Monday, March 16, 2015

Ordos: Ghost town of China

Built for over a million people, the city of Ordos was designed to be the crowning glory of Inner Mongolia. Doomed to incompletion however, this futuristic metropolis now rises empty out of the deserts of northern China. Only 2% of its buildings were ever filled; the rest has largely been left to decay, abandoned mid-construction, earning Ordos the title of China’s Ghost City.

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The story started about 20 years ago, with the beginning of a great Mongolian coal rush.Private mining companies poured into the green Inner Mongolian steppe lands, pock-marking the landscape with enormous opencast holes in the ground, or tunnelling underground.Local farmers sold their land to the miners, and became instantly rich. Jobs burgeoned. Ceaseless coal truck convoys tore up the roads.

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And the old city of Ordos flourished as the money flowed in.The municipality decided to think big, too.It laid out plans for a huge new town for hundreds of thousands of residents, with Genghis Khan Plaza at the centre of it.

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Ten years later Ordos new town is an empty new city.And it is merely the most spectacular example of a new Chinese phenomenon, in many cities - unsold flats, unlet shops, empty office blocks.It looks to outsiders as though the great Chinese building boom is over, the real estate extravaganza that shook the world.

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Western financial experts who fear a bursting of the Chinese real estate bubble point out that the Chinese economy is more dependent on house building than the United States economy was, before the sub-prime lending bubble burst in 2007.Many Chinese local authorities seem to have become dependent on the proceeds of big land sales to developers.In the eyes of the critics, China's housing boom is becoming a disaster.

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Today, streets are filled with incomplete houses. Even the completed buildings are hardly occupied thanks to their high prices. Many of the residents occupying the town are also leaving for elsewhere. In just five years, price per square foot fell from $1,100 to $470. To encourage people to come to the town, investors have reduced prices. Fresh graduates who move to the town to start a business are even given office space, Internet connections, and several other utilities for free.

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Empty roads of A-town ordos housing complex

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