Dec. 02, 2023
Wang Shi: High-profit developers should pay for environmental protection

Source: China Economics

Wang Shi, chairman of real estate developer Vanke, exchanged views about green building in Nanjing yesterday at a Shanghai Expo Theme Forum ( on environmental protection and urban responsibility. When asked about the current state of the real estate market, Shi only smiled. He believes the present economic situation and the future of the real estate market are as uncertain as mountain expeditions.

Developers Not Short on Cash for Green Building
“As of 2009, China had only one building meeting the highest (three-star) energy-saving standard for urban architecture. This year, Vanke will start construction on more than 1 million square meters of three-star architecture.” The cost of green buildings will definitely increase, but this must not hinder the development of environmental architecture in China, Wang said candidly. Increased costs must be shared by three parties: the government, providing subsidies; real estate developers and consumers.
In his talk, Wang expressed optimism for the future of China’s green architecture market: “Cost is not the main problem right now; [since] real estate developers are making relatively high profits. If developers are unwilling to spend more on environmental construction now, they may miss their chance to get into this increasingly competitive market. This is my stance: developers need to do their part to take advantage of this opportunity.” Wang said that currently only 5% of developers are considering investment in green building, but that he is confident more companies will enter the market soon.
Uncertain Future
When the housing market was cooling down in 2008, Wang clearly articulated his “turning point theory.” At the Expo forum, however, he kept a much lower profile. When asked about the future of the housing market, Wang smiled, dismissed the question with a wave of his hands, and abruptly walked away. Elaborating on mountaineering and energy-efficiency, Wang did his best to avoid discussing the real estate market. The host of the forum forced Wang to face up to his role as a real estate magnate, however, with this question:  “When talking with your peers—other real estate developers—what do you find to be the biggest problem that they currently face?”
 “It’s state-mandated macro-economic controls, not building costs,” Wang said with little hesitation. He added that while no one, including Vanke, can escape the impact of macro-economic control, it is this control that allows products to show their competitive edge. “Things were simple in the past. Housing prices were always rising, so as long as consumers bought property they would see it appreciate. Now that real purchasing power has come into play, however, consumers are becoming more discerning,” Wang said. The chairman was calm when talking about the current state of the real estate market: “If there was no competition, everybody would be making money, no one would go out of business, and it would be impossible for the market to develop in a healthy way.” He added, “The future is uncertain; that’s the first thing. The second thing is: how can we let people see the positive side of future? Third, we need to prepare for the worst.” Wang said these were lessons he learned on a mountain trek, where other climbers lost their lives, but he luckily survived. The economic climate is too unpredictable and uncertain; “we must learn to move forward amid such uncertainty.”
Protect the Environment: Refuse Single-use Products
Wang probably loves to play more than any other developer. As he puts it, if he is not in the mountains, he is at sea, seeking balance between city life and nature. “After experiencing the harsh environment in mountains, you will like, and cherish, the urban environment.” At the forum, Wang displayed some of his “belongings”, including a green handkerchief he uses to replace paper napkins. He then held up a porcelain mug: “This is reusable. Nowadays I refuse to drink bottled water.” Wang said he developed many new habits after coming back from his expeditions. He started to treasure the benefits of modern civilization and to say no to single-use items like chopsticks and cups. This year, Wang succeeded in climbing to the top of Mount Everest. One thing he got out of the trip was rubbish—3.44 tons of it picked up by his trekking group on the northern side of the mountain, at altitudes of 6,500 to 8,000 meters. Among the “spoils” were 167 empty oxygen tanks. He initially hoped to put the tanks in Vanke’s exhibition area at the World Expo, “but each tank of oxygen is like a small bomb. Forget about 167, not even one of them could be taken into the Expo.” Rigid security foiled the plan, but Wang came up with another idea. He is commissioning artists to turn these tanks into an art installation that has won the favor of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination. “Originally it was hoped that the sculpture would be placed in Vanke’s exhibition hall, but the Expo bureau suggested putting it in the China Pavilion to express our respect for the environment and reflect upon on the natural destruction that is caused by human exploration.
Translator: Ding Jieqiong, Li Xiaohan
Proofreader: Lucy Chen/ Lan BAO / Megan Ko