Built in the southern Chinese industrial city of Dongguan, the sprawling 9.6 million square foot South China Mall opened in 2005 as the largest mall in the world, more than twice the size of the of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.
Yet the mall was doomed to fail from the beginning, and its developers didn't see it coming. The construction of the huge shopping center came during a mall-building boom in China during the last decade, but this particular project turned out to be a giant miscalculation. Dongguan, though an urban center, is mostly populated by factory workers who can't afford to shop at the mall.
The lack of demand led retailers to decline setting up shop in the newly-minted mall. Add a global recession a few years later to the mix, and the mall’s fate as a colossal waste of time and money was all but cemented. Developer Hu Guirong, a billionaire who made his fortune selling noodles and biscuits, carried out his vision for the mall, which includes a giant replica of the Arc de Triomphe, a manmade river, and a roller coaster.
Guirong’s design team divided the mall into seven themed sections designed to resemble various world locales, including Venice, San Francisco, and Amsterdam. Most of the occupied retail spaces, which account for 1 percent of the mall's available space, consist of fast food chains like a McDonald’s at the mall’s entrance, grocery store, and a few Asian retailers.
The developers hoped the mall would accommodate 100,000 shoppers per day, but the mall has realized only a fraction of its expected foot traffic. The complex stands as vast, desolate shell of a shopping mall.