Way back in 2011 I wrote an off topic post on China’s ghost cities. With the current trade war with China I’ve been watching some youtube videos to try to get a better understanding of what is going on with China’s economy. One thing I learned is that the infamous ghost cities aren’t merely a product of central planning gone wrong. There is a strong speculative component to the phenomenon, as the apartments in the empty buildings are being purchased for astronomical prices by highly leveraged chinese citizens, especially chinese men who are looking to signal their suitability to marry by owning “property”. I put property in quotes because what they are typically buying is an unfinished (bare concrete) apartment in a building on land leased from the government for 70 years.
As the video above explains, not all “ghost cities”remain empty forever. At times the speculation pays off and eventually the buildings are used for their intended purpose. But even here the nature of the arrangement is quite odd from a foreigner’s perspective. South African expat youtuber SerpentZA explains what this looks like in Shenzhen below:
SerpentZA and a colleague share more thoughts on the bubble here:
Whenever contemplating a bubble, I always keep the famous Keynes quote in mind:
Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.
On the larger topic of the trade war, I found this video by SerpentZA helpful:
And this one as well: