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China papers over cracks in rush to build

  • Author:naky
  • Source:www.diecastingpartsupplier.com
  • Release on:2015-12-28
Led by a top scientist, home to large technology companies and the site for a new design museum, Shenzhen is the shining example of economic reform and smart city planning in China.

But the deadly landslide that hit the city on Sunday when an enormous rubbish heap collapsed has undermined Shenzhen’s reputation and once again underlined how rapid development in China has all too often been achieved by papering over the cracks in the system.

After preliminary investigations, Chinese officials said the disaster was caused by a “huge amount” of construction waste piled too steeply into a landfill site. Its collapse prompted a terrifying mudslide that swept away buildings, engulfed an industrial zone in metres-deep mud and left more than 70 people missing.

Chinese state media reported that local government had warned of problems at the site previously, and police on Tuesday raided the offices of the company responsible for managing the dump, taking away a senior manager.

“Some residents had been complaining about the site for years but no one acted on this,” said Ng Mee Kam, a professor of urban studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who has studied Shenzhen’s development.

“I’m shocked. In China, the general perception is that they don’t practise what they preach but Shenzhen is a city where urban planning is generally well respected.”
China’s government is keen to promote its biggest urban areas, with their extensive metro systems and towering skyscrapers, as rivals to the world’s best cities, none more so than Shenzhen, which has been the cradle of economic reform since the country started to open up in the late 1970s.

But a series of fatal man-made disasters in big cities in the past 12 months has highlighted the corruption and bureaucratic incompetence that lies beneath the futuristic cityscapes. In addition to the Shenzhen landslide, more than 100 people were killed in August by an explosion at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin and more than 30 were crushed to death in a new year stampede in Shanghai. In both cases, officials were detained or sanctioned for their part in failing to prevent the tragedies.

Fang Chuanglin, an urban planning expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, said the local government in Shenzhen had failed to adequately assess the risks of the landfill site and such problems were widespread across the world’s second-biggest economy. “The cities are growing too fast, making it difficult for infrastructure building, disaster prevention and mitigation and scientific planning to catch up,” he said.

The disaster in Shenzhen is particularly damaging because of the city’s role at the forefront of President Xi Jinping’s plan to reform the Chinese economy, reducing the role of pollution-emitting heavy industries and fighting corruption, while promoting high-tech development and sustainable living.

In March, Ma Xingrui, who was previously China’s top space scientist, was appointed as the city’s Communist party secretary with a mandate to accelerate the transformation of Shenzhen, just over the border from Hong Kong.

The city of 11m permanent residents, and many migrant workers, already has the country’s fastest-rising property prices, is the base for leading technology companies such as Huawei and Tencent and is building a design museum supported by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.