August 27, 2017 - No Comments!

Two Faces of Chinese Industrial

The glory and shame of factories and engineering sites that I saw in China.

A big concentration of some very cool civil engineering projects and large, impressive industrial facilities is around Shanghai, so when I used to live there, I went to check out some. Shanghai is divided by the Huangpu River - and to connect its shores, there are many tunnels, ferries and importantly, some neat bridges, too. The first bridge in central Shanghai opened in 1991 - Nanpu.

It was designed by Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute, and the Tongji Architectural Design and Research Institute with help from German structural engineer Holger Svensson.

The bridge's central span is 423m / 1388ft, which is impressive, but the coolest bit is the spiral-shaped access junction at its western end. It is easily my favorite Shanghai bridge.

About 3km / 2mi up-stream is the Lupu Bridge (2003), an arch bridge with once the world longest span (550m / 1804ft). It is second now, as it was surpassed by another Chinese project.

The bridge has an observation deck at its top, unfortunately it's been closed for last few years.

Keeping the direction, the next one is the Xupu Bridge (1997).

Xupu Bridge, as seen from a flight between Huai'an and Shanghai Pudong. Its longest span is 590m / 1936ft.

Leaving Huangpu River, further south is another bridge worth visiting: the 32.5 km / 20.2mi long Donghai Bridge.

It connects Shanghai with the Yangshan Deep-Water Port, another great sight:

Yangshan Port is a part of the world's busiest container port, Shanghai.

Speaking of engineering, I can not go without mentioning the super tall skyscrapers in Shanghai's downtown.

Shanghai Tower (632m / 2073ft) and Shanghai World Financial Center (494m / 1622ft) breaking through the skyline.

The tallest, the Shanghai Tower, includes interesting sustainable solutions. For example, its roof captures rainwater for internal use, there's double-layered insulating glass façade and near the top, the building is equipped with 200 vertical-axis wind turbines to help with the tower's power consumption.

There are, in fact, quite a few of rather impressive green projects across the country:

Windfarm of Sinovel's SL 5000 in the Hangzhou Bay, south of Shanghai. Each blade is 62m long and the turbine's rotor has diameter of 128m (420ft).

But, here's the other side of the coin: While you can see some admirable renewable energy projects in China, it seems like many of these ecological works are only for a good press, instead of actual effort to improve their pollution levels. Because when you look at the average factory or a power plant in China, the image is more like a historical postcard from 19th-century Europe.

A good-sized refinery north of Nanjing.

Smoke covers the sky, and the soil around is penetrated with oil stains. All these make you question the priorities of the Chinese government.

They are building one of the world's biggest wind turbines, but aren't able to install the same ultra-efficient emissions filters that are commonly used across Western Europe. Because of which, the Chinese air is by far the worst I've experienced.

It's not that China wouldn't want to import western technologies. In fact, most of the infrastructure that works in modern China is brought from the west. Many Chinese buildings are designed by western firms - all of Shanghai's skyscrapers above 400m height are done by American companies; the world's fastest commercial train, Shanghai Maglev, was developed and constructed by Germans.

The trains connect Shanghai's downtown and the Pudong airport.  At 430kph / 267mph, the 30.5 km / 19mi long journey takes some 7 minutes.

The Maglev, like all those bridges and buildings is an amazing achievement. However, the Maglev alone was $1.2 billion to build - which brings a question: "How come there's $1.2 bn for a short train; yet, there is no money to cover basic human needs?

You can't get drinkable water from the tap in China, so everyone's buying water in plastic bottles. There are some 1.4 billion people there, you can imagine the amount of plastic wasted just on these bottles every day. And it goes beyond the bottles, many restaurants give you plates and cutlery warped in plastic, some hotels even warp towels in plastic...

Who needs this?

...and then you walk in a forest in the middle of mountains, and there's WiFi coverage.

Many people in western countries see China as an equal economical player, while Chinese would classify themselves as a developing country. This was interesting to me, as usually it would be the other way around. Although China has indeed a long way to go, given by the achievements they have, it seems like they are using the "developing" label only as an excuse to close eyes at the damaging behavior.

Hengsha Island

Anyway, behind all that oddities, it offers plenty of visual goodness - here are some unsorted pictures of China's industrial

The three images above are heating plants in Shenyang.


Ironworks in Benxi


And to end on a positive note, many former industrial sites are beautifully converted for the public:

West Bund Riverside, Shanghai

offices in a former factory, Shanghai's red town 570 district

Power Station of Art. Click for more pictures from there

See my other articles about China, and follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for upcoming posts. Thanks for reading.

Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Collections

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