Society - Culture
By: - at January 20, 2014

10 of China's Ghost Cities Explained

tattered chinese flagChina is a nation with a big problem in regards to employment and living conditions. Numerous unemployed workers are desperate for anything that will bring them income, feed their families, and allow them to provide a secure and comfortable home. It’s strange and sickeningly ironic that China has a strange phenomenon with a number of massive, luxurious cities that are completely uninhabited throughout the country, while millions who would happily live and work in these cities are instead left to struggle just to get by day-to-day.

The problem is that, while the cities were built in order to provide work and shelter to Chinese citizens, these developments ultimately fail to attract enough business to sustain city life. Basically, the development of the city is way ahead of the economic opportunities and infrastructure.

Most of the apartments that get sold are bought by government officials or wealthy businessmen intend to use the residences as either holiday homes, investment properties or retirement homes. Furthermore, it doesn’t take long for the few businesses that do set up shop in these cities to realize that there isn’t, and likely won’t be any time soon, any secure customer base for them to survive on.

As there is so little business throughout the cities, working professionals find the prospects of living in the cities far too impractical. This makes China the country with the world’s highest population. This is why it is odd that people suffering from the economy avoid all of the large, sprawling cities that are shockingly void of human life.

map of china

The logic behind building so many new cities all at once was because the government felt in order to maximize space throughout the country; they needed to relocate 400 million citizens from the into the new city locations. Thus, began the expensive, risky, social experiment that has lead to this strange, disastrous phenomenon of ghost cities.

10)  Tieling New City
Tieling New City is a small metropolis situated in northeast China. After spending billions on the ambitious project to establish the city itself and clean up surrounding areas, the area is now a ghost town.

Tieling New City

What little business that was attracted to the city is gradually moving away, as owners are faced with the options of moving or completely shutting down their establishments.

9)  Jing Jin City
Jing Jin City is located about an hour from Beijing. It was one city expected to be an attractive location for residents and businesses alike. This is because of its easy accessibility off the Jing Jin Highway and for the luxurious apartments that it has to offer.

Deserted Mansion in Jing Jin City
Deserted Mansion in Jing Jin City

There is also a five star hotel and a golf course. Furthermore, the city has two colleges, a temple and entertainment facilities.

Close-up of Abandoned House and Small Swimming Pool
Close-up of Abandoned House and Small Swimming Pool

Still, while developers insist that the city is slowly growing, the development is, in reality, largely uninhabited. And it appears that it will stay that way. Nevertheless, the project is far from complete and developers are pushing ahead with their plans to keep building. 4,000 more apartments are to be built as well as a new business district that will be complete with many fast food chains.

8)  Kangbashi
The city of Kangbashi was built to house around one million citizens. Despite the fact that a number of the residences have sold, the vast majority of the city is uninhabited, as most the homes that were bought up as investment properties or holiday homes.

Abandoned Street in Kangbashi
Abandoned Street in Kangbashi

Abandoned Apartment High-rises in Kangbashi
Abandoned Apartment High-rises in Kangbashi

7)  Bayannoaoer
Bayannoaoer is one city that was built with opulence in mind. It features an elaborately designed town hall and water reclamation building, which is sponsored by the World Bank. Though the city is somewhat populated, the vast majority is devoid of citizens.

Inner Mongolia Bayannaoer Zijin Nonferrous Metal Co., Ltd
Inner Mongolia Bayannaoer Zijin Nonferrous Metal Co., Ltd

Despite its pleasing aesthetic, the city is unable to overcome the fundamental problems when it comes to attracting working professionals to a place with too little citizens and commerce to build on.

6)  Dantu
Dantu is a city that has pretty much been empty for more than ten years. While there are a number of neighborhoods that surround the complex, the vast majority are also empty, with little to no signs of life.

Aerial View of Dantu
Aerial View of Dantu

Of the neighborhoods where a few citizens take residence, there is very little development.

5)  Thames Town
The city of Thames Town is located in the Songjiang District. It was built in 2005 and inspired by the UK’s iconic Thames River. Many of the stores throughout the Thames Town have gimmicky English names in an attempt to replicate the streets of England.

Thames Town City Center
Thames Town in Songjiang
By Huai-Chun Hsu, via Wikimedia Commons

Most of the stores are in fact empty and only appear from the outside to be operational, as the area is largely unoccupied. While there are luxurious apartments throughout, few are actually used for personal residence.

Abandoned English Imitation Structures
Abandoned English Imitation Structures
By Huai-Chun Hsu, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s only because of the city’s novelty value that it sees a few tourists visit every year, with the city proving popular for newlyweds who use landmarks for backdrops to their wedding photos.

4)  Zhengzhou New District
The Zhengzhou New District is a semi-complete city that was inspired by grand ambition. It is a $19 billion development that features spectacular public offices and blocks of upscale houses. Despite its luxuriousness, the city is uninhabited.

Zhengzhou New District
Zhengzhou New District
By Earlyci, via Wikimedia Commons

While the developers are hoping that the lack of residents is due to the fact that only half of the area is completed, the likely explanation is that the city is situated in the center of a desert.

3)  Ordos
Of all of China’s elaborate places, Ordos is the most impressive. The development is filled with numerous buildings, theatres, museums and sporting fields. Throughout the city there are also a variety of upscale apartments. It was designed to initially home around one million citizens, and grow from there.

Ordos International Racing Circuit Grandstand
Ordos International Racing Circuit Grandstand
By Ngchikit via Wikimedia Commons

Still, Ordos was never embraced as expected, with significantly fewer people currently residing there. Cars are almost nowhere to be seen, other than in the parking lots reserved for government officials.

2)  Lanzhou New Area
Lanzhou New Area is a city that is currently under construction. In order for the development to go ahead, the Chinese government has to approve to have 700 mountains of the Gansu Province leveled just to construct the city. The areas deputy mayor insists that it will not be another ghost town like other developments before it, despite the fact that it has all the warning signs that this could very well be the case. He claims that the city will be fully equipped and that it will raise the living standards of its citizens.

Lanzhou Current Structures
Lanzhou Current Structures
By Sigismund von Dobschütz, via Wikimedia Commons

Rural migrants who are currently living on the outskirts of the Lanzhou New Area are awaiting the outcomes. Most of them are farmers who have no say when it comes to being relocated, given that their old homes are currently being destroyed by the government, leaving them with nowhere else to turn.

Lanzhou New Area
Lanzhou New Area

1)  Wonderland
Not that it was ever designed for the purposes of living, but the amusement park Wonderland (which was a fake Disney World) is yet another example (and perhaps the worst) of the nearsightedness the government and developers. The project was abandoned halfway through the park’s construction. When you see just what was built, it’s obvious that it was inspired by Disney World, given the fairytale like buildings and streets.

Wonderland - abandoned city
By Tormod Sandtorv via Wikimedia Commons

Wonderland was expected to be a big tourist card, but construction halted in 1998 because of disputes between local farmers and government officials. This was an early example of poor property development in the nation – a prelude to the ghost cities that would follow.

By Bertrouf, via Wikimedia Commons

After standing for 15 years, semi-constructed and never having been used, the structure was finally demolished this year. Both the development and the ultimate demolition of the park may prove to be symbolic in the fates of China’s ghost cities and the problems that may be insurmountable.

Despite the obvious flaws of the idea of building various cities before infrastructure and commerce can be established, property developers and the Chinese government are still pushing ahead with such projects. They feel that the cities will eventually come to life, as it’s just a matter of time before citizens and businesses make the developments into their homes. Many of the cities have an inherent catch 22 in regards to their inability to attract business because of the dwindling population. Furthermore, even when properties within the cities do actually sell, they often still remain vacant, as they are regarded as investments or holiday homes.

There certainly is a chance that it will all just be a matter of time before life within the cities match those of other places across the country - and maybe throughout the world. Whether that is true remains to be seen. What is certain is the fact that China will continue, at least in the short term, to struggle with this most unusual problem of ghost cities.





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