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The Ghost Cities of China

Updated on August 14, 2013

The city of Tieling grew from a small city into a sprawling, high rise city, located in northeast China. City planners spent millions of dollars planning the layout and cleaning up the surrounding marshland that was a dumping ground for raw sewage.

It was part of China's plan to lure 250 million people from rural areas to cities in the next 10-15 years and keep the economy growing. The new city of Tieling is well designed and won recognition from the United Nations for providing affordable homes. Its waterways are sparkling clean and weave in and out empty residential block apartments and empty office or government buildings. China's leaders seem to think that such urbanization by itself will create demand and jobs.

The problem is that only a fraction of businesses have moved to the city, far away from China's main cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The businesses that did relocate there are now thinking of moving back to Beijing because if they stay, they will be out of business. Tieling is like Shanghai was 10 years ago, before the economic boom China had. Even though Tieling is large, 340,000 people, this is a drop to what was hoped for: millions of people. All of the superhighways, rapid transit are present and connect it to Shenyang, a city about 90 miles south.

Despite all this, the city government has decided to continue building to the tune of $1.3 billion on projects in the city which include an art gallery, city gym and indoor pool. Its business parks only have a bank that employs 20 people.


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