Construction projects are grinding to a halt as financing runs dry elsewhere in the world, but in China’s biggest city, they’re still going strong.

Today, Shanghai is scheduled to officially begin work on what will become its tallest skyscraper — a 2,073-foot building in the city’s Lujiazui financial center that will tower over the current highest building, the recently completed 1,614-foot Shanghai World Financial Center.

Though China’s economy is slowing and exporters are feeling the pinch, the sinuous glass building, to be called the Shanghai Tower, is one of a slew of government-funded projects that authorities are using to stimulate growth and create jobs.

“Launching construction at this time will help boost Shanghai’s confidence in fighting the financial crisis,” Gu Jianping, manager of city-owned Shanghai Tower Construction & Development Co., declared to reporters.

Beijing plans to spend $2.6 trillion in 2009 alone to help blunt the impact of the global financial crisis, using the capital accumulated over years of double-digit economic growth and booming exports to build railways, roads, airports and electricity networks.

Although Shanghai has seen its overheated real estate market cool, prices have not fallen dramatically. Government-backed purchasing and interest rate cuts appear to be stabilizing the market, although some developers could be headed for trouble.

Meanwhile, the city is doing its part to catalyze growth. A huge subway construction effort blocks many city streets; the waterfront Bund is getting a complete overhaul; and construction of the Expo zone, also along the rusty, neglected banks of the downtown Huangpu River, is going full steam.

“This is a wonderful time for this project to start,” said Arthur Gensler, chairman and founder of San Francisco-based Gensler Architecture, Design and Planning Worldwide, which designed the 120-plus floor structure. It is due to be completed in 2014 at a cost of more than $2.2 billion.


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