Anyway, I think we might be looking too hard for large problems where there might not be any. Don't forget that we have a similarly ridiculous situation in America: for every homeless person there are 26 houses that are vacant. Considering that China's population is a 1.35 billion (about a billion more than America's), at least in one respect it would seem like a prudent choice to build high-rises in place of crudely-made one or two-storey building houses in anticipation of future housing issues.
I'd be more interested in why two such different countries as the US and China seem to have independently arrived at the same problem of ghost cities. We know that China's problems arise from a top-down, state-directed model of development under a one-party rule. But that was never the case in the US, right?
Conversely, there are very few instances of such ghost cities in India (at least that I know of). Possibly because India's urban development has up till now (though today many new cities are currently being proposed as urbanization becomes the need of the hour in India) been much more organic and bottom-up, largely because we couldn't afford otherwise.
The situation in China is completely different. Regional governments are naively trying to stimulate their economies with these huge construction projects. So, they're building giant cities without proper planning or consideration for population shifts. These cities have never been occupied and it looks like they never will. Worse, they're being paid for by highly rated bonds issued from the central government. The whole thing looks like a real estate bubble that could tank the Chinese economy.
And while I agree with you that they weren't unoccupied to begin with, unlike the case with many of China's ghost cities, I beg to disagree on the rest of your argument - namely that the US model was appropriate for its time (we have decades of hindsight) and that the Chinese model isn't appropriate for the present (we don't know).
Many experts have been prophesying a crash for China's investment driven economy for years now, and a dramatic correction in real estate prices. Yet, after a small correction prices are still rising - http://www.economist.com/news/china/21577118-soaring-house-p...
We may only know a decade or two later whether a few dozen ghost cities was a small price China paid for continuing to power ahead economically.
There was no model other than freedom. Freedom to invent, create, build, farm all as we saw fit. This is completely different and perhaps antithetical to what the Chinese are doing now. Their government is trying to will the result of prosperity into existence rather than allow it to culminate on its own as it does in a truly free society.
In the case of the "building" of America, so to speak, were there not people who did not quite enjoy the same freedom you speak of? In fact millions would have forfeited their freedom so the rest could "invent, create, build and farm as they saw fit".
The US is nice, but perfect it ain't.
If so, I'm surprised that financial institutions would buy these bonds, despite their high ratings.
China overbuilds way too much, even in thriving cities like Shanghai and Beijing will you find almost completely deserted shopping malls.
>>I only observed...
You didn't ONLY observe, you observed and then asked a question, and then the question was answered:
r0h1n>>"I'd be more interested in why two such different countries as the US and China seem to have independently arrived at the same problem"
Seanmcdirmind asked you if your question was genuine, you responded that it was, then he answered your question. There is no conflict here.
FWIW there are ghost towns like the US examples in Spain too - villages of about 50-100 inhabitants that eventually just seem to dry up as populations give up on agriculture/subsistence/mining or whatever and younger generations move to larger cities.
Then there's Valdeluz. Political corruption at its finest, producing a semi-ghost town with less than 2000 people living there. http://desertedplaces.blogspot.com.es/2013/06/the-spanish-gh... - I visited there a couple of summers ago. Nice and peaceful, plenty of playgrounds for the kids to play on, no queues at the supermarket :-)
Also the reason these cities are ghosts isn't because there aren't enough people in China (it is after all the world's most populous country), but because they were ill-planned in terms of economic/social benefits for residents.
We have to talk about population density, not absolute numbers.
The Party looked at the "end state" of an industrialized, prosperous middle-class nation and then decided to will that end state into existence. In that end state, China needs to urbanize on a massive scale and these cities are simply the physical manifestation.
This is the grandest scale human experiment ever, collectivist decision making at its finest (those farmers who are forced to give up the land don't have much of a voice).
Will this work? I don't believe we can begin to calculate all the consequences of this experiment. In any case, it is not obvious the causality runs the way that is implicit in this experiment: build cities, move people, and forge a vast urban middle-class out of rural peasants.
This book is a somewhat sympathetic description of that grand experiment (mildly sympathetic to the Party):
(One hears less about this today, because the German revolution failed while the Russian one succeeded, so Lenin won out over Kautsky in dominating 20th-century leftist discourse.)
In typical state-planner fashion, the Chinese government completely misses a critical component of the rich-country population distribution: people (more or less) choose where they are going to live, i.e. it's not just a question of available bedrooms. Detroit has plenty of available bedrooms, and so does the most of the South and mid-West.
ie not Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou
The parent comment was about creating cheap hacker spaces.
A lot of them are still being built, in those ones you find workers and business people who are part of the process to help sell the massive amounts of residential and retail space that has been created.
Having said that, people talk about how it has worked before. I dont know, maybe it will, but for now there are a lot of empty cities waiting for people to "step up" into the middle class.
This is what American cities would look like if American city planners had their way. They wouldn't tell you that though...they think they are way better at playing Sim City than their Chinese counterparts.
As someone else mentioned, the reason they are empty is because they're too expensive to move to and there's zero opportunity there. Many of them are expensive even by US standards for what you get. They are purposely made to be expensive and ghost town like.
It's a common trend in real estate where investors buy properties and leave it vacant to brag about the place being brand new to sell at a higher price in the future.
This is likely to exacerbate the "empty" cities problem in China.
Here's a great video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tNpFkdZwpk
1. A road grid are build with 4 lane roads, redlights, etc.
2. Housing complexed are build on the resulting squares with the ground floor for business and shops.
3. Small businesses get the ground floor spaces for free for two years, to make them move in here despite not having any peolpe living there.
4. People start to move in, because there are shops around and the rents and still low.
5. After two years, the buildings are largely rented or sold out, the shops start to earn money and pay rent too.
6. After 4 years it looks like the center of a city.
I have lived in such places, both at the very begining when there was nothing around, and later when it seemed to be an overcrowded city center.
All these stories about "Chinas empty buildings" are largely bullshit. At least on the east coast.
Someone told me it would be like this 3 years ago for a project that is still pretty much empty..., I assume Anhui or Hubei is similar. There is just no industry and jobs around many of these projects to support them.
> All these stories about "Chinas empty buildings" are largely bullshit. At least on the east coast.
The coast has already been developed, but go inland just a bit into Hefei or Jiangxi...its bullshit to think that these projects are anything other than the result of a bubble.
I'm not saying none of these represents a problem, but it's not a given that large empty developments do. Especially in areas with very rapid growth.
They always mention these as "Ghost Cities" but the numbers are always mentioned like "This city was meant to house upto a million people"... a million people, is not a city, it's a large suburb. Or a very small city (in China), given they always build with med-high density housing.
Could the reporters please do there job and ask the farmers out of earshot of the "government minders" (What exactly are they?). Having spoken to a number of different government officials in China, there are many who are openly skeptical of the Communist party (and many who are die hard believers). This idea that if you say something wrong you'll be thrown away, doesn't seem to hold true. (Maybe it's different when talking to media).
I thought I made that pretty clear when I said "med-high density houses".
The properties of concern are more like satellite cities. Often in crappy remote locations outside the original city's outer ring road.
So is this story really: "Lots of people live in china" ?
The current urbanization would not stop without a huge impact(, in a good, a bad, or a mixed way). In near future, real ghost villages, from which people emigrate, are more likely than real ghost town, like what happened in Japan during urbanization years post-WWII.