Not all of urban China is swelling.
The exceptions are the “ghost cities” – centres stalled, or built for predicted influxes that failed to appear.
Construction of the northern city of Yujiapu, intended to be a near-replica of New York, “has all but grinded to a halt”, says Rob Schmitz of the American Public Media programme Marketplace.”Investors have pulled out. And a cluster of skyscrapers sit, half-finished – Manhattan on hold.”
But in the region of Ordos sits the ghostliest of all.
Built in anticipation of a coal boom, Kangbashi is “China’s most infamous example of a colossal waste of investment”, writes Schmitz.
Intended to accommodate half a million people, it is estimated to be 98% vacant.
Intrigued by reports of the city, blogger Darmon Richter travelled there, and details the trip on his Bohemian Blog. The vast, opulent airport is close to empty, the slick wide roads desolate.
Through and through it felt like a construction site: a builders’ canteen stretched to accommodate a full city. For working men, there were primal comforts aplenty – bars, snacks and brothels – but while the fine restaurants and casinos made a show of being ready for tourists, delegates, or better still, investors, most of them were no more than empty fronts and meaningless displays.
By the light of the following morning, we got our first impression of the sheer scale of abandonment. We stopped off for a fast-food breakfast, the restaurant cowering in the shadow of the city’s CBD. In place of industrious office buildings however, a series of hollow fingers rose up to the sky; the shells of would-be towers, one after another, row after row, vanishing off into the distance.
Scmitz’s taxi driver, at least, urged optimism. “They will come,” he insisted. “You don’t think our city is beautiful? You’ll see. The people will come.”