BEIJING (REUTERS) - A Chinese viewing tower in the shape of a giant, copper puffer fish has raised an online huff about the latest in a series of bizarre and extravagant targets of state investment.
Encased in 8,920 copper plates and built at a cost of around 70 million yuan (S$14.3 million), the tower on an island in Yangzhong county, eastern Jiangsu province, hovers 15 storeys above ground.
The government has often been criticised for wasteful investment to power the world's No. 2 economy. Beijing acknowledges the problem and wants consumption to overtake investment as a driver of growth.
Residents who welcome the fish tower say it improves the county's image. Less enthusiastic residents question whether such expensive and impractical buildings are needed.
"To spend so much money on something so meaningless, I really admire these 'wealthy' people," Mother988 said on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, with apparent heavy irony.
The People's Daily, the Chinese government's main mouthpiece, acknowledged that the construction had polarised opinion.
"Once this giant puffer made its appearance, it caused a heated debate online," it said.
Public records show Jiangsu's local government bodies are the most indebted in the country.
Jiangsu says its debt is manageable, but took steps this week to rein in risk by announcing plans to control land sales, becoming the first Chinese government to do so.
Yangzhong aims to promote the tower as the world's biggest metal construction in terms of volume, the People's Daily said.
Central Henan province drew controversy in 2011 when a state-backed charity tried to build an eight-storey sculpture of Song Qingling, second wife of modern China's founding father Sun Yat Sen. Construction was scrapped half-way through.
The eastern province of Zhejiang also came under the spotlight after it modelled one of its city court houses on Capitol Hill.