by Nils Grube
The New South Mall in Dongguan, China — the largest in the world and twice the size of Minnesota’s Mall of America— has just a 1% occupancy rate. The mall is located between the two emerging megacities Guangzhou and Shenzen, in an area that may one day be considered to have a population near 50 million. But growth of these has not reached the midpoint soon enough for the mall. It is a good example for several development projects of this fast, in some parts uncontrollable growing country, which have been enormous duds. Today, of the 2,350 leasable store spaces, around 50 are actually in use (gadling.org).
On pbs – public broadcast service – you can find a documentary which examines the mall project. It was part of the POV Shorts Program on August 18, 2009. Here is the synopsis of the 13 min long award-winning film of Sam Green and Dave Cerf:
“Is nothing American sacred anymore? The largest mall in the world turns out not to be the famous Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. It’s the South China Mall outside of Guangzhou, China. Outdoing the techniques of American consumerism, South China Mall is Disneyland, Las Vegas and Mall of America rolled into one. There are carnival rides, mini-parks, canals and lakes amid classic Western-style buildings with space for hundreds of shops.
But along with the glitz and glory of middle-class shopping, the mall’s Chinese developers seem to have imported something else — a cautionary tale of capitalist hubris. Alex Hu, a local Guangzhou boy who made it big in international business, wanted South China Mall to be a hometown monument to his success — even though Guangzhou has no major airports or highways nearby. And four years after its construction, the mall sits virtually empty of both shops and shoppers. But the Chinese have imported yet another concept familiar to Americans — South China Mall is considered too big to fail. So, employees line up for flag-raising ceremonies and pep talks about “brand building” before going off to maintain the deserted concourses meticulously. If China is the future of the world economy, Utopia, Part 3: The World’s Largest Shopping Mall just may be a startling peek at what’s to come.” (POV by PBS)