China’s sprawling South China Mall was supposed to be a monument to the country’s economic growth and burgeoning consumer culture. Opened in 2005, the five-million-square-foot space—which is twice the size of The Mall of America—stands mostly empty today, as it has for the last eight years.
The mall’s ostentatious design evokes the fakery and flash of the Vegas strip, complete with a giant sphinx, canals intended to carry gondolas and a replica of the Arc de Triomphe, which stands as its entryway. And yet, since its opening, the mall has failed to fill about 99 percent of its store space. The structure sits quietly, an ornately architected ghost town.
While the waste of building materials, labor and money that were poured into it are reasons to mourn this misguided creation, what’s more alarming is that the mall is reflective of a much larger problem in the country. China is experiencing record-breaking economic growth, which is spurring an era of furious development that extends far beyond any practical use.
“The Great Mall of China,” as it’s been dubbed, still remains open, but empty. What follows are the haunting images illustrating the perils of building too much, too fast and consequently leaving behind a trail of economic and environmental waste.
Photo: Wade Shepard/VagabondJourney.com