Ghost Cities of China: The Story of Cities without People in the World's Most Populated Country (Asian Arguments)

Ghost Cities of China: The Story of Cities without People in the World's Most Populated Country (Asian Arguments)

Wade Shepard

Language: English

Pages: 192

ISBN: 178360218X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Over the next couple of decades, it is estimated that 250 million Chinese citizens will move from rural areas into cities, pushing the country’s urban population over one billion. China has built hundreds of new cities and urban districts over the past thirty years, and hundreds more are set to be built by 2030 as the central government kicks its urbanization initiative into overdrive. As China redraws its map with new cities, it isn't just creating new urban areas, but also engineering a new culture and way of life. Yet, many of these new cities, such as the infamous Kangbashi and Yujiapu, stand nearly empty, construction having ground to a halt due to the loss of investors and colossal debt.

In Ghost Cities of China, Wade Shepard examines this phenomenon up close. He posits that the shedding of traditional social structures in the country is at an advanced stage, and a rootless, consumption-centric globalized culture is rapidly taking its place. Incorporating interviews and on-the-ground investigation, Ghost Cities of China examines China’s under-populated modern cities and the country’s overly ambitious building program.
















cities, it is perhaps best known as an example of something else: a ghost city. ‘We discovered that the most populated country on earth is building houses, districts, and cities with no one in them’, began a report on 60 Minutes in March 2013. The news programme’s correspondent, Lesley Stahl, ventured out to Zhengdong accompanied by the Hong Kong financial adviser Gillem Tulloch. ‘We found what they call a ghost city of new towers with no residents, desolate condos, and vacant subdivisions

made for medical and pharmaceuticals research and production. It is set to be home to 100,000 residents employed in the biosciences. Imagine an area half the size of Manhattan that’s full of scientists, lab techs and pharmaceuticals dealers. The vision is to make CMC a global epicentre for the biosciences that would integrate all stages of the industry into a single location. The initiative is not unlike a medical-themed version of what the Pearl River Delta (aka The World’s Factory) was in the

overly fancy Germanic-influenced military uniform, then walked out onto a precipice that overlooked Hallstatt. The church’s towering steeple was the centrepiece of this quaint little European hamlet, which sat on the bank of an artificial lake within the contours of an artificial hill. In fact, the entire place was artificial, from the landscape to the buildings to the people. I wasn’t in Hallstatt, Austria, but Hallstatt, China – the 1:1 scale copy of the UNESCO World Heritage site in Guangdong

No matter how much money a city’s residents have, no matter how many apartments, cars and possessions they’ve accumulated, the quality of life they can lead is stunted if they are poisoned daily while living in an environmental wasteland. According to the World Bank, China’s 731 million urban residents use three times more energy than those living in rural areas. Therefore drastically increasing the urban population means a big boost in energy consumption. China’s urban residents, on average,

Imminent Collapse Are a Bit Rich’, Guardian, 29 August 2012. Rothman, Andy, ‘China’s Property Is Slowing, Not Crashing’, Financial Times, 1 October 2014. Ruan, Victoria, ‘Li Keqiang Warns of Urbanisation Risks in First Speech as Premier’, South China Morning Post, 18 March 2013. Schmitz, Rob, ‘In China, a Replica of Manhattan Loses Its Luster’,, 3 July 2013. Schmitz, Rob, ‘Preparing for China’s Urban Billion’,, 12 March 2014. Shao, Xiaoyi, and Koh Gui Qing,

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