Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The national government issued a series of reforms to fix a struggling industry, but many will be left behind.
Earlier this year, the Chinese government released a three-year plan for its sizable but struggling ship-building industry, asking local officials to stop approving new projects and private companies to replace their vessels with newer, high-tech ones.
While some shipyards have enough work orders to stay busy through 2016, the future looks grim for others as they suffer through overcapacity and layoffs. The trend is especially noticeable in Changqingcun, a town along the Yangtze river. There, nearly half of one ship-building company's workforce was laid off in a span of three years, leaving the many stores and apartments that depended on them empty and abandoned.
China's ship orders were actually up this year over 2012, but a majority of them are being built in the country's largest (and often government-backed) facilities, with four percent of the more than 1,600 shipyards nationwide landing new work, according to Reuters. In fact, the industry's concerns hardly seem to register along Shanghai's bustling shipyards, where photographer Carlos Barria recently visited, capturing the typical daily bustle as workers keep building new vessels: