SBS Dateline's Documentary On China's "64 Million Empty Apartments"

Tyler Durden's picture

While Zero Hedge readers have long known about the eerie phenomenon known as China's ghost cities (and ghost malls), Australia's SBS' Dateline has done a terrific documentary on the topic of "64 million empty apartments in China." As each passing day brings more confirmation that not only is China's real estate market one massive bubble, but it is also, as expected, completely hollow, both literally and metaphorically. The full brief clip is a must watch for all those who wonder how central planning manages to hit its goal-seeked and manipulated GDP number each and every quarter .We are surprised that in keeping with the Japanese earthquake economic miracle, China has not destroyed the vacant city yet only to rebuild it immediately.

(clip after the jump)

h/t Ian

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Alcoholic Native American's picture

Hey do they actually kick you out of the house for not paying your mortgage in China?  Serious question.

IBelieveInMagic's picture

I guess they believe better to build vacant homes with imported commodities before their dollar reserves become completely worthless. 

The structure of the current global financial system aggravates misallocation of resources as everyone is trying to take out more than what they put in. We really need a commodity backed financial system to curb this nonsense... my two cents.

YHC-FTSE's picture


Worth more than 2 cents. 

duo's picture

In the middle ages Roman temples were knocked over to get the iron pins that held columns together.  Hopefully, the steel and glass in these structures can be recycled into useful things (like rail cars or bridges).

Ray1968's picture

This was an excellent piece of journalism!

hedgeless_horseman's picture

the steel and glass in these structures can be recycled into useful things

How do you say Karptown in Mandarin?  Kunstler would have a seizure if he watched this video.

G-R-U-N-T's picture

Interesting that the couple in the brick shack have the idea that government is going to deliver them. They will die of old age waiting on that belief.

Their centralized government know if they don't maintain at least 7% growth civil unrest will definitely ensue.

DoctoRx's picture

They pay cash.  Few mortgages.  And they hold.  Little or no property taxes, as I understand it.  They are in that regard an unlevered society, financially speaking.

EvlTheCat's picture

I guess that is why there are 64 million empty apartments.

RafterManFMJ's picture

No property taxes in China and a flat tax in Russia? Isn't it great how the commies are more capitalistic than the good 'ol USSA.

tonyw's picture

I thought everybody here knew the good 'ol USSA is an oiligarchy with little real capitalism? It's for the benefit of the too big to fails, banks, unions, companies. Bread (foodstamps) & circuses (tv, ipads) keep the masses docile while the oilgarchs continue to extract more and more of the wealth. Things are pretty good financially if you're in the top 10% otherwise forget it. Do you think the FDA is run for the benefit of the people? Medicine? much more expensive than the rest of the world but only 37th best according to the WHO.


Vote the bums out? dream on it's a hydra with two heads to distract the voteriat but the same body - the very best government money can buy. I'd bet there's more full time lobbyists in DC than the whole rest of the world put together. See today's post about how little GE pays in tax, lobbying is very cost efficient for the big guys.

edotabin's picture

That first paragraph you wrote very concisely states the present situation. It is all a distraction to keep us on the wheel like a hamster.

There could be 980 billion empty houses in China and it would matter not. They are the world's powerhouse now. The fact that they produce absolute crap (in very large part) makes no difference.

Same thing with the Euro. It is the ultimate scam.  Truth matters not. The ministers of 27 can come out and say "we all strongly agreed" and everything is OK. Greece could be 7 trillion in the hole but some unknown minister could come out and say "the ESF and EU have agreed to new terms concerning Greece" and everything is magically OK.

This is about gaining full control of other countries and eventually sinking America into oblivion. Absolutely, positively nothing else. It all depends upon who controls the money supply and how many restrictions can be placed on them. In the US, technically (an not really practically) congress could end the fed in a heartbeat. In Europe there is NOBODY that can technically or practically do anything to the ECB. They are untouchable.

The end.

My 0.02

I am more equal than others's picture

Mortgages are rare in China.  I have several friends living in China and they rent 'multi-million dollar' apartments for about $650 US per month.  Do the IRR on that!  My bet is that when this bubble explodes there will be class warfare and to re-direct/deflect that internal conflict they'll play the nationalism card and start a war.  Look to the east, China vs India or China moving east toward oil and gas countries like Iran, Iraq. 

Spalding_Smailes's picture

According to the municipal statistics bureau on March 15, residential housing sales in Beijing for the January to February period declined 21.1 percent from the same period last year to 1.32 million square meters. At the same time, residential housing transactions in Shanghai fell 31.3 percent year-on-year to 1.9 million square meters. During the first two months, total housing sales including both residential housing and commercial housing projects in Beijing and Shanghai dropped 18.9 percent and 26.7 percent from last year, respectively.

In the past two months, newly-launched housing projects in Beijing totaled 2 million square meters, a 34.8 percent decrease from the same period last year. But residential housing construction increased 14.4 percent year-on-year to 1.8 million square meters.

kridkrid's picture

Nationalism and start a war:  Agree... especially when you factor in what China's one child policy has created.  Their demographic timebomb is different from ours... they have too many men... not enought wives... time to cull the herd... a ground war would do the trick.

reader2010's picture

Not enough pussies? No problem. When RMB becomes the next reserved toilet paper, those that can't find one can always mail order blonde brides from America and live happily ever after in those empty apartments. Two problems solved.

edotabin's picture

So, why is everything in the US a bubble immediately but this Chinese situation continues as if nothing is wrong?

I say because reality went out the window a long time ago. It is probably because the general population is ignorant there and the tricks can still work. 

Basically, the way I see it, the US is cooked because they don't need to buy stuff anymore. What anybody is the US need an extra TV? Another car? Computer? Hogwash. The garages are all full of junk that nobody knows what to do with.

If you make stuff in China (albeit absolute shit) you start spreading money around. The 3-400 million people that don't even have teeth will consume many more things given the opportunity. Add to that the sheer volume of people and voila! The scam continues, so China is now the hottest thing since sliced bread.


FEDbuster's picture

Central planning allows for tremendous malinvestment.  The capital will continue to flow to "create" jobs.  The story of a Chinese washer and dryer factory shipping washing machines to villages with no running water system was a classic. 

This real estate bubble is promoted with the hope that the avg. Chinese worker will rise to the economic level of the avg. middle class American worker.  The problem is the American worker is more likely to fall to the $6K/year Chinese worker.

CaveatEmptor's picture

I call b*llsh*t on the assertion that million dollar apartments are going for $600/month. I lived in Beijing from 2006-2009 and I can tell you that premium housing is expensive to rent. Besides management fees there are few carrying costs as there are no property taxes so landlords sit on empty apartments until a lucrative deal comes along. Fully furnished 3BR in a top of the line building would rent for US$3000/month. Serviced apartments would be between $3000-$6000/month. You would be lucky to find a unfurnished 1BR in a top of the line building for $1200. At $600/month you could probably get a nice, unfurnished two bedroom in an building built 15 years ago--hardly a million dollar apartment and it would be 99% locals. The complex I lived in had 6 buildings with the #2 building 60% occupied and #3-#6 occupied at less than 25%. A large number of office buildings, shopping malls and apartment complexes went up in advance of the Beijing Olympics and a large percentage sat empty. With that said, some of the large shopping complexes filled up quick despite their large footprint. It appears a lot of residential real estate was often bought for speculation and not as a rental investment. 

DosZap's picture

Likely a 7.62x25 to the back of the head.

Dburn's picture

They ask for 50% down upfront and the balance within three years. See?

No credit bubble.

The problem is money, despite the Chinese people's ability to save an astonishing percentage of their income, as it will never be enough to meet those terms. Middle Class pay is generally in the $900-$1500 a month area the last I read.

Consider what home sales would be like here with 50% down and three-year payment terms with a shrinking wage base. China's wage base is going up for around 130 million people in the middle class. Here it would qualify them for assistance. There they are considered relatively well to do except when it comes to buying a home.

One may have been able to do it in the past with property values rising as long as they downsized. But, not anymore. Hey, it's even a problem for the 1-2 Million dollar home bracket here. Only till you get up above 25 million+/- 5 million, do you see all cash transactions here.

Just another data point that reinforces the argument that we are heading towards a cliff at the speed of gravity and there is nothing we can do to stop it ...anywhere.

FEDbuster's picture

The "Barney Frank" of China will emerge and demand that the avg. Chinese worker be given a 100 year mortgage with zero down, backed by a govt. agency guarantee.  This will solve the housing bubble problem.  The "iron rice bowl" for the new century.

Wakanda's picture

"...completely hollow, both literally and metaphorically."

Only careful central planning can pull of shit like that.  Amazing, I'm in awe.

Sam Clemons's picture

Only careful central planning fueled by fiat can pull shit like that.*

Fiat has enabled so much waste of resources on unproductive works that it is sickening.

Rhodin's picture

"Only careful central planning can pull of shit like that.  Amazing, I'm in awe."

Not much of a central planning fan.  Nevertheless, after a few more great earthquakes, those guys might be looking like genuises.

ebworthen's picture

Bet AIG is insuring it all.

Sheriff Douchenik from AZ's picture

You mean the US Govt is insuring it all? Probably... if it helps Buffett out.

GoldmanBaggins's picture

13 million new appartment shoppers from Tokyo

Big Corked Boots's picture

They will be looking in America, where they would be welcomed, long before they go to China, where they are hated.

On second though, lots of other countries would take them before they ever got to the US.

johnQpublic's picture

which is worase...

being hated or irradiated?

High Plains Drifter's picture

The Chinese have a long memory imbedded in them, that goes way back, even before the japanese invasion of ww2, no?

sumo's picture

Waaay back:

...In the 1540s and 1550s, Japanese pirates known as wokou raided China's eastern and southeastern coasts on an unprecedented scale...


reader2010's picture

You shit me? In China, anyone born after 1984 doesn't even know their beloved rulers rolled the college students with tanks in Tienanmen Square in 1989. 

High Plains Drifter's picture

do they put flouride in the drinking water over there?

reader2010's picture

I heard they eat plastic rice with plastic milk.

DosZap's picture

Haven't you heard thats the new cure for Plastic Surgery.

NEVER a wrinkle.

greenbear's picture

That the US would be so fortunate!  The western press hasn't covered the immense aid China has been providing to Japan compared to America during this catastrophe.  (No links, just something I read or heard somewhere.) This may be a turning point - Japan moving from their position as a colony of the declining western powers to the Chinese sphere of influence.  I'm not so sure Japanese immigrants wouldn't be welcomed by the Chinese government, especially their women?

Oh regional Indian's picture

I was just thinking the same thing Goldman. Transfer of weath, savings and high-end work-force from Japan to China. And a tremendous counter-force to use against their own "workers".

Th edot-connecting exercises, possibilities in this current scenario can leave you feelign a little bit KRAAAZY!


DosZap's picture

Not only is this fact, they just announced they are going to build 200 million new homes.(for who, American Expats?)

Hey, we can ship them a few.

Abitdodgie's picture

This could be the new Japanese district of China

Judge Judy Scheinlok's picture

Do you know why the original settlers of Japan left China?

To establish their own culture, economy, and government?

I wouldn't put money on that type of reverse migration. They'd more likely got to Australia or the US as they own much of our IP via patents anyway.

Popo's picture

Damn you Steve Jobs. I want to watch this but my iPad won't play Flash. Anyone posted this to YouTube yet?

doomandbloom's picture

China seems to be in as much as a need for war as America.....

I wont be surprised to find out that they too are waiting for a good reason to enter one...( does not matter which side)

falak pema's picture

War on debt creators! deep fried WS bankstas cheap...schezwan style...very spicy cooked US imported to USA at give-away prices. With a lithium battery as bonus!

Dooud's picture

I could use a free pad, man.... And a nice rug!