New satellite images show inside China’s ghost cities

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DigitalGlobe

China still has a startling number of vacant real-estate developments, judging from new satellite analysis by DigitalGlobe and Business Insider.

Chinese ghost cities have made headlines for nearly a decade, with huge new real-estate developments sitting mostly empty for years. Some see them as a sign China is heading for a real-estate crash. Others see them as just the typical style of urban expansion for a giant state-run economy.

While some ghost cities are reportedly filling in, the problem isn’t going away. A recent Baidu study of phone data gave clear evidence of 50 cities with areas of high vacancy. And just this fall China’s richest man called Chinese real estate “the biggest bubble in history.”

We looked inside some ghost cities with the latest in satellite technology, including time-lapse images, to show what’s making progress and what isn’t. See the highlights below.


Chenggong was labeled a ghost city back in 2012, with reports of 100,000 vacant apartments. Five years later, the city still looks very empty — yet skyscrapers are still being built.

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DigitalGlobe

Source: BBC


Chenggong has big plans, evident in an extensive road grid. But the roads are still mostly empty, and many city blocks are still farmland.

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DigitalGlobe

A closer look at some of Chenggong’s mostly vacant skyscrapers. Note the paved road that transitions to dirt as it moves to the left.

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DigitalGlobe

Chenggong, like other ambitious Chinese developments, has dramatic architecture — in this case surrounded by farmland.

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DigitalGlobe

Chenggong has several big new university campuses. This has sat mostly empty and unfinished for a while, according to DigitalGlobe.

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DigitalGlobe

Erenhot is a notorious ghost city in Inner Mongolia. Check out our time lapse of one development there: just dirt in 2013 …

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DigitalGlobe

… streets full of McMansions in 2015 …

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DigitalGlobe

… still-empty streets full of McMansions in 2017.

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DigitalGlobe

Ordos, another notorious ghost city in Inner Mongolia, is reportedly adding people but still has lots of unsold housing and unfinished construction. This beautiful stadium, for instance, has been sitting unfinished for a long time, according to DigitalGlobe.

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DigitalGlobe

Source: Forbes, Forbes


Another cool building in Ordos sits dormant, no longer under construction and not in use, according to DigitalGlobe.

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DigitalGlobe

Dongsheng (named by Baidu as a partial ghost city) has large developments like this one sitting dormant. The skyscrapers are apparently finished, but the construction equipment is gone, so it appears that work has stopped on the site, DigitalGlobe says.

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DigitalGlobe

This development in Dongsheng is up and running but appears to have very few residents.

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DigitalGlobe

Ghost city or future city? The giant Meixi Lake development looks eerie today, with skyscrapers going up by the dozens and not a lot of residents. Then again, prices are still rising in the area, and, according to DigitalGlobe, construction is still going rapidly.

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DigitalGlobe

Source: Fortune, Wired


Once called a ghost city, Zhengdong is reportedly doing quite well. Still, the city is building new skyscrapers by the dozens.

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DigitalGlobe

Source: Forbes


Another shot of Zhengdong. Will people move in? Time will tell.

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DigitalGlobe