Will China crash?

A tongue-in-cheek economic indicator with an uncanny track record of accuracy is that any country building the world’s tallest building will shortly thereafter enter recession. Malaysia completed the Petronas Towers in 1998, just in time for the Asian financial crisis. In 2000, the US took the top spot by adding an antenna to the Willis Tower. The global financial crisis was not far away; but more importantly, the building was originally completed (as the Sears Tower) in 1973, and the US entered recession a year later, in 1974. The commencement of construction on the building that is currently the world’s tallest, the Burj Khalifa in the UAE, was followed in short order by the bursting of that country’s real estate bubble and a deep recession. There is a good reason the indicator works so well: the taller a building is, the more of its lower floors are lost to elevator space (because every elevator shaft needs to reach the ground). There are ways around this problem, most recently elevators that decide for themselves on which floors they will stop (in case you have not visited New York recently, you key in your desired floor on a keypad, and a display shows you which elevator car to take). Despite such advances, constructing tall buildings tends to be uneconomic, and so it only happens when a country is in the throes of an asset price bubble – usually, a bubble that is about to burst. Of course, there are countries that have defied the fates. Specifically, there are two: Taiwan, which, despite the construction of Taipei 101 in 2003, has so...