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These are the luxury homes that no-one wants in a place locals call ‘The City of the Dead.’

Over 100 villas are here that have stood empty six years after they were built for locals in Beihai city in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Some of the homes cost over three million RMB and it was thought that a new rising class of wealthy people would snap them up.

Because China’s government forbids its citizens from investing money overseas there has been a huge boom in real estate building, both for people seeking new homes and for people to invest in.

Entire cities have been built replete with skyscrapers, shopping malls, highways, parks and other facilities. But like in Beihai, they are empty of people and have morphed into souless dead zones.

Chinese investors, many of whom live on but $2 per day, have invested as much as three generations’ savings on apartments that they themselves are unable to live in because of the distance of these ghost cities from China’s active economic centres.

Many of them have wagered on the continuous growth in housing values and cannot afford to live in the homes they have purchased as investments. Observers see this as clear evidence of over-building on the part of China’s command economy: a housing bubble consisting of empty housing.

But others say that the modernization of China is “the greatest urbanization story the world has ever seen,” and that these ghost towns like this one will soon become “thriving metropolitan areas.”

That remains to be seen. Six years on and with not a soul living in them, the villas will soon need more money spent on them to protect them from the elements.

The construction industry not only employs hundreds of thousands of Chinese, but it has displaced hundreds of thousands of others who have been forced off their land and homes to make way for construction projects.

“It’s a madness – homes built to stand empty!” said one local who lives in a wooden shack.

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