Race to display financial clout rolls on

Among many debates triggered by last month's attack on New York's World Trade Center: one over the wisdom of (and motives for) putting up costly buildings that tower over their neighbors.

Skyscrapers, originally an American architectural phenomenon, have become a source of regional bragging rights in recent decades. Asia surged ahead with the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1996-98. Those towers, at 1,483 feet, trumped America's tallest, Chicago's Sears Tower, by 33 feet.

The World Trade Center did not stand quite as tall as the Sears building, built in 1974. At a little more than 1,380 feet, the twin towers also trailed the Jin Mao Building in Shanghai.

Now China's at it again: A World Financial Center (artist's version, above) that will rise 1,510 feet above Shanghai if finished, as planned, by 2008.

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