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Shenzhen landslide exposes weaknesses in China’s growth

shenzhen landslide, china economy

SHENZHEN, China — With little more than an architect's drawing and a sales pitch to go by, Tim Chen paid around $500,000 last month for a small apartment being built above a shopping mall on the outskirts of this southern Chinese metropolis.

中国深圳——仅仅是看了一张建筑草图,听了一些宣传,陈永正(音)上月就花了大约50万美元,在中国南方这个大都市的郊区购买了一套小户型,楼底是一个购物中心。

"I wanted to grab a larger unit in the first batch that went on sale, but I didn't grab fast enough," he said in the lobby of the development's salesroom, echoing an urgency that has gripped many buyers in recent months.

"我本来想在他们开售的第一批房子里买套大一些的,但我动作慢了,"他在开发商的售楼处说。最近几个月来,很多购房者都有这样的急迫心情。

Even as the broader Chinese economy has slowed and as housing values have slumped across much of China, the Shenzhen juggernaut has barreled ahead. High-tech start-ups replaced the factories that had made the city a pioneering showcase of Chinese-style capitalism. Millions of young people moved here from across the country. Construction is everywhere, with prices of new homes surging.

尽管中国经济整体在放缓,大部分地方的房价都在下跌,但深圳的房价却在依然如故地上涨。曾经让这个城市成为中国式资本主义样板的工厂,现在被高科技初创公司取而代之。全国各地数以百万计的年轻人涌到了这里。到处都在进行施工建设,新房价格持续飙升。

But the deadly landslide on Sunday in Shenzhen, in which a man-made mountain of dirt and construction debris collapsed, is exposing the weaknesses in China's rapid growth. Disregard for safety standards and environmental regulations remains common despite growing risks, as demonstrated in the Shenzhen disaster, which buried or toppled dozens of buildings and left scores of people missing.

不过,深圳本周日发生的山体滑坡暴露了中国快速增长过程中的薄弱环节。在这起人为的事故中,堆积成山的泥土和建筑垃圾发生了垮塌,造成人员伤亡,数十栋建筑物被掩埋或冲塌,还有数十人下落不明。在中国,无视安全标准和环保法规的做法仍然很常见,就像在深圳这次的事故中一样。

In Jiazitang village, on the outskirts of Shenzhen, Li Xiuhua, a 21-year-old migrant worker, complained on Wednesday about a deserted construction project next door.

本周三,在深圳郊外甲子塘村,21岁的农民工李秀华(音)对隔壁一个废弃的建设项目满口怨言。

"No one seems to care about this construction site anymore," Ms. Li said, pointing to the heaps of rubble and construction waste alongside the road. "Since I moved here two years ago, the construction has been stopped and no one has come to clear away this waste."

"似乎没有人在管这个工地,"李秀华指着堆在路边的瓦砾和建筑垃圾说。"我两年前搬到了这里,之后他们停工了,也没有人来清理这些废渣。"

The landslide in Shenzhen casts a dark shadow over what had come to epitomize the China story, a gleaming metropolis of 11 million people, where only 3.3 million are registered as locals. The migrant city, which did not exist a few decades ago, even seemed to defy the country's current economic problems.

深圳本是中国故事的一个缩影,但这起滑坡事件给它蒙上了阴影。在这个闪闪发光的大都市里居住着1100万人口,其中只有330万人拥有本地人的身份。这个移民城市几十年还不存在,而现在似乎就连中国眼下的经济问题都影响不了它。

In November, prices of new homes contracted in 49 of the 70 cities included in the main official survey of the market, data released on Friday showed. Prices in metropolises like Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai fared better than in most places, rising 8 percent to 13 percent from a year earlier.

从上周五公布的今年11月新房价格看,在官方调查的70个大中城市中,有49个的房价在下滑。在北京、广州、上海等大城市,房价走势比大多数地方强一些,较去年同期上涨了8%至13%。

But Shenzhen is in a category of its own. Home prices soared 44 percent last month, the fastest rise in any Chinese city since the official survey began in its current form, in 2011.

但深圳却一枝独秀。上个月房价飙升了44%,该调查从2011年开始采取目前的形式以来,这是所有城市的最大涨幅。

The property market has become a vexing political issue at the highest levels. This month, the Politburo of the governing Communist Party announced plans to address an enormous housing overstock nationally, including relaxing restrictions on internal migration to help create demand for homes in outlying cities.

对于中国最高领导层来说,房地产市场已经成为一个棘手的政治问题。中共政治局本月宣布了一些计划,希望解决全国范围内巨大的住房库存积压问题,措施包括放宽对国内人口流动的限制,帮助边远城市创造住房需求。

But the frenzy in Shenzhen highlights the difficulties that China faces as it tries to manage a crucial engine of the economy.

但深圳的房价飙升,突显了中国在试图掌控一个重要经济引擎时面临的难题。

The runaway expansion in real estate and construction in recent years — and their slowdown more recently — has led to serious problems with industrial overcapacity and rising debt. In the Shenzhen disaster, the deadly mound of debris was created to fix another problem, the haphazard and sometimes dangerous dumping of dirt and construction waste.

房地产和建筑业近年来失控的扩张——及其最近出现的放缓——导致了严重的产能过剩和债务攀升问题。在深圳的这起事故中,造成人员伤亡的渣土堆的产生,是用一个问题去解决另一个问题——泥渣和建筑垃圾的随意倾倒,有时这种倾倒会构成危险。

Compared with the rest of China, "Shenzhen has a much higher reputation for dotting its i's and crossing its t's, and being much more business-friendly," said Christopher Balding, an associate professor at Peking University HSBC Business School who has been based in Shenzhen for nearly seven years. "At the same time, I'm not surprised something like this happened, because even in Shenzhen buildings are just flying up."

与中国其他地区相比,"深圳在严谨细致上有远远更好的口碑,而且为商业提供的便利也好得多,"近七年来一直住在深圳的北京大学汇丰商学院副教授克里斯托弗•鲍尔丁(Christopher Balding)说。"与此同时,发生这样的事情我也并不吃惊,因为即使在深圳,建筑施工也是只图快不图好。"

Shenzhen is the ultimate symbol of modern China's economic transformation.

深圳是现代中国经济转型的终极象征。

2016-06-23

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