On a peninsula southeast of Beijing, developer Vincent Lee wants to copy New York City—literally
A wheelbarrow rests in the shadow of cranes in one of Yujiapu's construction sites / Colleen Kinder
Large-scale knock-offs have become a Chinese specialty. There's the amusement park in Shenzhen where you can take your photo beside a fake Taj Mahal. There's a touristy town that will so closely copy the alpine village of Hallstat, the Austrian mayor has complained to the UN. And on a peninsula southeast of Beijing, the most ambitious knock-off of all is in the works: a financial center in the likeness and scale of Manhattan.
Two years into its ten-year construction plan, Yujiapu is still a field of cranes, fenced along the perimeter and hazy behind the smog. The only thing that resembles New York City is a diorama in the lobby of Binhai New Area CBD Office, where bureaucrats like Vincent Lee of the Business Bureau, are working to deliver on their ambitious promise of making this 3.86 sq km area the "largest single financial center on the world."
Lee flicks on the Yujiapu diorama, making the skyscrapers glow, while subway and bullet train lines blink like an arcade game. The miniature city is a near facsimile of New York--down to the river wrapping around the peninsula's southern tip--and Vince doesn't shy away from direct comparisons. Taking out a laser light, he points out what will be the "flagship building" of Yujiapu, modeled after the Rockefeller Center, then scribbles his laser beam against an identical pair of skyscrapers further downtown: Tishman Twin Towers.