2008 Olympic marked nearly the end of the great monuments rush of China. Beijing’s Olympic Park, the “Bird’s Nest” stadium, and the “Water Cube” swimming stadium are the pinnacle of those monuments. The new airport terminal, T3, was the largest in the world. The strangely looking CCTV tower suffered a humiliating fire that delayed its opening from 2008 to 2013. And there is the huge “Dragon” building (北京盘古) on the side of the Olympic Park almost stealing the limelight.
China impressed the world. They became the other super-power. Their leaders are as influential as the US presidents. Mission accomplished, the nation’s attention shifted to practical things: brutal power wars, anti-corruption, the high-speed train system, the CO&sub2; emissions, and the mundane highway projects.
ChengDu, the jewel city on the west (really as west as Kansas City to New York), belatedly unveiled its “New Century Global Center” complex. When it opened in mid-2013, it became the largest building (in term of floor space) in Asia. It is really covered cloister. Underneath the curved transparent ceiling, there is an artificial beach larger than some of the Hawaii’s bests. One side dotted with a normal sized swimming pool, a wading pool, and a couple of whirlpools. The other side is a twisting tube monster water park.
One long side of the cloister is a shopping mall with the normal big-named anchors, a movie complex, a super-market, many restaurants, a large food court, and of course numerous smaller shops. The other long-side appeared to be unoccupied, designed to be office buildings. The subway station, connected one the basement level, was packed during the commute hours.
Like all such monuments, it lights up in the evening. ChengDu locals flocked to the covered and air-conditioned beach. The movie complex, restaurants, and food courts all had healthy foot traffic. Judging from the people, this seems to be a commercial success.
Monuments are symbolic. ChengDu is hinting the second phase of China’s modernization grand plan: the west is the future.