Economic Drivers

Skyscrapers in China

Since China embarked on its economic reforms nearly four decades ago, Chinese cities have witnessed profound growth in size and scale. As the country transformed its economy, urbanization took root as millions of rural emigrants moved to the city, reflected in the commensurate rise of skylines to house growing urban populations as well as nascent business districts. The resulting cityscapes are littered with immense quantities of skyscrapers, a testament to China’s economic might. While China’s investment in skyscrapers has been nothing short of spectacular, little, in fact, has been investigated about their construction.

Through economic analysis, this report endeavors to test several hypotheses with the goal of investigating the underlying factors driving skyscraper construction. China’s unique economic system creates a number of incentives for skyscraper development, potentially complicating matters beyond traditional economic fundamentals of supply and demand. Further complicating factors include the social and political benefits of skyscraper development as well as the symbolic role that skyscrapers can play in building identities for cities.

In order to analyze the various factors impacting skyscraper construction, this research utilizes an exhaustive data set of skyscrapers completed from 1980 to 2014 in 74 cities throughout China. Various regression models were implemented to test for the degree to which skyscraper construction patterns are based on economic fundamentals versus the competitive desire to standout or call attention to respective cities.

The resulting conclusions offer compelling arguments for China’s unprecedented skyscraper construction and provide evidence for a strong economic rationale behind China’s skyscraper growth. In doing so, this report lays the groundwork for additional investigations into the necessary role of the skyscraper in China’s urbanization.

Principal Researchers / Authors: Jason Barr, Professor, Rutgers University-Newark
Jingshu Luo, Ph.D candidate, Temple University
Research Coordinator & Publisher: Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Research Sponsor: Sun Hung Kai Properties
Chicago, 2017
ISBN13: 978-0-939493-55-5
Soft cover, 64 pages, 8.5"W x 11"H

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