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As the West Faltered, China's Growth Was Fueled by Debt

“China is addicted to debt to fuel growth”
Inside Chengdu’s stately pleasure dome
Inside Chengdu’s stately pleasure domePhotograph by Dan Sandoval

Feb. 8, 2010: Construction begins on the largest building in the world

When completed, the New Century Global Center will be three times the size of the Pentagon and big enough to hold 20 Sydney Opera houses under its glass roof. A megaproject to rival Kubla Khan’s mythic pleasure dome, it will be home to an indoor “Mediterranean beach resort” complete with artificial “sea breezes,” a 14-screen Imax theater, an 18-story atrium, offices, and 1,000 hotel suites. That the residents of Chengdu, a second-tier city in the west, need such extravagant leisure options, is an open question, one that will determine whether the Global Center will prove to be a massive boondoggle. Another question: Will Deng Hong, its billionaire developer, get to enjoy his creation? He’s currently under investigation by Chinese anticorruption officials, a high-profile target of a nationwide antigraft crackdown.