Is this real? Empty cities in China.

A lot of it is a sort optimism that the economy will continue its rise until the millions upon millions of peasants can all empty out of the countryside and into modern cities. There is a huge, huge, huge emphasis on urbanizing basically everyone.

Another part is that construction, at least in the short run, makes China look richer. This is especially true on a municipal level. Everyone wants to keep the boom booming, and that means building as much as you can. The Chinese banks (which are government controlled) have been pretty liberal with their lending for this reason.

Finally, corruption plays a role. Development is a great way for local governments to make tons of money in kickbacks, contract bribes, etc.

If the NFL could only branch into China, think of all the franchise city possibilities.

the NFL cannot even branch into Los Angeles.

Those 1.5 million students are spread over 400 campi. All the universities on that list are either multi-campus or include distance learning students in their enrollment figures.

The largest single university campus in terms of non-distance enrollment is the University of Pune, with something like 250,000 local students.

The OP’s link is talking about 2.3 million students on a single campus, which simply couldn’t happen.

(“campi”?! :dubious: Oh, good Lord.)

It’s perfectly cromulent.

Interestlgly, on my recent visit there, my chinese hosts were terribly confused with the numbers ‘thousand’ and ‘million’. They would say that ‘70 thousand’ people had visited the Shanghai expo, when they clearly meant 70 million. And they would say something cost 23 million, when it was 23 thousand.

Seems like more than a simple one time translation error…it might be more ingrained than that.

I’m bilingual in Japanese/English but I still get confused trying to translate large numbers, because the Japanese words for large numbers are grouped into 4 digits rather than 3. I think Chinese has the same system:

百 = hundred
千 = thousand
万 = 10 thousand
十万 (10万) = 100 thousand
百万(100万) = 1 million
千万(1000万) = 10 million
億 = 100 million


In an episode of “Paul Merton in China” I watched a while ago, he visited one of these “ghost towns” & it was really interesting. Another explanation (in addition to many already mentioned in this thread) given by Paul’s local guide as to why they were virtually deserted was that Chinese real estate value is very much like automobile value here in the West. Like, you know how as soon as you drive a new car off the lot it loses a significant part of its value? From what I understand, as soon as a newly-built home in China becomes occupied its value also goes down significantly. So a lot of the homes in this particular town were actually owned by someone - the owners just weren’t willing to “ruin” their investment by moving in!

There was also some “life” in this particular town. It was a popular wedding photo location (since everything was so pretty and pristine), and it did have at least one family actually living in one of the homes. Although, if memory serves I believe they may have been American or British expats?

Is this sort of like the “industrial park” phenomenon in the US, where local municipalities in rural areas use government loans to build empty industrial spaces in hopes of luring industry there?

Are these Chinese “cities” using the availability of plentiful modern housing to try to lure multi-national corporations into placing manufacturing operations there?

China isn’t the only one. Spain has them too. And, if you look at some of the suburbs in Florida, they’re pretty empty. In fact, I was listening to Planet Money, and they were talking about paved roads that were built from an earlier real estate boom in the 1970s. The roads were built, but not the houses. The roads still exist today (although they must be in awful condition).

how can vacant buildings be pretty and pristine? Who does the maintenance?
Brand new buildings may not need new paint, and unuoccupied places don’t produce much garbage… but they need to have the sidewalks swept , the dust cleared away from doorways, , the lawns tended, storm damage repaired, etc.

Construction is also often referred to by Chinese decision-makers as a pillar of the economy and extremely vital to social stability. Construction projects provide the majority of migrant worker employment opportunities, keeping them ‘happy’ and less restless. Price of construction and vacancy is viewed as an acceptable cost to maintaining social harmony. Many buildings are merely shells, quickly built with questionable labour, materials and often without any with any interior finishing. Any one who has lived in China will agree that buildings age incredibly fast and maintenance in minimal.

Also, considerable amounts of China’s 500 billion dollar stimulus went into construction projects to create employment rather than meet floor space/apartment/industrial demands.

I highly recommend reading Patrick Chovanec’s blog, a professor at Beijing University. He writes quite a bit about the real-estate in China. He’s in the know and not just some two-bit pundit that makes up the majority of the English language China blogs.

So who protects these buildings from squatters and vandalism? Here in the U.S., I know there are people who steal copper wire and piping because of the value of the metal as scrap. Many foreclosed houses are broken into by homeless folks, illegal immigrants, or others looking for a free place to stay. I realize China probably gives you a death penalty for doing stuff like that, but I would think some enterprising criminal would be raiding these vacant cities for supplies to use in occupied cities where they can be used. I presume the aforementioned corruption works both ways in that regard.

I’m also guessing that China must have some number of beggars and homeless folks, who would probably like to live in a nice new unused apartment rather than sleeping on the street - especially during inclement weather. Do these empty buildings have security guards, police patrols, etc.?

Not necessarily. If nobody’s driving on them, there isn’t going to be much wear & tear on the roads. And with Florida’s weather, I don’t imagine they would have to worry about freeze/thaw cycles, frost heave, and such, like we do here in Minnesota, and the damage those do to a road.

Despite the often grinding poverty, China does not have a lot of homeless. Those that are homeless are either obviously mentally ill, or otherwise disabled. It could be that families are usually cohesive enough to take care of their own. Or maybe they just throw anyone any vagrants in jail. I’m not sure. But beggars and homeless are surprisingly rare.

Which part of Florida? I’m in south Florida, and I don’t see it. I routinely travel from the western edge of the everglades to the beach, and have traffic and people the whole way.

Granted, we are economically and culturally very different compared to the rest of the state…so maybe central/north Florida?

If the cities are isolated enough, I wouldn’t expect any homeless to go there unless conditions are REALLY bad outside. Homeless and poor people need to eat, and in my experience, congregate where there is available food. Empty cities don’t tend to have many sources of food - no trash to go through, no Church to be fed at, etc.

As far as road conditions- grass, plants, and trees tend to overgrow pavement if not maintained. If there are roads that were built 40 years ago with no civilization around them and no upkeep, I’d expect them to be in poor shape.

Here is north florida development that barely took off.

Google Earth these coordinate 30 31.803, 85 37.471

Thousands of empty home lots, miles of paved road, and few lots with actual houses on them. The place is about 40 years old, maybe even older, and the roads are in pretty good shape.

Pan around the starting point abit. Its not all right there.

I saw tons of young kids begging when I was in Shanghai several years ago. They were total pests.

Pardon me while I fall down laughing. HA!

The reason you didn’t personally see beggars and homeless people during your stay in China – which of course is all you’re saying – is that in your rural inland backwater town, every able bodied person likely had long since caught a train to the nearest major coastal city to scrounge for work.

If that fancy book learnin’ and newspaper readin’ don’t do nothin’ for you and personal anecdotes are the only thing that count, I’ve personally seen legions of people sleeping on the ground and hordes of beggars in every Chinese city I’ve been to in the past fifteen years.