Chenggong is a town close to Kunming. It has everything you’d expect from a newly-built, planned town – apartment blocks, office buildings, parks, bus lanes and government buildings. But it’s lacking one key element: people.
I first read about Chenggong in a Financial Times article earlier this year where it was cited as an example of China’s alleged overbuilding. This article on the World Bank blog also gives some background.
Though this was the first ghost town I’ve seen in China, it’s not uncommon to see under-populated or under-used developments. When I lived in the north of Beijing, there was a finished apartment complex that remained empty for the year I was there. When I lived in the east of Beijing, right by my home there was a huge shopping mall with almost no shops and even fewer customers.
Many of the completed buildings, such as those above, are intended for government use, but have been empty for years. A few cars and motorbikes passed down the avenues, but the only people I saw on the streets were police officers guarding the empty buildings. The police watchtowers – a familiar sight in Kunming – were empty.
Apparently most of the apartments have been bought up by speculators hoping to cash in once the subway line opens in 2012/13 and connects Chenggong to Kunming. Currently, there doesn’t even appear to be a direct bus from Kunming so, despite being just 20 kilometres away, it feels remote and isolated.
Construction continues. This building site…
…will eventually look like this:
And, if the artist’s impression is accurate, shoppers in the Central Business District will be able to buy the latest designs from Louiu Vutton, Aomani, Diro and Bendi.
For what it’s worth, I imagine the town will come to life once the subway opens. Even so, it’s hard to imagine how presumably hundreds of millions of dollars of public money could have been wasted like this.
I hate reading about somewhere interesting on a blog and then not knowing how to get there. So, for the benefit of anyone interested in visiting Chenggong, this is how I got there:
First I took bus 154 from outside the bus station by the main train station. The bus eventually arrives at a highway where the light rail is being built. Transfer to bus 12 and get off at the final stop – Chenggong old town. From there, it’s hard to give directions because I found the new town by just walking around – you need to cross under the expressway and head towards the high-rises. Buses 170 and 190 go to the new town, but I don’t know where to catch them.