The 121-story Shanghai Tower is more than China's next record-setting building - it is an economic lifeline for the elite club of skyscraper builders.
Financial gloom has derailed plans for new towers in Chicago, Moscow, Dubai and other cities.
But in China, work on the 632-metre 2,074-foot Shanghai Tower, due to be completed in 2014, and dozens of other tall buildings is rushing ahead, powered by a buoyant economy and providing a steady stream of work to architects and engineers.
The US high-rise market is "pretty much dead", said Dan Winey, a managing director for Gensler, the Shanghai Tower's San Francisco-based architects.
"For us, China in the next 10 to 15 years is going to be a huge market."
China has six of the world's 15 tallest buildings - compared with three for the United States, the skyscraper's birthplace - and is constructing more at a furious pace, defying worries about a possible real estate boom and bust.
India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia all have ultra-tall towers under construction or on the drawing board.
In the Gulf, Doha in Qatar and Dubai, site of the current record holder, the 163-story Burj Khalifa, each has three buildings among the 20 tallest under construction, though work on all but one of those has been suspended.