About To Collapse: The other half of the PRC’s construction collapse

China’s real estate and construction industries are on the brink of financial collapse.  It’s not just Evergrande, it’s other companies like Fantasia and Chinese Estates Holdings that are making moves to avoid government action.

China’s construction industry and construction firms are also under pressure thanks to the growing number of building collapses.  This summer, several buildings within the PRC have either collapsed due to poor construction, or been intentionally demolished for reasons of safety.  None of them have been a result of earthquakes.

And it’s not just buildings, it’s roads.  Sinkholes have appeared in cities, roads washed away by flooding, foundations under roads and buildings eroded with the rain.  The PRC’s flooding problem is worse in 2021 than it was in 2020, so bad that they are intentionally destroying dams to alleviate pressure or controlled demolition before they collapse catastrophically.

[ A word of note before beginning: Finding good sources for some parts of this post was difficult, and I doubt some that I’m using.  If more reliable sources appear, I’ll update them. ]

First, to outline the problem with a credible source, emphasis in the text is mine.  From The Diplomat, 2012:

China’s Dangerous Tofu Projects

The term “tofu project” was first coined by Premier Zhu Rongji in 1998, who said on a tour of flood dykes on the Yangtze River that they were as flimsy and porous as tofu dregs, the leftover bits in the tofu-making process. The term – and the problem – gained national traction after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, where 20,000 of the almost 70,000 victims were schoolchildren who died in collapsed school buildings, which were later proven to be hastily and shoddily built.

Four years later, the problem of “tofu projects” remains. 

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.

There were several other similar incidents throughout this summer alone.  But these are not isolated cases; “tofu dreg” buildings have been an issue for twenty years.

Washington Post, July, an article mentioning multiple collapses, fires and explosions

BBC, July: Hotel collapse in China’s Suzhou kills 17, injures five

ANI India, August: 4 killed, 7 injured in building collapse in China

Yahoo, September: Building collapses into floodwaters in China

Indian Express, September: Fifteen skyscrapers left unfinished for years demolished after rain damage

The current worst has to be the SEG Plaze in Shenzhen.  In a mild breeze, the building visibly wobbles at the top.  The building is so unstable that it has been abandoned by tenants.  Official government propaganda claims it is “safe”, but no one will go back unless forced at gunpoint.  Instead of a crown jewel on the city, it has turned into China’s equivalent of the Ryugyong Hotel.  There is video of the shaking.

The Guardian: Panic as 300-metre-high skyscraper wobbles in China

One of China’s tallest skyscrapers was evacuated on Tuesday after it began to shake, sending panicked shoppers scampering to safety.

The near 300 metre (980ft) high SEG Plaza in Shenzhen, southern China, inexplicably began to shake at around 1pm, prompting an evacuation of people inside while pedestrians looked on open-mouthed.

The building was closed by 2.40pm, according to local media reports.

Completed in 2000, the tower is home to a major electronics market as well as various offices in the centre of one of China’s fastest-growing cities.

Officials are investigating what caused the tower in the city’s Futian district to wobble, according to a post on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.

Beijing is so panicked that buildings over 500 metres will no longer be approved, and anything over 250 metres will require special permission, and be limited in number.  I wonder what they’re going to do about the 600 metre tall China 117 Tower.  It’s unfinished and unoccupied, but nobody has the money to complete it.  At least that one’s not in danger of collapsing. . .yet.

Below the fold are less credible sources from youtube videos.  Take all of them with the same heavy dose of skepticism I do.

I’ve been looking for independent verification of all the names and events listed in these videos.  Some of the content looks credible, and the verified building collapses and demolitions makes it believable, but others could still be fake and computer generated.  There is way too much blurry video to take everything at face value.

China Insights: Fragile steel bars/Tofu-dreg project in China/Shaky building/Collapsing buildings/Poor quality

[ Notes and news items about the above video: I cannot find an independent report of Suzhou city.  The building collapse in Chenzhou city is confirmed, as is the sinkhole in a road in Ji’an City.  The June 14 report about Puyang is unconfirmed, but major flood damage happened in the city in July which destroyed roads. ]

I have not checked or confirmed the claims in these videos.  But there are many more about the poor construction standards in China.  The most common claim is that politicians are demanding larger and larger bribes, forcing construction firms to cut corners to save costs, use poor quality materials, not pay workers, or do other things to maintain profitability.  Once again, if it’s true, the CCP can be blamed directly but will never face responsibility.

China Insights: China’s “Tofu Dreg” Construction Exposed By Flooding | Where Did The 8 Billion USD Investment Go?

China Observer: Made in China: 37 Bridges collapsed in 5 years | Ancient China | Quality | moral issues



Final note: Yes, there was a building collapse in Hualien, Taiwan this week, which fell onto a road and nearly killed a man on a scooter.  Thankfully he saw what was happening and accelerated out of harm’s way.  There were no injuries, only car damage.  This happened during demolition, and was not a structural failure.