Krem­lin-like govern­ment com­pound stirs con­tro­versy

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHENG XIN zhengxin@chi­

Look­ing up at the church­like ar­chi­tec­ture, com­plete with golden domes, glar­ing and glitzy, you might imag­ine you had just ar­rived at the Krem­lin, the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the Rus­sian pres­i­dent in the heart of Moscow.

How­ever, the piles of hon­ey­comb coal bri­quettes and ven­dors sell­ing roasted sweets by the road­side, as well as the fa­mil­iar sooty smog, soon drag you back to re­al­ity, and you re­mem­ber it’s a govern­ment build­ing in the hills to the west of Bei­jing.

Cov­er­ing about 6,000 square me­ters in the district of Men­tougou, the “Krem­lin-like build­ings” seem to most re­sem­ble the Cathe­dral of the An­nun­ci­a­tion, which is lo­cated in Cathe­dral Square in the Krem­lin com­plex. How­ever, there are no crosses atop the domes in Men­tougou, and the struc­ture has been built strictly for use by lo­cal of­fi­cial bod­ies, ac­cord­ing to the district govern­ment.

All four of the Rus­sian- style build­ings were com­pleted re­cently, and some of­fice space has al­ready been put to of­fi­cial use. Among the first bod­ies to move in are the lo­cal me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal sta­tion, the earth­quake mon­i­tor­ing and pre­dic­tion cen­ter, the wa­ter sup­ply dis­patch­ing cen­ter for the Yongding River and the main­te­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tion cen­ter of a lo­cal square.

De­spite the grand de­sign, the con­struc­tion project “adopted eco­nomic ma­te­ri­als and did not break the cen­tral govern­ment’s five-year ban on the con­struc­tion of govern­ment of­fices”, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal govern­ment.

The of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion for the con­struc­tion project is that it was nec­es­sary to im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment and re­place of­fice build­ings that were de­mol­ished due to shan­ty­town trans­for­ma­tion.

How­ever, not all the res­i­dents of Men­tougou are happy with the new build­ings.

“Look­ing at the fancy dec­o­ra­tions of these of­fice build­ings, the govern­ment might get some re­spect for al­lo­cat­ing the lim­ited funds to med­i­cal, hous­ing and pen­sion ser­vices for the pub­lic,” said Li Min, a lo­cal res­i­dent.

“The higher and fancier the govern­ment build­ings are, the less re­spect they get from the pub­lic.”

The govern­ment has not re­leased de­tails of the cost of con­struc­tion, nor the phi­los­o­phy be­hind the de­sign.

Bei­jing is not alone in pro­duc­ing im­pres­sive build­ings that im­i­tate world-fa­mous land­marks. Grand govern­ment build­ings have mush­roomed across the coun­try in re­cent years, with over­sized of­fices and fancy light­ing.

Most of them are “land­marks” for their lo­cal ar­eas, but have pro­voked dis­ap­proval and dis­sat­is­fac­tion among the pub­lic.

A govern­ment of­fice build­ing in Fuyang, An­hui prov­ince, be­came fa­mous overnight thanks to its re­sem­blance to the White House, while a lo­cal peo­ple’s court in Taizhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, stood out for its re­sem­blance to the US Capi­tol.

Ac­cord­ing to Jia Guizi, deputy head of the Shanxi Acad­emy of So­cial Sciences, the de­sign and ap­proval pro­cesses for any such projects should be made pub­lic, as should the de­tails of the fi­nances in­volved, so as to pre­vent the mis­use of pub­lic power.

Wu Yiming, a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Nan­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity, said the lo­cal dis­ci­plinary in­spec­tion depart­ment should at­tach more im­por­tance to in­for­ma­tion sup­plied by the pub­lic and me­dia, which can as­sist with mon­i­tor­ing such projects.

The cen­tral govern­ment has banned lo­cal of­fi­cials from wast­ing money on ex­pen­sive ar­chi­tec­tural projects, in­sist­ing in­stead that lim­ited funds and re­sources should be used to de­velop the econ­omy and im­prove peo­ple’s lives.

The di­rec­tive is meant to for­bid lux­u­ri­ous in­te­ri­ors or the ex­pan­sion of of­fice space un­der the guise of re­pair work, and is part of a larger effort by the govern­ment to con­trol waste and cor­rup­tion.


A “Krem­lin-like” struc­ture in Men­tougou district to the west of Bei­jing has been built as of­fice space for lo­cal govern­ment bod­ies.


The Cathe­dral of the An­nun­ci­a­tion is lo­cated in Cathe­dral Square in the Krem­lin com­plex, Moscow, Rus­sia.

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