Shanghai Tower is China’s tallest building to date. And globally, it is second only to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. The tower sports a twist design – a 120-degree twist to be exact – as a softened triangular “outer skin” is literally twisted around a circular core, sending the glass and steel structure spiraling 632 meters into the sky above the largest city in China.

Now no one is quite sure how long the skyscraper of 128 floors looming over Shanghai’s gleaming Lujiazui CBD can continue to hold the crown of China’s tallest building, while more are sprouting up across the nation.

Chinese papers say a new project is proposed in the industrial powerhouse of Suzhou, where work may commence on a 729-meter tower. Wuhan Greenland Center, another skyscraper nearing its top-up in the central city of Wuhai, may also be in the contest for the title of China’s tallest, with a height of 640 meters.

China’s financial conglomerate Ping An completed in 2017 the 600-meter, 115-story Ping An International Finance Centre in Shenzhen’s central business district, which surpassed One World Trade Center in New York City to rank as the world’s fourth tallest. During the same year, 11 200-meter-plus towers were built, surpassing the number built throughout the US.

As of 2017, China had more than 1,400 skyscrapers above 150 meters, of which 48 are super-tall – at least 300 meters.

The world saw 128 high-rises of 200 meters or above constructed in 2017, with China accounting for 70% of them, or 84 buildings.

China already has 16 towers of 400 meters or up in use, according to a list compiled by the Germany-based architecture database Emporis. To put that figure in perspective, the US has only six.

Skyscrapers, with all their associations with height and prestige as well as service-oriented industries, are still viewed by Chinese cadres as status symbols of their cities, towering icons of a city’s wealth and economic triumph.

The ten tallest buildings in use or topped up in China as at end of 2018. Photo: Wikipedia

The trend to pierce the skies is now not limited to Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. More second-tier cities like Wuhan, Tianjin, Nanjing, Changsha, Suzhou and others are flocking to launch their lofty plans to up the ante in the skyscraper contest to reach new heights.

In fact, many municipal governments offer deep discounts in land prices as well as tax rebates to attract realty developers to build towers, and some even mandate local state-owned enterprises and banks to pool money for such projects, usually bearing the name International Financial Centre or World Trade Center.

But lofty visions and sky-high ambitions apart, one question remains: do these cities really need so many tall towers when there have already been an oversupply of office space and in the meantime government debts have snowballed in lower-tier cities?

But when officials, developers and residents have all developed their obsession with ever taller landmarks, more taller, albeit empty, towers are in the pipeline.

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