Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chinese Ghost Cities

Contrary to what 60 Minutes reported, Wade Shepard says Chinese ghost cities are really just massive new developments that aren't yet finished when reported on:
I’d been chasing reports of deserted cities around China since last December, and I had yet to find one. Over and over again I would read articles in the international media which claim that China is building cities that are never inhabited only to find something very different upon arrival. The New South China Mall had a lot of empty shops but it turned out to be a thriving entertainment center, Dantu showed that an initially stagnant new city can become populated and come alive, and I found that Xinyang’s new district, a place called a ghost city since 2010, wasn’t even close to being built yet. The 60 Minutes report served as portent that there are really ghost cities out here in China. Or so it appeared....
The layouts of many older cities of China cannot easily be made to fill the demands of the modern era. Rather than fighting long, losing battles against transportation, urban migration, and sanitation, the Chinese are just starting over and building new cities from scretch. The old city of Zhengzhou is currently packed bumper to bumper with automobiles — its curvy, narrow, organically created streets are a warzone of traffic. The city is a scrambled mess that has been brought to a breaking point by a population that’s overgrown its bounds and consumes more resources than ever — so a pressure valve has been released in its northeastern quadrant, and the Zhengdong New District was created.
Many of China’s new urban districts are not being built for new migrants coming into cities, but for people looking to escape the congestion and insanity of the old cities. So, generally speaking, many of these new cities are being created to accommodate the country’s rising wealthy and middle classes — who tend to drive personal automobiles, leave large resource consumption footprints, and, simply speaking, want more space and things.
So the eastern suburbs of Zhengzhou were transformed into a rolling sea of brand new high-rises, soaring skyscrapers, elevated highways, museums, exhibition centers, and shopping malls. This new district currently covers 58 square kilometers, roughly the size of San Francisco, and there are plans to nearly quadruple it. Zhengdong was designed to hold two million people and act as the city’s upper/ middle class epicenter — a new city for the rich.
The scale of development in China boggles my mind.  I would think that the pace of development has been too fast in China, blowing a giant bubble, but considering how many people are there, I could be completely wrong.  The next couple years will probably let us know if it really is a bubble.  

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