18 July 2008

After the Earthquake: China Needs to Improve Building Quality.

As we anticipate the start of the Beijing Olympic Games, we are still very aware of the ongoing situation in Sichuan province.  The Sichuan earthquakes (12th May, 2008) destroyed aged and poorly constructed buildings and cost perhaps 70,000 lives (China government estimates). What should China learn from this disaster?  What will it now do for its people in the aftermath of this earthquake tragedy?

The disaster underlines the urgent need for the Chinese government to enhance its construction laws. Taiwan experienced a similar scale of earthquake in 1999, which caused the total destruction of 44,000 homes and the loss of over 2,400 lives. As a result, the Taiwan government amended construction laws immediately after the earthquakes occurred. The new laws strictly demand a much higher standard shake-proof bearing and earthquake-proofing structure to protect buildings from earthquake hazards. 

Any government is duty bound to reduce risks to the population at large. The Chinese government should ensure laws are improved and more importantly enforced effectively to protect people’s lives from sub standard quality constructions. This earthquake proved that inattention and negligence can destroy life and everything.

I also hope that Chinese government will set up an effective enforcement organisation to ensure code implementations and compliance at a local level from now on. This should involve the whole construction process, management, materials qualities, third party inspections and quality appraisals, as well as legal systems including corruption prevention and prosecution.

Within the month, the worldwide media will no doubt focus its attention to the Beijing Olympic Games. Meanwhile, people in Sichuan province are still suffering from the earthquake tragedy, and the aftershocks from that will last for a long time. We will go back to look at Sichuan’s reconstruction after the Olympic Games. 

Ting Zhang is founder and CEO of China Business Solutions.