Thanks to the fast development of the real estate market and public transportation systems in recent years, China has become the largest manufacturer of elevators in the world, with the most existing installations and newest installations, according to statistics from the China Elevator Association.
By the end of 2010, China had nearly 14 percent of all the world's elevators and more than 44 percent of its escalators. Brands owned by Otis accounted for the largest proportion (20 percent) of new installations.
China produced 45,000 escalators and horizontal conveyors last year, accounting for 90 percent of new installations worldwide, and 320,000 elevators, 64 percent of the world total. About 37,200 of the elevators, escalators and conveyors produced were exported.
Statistics on elevator and escalator accidents, especially in recent years, are extremely hard to find, despite central government requirements that different levels of safety supervision bureaus inform the public regularly about accidents.
According to an old report posted on the China Elevator Association website, China had 53 serious elevator and escalator accidents in 2003, including 24 in passenger elevators and four on escalators. The accidents caused 39 deaths, 18 injuries and direct financial losses of 1.34 million yuan ($207,260). While the number of accidents fell the next year to 22, with 18 deaths and nine injuries, the financial losses rose to 2.06 million yuan.
'It takes joint efforts'
Zhai Qi, a 28-year-old writer who lives in the Guangquan residential complex in Beijing's Chaoyang district, was caught in an elevator about two months ago. It happened during morning rush hour.
The Xizi Otis elevator, with seven or eight people on board, suddenly shook roughly and stopped halfway down the 22 stories. The door remained shut. Some passengers pushed the emergency button to alert the elevator supervisor, but no one answered. Others called the property management company and were told to wait for help.
Before anyone arrived, the elevator resumed operation and released the worried passengers safely to the ground. It lasted only about four minutes, Zhai said, but felt much longer.
Another elevator in his building broke down every one or two weeks, Zhai said. It once took a month to have it repaired. The property managers posted a notice accusing some residents of breaking the elevator on purpose and warning that the police would be called if it were damaged again.
"The maintenance of elevators does not simply rely on manufacturers or service companies," said Li of the elevator quality center. "It takes joint efforts of all related parties to ensure elevator safety."