Mouldering Malls

How much can 1.4 billion people spend? I don’t think the answer is that simple, but many people drool when they think of the numbers.

Below is a video of a mouldering mall in Shenzen. It also features shops along a main road that see very little business. For every 50 web entrepreneurs who started their own virtual shops in the wake of the pandemic, there are 100 unemployed generated by bricks and mortar shops closing down.

The problem is not solved with a mere shift in job nature or business model. How could it be a healthy sign when the unemployed are only able to find delivery jobs? The property market has already been badly affected. Bad loans pile up and banks will fold. The whole transport business will also be on its knees if people don’t go out anymore.

Obviously, it’s time to downsize and not keep building.

Is the economy in shambles? What about all the good news on TV? Is it all fake? Suffice to say that any mind-blowing project you see in China on a particular trip may not be the same a year later. I have personal experience in Chengdu. The underground network was massive, allowing pedestrians to walk from one end of the city to another in any weather. There was an astronomical number of shops and eateries inside the complex labyrinth. On my first visit in 2014, business was still thriving, but I was told that some of the shops were already closing down. When I visited one year later, only about a quarter of the shops were still operating! Check out this other area in Shenzhen. It could be gone by the time you’re reading this.

Rapid birth, short life, quick death. The Chinese economy is a speculator’s haven. The 红二代,富二代,太子党 can make money with a quick flip, but what about the rest of the people? What happens to them when they try to do the same?

Dalian Wanda Group (大连万达), is a Chinese multinational conglomerate founded in Dalian, Liaoning and headquartered in Beijing. It is a private property developer and owner of Wanda Cinemas and the Hoyts Group.

With investments within Mainland China and globally, the Dalian Wanda group has holdings across many industries including construction, entertainment, media, industrial manufacturing, financial services, high technology, hospitality, real estate, retail, healthcare, and sports. It ranked 380th on the Fortune Global 500 List in 2017. Also in 2017, its assets amounted to 700 billion yuan and an annual revenue 227.4 billion yuan ($35.29 billion). Wanda Cultural Industry Group is one of China’s cultural enterprises which includes movie theaters as well as sports and film production assets, contributing 28% or $10.85 billion to overall revenue.

Shenzhen Wanda Mall

Below: Hangzhou shops at 西溪银泰. A mega project launched with great fanfare, the average value before the launch was 5 million yuan a shop. Below is an image of what it looks like at the launch. There are more than 100 Yintai Cities all over China. The company is still advertising for sales.

Hangzhou ghost mall. Average price of each shop 5 million yuan.

喜玛拉雅中心 is a super high end development incorporating 5-star hotels, art museum, business centre, theatre and shopping mall. Many investors rushed to get a shop in this high profile, mega project.

Baidu is still full of laudatory comments. Check out the video below to see what the place looks like today.

The video below was shot by one of the tenants at this shopping mall at Suzhou. She used to sell cosmetics here and it seems that only the supermarket was surviving. That’s easy to understand as it sells necessities. The purchasing power of the average Chinese person is pathetically weak. It’s an irony that Chinese netizens living among these ruins are resorting to showing their piteous plight on YouTube to gain views and earn a bit of pocket money. Posting these on Chinese social media can get one in trouble.

Even Jackie Chan couldn’t save the following mall at Chongqing from collapse. There are 14 of such business hubs in Chongqing. This one is called 美全世纪城. Below is a bird’s eye view of the development. Apparently, it’s not “mega” enough to get into Baidu. I suspect the other 13 don’t look very different from this one.


Nevertheless, the website announcing fully sold is still up and running. Apparently, there is a huge amount of living, shopping and entertainment space in this project. Unfortunately, even Jackie Chan can’t save it. Making money in China is always a matter of hit and run.

This project 大华光启城时尚购物中心 had its grand opening in 2012. It’s target consumer is the young, trendy and well-off. The place has not completely folded up yet, but one has to bear in mind that it is an extreme anomaly in Shanghai. Many of the shop spaces are “under renovation”, but the video maker observed that nothing seemed to be coming up. Location of the mall is superb. The problem has to lie in the people’s greatly reduced spending power.

Shanghai Yishan Road mall

Note that if you do any kind of Baidu or other search on the internet, there is unlikely to be any indication of the current state of these developments!

Prosperous Shanghai

Shop keepers in Singapore would rush for a shop with the human traffic of an MRT station, but check out the situation at this Beijing MRT station. At the end of the day, impressive GDP numbers mean nothing to the average person. The pandemic killed most of the shops here.

Beijing underground shops

Shanghai 壹丰广场 integrates trading, shopping and office spaces in one very central location in Shanghai. The site was bought over by a Singapore-based German fund, AM Alpha in 2010 and refurbished into its current form by Singapore’s renowned DP Architects. The exterior still looks impressive, but for the truth about the interior, check out the video below.

You would not be surprised that Baidu is not updated and still presents the place as it was at the grand opening.

统建天成美雅 (below) is situated in Wuhan city. It is a government-sponsored mega integrated project with some 14 residential tower blocks and a commercial district with offices and shopping malls. The project was started in 2012 and completed in 2014. By 2021, it has become totally deserted. At the moment, the units are still for sale! See below.

Wuhan government sponsored integrated project