The Modern Ghost City of Ordos

Oct 9, 2010 4 comments

The city of Ordos, in Inner Mongolia, China, was founded on February 26, 2001. It was designed to be home for one million people, yet, the Kangbashi district remains nearly empty five years after construction began.

Ordos means "palaces" in Mongolian, and it's richer than Beijing. In fact, with a $14,500 GDP per capita, it's one of the richest in the whole country. With 1,548,000 inhabitants, Ordos is not exactly empty. But much of its modern architecture, sometimes awesomely futuristic, sometimes fantastically overdeveloped and underdesigned, remains completely empty. The density of this city is only 17.8 people per square kilometer. By comparison, New York City has 157.91 residents per square kilometer, San Francisco has 6,688.4, and Madrid 5,293.69.


The Kangbashi district began as a public-works project in Ordos, a wealthy coal-mining town in Inner Mongolia. 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.


Though many of the properties in Kangbashi have been sold and a million people were projected to be living in Kangbashi by 2010, the city is still empty.


Mostly empty apartment buildings in Kangbashi, a half hour down the road is Dongsheng, where most of Ordos' 1.5 million resident call home.


A pair of workers tidy up outside the public library. The city boasts the second highest per-capita income, behind to Shanghai but ahead of Beijing.


Workers carry pieces of foam up the stairs of the Ordos Museum, which is still under construction.


A pedestrian walks behind a giant sculpture of two horses in Kangbashi's Linyinlu Square.


Mostly empty apartment buildings stand in the distance.


A pedestrian walks past a mostly unoccupied commercial area. Almost no businesses have moved into the new district.


Empty streets remain empty even during the morning commute.


Construction projects in Kangbashi continue despite the lack of occupancy.


An old man pushes a cart across a road segregating finished apartments and apartments still under construction.


Workers construct a plaza for un-present residents of an apartment complex.


Kangbashi awaits residents to bring the district, meant for a population the size of San Diego, California, to life.

[via Time]


  1. Do we know WHY the city is empty?

  2. Well, you know what, the Chinese builders do not sell furnished apartments. They sell them without internal decoration, so that the home owners will be able to have the maximum freedom to design the internal, including the room size and restroom locations, not even to mention the illumination, dry wall decoration, carpet or wood floor, and walk-in cabinets and electronics hutches. To do this, they usually hire a designer, spending months on the plot, then hire several contractors to have the work done. Usually this will take about 15~20% of the apartment price, and over a year. And before this is done, there is nobody living in it. So it is pretty common that a subdivision would look very under occupied for at least an entire year after the building and road construction. And meanwhile because of this, the business in the vicinity would not look healthy until people actually move in 1-2 years after the finish of landscape construction. The only thing that is not short in China is population. Do not jeer on the "new ghost towns". You'd better go back 2 years later and you will see the difference. Cheers.

  3. It's 3 years later and Ordos is still mostly empty.

    "At the time the region, known as Ordos, was rich from selling coal – Ordos sits atop one of China’s largest coal deposits. But today, coal prices are at an historic low, and according to state media, Ordos is in so much debt that it had to borrow tens of millions of dollars from a local developer just to pay the salaries for its city employees."

  4. Six years later, it would appear as though the project is rapidly gaining occupancy. Source:


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