Two Years After That Famous Report On Chinese Ghost Cities, Things Might Be Getting Even Worse

September 20, 2013 10:17 am 0 comments Views: 1412

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China’s ambitious urbanization plan has helped create many ghost cities.

Two years after visiting some of China’s most infamous ghost cities and malls, Australian reporter Adrian Brown revisited them for SBS Dateline, to see if they had changed.

His tour of Tianducheng, the Paris replica that we reported on; the South China Mall; and Kangbashi in Ordos, China’s most famous ghost city, showed that they were still empty.

Tom Miller, a Chinese urbanization expert told Brown, it’s as though Chinese officials “basically draw a circle on a map and they build it, and then they expect people to go and move in.” The “gamble” is that cities might be empty now, but they will be filled up later, an argument Stephen Roach has previously made.

While some argue that this is symptomatic of a massive property bubble in China, this really shows the presence on individual property bubbles across China.

Tianduncheng, a city intended to replicate Paris was Adrian Brown’ first stop.

Tianduncheng, a city intended to replicate Paris was Adrian Brown' first stop.

SBS Dateline

The city has a mix of Parisian town houses, a replica of the Eiffel Tower.

The city has a mix of Parisian town houses, a replica of the Eiffel Tower.

SBS Dateline

And an imitation of the fountains of Versailles.

And an imitation of the fountains of Versailles.

SBS Dateline

The town was supposed to hold 10,000 people but it holds about 1,000.

The town was supposed to hold 10,000 people but it holds about 1,000.

SBS Dateline

But at the Champs-Élysées square of Tianducheng shops are empty and boarded up.

But at the Champs-Élysées square of Tianducheng shops are empty and boarded up.

SBS Dateline

A local said even though there are more people in the city now, there aren’t enough to support businesses.

A local said even though there are more people in the city now, there aren't enough to support businesses.

SBS Dateline

The destination is popular among wedding photographers.

The destination is popular among wedding photographers.

SBS Dateline

This local said people didn’t care for the architecture, they just bought homes because they were cheap.

This local said people didn't care for the architecture, they just bought homes because they were cheap.

SBS Dateline

The South China Mall in Dongguan was next on Brown’s agenda.

The South China Mall in Dongguan was next on Brown's agenda.

SBS Dateline

He found the mall abandoned and almost every store boarded up.

He found the mall abandoned and almost every store boarded up.

SBS Dateline

“Nothing has changed in the 2.5 years that I was last in the Great Mall of China,” said Brown.

"Nothing has changed in the 2.5 years that I was last in the Great Mall of China," said Brown.

SBS Dateline

In 2011 he spoke with a toy shop owner at The Great Mall of China.

In 2011 he spoke with a toy shop owner at The Great Mall of China.

SBS Dateline

At the time, the owner said sometimes three or four days passed before he made a sale.

At the time, the owner said sometimes three or four days passed before he made a sale.

SBS Dateline

Brown’s visit in 2013 showed the store boarded up.

Brown's visit in 2013 showed the store boarded up.

SBS Dateline

The local government has taken over the mall now and classified it as a National tourist attraction.

The local government has taken over the mall now and classified it as a National tourist attraction.

SBS Dateline

Billions of dollars are now being spent on a makeover that would include an “apartment and villa complex.”

Billions of dollars are now being spent on a makeover that would include an "apartment and villa complex."

SBS Dateline

It’s this “build, build, build mentality” that has some people worried about a property bubble in China.

It's this "build, build, build mentality" that has some people worried about a property bubble in China.

SBS Dateline

Brown also revisited China’s most infamous ghost city of Kangbashi in Ordos.

Brown also revisited China's most infamous ghost city of Kangbashi in Ordos.

SBS Dateline

Developers flocked here in the middle of a mining boom.

Developers flocked here in the middle of a mining boom.

SBS Dateline

The city remains mostly empty.

The city remains mostly empty.

SBS Dateline

Kangbashi was expected to hold more than a million residents.

Kangbashi was expected to hold more than a million residents.

SBS Dateline

But fewer than 70,000 people are reported to live there today.

But fewer than 70,000 people are reported to live there today.

SBS Dateline

Ordos was home the to Miss World competitions in 2012.

Ordos was home the to Miss World competitions in 2012.

SBS Dateline

But the end of the mining boom stopped the influx of residents to Kangbashi.

But the end of the mining boom stopped the influx of residents to Kangbashi.

SBS Dateline

Population pressures didn’t emerge in Ordos so a lot of that construction has gone to waste, author Tom Miller told SBS Datline.

Population pressures didn't emerge in Ordos so a lot of that construction has gone to waste, author Tom Miller told SBS Datline.

SBS Dateline

But Arnold thinks it is wrong to talk of one big property bubble in China.

But Arnold thinks it is wrong to talk of one big property bubble in China.

SBS Dateline

“Imagine China as bubble wrap, some of those bubbles in it might burst,” Arnold said.

"Imagine China as bubble wrap, some of those bubbles in it might burst," Arnold said.

SBS Dateline

“In places like Beijing and Shanghai there’s still massive demand for housing, and there isn’t enough housing.”

"In places like Beijing and Shanghai there's still massive demand for housing, and there isn't enough housing."

SBS Dateline

Ironically, Kangbashi’s lack of people is drawing in visitors.

Ironically, Kangbashi's lack of people is drawing in visitors.

SBS Dateline

But it’s almost as though China is ignoring all these signs.

But it's almost as though China is ignoring all these signs.

SBS Dateline

850 kilometers (approx. 530 miles) south of Ordos China is building another city “from scratch.”

850 kilometers (approx. 530 miles) south of Ordos China is building another city "from scratch."

SBS Dateline

This is the Lanzhou New Area in China’s Gansu province.

This is the Lanzhou New Area in China's Gansu province.

SBS Dateline

The project began two years ago when army engineers cut the tops off 700 mountains and filled in the valleys.

The project began two years ago when army engineers cut the tops off 700 mountains and filled in the valleys.

SBS Dateline

To build a 130,000 hectare (approx 321240 acres) metropolis, all of which is part of China’s ambitious urbanization plan.

To build a 130,000 hectare (approx 321240 acres) metropolis, all of which is part of China's ambitious urbanization plan.

SBS Dateline

China wants to move more than 400 million people from the countryside to the city in the next 10 years.

China wants to move more than 400 million people from the countryside to the city in the next 10 years.

SBS Dateline

Lanzhou New Area’s deputy mayor Guo Zhiqiang said his city would not make the same mistakes as Ordos.

Lanzhou New Area's deputy mayor Guo Zhiqiang said his city would not make the same mistakes as Ordos.

SBS Dateline

Local government officials arranged for Brown to meet with local farmers that were being displaced to make way for the new city.

Local government officials arranged for Brown to meet with local farmers that were being displaced to make way for the new city.

SBS Dateline

None were willing to express any unhappiness around the officials.

None were willing to express any unhappiness around the officials.

SBS Dateline

Brown calls it “social engineering on the grandest of scales.”

Brown calls it "social engineering on the grandest of scales."

SBS Dateline

Real estate isn’t the only unbalanced aspect of China.

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