There was a hillarious news story during the week, where a huge aquarium in a Shanghai shopping centre promptly exploded. The few shoppers watching the tank had to leap into the clear as a torrent of water and glass burst into the shopping centre. Something like 16 people recieved minor injuries from the glass shards, while several small sharks and a bunch of turtles met their end. In true Chinese fashion, people were back in the scene mere seconds later, standing amongst the glass to take those all important mobile phone photos of the poor sharks as they flapped around and gasped for air.
The tank had been installed in the shopping centre for two years, and its failure was blamed on cold conditions and poor materials – key word being poor materials.
It is an unfortunately common trend in China, that things are simply not made very well. There are constantly stories reported in the news where bridges or similar large structures have collapsed as they are not only built as fast as possible, but with the cheapest materials possible. I was thinking of many of these stories as I stood in line to ride a chair lift to the top of a small mountain in Xi Hui park, Wuxi. I was specifically looking into the control room, where a giant, dusty old wheel powered the chairlift, and looked like it hadn’t’ been maintained since the Qing dynasty. Likewise, outside the park, as i stood on the wide bridge that leads over the Grand Canal – the bridge that bumps and moves every time a large truck (and there are considerable large trucks) crosses over it – I wondered if I might soon be getting a firsthand view of this famous old canal.
China is advancing alright, but they simply don’t have the same level of care that many other countries employ when building things. Face is often only a facade, and as long as it looks good, it passes the test. In Australia, the utterly stringent rules for rules policies that affects practically everything, tends to avoid problems like this. Of course, even the most prudent countries will still not be beyond the odd disaster occurring, but in China, you can practically lay somewhat safe bets on this happening.
As a point of interest, the main reason so many school students died in the Sichuan Earthquake disaster was due to the poor quality of the classrooms in which they were studying. The buildings, that are often five stories high with at least 5 classrooms across – each with 50+ kids inside, simply collapsed like a deck of cards on top of themselves. I was in China when the Sichuan earthquake occurred. I remember standing on the fifth and top level of a building that would have been very similar and just imagining what might happen should an earthquake of such magnitude hit Wuxi. Thankfully, it didn’t.