The phrase tofu-dreg project (Traditional Chinese: 豆腐渣工程) is a phrase current in Mainland China used to describe a poorly constructed building. This phrase was coined by Zhu Rongji, the former premier of the People's Republic of China, on a visit to Jiujiang City, Jiangxi Province to describe a jerry-built dam.
In China, the term tofu dregs (the messy bits left after making tofu) is widely used as a metaphor for shoddy work, hence the implication that a "tofu-dreg project" is a poorly executed project for which the government should accept responsibility.
After visiting China in early 2011, Canadian journalist Lawrence Solomon stated that many Chinese people "fear that a 'tofu dam' might fail, leading to hundreds of thousands of downstream victims."
Tofu-dreg projects in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake
During the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, many schoolhouses fell down, and many students died. These buildings have been taken to exemplify tofu-dreg projects.
|“||…School construction is the worst. First, there’s not enough capital. Schools in poor areas have small budgets and, unlike schools in the cities, they can’t collect huge fees, so they’re pressed for money. With construction, add in exploitation by government officials, education officials, school managers, etc. and you can imagine what’s left over for the actual building of schools. When earthquake prevention standards are raised, government departments, major businesses, etc. will all appraise and reinforce their buildings. But these schools with their 70s-era buildings, no one pays attention to them. Because of this, the older school buildings are suffer[ing] from inadequate protection while the new buildings have been shoddily constructed.||”|
—Book Blade (书剑子) 
- "Rising death toll, popular anger in China quake". World Socialist Web Site. May 21, 2008.
- "A Construction Engineer’s Thoughts on the Sichuan Earthquake". China Digital Times. May 22, 2008.
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