“China’s Dangerous Tofu Projects”

The Diplomat on why China urgently needs to address their building standards problems:

In July 2010, anger over shoddy construction erupted in an area hit hard by the Sichuan earthquake when a building intended to be a new home for earthquake victims collapsed (or was demolished, according to state sources) just a few weeks before completion.

In November 2010, 53 people were killed in a high-rise apartment building fire caused by an unlicensed welder. And last month, a car accident in Jiangsu Province revealed that a dam built atop of a Yangtze River tributary was filled with reeds instead of steel beams.

Why is the quality of some of these structures so poor? Corruption and graft undoubtedly play a role when project money is skimmed off the top for and by officials, leaving less funding for quality materials, qualified staff, and acceptable workmanship. Additionally, projects are often granted to companies that have more political ties than qualifications. In January, the Beijing Municipal People’s Procuratorate disclosed that bribery and corruption cases increased in 2010, with urban development and rural election issues involved in the majority of cases. From January to August 2011, the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced that 6,800 officials had been prosecuted for corruption in infrastructure projects.

But there’s a reason the “tofu project” conversation should be restarted: new measures to combat this problem have recently emerged. After a State Council meeting on January 12 of this year, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine announced that they would establish a “blacklist” of businesses reported for quality issues and “shoddy practices.”

Ultimately aside from the danger to human life, “tofu projects” create credibility issues for the government, undermining citizens’ belief in the reliability of government to create safe infrastructure.

And the issue also offers an interesting case study of center-local relations, since many of these issues arise at the local level. At this point, there are far too many counterincentives for rapid construction (mostly at the local level) for there to be an effective central response – officials are rewarded for growth, and large infrastructure projects give local governments status. Sadly it will therefore probably take more accidents like those I described to create sufficient political will to clean up and prevent so many of these projects happening in the future.

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1 Comment

Filed under architecture, development, disasters

One response to ““China’s Dangerous Tofu Projects”

  1. Brewskie

    That crap is littered throughout China; observe…

    http://cmp.hku.hk/2011/09/23/15583/

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-06/19/content_8301942.htm

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peterfoster/100063812/chinas-crumbling-buildings-not-built-to-last/

    http://www.pekingduck.org/2005/08/the-collapse-of-china/ (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Be sure to also check out the readers’ comments!)

    http://topics.scmp.com/news/china-news-watch/article/Judgment-day-fears-for-high-speed-rail-tracks

    http://seeingredinchina.com/2011/07/10/infrastructure-follow-up-nanjings-brand-new-station-needs-repairs/

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8620759/Guangzhou-Opera-House-falling-apart.html

    http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?cid=1103&MainCatID=&id=20120106000014

    http://wtdevflnt.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/truth-of-chinese-manufacturing-quality-in-pictures/ (A good one that shows pictures of Chinese welding techniques – startling and funny!)

    http://topics.scmp.com/news/china-news-watch/article/Judgment-day-fears-for-high-speed-rail-tracks

    http://asiancorrespondent.com/60253/shoddy-bridges-trouble-chinese-netizens/

    http://www.weldreality.com/bird%27s%20nest%20welds.htm (This one provides good info on Chinese welding techniques).

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1359289/Drivers-escape-alive-motorway-section-collapses-beneath-sending-plunging-23ft-ground.html

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timcollard/100042402/china-cracks-in-the-three-gorges-dam-so-300000-people-can-wave-goodbye-to-their-homes/

    http://english.cri.cn/6909/2011/07/11/1781s647648.htm (The road collapsed TWO DAYS into its trial run.)

    http://news.qq.com/a/20110711/000313.htm#p=10 (Photos of collapsed road in link above.)

    http://www.chinareallysucks.com/Site/New_Stuff/Entries/2010/8/2_Entry_1.html

    http://izismile.com/2009/10/27/two-year_old_chinese_apartment_building_13_pics.html

    http://izismile.com/2009/08/17/the_quality_of_chinese_house_building_15_pics.html

    http://english.cri.cn/6909/2011/07/05/2021s646303.htm

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-08/23/content_13167866.htm (This one’s about China slowing down her high-speed trains – again.)

    http://www.businessinsider.com/shanghai-subway-crash-2011-9#comment-4e81efb8ecad044b6b00003d#ixzz1ZAyCoczM

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/06/11/us-china-collapse-idUSPEK16970120070611

    http://www.puddingandchopsticks.com/2011/09/29/puddles/comment-page-1/#comment-2075

    http://www.beckyances.net/2010/11/construction-in-china-a-tale-of-two-buildings/

    http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=325&catid=13&subcatid=84#3391

    http://chinahopelive.net/2009/08/20/the-best-decisions-we-ever-made-in-china-1-ditching-the-laowai-ghetto

    http://chinahopelive.net/2011/07/21/how-to-fix-the-drain-gas-problem-in-your-chinese-apartment

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/09/in-fast-growing-china-a-warning-about-when-prosperity-isnt-enough/244603/

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