Under-occupied developments in China

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This is a list of property developments in China, which are currently mostly unoccupied and which are sometimes referred to as "ghost cities."[1] They are also frequently referred to in the international media as "ghost towns",[2] but this usually refers to abandoned places rather than new ones that have failed to attract populations.


Abandoned residential complexes in the Chenggong district, Kunming, Yunnan. Photo: Matteo Damiani
Abandoned residential complexes in the Chenggong district, Kunming, Yunnan.

The way in which property values are structured in China plays a role in the creation of "ghost cities", according to author Wade Shepard, who has traveled widely to research the phenomenon of China's underoccupied cities. "Economically affordable housing" must be lived in by the owner, and can not be bought and sold as an investment. The developer is only permitted to sell "economically affordable housing" at 5% over the cost of construction. By contrast, "commodity housing" can be bought and sold as an investment. Because housing is a physical object, and China's large population guarantees an ongoing demand for housing, commodity housing is considered a more secure way to store money. Except in some Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities which have different government regulations, "commodity housing" generally sells, as an investment.[3] In addition, these homes typically serve as future homes for the buyer's offspring to live in when they get married.[4]

Construction of "commodity housing" is driven by the disparity between urban and rural land prices. Rural land, which must be collectively owned, is redesignated by a municipality as urban-construction land, which can then be resold by the municipality at as much as forty times the price. Shepard explains that municipalities must pass on about 40% percent of their tax revenues to Beijing and are responsible for about 80% of their expenses. Hence, there is an incentive to seek non-tax-income streams. According to Shepard, as of 2015, "40% of the revenue that local governments in China make is from land sales." In 2012, this type of development created $438 billion (394 billion euros) for China's local governments.[5] A common assumption is that local officials are strictly incentivized to start construction on this newly created urban land to boost GDP growth and look good within the Party. However, Shepard points out many places which started becoming ghost cities were under the jurisdiction of an area with already strong GDP growth. He argues that these developments are seen as an investment for the future and promote development with timescales of over 20 years.[3]

Developers acquire new plots of land from local governments and are mandated to construct something more or less immediately.[5] Developers can't sit idly on vacant land and wait for the surrounding area to develop until it's economically viable.[5] This creates the quick-buck mentality in developers to rapidly build in the new area without the necessary demand for housing.[5]

Many developments criticized as ghost cities did materialize into economically vibrant areas when given enough time to develop, such as Pudong, Zhujiang New Town, Zhengdong New Area, Tianducheng and malls such as the Golden Resources Mall and South China Mall.[6] While many developments failed to live up to initial lofty promises, most of them eventually became occupied when given enough time.[7] The "ghost city" moniker has been criticized for "calling the game at halftime".[3] Ordos Kangbashi is often seen as the one of the first and most prominent examples of the international Chinese ghost city phenomenon and fascination. Some journalists have pointed to the Ordos Kangbashi ghost city stories as an example of Western medias hasty and often misinformed reporting of development in China. Reporting that often eschews reaching out to local officials and planners in favor of trying to attract readers unfamiliar with China’s development model and bemused at Chinas perceived backwardness.[8] As of 2015, it was reported that Ordos Kangbashi has a population of 100,000 people, 80 percent of which are full time residents, with the remainder commuting daily from nearby Dongsheng for work.

List of cities[edit]

  • Chenggong District is the chief zone for the expansion of the city of Kunming. As of 2012, much of the newly constructed housing in Chenggong was still unoccupied, and it is reportedly one of the largest ghost cities in Asia.[9] However, some commentators expect it to become occupied over the next few years, as central Kunming is overcrowded. Some Government departments are to move to Chenggong in 2012,[10] and a subway line to the city center opened in 2013.
  • Ordos City, Kangbashi New Area a large city with abundant infrastructure in Inner Mongolia. It is little used by residents and frequently described as a 'ghost city'.[11]
  • Nanhui New City
  • Yujiapu Financial District
  • Yingkou is a prefecture level city in Liaoning province.[12] The prefecture level city has five years of unsold apartments with a number of abandoned projects.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shephard, Wade (2015). Ghost Cities of China: The Story of Cities without People in the World's Most Populated Country. Zed Books. ISBN 9781783602186.
  2. ^ Umberto Bacchi, China's Ghost Towns: Deserted Cities Raise Fears of Debt Crisis, International Business Times, 4 March 2013
  3. ^ a b c Shepard, Wade (1 September 2015). "Ghost Cities of China: A Discussion with Wade Shepard". Chengdu Living. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  4. ^ Shepard, Wade. "What China Is Doing About Its 450 Million Square Meters Of Unsold Housing". Forbes. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d "The future of China's 'ghost cities'". China Daily. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  6. ^ "China's growth breathes new life into old ghost towns". Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  7. ^ "The truth about China's futuristic ghost cities". Richard van Hooijdonk. 27 July 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  8. ^ https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/04/19/an-update-on-chinas-largest-ghost-city-what-ordos-kangbashi-is-like-today/#7301cfd23270
  9. ^ Robin Banerji; Patrick Jackson (14 August 2012). "China's ghost towns and phantom malls". BBC News. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  10. ^ China: No one home, Financial Times, 21 February 2010
  11. ^ "China's Empty City" (video). Al Jazeera. YouTube. 9 November 2009.
  12. ^ a b Fung, Esther. "This Chinese City's Property Market Is Even Chillier Than Its -22-Degree Weather". Retrieved 21 August 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Shepard, Wade (2015). Ghost Cities of China: The Story of Cities without People in the World's Most Populated Country. Zed Books. ISBN 9781783602186.