Post-apocalypse in China: how ghost cities appeared and why no one needs them

There are hundreds of cities in China, and the real estate sector accounts for a whopping 29% of the country's total GDP. But in

lately it has attracted the attention of fundsEvergrande's $ 300 billion debt crisis is reported. But this is not the only problem facing the housing market in China. High-tech talks about the phenomenon of ghost cities in China and shows the most impressive of them.

A recent report showed that 20% of the totalurban housing facilities in China (about 65 million houses) are empty. Whole areas of cities such as Tianducheng, Thames, Binhai, are shot at with housing that no one needs. There are many more empty buildings in these settlements than residential ones. These "ghost towns" have well-developed roads, infrastructure, skyscrapers and many public spaces. But nobody lives there. Why?

What is a ghost town?

Usually referred to as "ghost towns" earlierthriving and economically active places that have become abandoned over time. But with empty "settlements" in China - the opposite is true. These are new facilities designed for a large number of residents who have not yet appeared. Also, some of these ghost towns are not independent administrative units, but only districts in the suburbs of existing cities. The very concept of "city" in the Chinese version is very different from the Western one.

How did China become a land of ghost towns?

Once upon a time, real estate in China was a sector inwhere investments were considered safe and profitable. Even the Chinese government encouraged them - steadily rising prices were a key factor in the country's wealth growth. According to the constitution, all land in China is owned by the state, so when developers want to develop a piece of land, they must lease it from the government, often participating in local land auctions.

Another reason for uncontrolled market growthreal estate in the past is that compared to Europeans and Americans, the Chinese are not as active in investing in the stock market. In the US, about 52% of the US population owns stocks and about 65% owns property. While in China only about 7% of the population owns stocks, about 90% are homeowners. About 70% of household assets are in real estate.

Just compare - in three years (between 2010-2013), China used more concrete than the United States - for the entire twentieth century.

For years, the bubble in the Chinese housing market continued to grow. But then the demand for apartments declined, and here's why:

  • Huge interest in the real estate market has led to rise in prices... Investments in housing became more and more attractive, developers built more and more apartments, sold them more and more. At some point, housing became too expensive.
  • Population aging. According to the census, there are 264 million people in China.people over 60 years old - this is 18.7% of the population. Back in 2019, there were 254 million elderly people.For those over 65, this figure increased from 176 million in 2019 to 190 million in 2020, which is 13.5% of the population. And it is obvious that the situation will get worse. For example, according to a 2020 report from the China Foundation for Development Research, there will be more than 500 million people over the age of 60 in the country by 2050. This is almost a third of the projected total population at this time. In fact, the number of elderly people in China will be even greater than the entire population of the United States.
  • Falling fertility... A lot of both objective andsubjective factors. There is also an artificial limitation of the birth rate, changes in the social composition and, most importantly, the value guidelines of modern Chinese. Formally, the population of mainland China, which according to the census has 1.4 billion people, in 2020 grew by 5.38% compared to 2010. But it should be borne in mind that this is the slowest growth rate since the first census in 1953. At the same time, the number of newborns in 2020 is 12 million compared to 14.65 million in 2019, as a result, the birth rate decreased by 18%, moreover, and almost reached a sixty-year minimum. In addition, the fertility rate - the number of children per woman of childbearing age - fell to 1.3, below the "classic" level of 2.1 required to maintain a stable population. According to Chinese experts, in the next 10 years, the number of women in the age group of peak childbearing age from 22 to 35 years will decrease by more than 30%. This means that the birth rate will fall even more.

As a result, the less the young solventpopulation, the fewer people will invest in real estate. Moreover, when apartments are too expensive due to inflated prices. All of this has also led to the existence of several ghost towns resulting from uncontrolled urbanization and construction in the country.

The most famous ghost towns in China

The culture of real estate in the country is not onlyaccelerated the development of infrastructure, but also led to dramatic changes in the distribution of the population, writes Interesting Engineering. More than 60% of China's 1.4 billion citizens now live in cities, according to a World Bank report. Whole settlements remain empty, while others have waited for their inhabitants.

Ordos - a doomed metropolis

In 2004, the Chinese authorities decided to expandOrdos is one of the largest cities in the autonomous Inner Mongolia. The construction of a new Kanbashi district began 20 km from the historical center. It was assumed that about a million people would live in the city, but eight years after the start of construction, only about 30 thousand people lived in the city.

Most of the territory resembled footage from a post-apocalyptic film. The city itself became famous thanks to the series of photographs "Ordos - A Failed Utopia" and "The Unborn Cities".

According to the report, over the past few yearsthe Chinese government has moved some of the country's finest educational institutions (including schools and universities) to Kangbashi. The law requires that parents who want to send their children to certain schools also own real estate in the school area. Since then, the area has been flooded with new residents as many students and their families now move to Ordos for a quality education.

Chenggong is an unnecessary city

In 2003, the authorities decided to expand Kunming -the capital of the southern province of Yunnan - due to the territory of Chenggong county. In seven years, an urban area with a full-fledged infrastructure was erected there: residential buildings with hundreds of thousands of apartments, a school, campuses of two universities and government buildings. However, the city is not developing as expected. The Chinese buy houses in the new area, but as an investment, and do not live there themselves. The bottom line is the same - empty campuses and deserted streets.

Tanducheng - Chinese Paris

A popular wedding destination for couplesTanducheng is located about two hours west of Shanghai. It was specially built in such a way that it resembles Paris in miniature. The city can live up to 10,000 people and has its own 91 m high Eiffel Tower, gray Parisian facades, cobbled streets and Renaissance fountains.

A copy of the Eiffel Tower in Tanducheng. Source: MNXANL / Wikimedia Commons

The city itself was built in 2007, by 2013 inTanducheng had only 2,000 inhabitants and was already called a ghost town at that time. However, recent reports have shown that the city is now home to over 30,000 people. Gradually, this ghost town becomes inhabited, like Ordos.

Bubble burst

Another reason why cities appearedghosts are China's attempt to solve several problems. In the 2000s, the authorities launched several projects for the construction of new large cities in order to provide the population with jobs, maintain high rates of economic growth, urbanization and modernization of the economy. The plan did not work - the artificial bubble and the excitement around the real estate market eventually burst.

Now politicians are trying to stimulate residentspopulate ghost towns. In some cities it works, but the demographic problem is still there and can spoil the plan for the development of desolate areas.

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