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High-rise drama in Nanchang

The unnecessary demolition of a 10-year-old hotel in south-east China exposes a shallow commitment to low-carbon development, argues Li Taige.

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It only takes eight seconds to demolish a four-star hotel.

Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province in south-eastern China, which claims it is en route to becoming a “low carbon city”, has done something almost unbelievable. On February 6, the landmark 22-storey, 86-metre high Wuhu Hotel, which only opened in 1997, was dynamited. The hotel was owned by Hong Kong’s Kaimei Group, which bought it in July, 2007 with a view to adding a further three floors – raising the building to a height of 90 metres – and refurbishing the interior to five-star standards.

The changes were approved by the local planning authorities, but the company then changed its mind. According to a city planner quoted in the city’s Information Daily on November 19 last year, Kaimei became nervous about possible subsidence and abandoned its plans. A new proposal was submitted: to demolish the original building and replace it with a new 25-storey hotel and six-storey auxiliary building. The Nanchang government signed off the plan in early November, approving both demolition and reconstruction.

The news of the demolition was met with scepticism from the public, with some commenting that the Wuhu was “the best hotel in the city” and demolition would be an “enormous waste” and others calling for an investigation. But the hotel was nonetheless demolished, to the bewilderment of the local community.

The quality of the original building can not have been the issue – otherwise, how could Kaimei have planned to extend it to 25 storeys? Furthermore, professor Xue Fengsong of the People’s Liberation Army University of Science and Technology, an explosions expert who was responsible for the demolition, told the media that the building was “solidly constructed”. The official line from Kaimei’s spokesperson, Qi Xiaoxing, was that there were failings in the structure and design of the hotel and that reinforcement would have been insufficient to enable the planned increase in height. Perhaps they are right that the Wuhu Hotel could not have been transformed into a 25-storey, five-star hotel. But it was designed as a 22-storey, four-star hotel. Why force these changes upon it?

Kaimei’s behaviour is strange enough. But the really odd thing is that Nanchang’s planning authorities played along. Surely, they realised the demolition would waste a huge amount of social resources, not to mention produce large quantities of dust pollution and building waste. Governmental neglect of duty led directly to the destruction of the hotel. Since Jiangxi is one of eastern China’s less economically developed provinces, the demolition of a perfectly good hotel in the provincial capital is particularly surprising. Its reconstruction also entails the pointless consumption of large amounts of energy, which will doubtless increase the city’s carbon footprint.

The ironic thing is that Nanchang talks endlessly about developing a low-carbon economy and creating a low-carbon city. In November last year, the city held the “First World Low-Carbon and Eco-Economy Conference and Technology Exhibition”. Low carbon banners and slogans were plastered everywhere and the conference even earnestly announced a “Nanchang Declaration” on the development of an eco-friendly global economy – through the promotion of low energy consumption, low carbon emissions and low pollution.

Prior to the conference, the UK’s Strategic Programme Fund had launched a low-carbon cities project, with Nanchang the first signed up. The Nanchang Daily reported that Nanchang, along with the provinces of Guangdong and Hebei, and the cities of Chongqing and Baoding, had been named as “National Low-Carbon Economy Pilots” at a climate-change conference in Beijing. The city is clearly very concerned about its environmental labels. Clean energy has an important place on Nanchang’s low-carbon roadmap, with plans for a world-class photovoltaic park. And several months ago, solar energy firm Saiwei’s thin film solar-cell plant went into operation in the Nanchang High-Tech Development Zone.

Many other Chinese cities have the same ambitions and plans for low-carbon economies and new energy. Indeed, a wave of “low-carbon cities” is sweeping across the land. The development of new energy sources is, of course, to be encouraged. But it would be short-sighted to think it is all that is required for a low-carbon economy. Other methods such as waste reduction through urban planning and advocating the use of public transport are equally important.

Demolishing a hotel that has been in use for little more than a decade is not common. But unnecessary demolitions do often happen in China. In one district of Fuzhou, the capital of the south-eastern province of Fujian, the local government recently released a startling piece of news: it plans to demolish a 15 million yuan (US$2.2 million) primary school, which only opened last year, along with a number of residential buildings that are less than ten years old in order to allow construction of a “Central Business District”.

Last summer I visited a project in Wuhan, central China’s most populous city, linking two urban lakes with a 1.7-kilometre long canal. The work involved the relocation of 8,932 households – but the majority of those homes were not actually in the area needed by the project. In early 2007, a Zhejiang University building on the bank of Hangzhou’s West Lake, east China, was also dynamited. The 20-storey, 60-metre high building was designed to last a century but ended up being used for just 13 years. The university had sold its lakeside campus to Hong Kong’s Kerry Properties, which plans to build a new complex.

The legal system should be the strongest guarantee of development of a low-carbon economy. But many take advantage of loopholes or a lack of legislation or simply forget about the law altogether. The unavoidable truth is that many of China’s local government officials have not appreciated the true meaning of a low-carbon economy. They like the low-carbon city label, but not what it really entails.


Li Taige is a Beijing-based journalist. He obtained a master’s degree in engineering from Sichuan University in 1997, and studied as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2003-2004.
 
Homapage image from Lotus prince.

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发表评论 Post a comment

评论通过管理员审核后翻译成中文或英文。 最大字符 1200。

Comments are translated into either Chinese or English after being moderated. Maximum characters 1200.

评论 comments

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

五星级酒店的标准

我试图在网上查了一下五星级酒店的标准,找到一个,但不知道是不是权威的。

我怀疑的是五星级酒店没有非要“25层”的硬性要求。不知道作者或者开发商、政府的标准是哪一份。否则那么多海边五星级大酒店,不可能都是25层的啊。

The standard of five-star hotel

I tried to search for the standard of a five-star hotel on the Internet. I find one but I'm not sure whether it is correct .

I doubt there is any requirement on floor plan for a five-star hotel. Does it have to have at least 25 floors? It sounds impossible to me as apparently not all of those seaside five-star hotels have 25 floors. Which copy of the standard is the author, the developers or the government using?

Translated by Anna(Chen)

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

对一号评论的补充

五星的评定标准在于酒店的房间与服务,而不是酒店的高度。

Keith

此评论由Zhixin Wang翻译

Keith

Anna,

A five star rating will refer to the room and service standards, not simply a hotel's height.

Keith

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

谢谢2号评论

我也是这么认为的,但既然如我们认为的那样——五星级酒店并没有对层高提出要求,那开发商要拆楼重建的出发点就不对了。

I Agree with Comment # 2

I agree with comment # 2. If a five-star hotel does not have requirements on the height, we should seriously question the the developers' intention to demolish the building and rebuild it.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

不只是南昌

中国下一轮将大吹低碳经济、低碳城市、低碳......,其实就是喊喊口号,该干嘛还是要干嘛。

It's Not Just Nanchang

Here comes the next round of sounding off about a low- carbon economy, low- carbon cities, low- carbon..... As a matter of fact it's all sloganeering, you still have to do what should be done.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

低碳与发展经济

虽说是加了3层实际是加了9层 还有那六层呢,这样也可以给酒店炒作炒作,盖楼这点钱算不能什么 今后按照五星级宾馆来收费,领导多下榻宾馆,报销吃喝拉撒睡 钱就出来了 再税务上进行减免 再给一些补助扶植基金啥的 最后损失的都是社会资源 企业损失不大

Low- Carbon and Developing the Economy

Although they say they've added three floors, they've actually added nine; what about the other six? This way, the hotel can speculate, and what can't they do with the money they've spent on construction? Later, relying on the income of the five- star hotel, the boss can add couch hotels, recovering the costs incurred by sales of food and drink, renting rooms, and the money will emerge. Furthermore, tax will be avoided and reduced, grants will be given and donations made to foundations and so on. In the end, the losses are all from public funds, private losses don't amount to much.