When Pierre Beaudet was told about a Chinese corporation’s plans to build the world’s tallest building in record speed — 2,749 soaring feet in just 90 days — the global studies professor marvelled Thursday: “Ah. There’s nothing they can’t do.”

Having already revolutionized construction by literally stacking factory-made modules like Lego blocks, Broad Sustainable Building Corporation is sending the world a message — not just about itself, but also about its home country: Make no mistake, China is an epicentre of technological progress and a nation worthy of awe.

“It’s a symbol of their new superiority,” said Takashi Fujitani, the director of Asia Pacific studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs’ Asian Institute in Toronto. “Modernity today is really about speed in a lot of ways, so being at the top of the world is about being able to do things fast.”

Decades ago, the United States and Russia flexed their muscles in a politically charged race to the moon; today, China is racing for the clouds. The phrase “the rise of China” is uttered so often it is almost cliched, but if Broad is successful, the country will literally rise above any other.

“It’s another frontier — on Earth,” said Mr. Beaudet, who teaches at the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies. “It proves their capabilities … It’s symbolic.”

The 90-day challenge starts in January, when the 220-storey tower will sprout module-by-module from a piece of farmland in the southeastern Chinese city of Changsha. Although Broad and its chairman Zhang Yue have stunned the world before — first in 2010 by building a 15-storey hotel in 48 hours and again a year later by stacking together a 30-storey tower in just 15 days — this latest creation, nicknamed Sky City, is the most audacious and aptly named: After the modules are stacked at a rate of roughly five storeys per day, Sky City will boast a hospital, a school, 17 helipads, and enough apartments to house 30,000.

“If anyone else in the world made such a claim, it would be immediately thought of as crazy,” Mr. Beaudet said. “But China is very strong in engineering and organization.”


The prefabricated tower — “prefab,” as the technique is already dubbed — will rise 10 metres higher than the current tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, and according to it will rise a whopping 24 times quicker. For all its wonder, though, Sky City is not the culmination of Mr. Zhang’s lofty ambitions.

Traditional construction is chaotic. We took construction and moved it into the factory

“Pinned up on his office wall are plans for a project even more audacious — an almost preposterously massive building two kilometres high,” Reuters Magazine recently reported. “When asked to estimate the odds of his 636-floor giganto-scraper ever being built, Mr. Zhang responds without hesitation, ‘100%!’”

The visionary chairman made a name for himself manufacturing industrial air-conditioning units, but since becoming an environmentalist and seeing poorly constructed buildings fall at the mercy of the 2008 earthquake, he has redirected his company toward what he calls a “structural revolution.”

“Traditional construction is chaotic,” he recently told Wired magazine. “We took construction and moved it into the factory.”

Just like the iconic Sydney Opera House or New York’s Empire State building, his Sky City will make a statement about the place in which it is built, Mr. Beaudet said.

“When the Empire State building went up [in 1931], the world knew about it,” he said. “It showed the U.S. had capabilities technically and financially. It wasn’t just a building. It was a symbol of real power. And I think that’s the case [with China] now.”


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There's been a lot of media coverage over the last week or so regarding the recent turmoil in the stock markets. This is due to a number of reasons including the U.S. and European debt and deficit situations. It's never fun seeing your investments go down in value but there is a bright side to all of this.

All this turmoil is going to extend our low interest rate environment even further. The 5 year yield on Canadian government bonds tumbled by 27 basis points. This is a good thing if you are planning on taking out a fixed rate mortgage as the bond market directly correlates with what rates will be offered on fixed rate mortgages. When the bond yield drops it gets less expensive for the banks to raise money to lend out and in turn they can drop the fixed rates they are able to offer.

The Bank of Canada head, Mark Carney's, plan to raise interest rates is now, most likely on hold again. The prediction was rates would possibly go up in September but that prediction has now been pushed to the end of the year and even beyond. There are even Money market managers saying there's about a 60% chance that the Bank of Canada could actually drop the Prime rate somewhere between now and early next year.

My advice, discuss, in detail, all the options available to you. It's a tough decision for some people to decide on a variable or fixed rate mortgage and every situation is different. Sometimes taking a bit of both options, if possible, is a great way to hedge against the ups and downs of interest rates throughout the life of your mortgage.

-Tony Marchigiano, Mortgage Specialist – RBC Royal Bank


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The average price of a home in Vancouver has shot up 13 percent over the last year and now tops $780,000. Even as home prices fall in most major U.S. cities, housing in tony San Marino, Calif., has shrugged off the financial crisis to reach a record high last year. Demand for real estate in Melbourne and other Australian coastal cities is up.

The link? Well-heeled Chinese home buyers are increasingly shopping abroad, pushing up prices in real estate markets around the world. Evidence of the trend:

“We think that in a relatively short period of time and in a way that is measurable, Chinese buyers are going to account for something on the order of 10-20 percent of the London market,” said Gerald Allison, a director at global real estate agency DTZ in London.

“The Chinese are my most important clients now,” said Cindy Chan, chairman of AGC Property Centre Pty Ltd, Sun’s property agent in Australia. “The number is growing very fast.”

Chinese have overtaken Malaysians as the second-largest overseas buyers in Singapore’s residential market, despite the Singaporean government introducing measures aimed at cooling down the market.

One factor driving Chinese home buyers to think globally — rising real estate costs at home. The average house in Beijing runs $300 per square foot, or roughly what you might pay in many Western cities. Interest rates also are rising in China, as the government tries to cool the racing economy. Measures aimed at discouraging speculation, such as a restriction barring people from owning more than two properties, is also spurring real estate investors to consider foreign markets.

San Marino: Recession-proof

Vancouver’s natural splendor, good schools and large Asian-speaking community are a particular draw for wealthy Chinese. That has helped make the city the hottest real estate market in Canada, even as home resales around the country remain generally flat. Prices for an ordinary two-story house in the city are up 10 percent this year, to $1.1 million.

In Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley, meanwhile, small, upwardly mobile San Marino is the only affluent community in the region where housing prices haven’t fallen. That owes partly to Chinese investors and home buyers, local real estate agents say:

“If you go to mainland China and someone asks, ‘Where do you live?,’ San Marino represents that you are wealthy,” said YanYan Zhang, a real estate agent whose clients include overseas buyers looking for homes here.

The surge in Chinese customers hasn’t been lost on realtors. For instance, Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis (CBG) offers services specifically geared to helping Asian buyers shop for homes abroad. Agents in China are also setting up tours of foreign cities for Chinese investors keen to scout overseas real estate.

Take note, Federal Reserve

China’s global real estate binge obviously makes for a stark contrast to the plunging prices and tide of foreclosures here in the U.S. And some observers will interpret it as yet one more indication that China is set to surpass the U.S. as the world’s leading economic power, as the International Monetary Fund predicted this week.

But perhaps even more striking than this economic reversal of fortune is how much more aggressive Chinese financial authorities have been in trying to puncture their housing bubble than the Federal Reserve was in the years leading up to the financial crisis.

Beijing vs. the housing bubble

China has the benefit of witnessing the carnage in the U.S., of course. But there’s no questioning how aggressively Beijing has moved to rein in its galloping real estate market, where prices have risen upwards of 50 percent since 2009. Its central bank has raised interest rates four times since last fall, while in January the required down payment on second homes was increased to 60 percent. Some cities also are raising property taxes. Meanwhile, China is taking precautions for when the bubble pops, including repeatedly lifting banks’ reserve requirements in recent months.

Despite these measures, there’s no guarantee that China’s landing will be a soft one. Some market analysts foresee an increase in bad loans, and the credit rating agency Fitch puts the odds of a full-blown banking crisis in China at better than 50-50. The kind of political unrest sweeping the Middle East also could flare in the People’s Republic, where economic empowerment may eventually prove incompatible with dictatorship.

As a result, it’s uncertain how long the real estate booms in Vancouver, San Marino and other cities fueled by the influx of Chinese buyers will last. Inflation these days — and financial bubbles — travel as comfortably from East to West as in the other direction. As China will learn, home prices don’t always go up.


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