There is something sad about the traffic lights blinking over empty boulevards in brand new 'business districts' all over China places that have all the makings of a thriving commercial center except… well, actual businesses.
The empty malls and office buildings, waiting for someone to move in, are visible reminders that local governments and their developer pals often build first and ask questions later.
Optimists counter that Shanghai's Pudong New Area felt like a ghost town when it was built, pretty much from scratch, in the 1990s. Now it is China's Wall Street.
But Pudong has the advantage of sitting just across the river from downtown Shanghai. As every realtor knows, location is everything.
'In Beijing and Shanghai there is going to be demand for all the prime office space that is being built,' said Chris Brooke, head of real estate services firm CBRE in China, in a recent interview.
'If you take markets like Tianjin or Shenyang or Chongqing, they've created these new commercial zones and the demand is not going to be deep enough to keep up with that level of supply in the short term. Tianjin has not just one central business district but three.'
Tianjin alone will see more than five million square meters of office space completed between now and 2016, according to CBRE figures released Thursday.
Yet even the second-tier cities should be all right in the long run, Mr. Brooke said. Western China is now seeing some of the country's most impressive gross domestic product growth, and its two big cities, Chongqing and Chengdu, are emerging as commercial hubs for a vast region. Meanwhile, the central government has invested a lot of political capital in developing Tianjin, which is just southeast of Beijing, as a secondary northern metropolis.
The real trouble could be elsewhere. Much smaller cities like Zhengzhou, Changsha and Nanchang have big plans to build out new commercial space. Rents might take a dive in those markets in the next couple of years, Mr. Brooke reckons, but they won't get much sympathy in Beijing.
Unlike the residential market, which the authorities treat as a social issue, the government will likely take the view that cavalier developers who built more than the market can needs will have to live with the consequences.
But that might suit the bigger kids in the Chinese real estate playground. Consolidation is coming in the sector, Mr. Brooke thinks, with banks reluctant to lend to smaller, less experienced developers.
Such also-rans can't compete with the likes of China Vanke and Gemdale, big boys who can tap banks and international capital markets as well.
These firms are accumulating big portfolios of commercial property to lease out, as well as building apartments for sale, modeling themselves on companies like Sun Hung Kai Properties and CapitaLand, the giants of Hong Kong and Singapore.
If a few heavyweights like that emerged from the mainland, China's government would not be sorry at all.
Chris Sembrot for The Wall Street Journal空置的购物中心和写字楼等待着人们前来进驻，这提醒着人们，地方政府和它们的开发商伙伴总是先盖楼，然后才问问题。
这些公司正在积累用于租赁的大的商业地产组合，还在建造用于销售的公寓楼，他们的目标是成为香港的新鸿基地产(Sun Hung Kai Properties)和新加坡的嘉德置地(CapitaLand Ltd.)这样的巨头。
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