would have thought would be possible. It is not all negative and bad. People are actually happy about improving conditions.

I am glad; I can be part of the process. And I enjoy every walk to work; walking past the construction sites, taking a break in the newly build park at the lake, enjoying a stroll in the newly opened mall.

How are your experiences with China’s construction boom? Do you think they should stop building?

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

14 thoughts on “China – A country under construction

  1. Great post! I can remember when I lived in beijing from 2008 – 2013 it was amazing to see how much the city changed just in those 5 years. When we first moved there we could also see donkey along the road, but within 2 years they were all gone, the hutong along the rode were torn down and apartments were rising up to the sky. It’s amazing how quickly it happens as well. In CC’s hometown, there were not much to do before, but now within a year and a half, they have gotten a new shopping mall, and they even opened the first mc donalds! haha.
    How does the locals, especially the older one feel about hutongs and other buildings being torn down in Bozhou though??
    I remember, where we lived in Beijing, we lived a little bit close to the airport where almost all the other foreigners lived, and I remember hearing from our Ayi (cleaning lady) that they would tear down the hutong she lived in, to build apartments. She was in her 50’s, and I have never seen anyone look that sad before, of course she would get some sort of money, and the government would provide her with a new apartment, but she did not like it at all. She told me she has never been more upset, frustrated and angry at the same time.

    • I think no matter in which country, older people will always dislike changes, even if they are for the better.
      The local people here, however, are usually welcoming the changes. Villages have changed for the better. Living conditions, simply excess to water and electricity has become better. So, most of the people are looking forward to the new appartments. Of course, the oldest generation would never move out of free will. It’s usally the children who buy an appartment in the city and take their parents with them.

      Honestly, I do understand those old people who are sad about leaving their homes, which they have grown up in. But if you look at some of the houses, they are falling apart, no access to clean water, no electricity. No one in America would allow people to leave in a house like this? So what is so wrong when China wants to get rid of old, unsufficient building structure to make space for something new and better?

  2. As anyone who has been in China I have seen the construction boom. Even though there are enough people in China to fill every single apartment available the problem is that most people simply can’t afford the prices for these apartments. The costs for a simple apartment in chinese cities are just insane, sure the countryside offers cheaters prices but then they are connected with long trips to the bigger cities were the work is.
    For example in Xi’an it is frightening to walk around during evening time because you see in huge apartment blocks perhaps a dozen windows with lights even though there are hundreds of apartments in the building

    • Yes the notion of appartments being too expensive is still lingering. But honestly it is changing. Like every developing country, wages in China are also getting higher. Compared to five years ago, when the average salary in Bozhou was 1400, it is no around 4000RMB for an office job. Change takes its time.

      Appartments or houses in Germany are also expensive, and actually just 20% of the German people do buy houses, and if they do it is almost always on a loan. The same is happening in China now. Where it was not possible to get a loan a few years ago, it is now very popular. Also most of the people pay off their new appartment over the course of ten years (so it’s kinda like a loan). I can tell you, all my friends and family have purchased an appartemnt in the south now, and are paying it off every month for the next ten years.
      I am pretty sure in five years time, most of the appartment buildings will be occupied. Bozhou is in the countryside, but it is a city, like thousand other cities in CHina, and it offers hundreds of job opportunties, so if people buy an appartment here, they don’t need to go to other bigger cities to work.

      • For me it is just hard to understand how the costs of apartments for example in the outskirts of xi’an are even higher than in Hamburg. Even though the average income increased but it would take still for example for my parents in law 120 years to pay of such apartment in their city, it just insane. Of course many people buy apartments with a loan, in any country, who has randomly 200k euros in their pockets anyway.
        The average income in China still has a long way to go before such costs of apartments or other living costs can be justified. There are surely few thing cheaper in China but for example normal ingredients for food are compared to income and to average prices in Europe pretty damn high

        • I think it really depends where you live and where you go shopping. Big cities like shanghai and beijing, and tourist cities like xian are incredebly expensive. But then munich and berlin are expensive as well.
          Appartment prices are already falling thats a fact. In a couple of years they gonna be so low that everyone can get one. Or at least most people. Afterall not even in germany everyone can afford their own housing.

  3. Yep, that’s about accurate. Shenzhen is the most extreme example of this of all, and villages like Bozhou are blowing up all the time. Even famous big cities, such as the outskirts of Guangzhou and the Bund in Shanghai, are probably well over 50% constructed from scratch and the construction goes on and on…

    I wonder if China will ever be finished. They’ll just say one day, “we’re done” and the whole country has finally been assembled. That may destroy the economy or something like that, but sometimes I wonder…

    • I don’t think that it will destroy the economy. China has enough other income possibilities. And it’s a fact that you cannot build forever. In five to ten years China will be done constructing, houses, parks, schools, hospitals, airports… will all have been built, and China can focus on more important tasks. Just like any other Western country did a hundred years ago.

  4. I’m glad to hear that the changes you’re witnessing are positive! Although I don’t follow the news so much, even I’ve heard about the construction boom and the concerns related to it. Maybe if they see your photosーespecially the lovely one of the lake and the greeneryーthey may look a little bit closer than just looking at figures.

    • Yes, I am really not concerned. I was before, when I did my politics major and was following western news on a daily basis. But now living here, and talking with all those people, I can say, for now there is nothing to worry about.
      China is building it’s country. Of course there will always be unhappy people, who are against change (and those are the ones we see on the news every time), but the normal folk here seems very happy. Living conditions have improved so much over the past ten years. No one even complains about the strict government, simply because they get things done, very fast, without years of waiting for the vote to be passed.

      • It’s really interesting to hear an “inside” storyーa lot of the news we get abroad about different places ends up quite biased I guess.

  5. I am not sure how I feel about the construction boom in China. On one side it is as you said, people improve their living conditions. But in some cases, like the hutong areas in Beijing, I think it is sad that they disappear, as they are part of the history and traditional way of life. Maybe some compromises could be reached, for example renovating the houses on the inside, while maintaining the facades and traditional structures.

    BTW Bozhou looks like the district I live in Suzhou! It is lso a new area and we have many parks and lakes.

  6. I agree with Marta. Improving people’s lives is definitely good, but it would be great if not all of the cultural heritage are destructed in favour of building new apartments. Renovating old buildings is an option that is often thought of not worth the effort in China, which is a pity.

    • Yes that is very true. But as i said it happened in every country. First they destroy their own culture and heritage sites, until one day they realize it needs to be preserved. In many parts of china this is happening now.
      Everyone is always talking about beijings hutongs, and forgetting that not everything got destroyed but many parts of the hutongs have been renovated and preserved. Its just a fact of life, we cannot preserve everything…

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