Ordos: China’s Vacant City

Tuesday, 7th September 2010 by

In grand Dubai-esque fashion, Ordos City in Chinese Inner Mongolia rises from the desert to proclaim the glory of mankind’s accomplishments. Its glittering high-rise buildings and grand government projects are skirted on all sides by smooth unblemished pavement and endless rows of modern street lamps. There’s only one problem…it’s practically uninhabited.

Founded in 2001, Ordos City was rapidly developed on a swath of uninhabited desert along the Yellow River. Fuelled by a booming Chinese economy and over £100 billion of public and private investment, enough housing and infrastructure were built to accommodate 300,000+ residents. Nearly a decade into its existence, Ordos City is home to barely 30,000 inhabitants1 and consequently, a lot of empty homes and offices:

As well as a host of grandiose public works projects which remain either under-construction or extremely under-patronised:

Despite its post-apocalyptic feel, Ordos City has not suffered the same plummeting housing prices as in Dubai and much of the west. New construction continues and housing developments seem to have no trouble finding buyers. Here we can see the scale of the new infrastructure for continued development in the Kangbashi district of Ordos City:

The key to all of this growth in the face of global recession lies in the tremendous level of wealth found in the more populous coal and natural gas-rich areas of Ordos Prefecture. In fact, income data suggests that the local GDP per capita, £14,000, is more than twice that of Beijing and may be one of the highest in China. Though housing investors seem to be in plentiful supply, it will be interesting to see if anyone ever chooses to inhabit the homes they purchase!

For more information about Ordos City watch this informative Al-Jazeera reportage

  1. And the lightest traffic in China!