Japan tried four times to be accepted as a leading nation in the world. The Meiji reform which brought Western institutions, food and apparel to the islands, the defeat of its bigger neighbours Russia and Qing China in wars, the attempt to build a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and finally the struggle to become the biggest economy in the world. All four attempts failed, the last two ending in Hiroshima and in the burst of the economic bubble in 1991.
There have been a number of new contestants in the 30 years since. The governments of the Oil-rich Arab states, re-emerging Russia and the land of the economic growth miracle China all spent billions of dollars on prestige objects and activities.
Olympic winter games do not find many applicants to host them anymore except cities in countries looking for prestige without much snow or mountains. Double-digit GDP growth rates have gone out of fashion as well, with the ecological and social negative effect of juggernaut globalisation becoming apparent. At the Two Sessions political assembly last month for the first time since 1990 the Chinese government did not set a specific annual GDP fixed-growth target, claiming to prioritize the quality of its economic development as a signal for a shift of mindset and a new stage for China’s economic and social development.
The latest victim seem to be supertall buildings and artificial islands. Palm Deira, Palm Jebel Ali, The World, Dubai Waterfront, all the grandiose projects to change the Dubai coastline have stalled and plans for similar developments elsewhere scrapped.
The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, has been holding on to this title for a decade, while the Petronas Towers and the Taipei 101 enjoyed it only for six years each. Economically building higher than about 300 meters make no sense as the building cost increase while the useable floor space decreases. There are more than a dozen of buildings higher than 500 meters in the world, half of them in China. For ten more, including the Jeddah Tower and the Sky City Changsha, which would have been higher than the Burj Khalifa, construction started but they are currently on hold. Now the Chinese government has issued a regulation practically forbidding the construction of any building taller than 500 meters.
With the confidence of China and its population increasing with the apparently successful handling of the CoViD-19 crisis, especially when seen in contrast to the developments in other populous countries including USA, India, Russia and Brazil, the need to show off during international trips may decrease in coming years, whereas the suspicion about host societies openly or secretly harbouring anti-Chinese feelings may grow even more. As China’s growth paradigm is moving towards less dependency on exports and a higher emphasis on domestic consumption, the government as well as outbound travellers might covet less awe for building the highest tower or ordering the most expensive bottle of wine in a restaurant than for demonstrating the best taste and knowledge.
As always, best wishes for all our readers from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI WEEKLY team, stay healthy!