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7 Astounding Modern Wonders of China

Shanghai skyscrapersShanghai has the highest skyline in China.

China is having a building boom with surprising and huge projects all over the country.

China uses about half of the world's steel and cement/concrete. In the 3 years from 2011 to 2014, China used 6.6 gigatons of cement, which is as much as the US did in the entire 20th century!

These 7 modern wonders are just some of the things that have been built recently with all the construction material.

1. The Three Gorges Dam — World's Biggest Concrete Structure

The Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam is the world's biggest hydroelectric dam. It is the biggest concrete structure in the world too. It cost about 56 billion US dollars to build. The dam's hydroelectric power plants became fully operational in 2012 and can produce 22 gigawatts of power.

The dam is in the scenic Three Gorges region of the Yangtze, and the 600-kilometer-long reservoir behind the dam has become a favorite voyaging region for cruise ships. See the huge dam and amazing scenery on a Yangtze cruise.

2. The Shanghai Tower — World's Second Tallest Building

Shanghai Tower

The world's second-tallest building opened in 2015. The Shanghai Tower (上海中心), at 128 stories or 632 meters (2,073 feet) tall, dwarfs the Shanghai World Financial Center (the "Bottle Opener") next to it.

To cope with Shanghai's deep, sandy river delta soil and typhoons, the tower has 70-meter (200-feet)-deep concrete piles and a spiraling cylindrical shape. It is a showcase of 21st century engineering.

To save energy, the tower is built like a thermos bottle with an outer skin consisting of two glass facades. Mitsubishi built the world's fastest elevators.

See Shanghai's modern wonders on a Shanghai tour.

3. The World's Grandest Bullet Train System

China bullet train

Another great modern engineering wonder of China is the high-speed train system. As of 2018, about 27,000 kilometers (17,000 miles) of high-speed railway (HSR) has been laid. Bullet trains criss-cross the country, providing cheap, comfortable, and convenient transportation.

The world's longest HSR is the 2,298 kilometer (1,428 mile) long Beijing–Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong high-speed railway. The final 106 km from Guangzhou to Hong Kong were completed in September 2018. For comparison, the line traverses the distance from London to Russia or from New York to Colorado.

The trip currently takes 9 hours from HK West Kowloon to Beijing West Station (157 USD second class, 251 USD first class).

4. The Pearl River Delta — The World's Largest and Fastest Growing Conurbation

The Pearl River, Guangzhou

The Pearl River Delta (PRD) conurbation has surpassed Tokyo's to become the world's largest urban area in size and population according to a 2015 report by the World Bank. It now has more than 120 million people.

The PRD, which comprises the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Huizhou, Jiangmen, Foshan, Hong Kong, Zhuhai, and Macau, is about 40,000 square kilometers.

The PRD generated 9.1% (6.8 trillion RMB) of China's GDP in 2016. Since 1978, almost 30% of all foreign investment in China was in the Pearl River Delta, and the PRD Economic Zone has been the region with the largest economic growth on Earth, while China has been the fastest growing large economy in the world.

The Pearl River Delta makes about 5% of all the world's goods. Because of these factors, the PRD hosts China's biggest trade fair, the Canton Fair.

5. The Qinghai–Tibet Railway

The Qinghai–Tibet Railway

In 2006 the Qinghai-Tibet Railway connected Tibet, China's last province to have a railway, to the national rail network. The highest railway in the world (highest elevation 5,072 meters or 16,640 feet), with the highest station and highest tunnel, is one of the greatest engineering feats in modern Chinese history.

Experience this modern wonder and Tibet for yourself on our Tibet Discovery Train Tour. See our Qinghai-Tibet Railway Video for a taster.

6. The Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge — The World's Longest Bridge

China and Taiwan have all of the world's five longest bridges — all high-speed railway (HSR) and all over 79 km! 

The world's longest bridge of any kind, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge (164.8 km, completed 2011). It is part of the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway. It goes over a region of low-lying terrain in the Yangtze Delta that has lakes, rice paddies, and rivers. You'll go over the Danyang–Kushan bridge on the Shanghai-Beijing HSR. It takes about 4 hours and 50 minutes and is another of China's 7 Most Scenic Train Journeys.

In 2018, the world's longest bridge over water was opened between Hong Kong and Macau. It is 50 km long, and replaces the bridge in Jiaozhou Bay as the record holder.

7. Empty Cities and Malls

a mall in China

It is said that "20 new cities are being built every year in China." Though a lot of the new construction is becoming occupied, many large areas remain largely empty, such as Zhengdong New Area in Zhengzhou (reputedly "China's largest ghost city") and Chenggong, Kunming where there are 100,000 empty new apartments.

Ordos that became world famous as an empty city about a decade ago, is still 66% empty as of 2017. Aerial photographs of many new projects show big developments with almost no cars!

Empty Malls

The New South China Mall in Dongguan that was built in 2005, was once known as the largest mall in the world, but it is 90% empty. It is still the world's second or third biggest mall in 2017.

The world's biggest empty building: China's biggest emptiest building is the Pentagonal Mall that was built in Shanghai in 2009. It covers 123 acres, twice the size of the Pentagon in Washington DC, and is vacant.

The biggest building in the world in terms of total floor space, the New Century Global Center in Chengdu, eclipses all other malls and is faring better. China's malls were looking at 30% vacancy in 2014, and in 2017, it was forecasted that as many as 1/3 of China's malls will close within 5 years.

Other Modern Chinese Wonders

Interesting fact: China produces/uses about 50 percent of the world's steel. In 2016, China produced 808 million metric tons of steel. This is almost 8 times what Japan produced and more than 10 times what the US produced. With the steel, they've built:

zhangjiajie glass bridgeThe Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge is the longest and highest of its kind in the world.

In Beijing: Beijing International Airport, the Bird's Nest, the Water Cube, the Beijing CCTV Building, the Beijing Great Wheel …

In Shanghai: The Maglev, the Oriental Pearl Tower, the World Financial Center, Port of Shanghai — the world's largest container port, with the world's largest bridge crane …

Elsewhere: The Canton Tower, the Hangzhou Bay Bridge, Bailong Elevator, the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge … and so the list goes on and on...

Megaprojects are not limited to the Mainland. In Taiwan, the Taipei 101 dominates the skyline, and in Hong Kong, the ICC Tower in Kowloon complements Central District's tall buildings.

Recommended Tours

Tour the Bund with China HighlightsModern wonders abound at the Bund in Shanghai.

Here are our top recommended tour ideas including some of these modern wonders:

If these itineraries don't have what you're looking for, let us know and we will tailor make your China trip.

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