Discovering Modern China: The Payoffs and Costs of Exponential Growth

December 10, 2014 12:39:00 PM EST | By: Michelle Dopps

Shanghai, China SkylineChina’s modernization continues at a breathtaking pace. The new-found economic strength of China has made the country much more assertive on the global stage, and it is drawing global companies to its cities. As more and more employees are assigned to China, the benefits and challenges associated with living there are highlighted.

Urban construction in China has boomed over the last several decades at an unprecedented speed, creating this new modern China.  Transportation infrastructure has been revolutionized, vacant land has been converted into new cities and existing cities continue to drastically renew their skylines in support of China’s drive to become a modern nation.  Over the past decade especially, China has become known for its accomplishments in architecture, attracting some of the most respected architects in the world. These architects have blended traditional elements of Chinese design with contemporary cutting-edge techniques in their new buildings.  Since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the Shanghai World Exposition in 2010, China has created a world-class showcase of buildings in a number of cities that attract tourists from all over the world.  A few of China’s most iconic buildings include: 

  • Beijing’s National Stadium and National Aquatics Center – The circular form of “The Bird’s Nest” represents heaven, while the adjacent square shape of the National Aquatics Centre is a reflection of the Chinese symbol for Earth.  Both were designed and engineered by Arup. “The Water Cube,” where Olympic athletes competed in 2008, is inspired by the natural formation of soap bubbles and is now home to Asia’s largest water park.
  • Chengdu’s Century Global Center - The largest building in the world, according to Chinese officials, is located in Chengdu, capital of the Sichuan province.  The Century Global Center houses southwest China's largest shopping mall, multiple hotels, a Mediterranean village, a water park, an ice-skating rink, a 14-screen IMAX theater and an artificial beach.  
  • Hunan’s Sky City - When it is completed, Sky City in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, will be the second tallest structure in the world. The 202-story building will be completed by the same company that built the Ark hotel in Hong Kong, Remistudio. This company’s super-fast construction method has proven to be inexpensive and effective and could revolutionize modern architecture in China. 
  • The Shanghai Tower – When the Shanghai Tower is completed this year, it will become the tallest building in China and the second tallest in the world, surpassed only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It will also become China's tallest structure of any kind, surpassing the 600-metre (2,000 ft) Canton Tower in Guangzhou.

China’s achievements in development are remarkable, especially when considering that they have created in approximately 30 years what it took the west 200-300 years to create. However, severe challenges such as pollution, rural poverty, significant income disparity and an inefficient state sector persist.  In recent years, China’s leadership has promised its people to focus more on improving quality of life than pace of growth by reducing air pollution, increasing energy efficiency, expanding social protection, improving education and healthcare, and developing services. These are huge issues that have fallen by the wayside as China has focused on growth and modernization.

Without improvements in these areas, the modernization may prove to have been a waste, especially in its ability to continue to attract global companies to China. Air pollution is already proving to be a challenge for companies relocating their employees to China. (To read more about China’s air pollution problem and its affect on employee relocation, click here!) To really be the modern country that its physical growth reflects, China must also show growth in these areas affecting the quality of life of its citizens and visitors.

What other areas of the world would you like to see highlighted here? Our experts would love to share their knowledge on the growth and changes in the cities and countries that interest you. Let us know in the comments!

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For information or questions about this blog post please contact Pam Buchanan, Lexicon Consulting Services, +1-904-858-1255 ext. 1979 or via email at 

Topics: global mobility, foreign workers, china assignments, China

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