Half the shopping space being built in the world is in China, according to a new research report by an international property consultant.
Some 29.6 million square metres of shopping centres are now under construction globally - equivalent to the total existing mall space in France, Britain and Germany, according to CBRE's Global ViewPoint report.
And seven of the 10 most active development markets are in China. Tianjin topped the list with 2.45 million square metres of such space being built, while 2.17 million sq metres is under construction in Shenyang, according to CBRE.
Some 7.8 million square metres of new shopping space opened last year, the report said.
China was also by far the most active market last year, with four cities in the top five in terms of new mall space built.
Shenyang was No 1, with six new centres totalling more than one million sq m, followed by Wuhan.
The report measured the level of shopping centre development in 180 cities worldwide to identify the most active markets, both in terms of completions last year and the retail space now under construction.
Exactly half of all the shopping centre space under construction in the 180 cities was in China, with Asia accounting for 70 per cent of the total.
Sebastian Skiff, executive director of CBRE Retail in Asia, said shopping centre construction was on the rise globally in response to growing consumer demand from the expanding middle-class population.
'With development now expanding not only in Beijing and Shanghai but deeper into the highly populated provincial capitals as well, China is topping the charts for development growth,' Skiff said.
But even though China's economic boom and growing middle class have led to a major increase in consumer spending, the rapid expansion of shopping centre space has in many cities outpaced actual consumer demand.
For example, in Chengdu, Sichuan, the average vacancy rate is 11.6 per cent, ranging from below 4 per cent in the core areas to more than 40 per cent in Xinnan Tiandi, an emerging shopping area, according to CBRE.
The CBRE report shows emerging markets such as China, Turkey and India are far more active than the more mature markets of western Europe and North America.
Last year new shopping centres opened in 63, or 35 per cent, of the cities covered in the survey, of which 50 were in emerging markets.
In contrast, new malls opened in only five cities in western Europe last year, the report said.