The Two Year Anniversary Of "China's Ghost Cities" Epic Keynesian Fail

Tyler Durden's picture

Two years ago we first covered the flip side of the Chinese real estate "boom" story by presenting the ghost city of Ordos. Today, on the two year anniversary of China's Keynesian miracle being exposed for the whole world to see, Al Jazeera goes back to Ordos to see if anything has changed. And while Paul Krugman may be shocked, shocked, that the Keynesian approach of building for the sake of building does not work not only in the US but pretty much everywhere, it will be no surprise to anyone, that as Al Jazeera concludes, "it's still pretty quiet, but here's the remarkable thing - the building has't stopped, somehow people are convinced that if you keep building, people will come. If not in a few years, then... eventually." And somehow we keep bashing the Fed as the only source of Einsteinian insanity, when it is the same cretins from the Princeton economics department in both the monetary and fiscal arena, who know one thing and one thing only - do whatever ultimately fails, just keep on doing it.

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GeneMarchbanks's picture

I really have to reserve judgement here because I really think this is the long term view the Chinese are known for. This looks terrible no doubt but at least there isn't any real decay. Time will tell.

honestann's picture

Oh, there is lots of decay, even in a mere two years. For some reason they selected to shoot where the decay was not very obvious... not sure why.  Of course, do remember that dwellings (and pretty much everything else) in a desert do degrade more slowly than in more wet and humid locations.  Not long ago there was a similar video article that was shot at one of the EMPTY large malls in this "city", and the evidence of wear and tear was very evident and sometimes quite ugly.

Stop making excuses for predators, both in the USSA and elsewhere.

dwdollar's picture

The Chinese don't build anything to last.  Their civilization may have longevity.  Their products do not.

sun tzu's picture

Much like the US. Look at all the houses built over here in the past 20 years. 

DeadFred's picture

From the perspective of someone with lots of real estate maintainance experience this is very bullish <sarc>. Not only is there construction but guards to keep thieves out, maintainance workers, pest control, road maintainance, much of what is needed to keep any city going. If they don't keep pouring money into these places they will be ruins in no time. What a joke.

AldousHuxley's picture

Orzos is a strategic investment to protect the main river from Mongolian (Russian) influence. Perhaps they will run gambling halls there, or world expos, or relocate hundreds of thousands of non-essential government workers there from Beijing. The point is, Chinese government wants to populate that area for a reason.

Just like Israel building "settlements" in gaza to populate with their own religious zealots and US did with homestead act to populate where native americans used to be.




gringo28's picture

finally, someone gets it right. further to that point, imagine you are running a country that is going through a massive, protracted privatization of state assets - which is basically what China is doing - and you want to maximize reinvestment rather than seeing funds simply flee the country to the US or elsewhere, what do you do? backstop real estate. clearly, there are those who are extracting their wealth for better zip codes but the majority is staying as reinvestment.

Chanos et. al. don't get this because they can't see things from any other point of view other than western-style capitalism. i am not making a case for investing in Chinese construction (or any Chinese assets for that matter) but it's pretty clear that China's appetite for raw materials is not cooling off.

Spirit Of Truth's picture

And one of the keys to the longevity of Chinese civilization has been long-term, central planning.

Why would Beijing have empty cities built in arid regions?

I presume it has more to do with planners in Chinese military command centers than in their banking centers.  Remember the latter is subservient to the former.  China is still a military dictatorship regardless of what wool has been pulled over the West's eyes in recent decades.

You see....extra cities come in handy if you expect to fight w/Russia in a global nuclear war with the West:

Now think of this....through neo-mercantilist state policies, China has effectively stolen the technological base and means of production from the West.  The communists have proven to be better capitalists than the capitalists since the former plans for the long-term while the latter pursues short-term profit at the potential expense of the entire future.

Checkmate draws near.  I wish I could flip the chessboard in the face of the 'Old Enemy', but alas no one seems to be on my side.


GeneMarchbanks's picture

Well said. This isn't the blog for geo-politics of this kind. Many people get this strange delusion that China and the US are similar in many different ways. They forget that the US is now the largest debtor nation and that China is a huge creditor. Even if this is a mistake they can afford it to an extent. The Chinese a have different conception of time in contrast to Americans ADD. Look at the 24hr newsflow: Ipads, Lady Gaga, Hurricane Irene, Michelle Bachman. etc etc

I'd like to keep seeing  yearly updates on this story.

BigJim's picture

Who's dumber - the addict who keeps borrowing money for his next fix, or the dealer that keeps lending him ever more money to buy it?

Spirit Of Truth's picture

"But golly gee....the Chinese wouldn't want anything bad to happen to us because who then would buy their goods?"

Funny, actually just plain tragic, that there's Westerners who actually think this.  China doesn't need us anymore. Western demand simply acted as a means through which to garner our technology and manufacturing base.  Now they can produce for their own populations.

As for our populations, well....the writing has been on the wall the whole time:

 "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." - V. Lenin

topcallingtroll's picture

If the Chinese don't need us anymore why have they increased their bond purchases?

Spirit Of Truth's picture

Our economic dependency is a weakness, even if our leaders fail to understand just how irrelevant money is to Beijing in the context of final victory in global Real Politik. In other words, the money is important to us....not them.  That's why China's busy hoarding natural resources and rare elements....nevermind factories and extra cities for housing mass populations.  They are stockpiling for the future while we've spent ours.

IronShield's picture

Though there *might* be conflict at some point; it is quite a ways off from now.  One of the primary capabilities of any military is force projection.  Now, look at China and Russia, do you believe they have that ability?  China has no Navy to speak of and Russia hasn't really kept up either.  In a head-to-head match, even 10 years from now, the abuse that both China and Russia would suffer would be epic.  And to think it would be nuclear?  Yeah, that really would be the "end of the world as we know it."  

You know not what you speak of (nor does the blogger you linked to)...

Spirit Of Truth's picture

You, sir, do not know what you speak of.  Are you Western intelligence and/or military? After all, it's the arrogance and stupidity therein that is one of the primary sources of our undoing.

As for force projection, that's been in place the whole time in recent decades.  It's called strategic nuclear arms.  Russia and China have been thinking about fighting and winning a global nuclear war the whole time while the West has been hoping that MAD would keep us safe.  That's mad alright.

There's a reason the Chinese are building spare cities in remote areas and the Russians are building city-size bunkers under the Ural Mountains:

And it has NOTHING to do with being our capitalist buddies.  To the complete contrary.

But don't take my word for it, listen to Colonel Stanislav Lunev, the highest-ranking defector ever from Russian military intelligence (GRU):


gringo28's picture

uhhh, ok. so the Chinese are actually stupid and want to start a war with their primary consumer of goods? and who's living under a rock?

Spirit Of Truth's picture

I wish you were kidding but I know you're not.  See my post above with the quote:

"But golly gee....the Chinese wouldn't want anything bad to happen to us because who then would buy their goods?"

China has plenty of its own potential consumers, i.e., the CHINESE PEOPLE.  As for over-indulgent, stupid Americans....we've served their purpose.  Consequently, we all might want to live under a rock relatively soon.


LowProfile's picture

Via various Wikipedia:

The U.S. has 18 Ohio-class submarines, of which 14 are Trident II SSBNs each capable of carrying 24 SLBMs.

Each Trident II SLBM carries up to eight W88 (475 kt) warheads (Mark 5) or eight W76 (100 kt) warheads (Mark 4). The Trident II can carry 12 MIRV warheads but START I reduces this to 8 and SORT reduces this yet further to 4 or 5.

I expect START I will go out the window in a New York Minute if shit starts.


Realize, that's just the missiles on the subs.


The total number of nukes at the USA's disposal (ready to go right now) is 2,200.  In addition, "Around 4,225 warheads have been removed from deployment but have remained stockpiled as a "responsible reserve force" on inactive status."

Forgive me if I'm not so sure China and Russia want to attempt 'winning a nuclear war' with the USA.

Spirit Of Truth's picture

That's 2200 down from over 20K+ in the mid-1980's.  Russia was able to eliminate 90% of our strategic nuclear potential by waging false peace.  The dividends from this tact are wearing thin, so I presume the rest of our capability will be eliminated the hard way.

Kayman's picture

fight w/Russia

Yeah, they'll be fighting with Russia alright - but not along side them.

You give the Chicoms and their larceny far too much credit.  America is wounded and has a chance to heal.  A country like China that relies on foreign souces of raw materials,  theft of ideas from other countries, and slave labor will have a sugar high for a while.

And what's this about American Capitalism ?  Ya gots ta read ZH more often. Free market capitalism is sooooooo last century ! 

Durrr's picture

Wooden houses in arid and dry regions are rather suscpetible to ignition from stray radiation(such as from any nuclear detonation within 50 miles). Concrete bunkers would be a better deal if build something for involvement in nuclear warfare.

o2sd's picture

Yeah, I heard the Chinese built the world's biggest wall in the north and it only lasted 2000 years.

LowProfile's picture

And said wall utterly failed to keep out the Mongols in the 14th century and the Manchus in the 16th century.

So it didn't do shit beyond increasing GDP (Krugman approved!), helping the emperor feel like his tiny dick was actually of adequate size and keep people too busy to realize what a fucking he was giving them.


boiltherich's picture

Not to mention China's biggest problem, their ovaries and testicles, 1.2 billion people and growing in spite of the one child laws, and you think we have a demographic problem in the USA following the baby boom?  This alone is a global catastrophe waiting to happen.  For now they have been able to buy the commodities they need while food is relatively cheap, but in the shit storm to come food will no longer be as cheap as it has been, and in a global depression they will not have the balance of trade payments they have grown used to.  What happens when they cannot buy the food they need?  Or have a major harvest failure?  China is only 12% arable land to start with, compared to the US at almost 50%.  Do you think they will simply sit by as millions starve and hundreds of millions go without food and work?  Why do you think they are building those aircraft carriers?  To send a message to the US Navy about Taiwan?  Lot cheaper ways to that.  The first one has had it's first sea trials and is ready for duty.  They also just finished refurbishment of a Soviet carrier, and are starting construction on a larger carrier.  China might not be able to project much power outside for now, but it will not be long before they have a regional powerhouse of military force, by the time you are elderly it will be a global force and we will be unable to do squat about it. 

o2sd's picture

You do realize that the majority of the wall was completed in 200 BC right? Right?

I think you are a trav7777 sockpuppet, but if not, it looks like the ZH posting population just increased by one moron.

Elliott Eldrich's picture

Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall helped defend the empire against the Manchu invasions that began around 1600. Even after the loss of all of Liaodong, the Ming army under the command of Yuan Chonghuan held off the Manchus at the heavily fortified Shanhaiguan pass, preventing the Manchus from entering the Chinese heartland. - Source: Wiki.

StychoKiller's picture

Yet China has Temples/edifices over a 1000 years old...check your premises.

CrankItTo11's picture

Chinese Drywall doesn't decay, don't you know that?

Hook Line and Sphincter's picture

Chinese drywall is like mexican drywall, loaded with asbestos.

Bleeping Fed's picture

All of the decay is hidden on (or just off) the banks' balance sheets.

GeneMarchbanks's picture

Meaningless. If you're under the assumption that Chinese banks have more off balance sheet garbage than lets say... JP Morgan's derivatives book then I've got some BofA stock for you as a long term strategy.

eaglefalcon's picture

I saw green shoots in the video! -- Johnson grass growing everywhere in the city.


The story I've heard is that, after this year's earthquake and tsunami, a lot of Japanese bankers and corporate executives have bought properties in the southern Chinese province of Hainan.   (For some reason, the upper echeleon of Japanese society does know that most of their country is under constant lethal radiation.  Ordinary Japanese folks, however, still buy whatever official crap the government tells them).  While the Chinese are continueing their Keynsian experiment without much foresight, the empty houses might eventually be filled due to Japanese immigration

trav7777's picture

WHAT longterm view?  For most of history, China's "long term" strategy has been suicidal!

I have NO idea where this myth of devious asian strategic superiority comes from other than outright racism.  There's no rhyme nor reason in what china has it longterm planning to pollute their entire country nearly to the point of uninhabitability???

China has never dominated nor taken over the world, nor will they this time, asian chauvinism notwithstanding

FreedomGuy's picture

Look, the Chinese as well as most of the Western world's leadership believes in a false religion. That religion is keynesianism. Governments all like it because it gives them unlimited interventional power. It's funny but atheist like to deride any and all religions. Yet, the theories of keynes have been repeatedly proven false and are adhered to to this very day. You think religious people have faith? They are nothing compared to economists and governments. These empty Chinese cities are a product of stupid central planning and the false equations of GDP. They might as well dig holes and fill them in. That raises GDP, too. These cities are the actually the same thing.

Investing in these properties is NOT the same as buying gold to store value. Gold has long established demand. These properties and cities have no demonstrable demand as evidenced by the fact they are and have been empty for years.

The entire damn world and it's productive resources are enslaved by this idiotic and false economic theory. I hope 500 years from now we have thoroughly debunked and trashed these ideas.

Akrunner907's picture

Or maybe they built these cities for other reasons. They sure look like Suberbia American subdivisions.

honestann's picture

Time to get real.

Both are fictions anyway, and they are nothing but trouble.

narapoiddyslexia's picture

But, but, how would we organize warfare and grand theft, without governments and corporations?

honestann's picture

I for one and willing to do without warfare, slavery and grand theft.

There is No Spoon's picture

the economist they interviewed compared this investment to gold.

chipshot's picture

you may now  take delivery of your PHYZ condo in china........

dwdollar's picture

"...whether it's empty or not really doesn't make a difference it's a store of value for them, it's like gold..."


Um...  No.

spiral_eyes's picture

"It's a store of value for them, it's like gold"

Well, I don't know about the gold comparison (okay, okay, it's bullshit) but that isn't a Keynesian failure. That's a product of China amassing vast quantities of capital and needing somewhere to put it. 

And as China gentrifies, all of those houses will retain their value. With a billion plus people you'll have to build a hell of a lot more housing to have a negative housing demand shock.

Stax Edwards's picture

Not too familiar with the downside of gross misallocation of capital, eh SE?  USSR was a booming place once too, you know, the state knowing better how to deploy capital than the markets and all right?  LOL

spiral_eyes's picture

Housing and infrastructure in a rapidly developing economy that is rapidly urbanising and is expected (by virtually all metrics) to have increased urban housing demand is hardly the misallocation of capital. It's not optimal (using up all those dollars buying productive assets and bribing OPEC would be better) but it's superior to holding it in ever-depreciating fiat/treasuries/eurobongs.

Stax Edwards's picture

My base case for China consists of a hard landing and uncontrollable inflation. Oh look, it is happening already. 

At least you don't site your blog in every post anymore.

spiral_eyes's picture

China is the world's greatest industrial behemoth. It controls the world's supply chain (components, etc), controls important resources (rare earths) is the spider at the heart of global trade, has amassed a vast array of patents and is increasingly a global player in energy markets (Venezuela, the state with largest proven oil reserves is a Chinese proxy).

If you think China has problems with a misallocation of capital you should look to the United States that has destroyed its labour force, destroyed its supply chain and is totally dependent on global energy & oil infrastructure.

It's like comparing a sore throat (China) to HIV (America).

Stax Edwards's picture

Just out of curiousity, which nation do you call home SE?