China’s incredible ghost cities: urban planning gone terribly wong?


In its bid to relocate an astounding 400 million people into cities, China has for the last several years embarked on a gargantuan-scale city-building effort. What has resulted in some regions is an urban-planner’s nightmare.

By: Pierre Herman

In his video, reporter Adrian Brown takes us on a fascinating tour of the growing number of Chinese ghost cities, cities that the Chinese government is nevertheless gambling will fill up one day. But for the moment they stand as reminders of how grandiose plans can sometimes turn into giant white elephants.

One of the most infamous of these cities is in Zhejiang province. Now just a grainy facsimile of the original, if you squint you might swear you were in the heart of the French city of lights.  It was built to resemble one of Paris’s most expensive neighbourhoods, complete with Parisian-style townhouses, fountains just like those outside the Chateau de Versailles and a one-third replica of the Eiffel Tower. But nobody moved in. Only around 1000 people actually live here, although it was designed to house more than 10,000.


In Dongguan province The Great Mall of China, the world’s biggest shopping centre, is so empty you can hear a pin drop. The city now has the brilliant idea of turning the mall into an attraction park, complete with high-rise condominium towers surrounding the mall on all sides.

And in Inner-Mongolia, there’s a city that makes the Spanish coastal housing bubble look like small potatoes: Kangbashi. It’s a city so empty that tourists arrive by the bus-loads for ghost-city tours, some to take a ramble down it’s 2.5 km long central square. With a skyline built for 1 million, a mere 70,000 call it home.

Lee Tai, head of China’s economic planning agency says bluntly: “Urban planning in many cities is done at the will of the governor. A governor may be fond of a Western urbanization model and may want to replicate it to prove that their city can out-perform the west.”

Have a look for yourself:


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This entry was posted on June 25, 2014 by in Architecture & Urban Design and tagged , , , .

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