Thursday, September 21, 2006

Quality control

Our compound Beijing Riviera is celebrating its tenth anniversary. That makes it one of the first villa compounds in town. I think it was second actually, but is considerably closer to the CDB and nicer than its sole predecessor.

They a re very excited about the anniversary here, with flags flying on all the light poles, a fair amount of celebratory activities

You can get a good feel for what the place looks like at the website: http://www.bjriviera.com/ENsite/intro.html

Though, not surprisingly it’s a little rougher around the edges than it would appear up there. Unfortunately, the site does not include any of the photos of the development’s development, which they have up in the clubhouse and gave us in a book.

The pictures of the corn and bean fields that were here are quite cool to see.. and sort of sad, and very amazing. I’ve already seen a bunch of other developments pop up on farmland, but you sort of assume that whatever is here when you arrive is “normal,” the starting point, even as you realize how absurd that is. This city has grown so fast.

The Riviera is owned by a Singaporean developer, who a quite a huge force. Here is how they are described on the site:

The Hong Leong Group Singapore is a multinational corporation engaged in a wide range of businesses in the Asia-Pacific Region, Europe and North America. Hong Leong Group is one of the biggest conglomerates in Singapore with gross assets of over USD16 billion, annual turnover in excess of US2.5 billion and worldwide staff strength of 30,000.

The thing that’s really interesting to me is how old these houses seem, how not well many of them have done, and how many of them have been or are being totally, radically renovated. The quality of work just isn’t that high. It seems to me that this is going to be a big long term problem for China… stuff just not built to last.

I mean you truly wouldn’t believe what they do to houses here between tenants.. ripped apart, totally gutted, everything pulled out and replaced… floors, ceilings, walls, ducts, cabinets. It’s the kind of thing that would cost $200k at home except here the workers were farmers two weeks ago and are paid $2/day. Which surely is one of the quality control problems and part of the reason why a 10-year-old house is brand new in Europe and America. Here, it is a relic.

And it’s just the houses.. so many things you buy here turn out to be so crappy. Take the Giant hybrid bike I bought one year ago. It looked great and seemed like an awesome deal for about $150, but now it looks like it’s ten years old. And that’s just one of many examples.

Of course, if you’ve shopped at Costco or Wal Mart in the last five years, you know that they are capable of making quality goods, but few of them seem to be kept here.