Hu Guirong of Dongguan, China built the New South China Mall at a huge cost. It boasts 892,000m² of space and capacity for 2,350 stores. Roller-coasters and regional decoration based on Amsterdam, Paris, and Rome liven up the sprawling shopping giant. Developers assumed if they built the shopping center in a city of 3 million people, shoppers would come. Other Asian developers have successfully built huge malls targeting middle class consumers.
But the South China Mall is almost completely vacant and has been ever since it opened. Shoppers simply can't afford the carnival atmosphere, so they stick to local shops.
Ghost cities have plagued China, as I first reported in 2010. Government grants and investment enthusiasm led to construction projects that really had no purpose, buildings destined to sit empty. As I suspected back in 2008, new construction would not be enough to stimulate economy. Pollution, totalitarianism, corruption, widening income gaps, and terrorism would prove too much.
The architectural failures of China reveal the deep problems that will always prevent the country from becoming first-world.