Under-occupied developments in China

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


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. "Commodity housing" purchased as an investment generally sells, with the exception of some Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities which have different government regulations.[3]

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. He 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." The Party further incentivizes construction on this newly urban land by using local GDP growth as one of the indicators that makes a local government look good within the Party.[3]

In 2012, this type of development created $438 billion (394 billion euros) for China's local governments.[4]

Developers acquire new plots of land from local governments and are mandated to construct something more or less immediately.[4] Developers can't sit idly on vacant land and wait for the surrounding area to develop until it's economically viable.[4] This creates the quick-buck mentality in developers to rapidly build in the new area without the necessary demand for housing, new industries essential for employment to sustain the housing and new community.[4]

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.[5] 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,[6] and a subway line to the city center opened in 2013.
  • Dantu in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, has been underoccupied since around 2005, but as of 2015, has businesses in its shops.[3]
  • 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'.[7]
  • New South China Mall in Dongguan is the largest shopping mall in the world based on gross leasable area.[8] However, it has been 99% vacant since its 2005 opening as very few merchants have ever signed up.[9] In 2015, CNN reported that the mall was filled with shops after extensive renovations and remodelling of the facility.[10]
  • Nanhui New City
  • Yujiapu Financial District
  • Yingkou is a prefecture level city in Liaoning province.[11] The prefecture level city has five years of unsold apartments with a number of abandoned projects.[11]
  • Zhengdong, outskirts of Zhengzhou in Henan province.[12][13] Recently several regional headquarters of banks moved in and the area has begun to fill up with residents.[14] A metro line serving the area opened in 2013, two more lines connecting the Zhengdong with urban Zhengzhou are under construction.

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. ^ a b c d "The future of China's 'ghost cities'|Cover Story|chinadaily.com.cn". europe.chinadaily.com.cn. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
  5. ^ Robin Banerji; Patrick Jackson (14 August 2012). "China's ghost towns and phantom malls". BBC News. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  6. ^ China: No one home, Financial Times, 21 February 2010
  7. ^ "China's Empty City" (video). Al Jazeera. YouTube. 9 November 2009.
  8. ^ Van Riper, Tom (18 January 2008). "The World's Largest Malls". Forbes. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  9. ^ Donohue, Michael (12 June 2008). "Mall of misfortune". The National. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  10. ^ Nylander, Johann (28 April 2015). "Chinese 'ghost mall' back from the dead?". CNN. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  11. ^ a b Fung, Esther. "This Chinese City's Property Market Is Even Chillier Than Its -22-Degree Weather". Retrieved 2016-08-21.
  12. ^ Smith, Adam James (2014-11-06). "'Re-education' campaigns teach China's new ghost city-dwellers how to behave". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
  13. ^ "Banishing the ghost". Retrieved 2016-08-21.
  14. ^ (www.dw.com), Deutsche Welle. "What has become of China's ghost cities? | Asia | DW | 25.11.2016". DW.COM. Retrieved 2017-11-08.

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.