Chinese developer to build on permafrost in Yakutia

Hebei-based Zhuoda 桌达 Group will build homes and social infrastructure in Yakutsk, capital of the Sakha Republic aka Yakutia in the Russian Far East, with a planned investment above $500m over six years (凤凰, Дальневосточный капитал). The announcement comes after more than a year of contacts between the Chinese developer and company and government officials from Yakutia.

Yakutsk daily Ekho stolitsy exultantly asserts that “more than eight thousand residents of the capital will be able to have not just an improvement, but a cardinal change in their living conditions”. Yakutsk mayor Aysen Nikolaev Айсен Николаев adds that Zhuoda’s development will help certain local developers “sober up” and decelerate real estate price growth.

This will be the first time Zhuoda is building on permafrost, a challenge highlighted by pretty much all the Chinese and Russian sources linked to above. Yakutsk is a few hundred kilometres south of the Arctic circle, but it honorarily belongs inside, with January daily averages below -38°C. The most talked-about Zhuoda development abroad is in a milder climate: they were the first Chinese developer to enter Iskandar, a special economic zone being built in Johor state, Malaysia, facing Singapore and expected to be linked to it by rail at some point. Other developers followed Zhuoda into Iskandar and now some suspect they might already built a bit too much. (‘Iskandar’ makes you think of Alexander the Great and that’s sort of right: the area is named after a sultan of Johor of that name, which is a Persian-mediated form of Alexander.)