China's Pentagon prompts angry protests on Internet

Picture of Long'ao Building Photo: Baidu photos

The Long’ao building, the controversial ultra-grand office building of Jinan local government has become the center of attention on the internet. And under the pressure of the intense debate, some local officials finally came out to clarify the whole issue.

Long’ao Building, the municipal government office building of Jinan city in east China’s Shandong province, gained national fame overnight.

It is rumored on the Internet that it is the second largest single building in the world and the largest in Asia, next only to the Pentagon, and that with an investment of 4 billion Yuan ($642 million), the building has a floor area of 370,000 square meters and more than 40 lifts.

Of course, in this era of online anti-corruption drives, fame is not a good thing for Long’ao; rather it has made the building an object of public criticism. Angry netizens are asking how could Jinan, a second-tier city in China afford such luxury for its local officials. How much does the building cost? And where does the big money come from? The questions concern thousands of netizens who are against the local governments spending lavishly on office buildings.

“The original idea of building Long’ao came from the administrative reform measures. And as for the suspicions of corruption or sources of funding as expressed by the netizens, the local government would soon investigate into it,” several Jinan municipal government officials said while reacted to the public anger flaring up on the Internet.
The Long’ao building is situated in the margin between the old town and the newly developed hi-tech zones. Built in September 2007, the building covers 400 mu with a construction area of 300,000 square meters. With 15 floors above ground and one floor beneath, the building, which is equipped with 48 lifts, could provide work space for 5,000 city officials.

According to an official, although Long’ao finished construction in September 2007, it was then immediately sealed up for nearly a year as since 2007 the Communist Party has been stepping up efforts to curb the construction of lavish office buildings by local governments.

At the beginning of this year, the main leadership of Jinan municipal government moved in the huge and fully-equipped building.

“Long’ao has been hyped as an epitome of local corruption on Internet several times, but that’s not the truth,” an office manager of Long’ao Capital Operation Co., complained to the reporter. After the completion of the building, the Jiannan government specially established the company for the operation and maintenance of the Long’ao property.

The manager also emphasized that the so-called total investment of 4billion Yuan also includes the expenses on demolition and land rearrangements, besides the construction fee, and that the total construction area of 370,000 square meters also includes several neighboring buildings of Long’ao.”

The official then told the reporter, “The municipal government did not spend a penny on the construction of Long’ao.” According to him, the municipal government just disposed all the sprinkling office buildings owned by the government and then exchanged for Long’ao.” However, the official did not further explain how the exchange was done.

It has been revealed by other official sources that before the decision to build Long’ao, a sensible estimate was made: if all the departments affiliated to the municipal government were moved from their separate locations in downtown to Long’ao, they could either sell or rent their original places in exchange for money. This way, Long’ao is not a huge expense but a cash cow.

And, in October 2005, Jinan city won the right to host the 11th National Games and the local government then allotted land of over 2,100 hectares in the east of city for the games, which then provided the location for Long’ao. So in October 22, 2005, the Long’ao project started construction.

However, the later acquired facts by investigative reporters of 21st Century Economics Report contradict with the plausible rhetorics provided by the afore-mentioned interviewed officials. It was found out the original office buildings of municipal party committee and municipal government are actually owned respectively by Jinan Military Unit, and Jinan Railways Bureau. The two major properties claimed to be used as exchange objects for Long’ao are actually not in the name of municipal government. 

And until now, it is assured that all the original places located in downtown are still under the control of its former occupiers (separate departments of the municipal government), but not sold or let like previously planned.

So, if Long’ao really did not cost Jinan municipal government a single penny, that's the problem and the reporters would further look into the matter.





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