When you think of China, the first thing that comes to mind is the high population. It is almost impossible to imagine that there could be hundreds of well-developed cities throughout the country that are unoccupied. Yes, you read that right. The Chinese government has poured out loads of money to build cities fit for urban, modern lifestyles that are near completion, with high-rise complexes, skyscrapers, developed waterfronts, and public amenities, but they still remain unoccupied.
China’s plan was to decongest the existing cities by relocating more than 250 million inhabitants in 2026 into the completed cities. This was the perfect plan to showcase the accomplishments of the local government politically inclined officials who were keen on proving that urban development and real estate is a high return investment that can boost the country’s economic growth.
The Fascination with China’s Ghost Cities
These ghost cities have become a fascination for many, top among them being photographers and architectural enthusiasts. The reason why these cities continue to fascinate many is because we are all used to towns developing slowly into urban centers in accordance to local industrialization. However, these cities are prepped to near completion ready before people can move in.
For an architecture fanatic or a photographer, China’s ghost towns are the perfect works of art in an exciting yet unsettling way.
Why Are These Cities Empty
Firstly, since the cities are near completion before people can move in, there tends to be a lag phase between the final development phase and the time when the cities become noticeably populated. It is during this phase that many structures remain unoccupied.
Secondly, it is terribly hard to build a town from scratch, let alone an ultra-modern city. It is even harder to uproot people from the lives they are used to and take them to a totally new place to start over again. Most people who were meant to be in these cities find it hard to relocate, even if they seem to have significantly spacious amenities. This is because these new cities may lack the commerce infrastructure needed to support those who’ll move in there.
Thirdly, the cities were built without demand for them, which resulted to “walls without market”, which loosely refers to hollow cities. The investment hysteria and political exigency trumped the economic sense of the cities and consideration for genuine needs.
In Kangbashi district, the administration relocated schools and bureaucratic buildings so as to convince the nearby inhabitants to relocate into the city. The trick worked, though not too well as only 100,000 inhabitants now occupy a city that was designed to accommodate at least 500,000.
A Look Inside Chinese Ghost Cities
The Kangbashi District or Ordos is one of the most famous ghost towns of China. Today, there are numerous sites that have pictures of China’s ghost cities, which you can view in order to understand the real fascination with the eerie look of the empty cities. Although these Chinese cities are home to state of the art facilities with glistening buildings, they remain largely unoccupied. With many of the opinion that it is an economic failure, the Chinese government sees them as an achievement in development after three decades of prepping them.
Yujiapu Financial District
This is a city just outside Tainjin in the new Binhai Area. It is a replica of Manhattan, on a 1.52-mile area, complete with twin towers and a Rockefeller Centre. The project, which cost about $30.4 billion, was started in 2008.
Meixi Lake City
This is a 4.32-mile development encircling a manmade lake. This city is designed to accommodate not less than 180,000 people, and it is lined with soft music, tidy paths, and nice benches. The city is also home to numerous half-done skyscrapers and apartments.
The Kangbashi city is complete with billion dollar structures, some of which are:
· The Grand Theatre
· The City Library
· The City mosque
· The Olympic style stadia
· The city library
· The Odors Museum
· The city horse racing track
· Housing schemes and apartments
The cities also feature wide roads, beautifully done clean paths and parks, benches, developed waterfronts, sculptures, and other facilities which only add to the appeal.
The new cities are located within the proximity of already established older cities. This was an administrative strategy to help the people relocate and reduce the sense of migration to a foreign land. In essence, the cities were supposed to be an extension of already established towns. However, many of these new areas are not expected to be vibrant, busy and fully occupied until they are about 25 years old after the completion of the construction.
What Is the Future of These Empty Chinese Cities?
The world is wondering what will happen to China’s abandoned cities, now that the people seem reluctant to move in. Well, for starters, the unfinished structures will be completed, new facilities will be built, and the cities will inevitably be filled.
The developing architecture in China comes in 3 styles:
· New cities (which are referred to as xinshi)
· New districts (which are referred to as xinqu)
· Townification (which is called chengzhenhua)
Townification is a simple term which depicts a total overhaul in how towns in China have been developed over the years. It refers to a total transformation of tribal villages and small towns by developing ultra modern facilities around them. This is one of the government’s major projects: to urbanize rural China. Within the next five years, the government plans to urbanize more than 100 million Chinese, and ultimately more than 300 million by 2030.
Townification, which is the development of smaller cities as opposed to a replica of big cities donning skyscrapers, is more acceptable in this plan compared to the traditional urbanization style. With a large pool of labor, availability of construction materials, and a good pool of development funds, it becomes hard to put the brakes on the growth expected in the next few years. This is what will define China’s social-economic development in the coming decades.
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