When coal was discovered in the Northern Chinese city of Ordos 20 years ago, it underwent a massive boom that was expected to create a wealthy city of one million people, but now it’s home to a mere 20,000. Widely known as China’s Ghost City, it’s also a prime example of the real estate bubbles that threaten many parts of the country. There are entire streets of unfinished buildings, and even though the area’s GDP is higher than that of Beijing, many residents are trying desperately to escape.
Darmon Richter, who writes for The Bohemian Blog, experienced the city first hand when he travelled there last year. He describes the newly-built Eerduosi Airport, which features a futuristically sculpted terminal building complete with extravagent fountains and hanging baskets, chic coffee shops and sub-lit escalators glowing in shades of green and blue. The only problem is that like the rest of the city, there were virtually no people in sight.
The current state of the city has been chalked up to the fact that investment there was unsustainable. As described in Richter’s blog post, “Deadlines weren’t met, loans went unpaid, and investors pulled out before projects could be completed — leaving entire streets of unfinished buildings. The ridiculous cost of accommodation in this dream city put off many would-be inhabitants, so that even fully completed apartments became difficult to sell.”
Richter mentions the optimism that he frequently encountered amongst residents of the city, who think that it can’t stay empty forever. There are those such as Song Ting and Adam Smith, makers of a documentary called “The Land of Many Palaces,” who would also agree that there is still hope for the city. Whether or not Ordos will ever achieve its potential is yet to be seen, but for the time being it will remain a popular tourist attraction for those in search of the world’s most famous ghost towns.
Images by Darmon Richter