It looked like a scene from a disaster movie.
As the 70-story skyscraper swayed above them, thousands of people ran screaming into the heart of China’s main city of Shenzhen.
Images of the May 18 incident outside the 1,167-foot SEG Plaza quickly went viral, and the U.S. Consulate in nearby Guangzhou advised Americans to stay away from the area. .
The building’s board of directors said in a statement on July 15 that an investigation concluded that the building was “safe and can continue to be used.” He added that investigators believed that removing the mast from the building could “solve the problem of noticeable vibrations in the building.”
The report came less than two weeks after China began enforcing new rules on building skyscrapers, which banned new buildings over 500 meters. Proposals for buildings over 820 feet will also be “strictly limited” and require a specific reason for exceeding that height, they said.
Change guidelines were issued by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission to architects, real estate developers and town planners last year, allowing them to modify designs if necessary. Buildings already under construction would not be affected.
The commission said this was the result of growing safety and quality concerns about some projects.
According to the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), China is home to five of the 10 tallest buildings in the world that exceed the 1,640 foot mark, including the Shanghai Tower which rises to just over 2,000 feet. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest in the world with a height of 2716 feet.
But China’s policy towards iconic indicators of economic strength has gradually changed in recent years, according to Daniel Safarik, deputy director of research and thought leadership at CTBUH.
“There is probably no country that has really taken the building of skyscrapers as a symbol of its economic importance more than China,” he told NBC News by phone last week.
“It’s head and shoulders above anyone else by a good margin,” he added.
Economic reforms initiated in 1978 by the ruling Communist Party of China under former leader Deng Xiaoping opened the country to foreign investment, Safarik said.
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Experts from many different fields were invited from the West to bring the nation “up to par” because “China as a nation wanted to announce its arrival on the world economic stage,” he added.
Foreign architects arrived in droves, encouraged by a welcoming government and a new source of income, which was a good testing ground for revolutionary ideas, he said.
“By the end of the 90s things were really starting to snowball,” he said, adding, “You were starting to see buildings that rivaled anything you would see in North America.”
But the country’s most recent decision, he said, could signal a subtle shift in the country’s attitude towards its economy and development.
“China does not want to be seen as a mere copy of the West,” he said.
The number of new buildings measuring 656 feet or more declined by nearly 40% in 2019, according to a CTBUH report. Various regions were starting to apply height restrictions to new projects.
For Bin Jiang, associate professor of landscape architecture at the University of Hong Kong, financial considerations have also been a key factor in the policy change.
“The money is borrowed from the central bank of China, and the development of skyscrapers creates a big hole in the government’s resources,” he said, adding that they were also expensive to maintain.
“Most skyscrapers create a financial deficit,” Jiang said. “They are losing money every day.”
There was no practical need for them, he added.
For Jian Shi, 23, from Shanghai, the decision to limit his height was welcome.
“I would live on the second or third floor of a residential building instead of the skyscrapers,” she said, adding that she feared for her safety whenever she was inside. a skyscraper and preferred low-rise buildings.
But Safarik argued that the limit does not mean a total ban on skyscrapers.
“There will always be very tall buildings in China,” he said. “There just won’t be any too big.”