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Thursday, December 15, 2011

China's Ghosty Places, Oblivion, and Life Reflections

Yes, I wrote Ghosty, it is not a typo!

I've decided it is defined as "similar to spooky, but different. Like ghostly, spooky, and creepy all packed into a word taco."

So, yeah! That's what I get for being woefully inarticulate.

For a few years now, there have been stories circulating luxurious cities and places in China that are deserted because either no one lives around or can afford to live or visit those places.

- Wait, deserted cities in China?

- These aren't demo photos - these are photos that were taken on normal days at normal times when, in ordinary cities, people would be walking by.

Yep. (Ordos, China)

I don't know if you've been paying attention, but it seems to occur alarmingly often for a country like China that's asserting itself on the world stage and holding a lot of the world's debt.

It's a well-known and well-established fact that China is doing anything and everything it can to grow its economy in order to be a player on the world stage.

In some cases, they do it really well, like when they invest in factories which cheaply produce stuff that America won't even dare to try to manufacture because Americans need such high pay.

And then there's this.....

"The area is filled with office towers, administrative centers, government buildings, museums, theaters and sports fields—not to mention acre on acre of subdivisions overflowing with middle-class duplexes and bungalows. The only problem: the district was originally designed to house, support and entertain 1 million people, yet hardly anyone lives there." - TIME (link here)

Also, in this Dateline report from earlier this year, an expert says that "there are an estimated 64 million empty apartments in China today....they're building stuff for which there's no demand."

 .........freakin back up, what??!! A (conservatively estimated) 64 million empty apartments in China today. The expert goes on to say that the property bubble which burst in the United States pales in comparison to what will happen in China if this goes on. 

One thing that is mentioned in that Dateline Report is the stringent requirements for home ownership that cannot be forgotten. The buyer has to pay 50% upfront and the balance of the account within 3 years. 

(Dongguan, China's main avenue...freakin empty)

Although this hinders the people being able to buy these expensive houses because of the lack of a really good credit system in China, it's also what's kept China from experiencing a credit crisis like the United States has.  

China's just full of these little paradoxes. There are cities with waaay too freakin many people like Chongqing and Beijing, but there are also deserted cities that were made to hold anywhere between 1 million and 17 million people (depending on which deserted city you're looking at). There's no credit market, which means that people can't buy the expensive stuff the government is building, which is feeding into a coming crisis, but it's also saved them from a crisis that the United States is still working its way through. 

[insert clever, appropriate, and memorable segue here]

These places are all free and legal to visit, with the (sort of) exception of the one below. 

But would you really go?

On one hand, I'd really like to go to one of these empty cities, but on one hand, it'd be a version of've got the whole world to yourself for all eternity, but you're alone. Forever. 

The idea of emptiness and absolute oblivion has always terrified me, so I try not to think about it, but I can't help it when I see these kind of places. 

("Wonderland" - an abandoned theme park 45 minutes outside of  Beijing)
I mean, who wouldn't be freaked out visiting a completely empty city or a rundown and deserted Chinese Disneyland that was built out in the middle of a cornfield?

But who doesn't want to at least go to one of them?

If you don't get freaked out or at least uncomfortable every once in a while, then you're not alive. I think that's probably the reason that we find the idea of ghost towns so fascinating - we see these ghosty places as a reflection of what the Earth will be like after we're dead and gone, because let's face it, humanity won't last forever.

Part of what life is about is trying to come to grips with the fact that it doesn't last forever, and what these ghosty places do is make us indirectly ponder our lasting impact on the world. 

What will it matter what we've done, if 500 years after the last human dies, plants and nature swallow up the last trace of humanity's buildings, sidewalks, computers, and literature? I'm not sure - it's not a question I can ask, but it's something to think about. 

If you guys are curious, here are some of the sources I used to write this post:

China's Deserted Disneyland
Amazing Satellite Images of China's Ghost Cities
Daily Mail - Ghost Towns of China
Dateline Report
TIME - Ordos, China: A Modern Ghost Town


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