China’s ghost cities: local problem or harbingers of apocalypse?

Tianducheng in eastern China: this famous ghost city adorned with a half-sized copy of the Eiffel Tower was built for 100,000 people, but has only 2,000 residents (source: dpa)
Tianducheng in eastern China: this famous ghost city adorned with a half-sized copy of the Eiffel Tower was built for 100,000 people, but has only 2,000 residents (source: dpa)

Vast expanses of unoccupied housing on the edges of China’s cities are testimony to the country’s spectacular economic growth and urbanisation. However, they also reveal the fundamental problems that China faces as its economy slows. These ‘ghost cities,’ as they have become known, represent a monumental challenge to policy makers, writes GIS guest expert Brendan O’Reilly.

The amount of empty residential space in China is growing fast. Between 2006 and 2010, the stock of unsold housing in the country rose at an annual rate of about 9 per cent, from 123 million square metres to 190 million square metres. Thereafter, there is a three-year gap in official estimates until 2014, when the ...

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