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China’s Infrastructure Controversy: Natural Disaster or Shoddy Workmanship?

Apartment windows were torn out, trees uprooted
Grandmother, in her 60s, and her teenage grandson were killed
China faces global controversy over shoddy construction

A severe storm with strong winds and heavy rain has killed several people in the southeastern region of China.

On April 2, local Chinese media reported that four people were killed and over ten were injured in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, due to a violent storm that hit on March 31. The storm posed a massive threat, tearing out apartment windows and causing severe damage to buildings. The aftermath resembled the devastation caused by earthquakes or tsunamis.

According to media reports, three residents died in an apartment in Nanchang due to the storm. A 60-year-old grandmother and her 11-year-old grandson, who was sleeping on the 20th floor, were thrown out of an unprotected window and died. Another woman in her 60s residing on the 11th floor also fell to her death due to the sudden strong wind.

Videos shared on Chinese social media showed apartment balcony windows that were completely shattered, with furniture tossed inside. People in the video looked shocked as they quickly evacuated with their children.

According to a resident, the affected area was hit by heavy rain of more than 50mm per hour (about 2 inches per hour) and strong winds reaching up to 30m per second (about 67 miles per hour). The strong wind uprooted over 1,600 trees.

Some have questioned whether the windows ripped from the apartment were due to shoddy construction.

In China, there was an incident last November (2023) where the floor of a newly opened supermarket collapsed, creating a large hole. At that time, suspicions of shoddy construction were also raised.

According to a report by the Chinese media Jukmok Newspaper, the accident occurred at a supermarket in Jiyuan City, Henan Province. The supermarket had just opened for business the previous day and had attracted a large crowd.

CCTV footage captured when the store floor suddenly collapsed while customers were shopping. Display stands fell like dominoes and were sucked down below.

Other photos shared on Chinese SNS showed a large hole in the store floor, causing many people to gasp in shock.

Local authorities reported that, fortunately, there were no fatalities, and the two customers who fell into the hole only sustained minor injuries. The site was completely sealed off after the accident, and an investigation was launched to analyze the exact cause, including suspicions of shoddy construction. The hole was investigated and found 1 meter deep (about 3.3 feet), leading to an initial space, not a tunnel or sewer.

The Jukmok Newspaper in China pointed out, “If the basement of a supermarket, where many people and goods move, is a space, it cannot be completely safe,” and “Even if it did not collapse the day after opening, it is a structure that would inevitably collapse someday.” The newspaper asked whether the construction process knew the underground space and whether appropriate safety measures were taken.

Meanwhile, according to experts, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a major national global project actively promoted since 2013, is facing a shaky situation due to shoddy construction being confirmed in various parts of the world.

According to reports from Chinese-language media in the U.S., including Boxun, as of December last year (2023), the BRI project appears to have achieved significant results on the surface. This is evident by the numerous infrastructure projects funded by China in various regions beyond Southeast Asia, such as South Asia, Africa, and South America.

However, China’s projects are faltering. There have been various accidents, including the suspension of vehicle traffic on some sections of the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway in the central mountainous region of Bolivia, South America, which was completed with the support of Chinese companies and opened in the fourth quarter of last year (2023).

According to local media reports, the construction was carried out under unusual conditions, such as insufficient drainage, lack of ditches, and excessive materials, leading to the worst possible situation.

The shoddy construction related to the construction of the Coca Codo, Ecuador’s largest hydropower plant, is facing an even more severe situation. After completion, 7,648 large and small defects were found, and locals even raised concerns about the risk of collapse, criticizing the Chinese construction company.

Local media reports that residents near the Coca Codo power plant grind their teeth at the sound of ‘China.’ In addition, there have been reports of shoddy construction in unusual environments in various infrastructure-related cases worldwide.

One expert stated, “China is tarnishing the prestige of the Chinese authorities themselves.”

In 2023, China faced a crisis with Italy’s withdrawal from the BRI and was shunned in the construction industry.

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