Ordos, the Chinese ghost town full of over development

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By Jane

ordos chinese ghost town

Futuristic, spooky, disturbing is the “ghost city” of Ordos in Inner Mongolia, a city full of over development.

This province in northern China is located in the vicinity of the desert and populated once by Genghis Khan and his heirs. It is full of energy reserves (coal mines possesses sixth and one third of the natural gas resources of the country), so the middle income per capita of Ordos is one of the highest among those of the cities of the Dragon, including Beijing!

Now imagine where these gentlemen of coal have invested their huge profits. The answer is simple: the real estate industry. All this, however, without a rational economic planning means you end up with a large amount of high-rise buildings, luxury residential areas, and modern infrastructure, but without the essential elements of a community, ie people!

While the real estate growth is fueled, Ordos increasingly takes on the appearance of ghostly city, dominated by silence and wide spaces devoid of life. On the other hand, it is a safe investment for the rich people of this city, and much more fruitful than the low-interest bank deposit bag and with all its risks.

Not even rare cases of small landowners who sell their plots at high figures, reinvesting profits in some local financial company not too transparent, which in turn lends money at rates of wear for those who want to buy their “place in the sun “in the city of the future. In other words, a real financial storm that translates the vices of capitalism in exasperation: greed, dishonesty, irresponsibility, deceit.

Pressed by the advance of the desert and the shortage of water, in 2004 the local authorities in Ordos have made the “quantum leap” in deciding to move the administrative center in the Kangabashi, a small village at the time inhabited by only a thousand people. Thanks to the support of Beijing they have been invested a lot of money (160 billion dollars!) in the creation of in just 5 years a new grotesque district, populated by only 30 thousand people despite the intentions of the designers, who already provided for 100,000 in 2010 and 1 million over the years.

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The entire metropolitan area of Ordos stands out due to the very low population density (18 inhabitants per square km). The consequences are obvious: huge spaces with empty buildings, projects left half finished, appliances still unused. Everywhere, a thrust that modernity clashes with the desolation, the result of an oversupply that has never been questioned.

Just landing in futuristic airport Ordos you will understand. Amazing architecture, everywhere marked by symbols of Mongolian past, but the escalators are almost always empty.

Move to the center of the city and witness the spectacle of a multitude of towers and cranes, with palaces, offices and shopping malls practically empty. A succession of bars, casinos, sex shops and even brothels, where the girls are hardly able to find customers.

Near the center of the city, a mosque was built with a Cubist structure, all in shades of white. Too bad that inside there is no celebration because through glass doors you see only nothingness.

There are very few traffic problems in Ordos, and big squares marked by imposing statues, which were perhaps inspired by De Chirico’s metaphysical paintings that refer to disturbing scenarios and unreal.

Lack of voices, the atmosphere and the chaos of living spaces, so that the colossal statue of Genghis Khan erected in the center of the city ends up preaching to none, attracting only the occasional flash of reporters and curious photographers.
In another relevant intersection in the center, a sculpure of two sculptures of rearing horses inspires the same terrible sense of loneliness.

Even in the parks of the district it is rare to see the games of children, picnics and traditional sports.

The imagination runs riot in this city built from nothing, but it seems useless when it reveals it has no purpose. What really amazes me is, however, the Ordos Museum, a rather extravagant structure that, in the intention of the designers, should reflect the meeting between the attempt of the community in interpreting its local traditions and the urban context of new construction.

Everywhere, however, dominates the sense of abandonment, an almost post-nuclear city.

From the splendor of the ancient empire of Genghis Khan to the oddities and contradictions of modern capitalist era: Ordos the Chinese ghost town, is really amazing in its creepy way…

To finish with, here is an amazing documentary about the tale of Ordos, a social and urban engineering project with Chinese characteristics that remains difficult for a Western to understand in all its nuances:


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