#China's Construction Projects Often Fraught with Risk.

posted Aug 13, 2013, 2:51 AM by Peter Joseph Moons   [ updated Aug 13, 2013, 3:07 AM ]

Shoddy is as Shoddy Does: The Risk of Chinese Construction Projects

August 13, 2013

Comments by Peter Joseph Moons

     Let's face it: China has a reputation for building projects that sometimes fall down in dramatic fashion or are so poorly done, re-work is required to improve a building’s integrity. Moreover, when China itself suffers earthquakes, these temblors often bring down major and multiple buildings. In Sichuan, China, a quake killed “5,335 students,” and many were in buildings considered less than structurally sound. Overseas, the government of Tanzania is claiming the Chinese firm, Beijing Construction Engineering Group Ltd. performed shoddy work that must be re-engineered. At a major airport project in Zanzibar, there were claims of because of “dishonesty in contracts [and] big architectural mistakes” for an “international airport project.” Not a good way to leave a positive impression elsewhere in the country or on the continent, in which China apparently seeks to be a major economic investor.


Mongolian Games Stadium Collapse


     Major construction projects done in China, or overseas by Chinese construction/construction management companies, that collapse are well known; such catastrophic events capture the media's attention and seemingly come as a surprise. However, there are likely residents, local politicians, construction workers, or managers who, effectively, 'knew' something was amiss before a collapse. One story of such shoddiness focuses on the unbelievably cheap doors in what appears to be an apartment building, which is bad enough. Unfortunately, the really scarey part appears in the last frames of the video, which show a long, wide gap between the building and its foundation. The knowledge of this dilemma probably did, and certainly now does, go beyond a few residents.

     While so many failures of large-scale construction projects by Chinese firms are now coming to light and being cataloged, there may be a nascent ability to rate the companies (if they have been in business for some time) against an international standard. This would allow for a fair assessment in order to predict how a large-scale project may result. The time is right for this type of evaluation: In another gravity-aided disaster, a “30,000-seat stadium, costing £100 million and rushed to completion in nine months for [a previous] Mongolian Games,” came tumbling down shortly afterwards.

     Two more major Chinese construction projects are already on the horizon: the Nicaragua Canal Project and the plan by “Chinese conglomerate Broad Group...to build the world's tallest building (838 meters) in less than a year...near the central Chinese city of Changsha.” One Chinese company was recently identified for the quality of its product -- shoddy concrete -- used in, surprisingly, Changsha, China. While likely not the only concrete supplier in that city, the linkage creates bad optics because with China's history of construction failures, buildings like these could merely be accidents waiting to happen.

     Depending on China's domestic freedom of speech policies, one outlet for residents or neighbors of shoddily constructed buildings would be to 'name and shame' those responsible: the politicians or bureaucrats who approve projects, banks that finance them, companies that build them, and real estate agents that sell individual flats. Everyone in the chain has some level of fiduciary, and moral, responsibility. Better to do this now than when another high rise collapses or the sides of a canal catastrophically cave in.

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