New Ordos: A Modern Ghost City in China


China’s property market is in a strange place.

With a population of more than 13 billion and rising fast, China has witnessed the resultant boom in property development which led to scores of new-made millionaires and a rapidly growing elite class. At the same time, however, analysts fear that this property bubble is set to burst.

Some of China’s most rapidly developing cities are virtually unheard of in the West. Out of all these phantoms however, nothing compares to the strangeness of China’s “Ghost City”: New Ordos City.

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A Land of Many Palaces:

Ordos stands for “many palaces” in Mongolian language, and the city of Ordos used to be known as a wealthy coal-mining town close to the Ordos Desert. This area is famous for its rapidly expanding population and developing urban areas – the region of Inner Mongolia boasting a higher GDP than even Beijing itself. This modern metropolis, however, now rises empty out of the deserts in northern China.

More than half of its buildings are vacant, the rest have mostly been left to decay, abandoned mid-construction: earning Ordos the title of “China’s Modern Ghost City.”


The New Home: The Kangbashi District

The Kangbashi district began as a public-works project in New Ordos City in 2003. This area is filled with office buildings, administrative centers, shopping malls, museums, theatres, and sports fields—not to mention acre upon acre of subdivisions overflowing with middle-class duplexes and bungalows. The only problem is that the district was originally designed to house, support and entertain 1 million people, yet hardly anyone lives there.

In 2011, upon seeing photos of Ordos, China’s largest “ghost city”, in Time magazine, filmmakers Adam James Smith and Song Ting visited the city and were immediately captivated by what they saw. They decided to film a movie, The Land of Many Palaces,to record and discover what’s behind this seemingly bizarre, ghost city phenomenon.

Youtube link of the movie trailer:

“A great city was built, but few live here,” said a resident in Kangbashi district.


A peek into the City

Awed by the newly-built Eerduosi Airport, a tourist once said, “It was apparent that someone, sometime, had made grand plans for this city.”

The futuristic terminal building is luxuriously decked out with fountains, hanging baskets, coffee shops, and sub-lit escalators glowing in shades of green and blue. Despite all this opulence though, the airport is close to empty.

CN_New Ordos A Modern Ghost City in China_intext2Everywhere, there seems to be a show of readiness, of establishments with their doors thrown wide open, not just to welcome guests but also, perhaps, to prove a point. To show this city as the functional, hospitable destination that it desperately wants to be.




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