American Elephants


The Mysterious Case of the Empty Cities of China by The Elephant's Child


Britain’s Daily Mail has satellite pictures of 14 major new cities in China that are essentially— empty. No cars, no people, empty buildings, empty housing. They are ghost towns. Some have been  abandoned years after their construction. “Some estimates put the number of empty homes at as many as 64 million, with up to 20 new cities being built every year in the country’s vast swathes of free land.”They have pictures of 35 empty cities.

A Chinese government think tank speaks of a real estate bubble with property prices overvalued by as much as 70 percent.  The article warns of real estate bubbles and increasing prices, but why do prices increase if there are no buyers? I have seen elsewhere a tour of a new Chinese city with no population, fine stores — empty, a whole city, just empty. The suggestion is of housing too expensive for people. In a normal capitalist market, you would just lower the prices to start inhabiting the city, but this is not a normal capitalist country.

Obama has celebrated China’s new high-speed train, yet ordinary people cannot afford to ride it, and it has become a financial catastrophe for the nation.  Are these empty cities just a vast infrastructure project providing construction jobs for the unemployed?

The Daily Mail article doesn’t really explain anything. I saw pictures a while back of what was called the world’s largest traffic jam that went on for miles and lasted for days, so there are cars in China in significant numbers.

If anyone can explain this mystery, please comment. It is a puzzlement.

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2 Comments so far
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At the time of the photo, the good citizens of [fill in the blank] were all in the big convention center (lower right of the photo), watching the launch of the latest counterfeit iPad.

Comment by Subsidy Eye

That’s probably as sensible (and accurate) answer I’ll get. Every article I read about China simply adds to the mystery. The people can’t afford the homes, govt. can’t reduce the prices because then they’d have to write it off, they can’t raise wages because then they wouldn’t be the go-to place for cheap labor, and the vast infrastructure project provides employment. There’s something missing in that analysis.

Comment by The Elephant's Child




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