Touring China’s ‘Ghost Coast’

Over the Chinese New Year, I went to one of the rather more bubbly spots in China (mainly for holiday, but also to watch some ludicrous pace of property development).  Hainan province, a south-most province of China, known probably for its hot weather (among others that I know and don’t know), is dubbed the Hawaii of China.  And as the matter of fact, this is not the first property bubble for Hainan.

Most of these new properties are built and sold around the theme that warm weather makes Hainan a popular location for northerners to have their winter holiday, as they hate the cold weather in the north but can’t stand the hot weather of Hainan’s summer.  Local people called these northerners “seasonal birds” as they only appears in winter months.  Besides residential properties for sales, investments in hotels are also enormous, particularly in the popular places for tourists and some areas designated for resort development, mostly along the coastlines and beaches which were previously almost uninhabited.

With the help of friends who live in one of the small towns in Hainan, I was able to look at these properties in a way that no tours can offer, as we sneaked into construction sites, sales office, and unoccupied houses.

To start, we came across with a development with a huge banner of “Welcome home” to these “seasonal birds”:

Walking inside, this is what could be seen:

Right, it is absolutely empty.

As said, along the coastline of Hainan Island, many of the beaches and the neighbouring lands have been earmarked for ”seasonal birds” property developments.  Along the highway that goes around the Hainan Island (particularly in the east side of the island), you can find major property developments at or close to every exit of the highway.  Clear Water Bay developed by Agile property (3383.HK) is just one among many of them:

Shenzhou Peninsula is another ludicrously ambitious development.  Close to a small city of Wanning, the whole previously uninhabited peninsula is now earmarked for yet another ”seasonal bird” property development.  Apparently being divided among more than one developer (including Citic Pacific), this 18 sq. km. piece of land will have hotels, residential and commercial properties, golf course, etc.  The whole area is circled in red, while the box represents what I could actually see standing the spot represented by the cross:

Here’s what it looks like now:

And the Dubai-like vision:

You can also see other ludicrous Dubai-like development, like this one in Sanya, which is a man-made island off the coast:

If you haven’t had enough of these empty properties and/or pointless stuff, here are more (truth be told, there are too many unoccupied new properties, so many that one can’t always be sure on whether they are really 100% completed, or if they are completed, whether they are completely sold, or if they are completely sold, where the owners are). In Sanya:

Along the highway:

In Xinglong Town, a town with population in the order of tens of thousands, a developer aims to develop a community of 100 thousand people.  Here’s the first phase of the whole thing:

And you can see other empty properties along the main street of the “tourist area”:

And the building goes on:

Local people said, however, that no local people would ever buy them.  Those are for northerners, they said.  Asking local people on their views on when all these properties will be occupied, their answer is “never”.

While Ordos, Zhengzhou new district and others have been popularised in Western media as the “ghost cities” of China, a manifestation of the Chinese property bubbles, empty properties are easily found in China, none more so than China’s “Ghost Coast”.

Latest posts by __ADAM__ (see all)

Comments

    • You jest. Surely. Just another property bubble story – they abound.

      Zarathustra certainly knows how to play to an audience. As Z notes, Hainan is no stranger to property bubbles, yes this is another, the Government has implemented policies to reign in speculation. A policy for rent assisted apartment placing for low income families has commenced. Hainan was designated a ‘special economic zone’ to actively promote the tourism sector and many speculate that it may rival Macau one day – Ceasars Casinos announced plans in 2011 to build a massive gambling complex there (designed by Oz architects!). Most apartments are in fact ‘holiday lets’. More than one million people descended on Hainan for Chinese New Year – would have liked to have seen a few of those photos. Regions in Hainan Province regularly host conventions for very large numbers (100,000+ one recent auto convention). Limits have been placed on development permission in the future.

      Furthermore, these are really nothing more than photographs of presently unoccupied apartments. This anecdote really not backed up by any fact other than Z’s relentlessly downbeat perspective. Look for failure and you’ll find it.

      • I doubt you would find similar photos in other resorts and places aimed purely on visitors and holidays…

        I have never seen streets so empty, no matter how touristy and off-season.

        That said, you are right that it is anecdotal and may not show the whole picture, China is huge after all. My opinion? Just too many of these anecdotes around to dismiss…

      • And you know all this without setting foot on China?
        .
        Think I’ll go with Zara’s on the ground account of what is going on.

        • I have never commented on trips to China.

          Nonetheless:

          “…as we sneaked into construction sites, sales office, and unoccupied houses.”

          I could do that here in Perth and guess what, lo and behold – find these constructions sites and display homes are devoid of inhabitants. Go to a holiday area off season, ‘sneak in’ and take photos – again, no inhabitants. The whole posts tells us nothing other than there are no people living in Hainan construction sites and sales offices. Well der.

          Just pointing out that this is not quality reporting. There has been a property boom in Hainan, but facts and figures revealing the scale do better than a bit of Famous Four snooping. When Z backs it up with verifiable evidential support, I’ll listen.

          • Go to a holiday area off season, ‘sneak in’ and take photos – again, no inhabitants

            Ummmm … its mid-winter. It should be peak season.

            Just sayin.

          • -1 🙂

            The reason journalists are doing things like this is precisely because there is no trustworthy data/information to assess these situations. A whole community of China-watchers has sprung up to fill this void.

            Even the gent who is about to become the new Premier commented that he didnt trust GDP figures because they are so prone to manipulation, for example.

            If this article were written about Perth it would be quite easy to come up with a counter-argument based on published plans, demographic data etc.

            If thats not the case, prove me wrong by producing your own facts to prove your argument.

          • You convinced me 3d1k, you do have a point. It won’t change my opinion on where China is headed but I do agree with your argument about solid evidence.

            I trust Z. that this is just an example of what he has witnessed is going on in China and not some cherry-picked data just to write some sensationalist post. However, we do have to be mindful that anecdotes aren’t the best way to assess the situation of the entire country.

            Still a cool anecdote though. 😛

          • I could do that here in Perth and guess what, lo and behold – find these constructions sites and display homes are devoid of inhabitants.
            .
            Nice straw man there – the pictures aren’t of display homes or site where construction is in progress; they are of finished projects where people have literally left the building.
            .
            Go to a holiday area off season, ‘sneak in’ and take photos – again, no inhabitants.
            .
            Off-season? Over the Chinese New Year? in summer?
            .
            Just pointing out that this is not quality reporting.
            .
            ..Coming from someone who is a PR Rep and reads The Cupboard, that is a bit rich!

          • dumb_non_economist

            3d1k,

            Sorry, but you need to check your arrival figures there, 3d1k. Being generous to move 1 mil using widebodies @ 300 pass requires 3333 flts in and out. Down to the more than likely narrow body a/c @ 200 pass is 5000 flts. There are only 2 A/Ps on Hainan I and today there are 4 flts out and in. CNY is a 7 day event, officially, however I’m told it can move out to close to 14 days. Still a lot of air traffic which would require high hourly movement rates 24 hrs a day, which the Chinese couldn’t achieve at Beijing/Shanghai let alone Hainan I.

            3d1k, I think it’s your bias that shows through in your posts. You have virtually accused Z of having fabricated his post to be completely misleading to what you believe may be the real case there.

            It’s plainly obvious the Z has described the circustances as he came accross them, having to sneak onto properties to see the real situation at hand, which had the owners been aware of, they would not permit.

          • dumb_non_economist

            3d1k, ouch!!

            Check out your first link, then go down to “Related News” and read the headline “800,00 tourist vist hainan in 2011” and follow that link!

            So, we’ll be generous and call CNY 14 days and had 20+%of 2011 visitor numbers come in 2 weeks??

            With regards to modes of travel, really! Numbers and time suggest the 1 mil number is as “Hungery Beast” would say, a little bit bullshit!

            Shouldn’t trust what you read!

            Cheers

          • dne, generally I question all I read, particularly posts by Z (a while back Z did a post on unsold property in Beijing or Shanghai market (don’t recall which), when assumptions transposed to Perth, appeared to show Perth had a great problem with unsold properties…

            In any case, a couple more links, ‘appearing’ to show 25+ million domestic visitors and almost 700,000 foreign visitors per annum.

            http://www.hktdc.com/info/mi/a/mpcn/en/1X06BV0F/1/Profiles-Of-China-Provinces-Cities-And-Industrial-Parks/HAINAN-PROVINCE.htm

            http://en.haikoutour.gov.cn/view.asp?ArticleID=142

            With tourist numbers like that any wonder there has been a building boom!

          • dumb_non_economist

            3d1k,

            Okay, but I still doubt the official numbers. Meilon’s website states 8.2 m pax, Sanya Phoenix doesn’t give the figures, but 20 flts per day all appear to be narrow bodies so around 180 pax max 7 days pw, 52 wks pa = 1.3m (MAX). So now we have 9.5, while they state 25m pa. Yes ferry services are available, but to the tune of over 10m. It’s a bloody big island to motor around given Sanya is the southern most part and supposedly the main tourist destination.

            While I have no doubt it’s a big tourist destination I just would have thought that Z’s “review” is either deliberately misleading or shows significant overbuilding or gross under utilisation (same thing really). To have that many places dead quite with 25m visitors pa somewhat unusual. HK has 32m , 22m mainline of which 48% are day trippers and only 7m living there. You get periods of higher vacancy rates, but not empty.

          • dumb_non_economist

            3d1k
            Sorry can’t spell or add up! That should be mainlanders and 15+m by boat. Sort of puts our boat people numbers into perspective.

  1. Great post.

    By comparison, recently i travelled around Japan for a few weeks.

    Whilst it was not a detailed ‘fact finding’ trip i was looking for signs of 2 decades of stagnation and highways to nowhere.

    Saw very few, if any, signs of either.

    Just a lot of comfortably looking people going about their lives on trains that worked well and in streets where few shops were empty.

    Japanese style stagnation is very impressive.

    I would not be surprised if Japan copes with a shrinking population much better than most people expect.

    • A shrinking population is good for most people as it means there will be more resources per capita to go around and no money needs to be wasted by government to expand the infrastructure.

      • > A shrinking population is good

        Blasphemy! You’re a threat to the economic growth of this country.

      • Agree, I’ve read comments here defining the shrinking population in Europe as a problem. I’m pretty sure most Europeans (including myself) disagree. Bit of extra space wouldn’t do any harm in such a densely populated part of the world.

        Besides, I believe population growth is the real problem the world faces in the long run. Who dreamt up this idea that economy can grow perpetually?

    • First the Japanese are very different people and their culture is very nationalistic. They care about their owns, they don’t have even half of the unemployment and the poverty in USA and they are still in 20 years stagnation, while we are in a booming mining economy, and America is recovering “strongly” (according to Fox Business). Japanese don’t have this unlimited greed and willingness to feast with the dead remains of the others of their kind, like the West banks are doing. That is why they will manage to survive and live decently together as a nation, not like the rest of the West. There is much to learn from them.

      • I agree that there is a vast cultural difference. And that there is plenty to learn from the Japanese about social and economic policy (not excluding the fact that I think we can learn from many other countries). They have their own peculiar social problems of course.

        I did write a little about the over-dramatisation in the Western media of the Japanese ‘lost decade’

        http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2011/10/turning-japanese-is-a-boon/

        It’s too easy to overlook the fact the Japan outperforms on many economic metrics that actually matter.

      • When you say stagnation what it means in fact is that they are still enjoying a very good lifestyle and they don’t have U6 of 15% (US) to 30% (Spain).

        Fiscal stimulus has kept GDP from shrinking (except isolated occasions) since 1961 and as issuer of its own currency it won’t default.

        The US & Europe have far bigger problems among sizable proportions of their populations and are far more likely to have internal division.

    • Japan does have areas of decline- I have lived in a couple. They do exist, and are the subject of explorers who go out to explore old spa resorts and defunct mining communities.

      Of the two I lived in, one began its decline decades ago, and has done things to mitigate it- merging the various small town governments into a bigger one, covering many smaller towns (like a council amalgamation. The main industries were farming, coal mining (died in the 60s)and fishing. the taxes from the ok areas helped sustain the struggling areas. Younger families are moving back (there are a few factories as well) as the area was a nice to bring up children (away from the corruption of the city. Of course, the current primary industry seems to be housing the refugees from the nuclear disaster and the clean up workers.
      The othe town- not handling so well. The big deparment store closed, and I notitced that there was a general lack of certain services- ie there used to be a shop that offered whitegoods, it closed and there have been no replacement stores. Only thriving area was the red light district. People still lived there, but they largely worked, shopped and played (apart from the red light district) elsewhere (Tokyo).
      Japan has been preparing for the population decrease for a while (and have tried to attract new workers) but the killer is going to be the deaths of the boomers before their elderly parents- that will probably cause issues.

    • Me too.

      Some of those golf courses are mean’t to be amazing (if I’m thinking of the same area).

  2. Very interesting piece of ‘on the ground’ journalism – thanks very much for this.

    Presumably the owners of these holiday flats are going to need a return at one stage or another? I know there’s a Chinese obsession with keeping an apartment in pristine ‘as new’ condition but how long will the owners be able to afford to do that for – I’m guessing they have rates/property taxes the same as we do here. You have to wonder where all of this is headed –

    • Obviously the Chinese are looking at us and their logic is simple: who ever is among the first owning more properties will be among the richest in the future when their will be enough idiots buying these properties for millions.
      If a simple cottage in Australia can be sold for a million AUD while it costs just a dozen bucks, how easy is to understand what the Chinese are doing with all those ghost towns? There are maybe more idiots there than here as we have much lower population.

      • Solution: Sell them to cashed-up Aussies! Cheap Chinese holiday homes – get in quick (a la Florida and Nevada).

      • In China there are millions of slum dwellers, AND millions of empty apartments. The empty apartments are all owned by “greater suckers”, the earlier racketeers (generally well placed CCP officials) have taken their slice of the action, which is the factor that makes the apartments too expensive for the slum dwellers unless the “greater suckers” take a major haircut.

        Apartments would literally be cheaper in Houston because there is no slice of the action taken by well placed racketeers. The slum dwellers would then be living in the truly affordable apartments. The same applies to Australia’s housing market on a slightly different scale – many more young people could be owners of houses if the vendors were not all “greater suckers” asking too much for the income levels of the population base. Again, in Houston, these young people WOULD be home owners by now.

        • You have some very interesting ideas Phil; I don’t necessarily agree with everything you say but you do have a well thought out and logical argument in whatever you comment on.

          TO reply on this and your post further down about communism and fascist states, I think this is a very important distinction that people constantly lose sight of when dealing with China. The attempted counter-revolution in 1989 should have proven to everyone just who was in power and what sort of means they were prepared to go to in order to protect their wealth and dictatorship; the Party is all about crony-ism and promotion of vested interest at the expense of poor Chinese and silly Westerners who I feel (if push comes to shove) will have Chinese investments confiscated by the Party. There’s nothing free or open about Chinese society – and you are on the money with the fact that being notionally communist doesn’t help the millions of Chinese living in grinding poverty.

          Just writing these observations and posting them on the internet would get me into diabolical trouble in China – imagine what they would do to someone like Gina Rinehart if she was caught trying to influence government policy outside of official channels – her wealth and power wouldn’t matter one iota ! At times I’m really grateful I’m an Aussie…

          • I agree with everything you just said. I think the awful truth is slowly dawning on Western investors.

            All this is very much benefiting the only remaining part of the world that really is welcoming of investors and employers and provides maximum opportunity for all with few regulatory barriers and low urban land costs. I am forever spotting commentary that supports my intuitions. I don’t know how long it will take for this to become mainstream.

  3. Somehow this reminds me of the Soviet Union. Seems to me the number one reason for building is growth of GDP and providing jobs, but certainly not meeting an existing demand. Total disconnect between plans and reality.

    To me it shows once again that centrally planned economies do not work. China is different my a***.

    Hard landing guaranteed. (Getting more bearish as I go! :P)

    • Because unplanned Western economies have worked very well and now are blooming, is that what you are saying?

      • No, because the Soviet Union so obviously continued to blossom with people enjoying those queues in front of the supermarket and being so wonderfully engaged and motivated to make something of their lives.

        It’s just not sustainable.

        (neither is over the top Capitalism, but I didn’t claim that, did I? 🙂 )

      • Yes, the 200 odd least planned cities in the USA never had house price bubbles, had little to do with the Wall Street money-go-round, never had much of a crash, have had very little equity wipeout, and have the strongest economies in the world today. “The USA” is as disparate a collection of economies as “The EU” is.

        It is the States and cities with little urban growth constraint, low stable urban land prices, and no punitive anti-employer legislation, that “own” the future of Western Civ today. 75% of all new employment in the USA since 2007 has been created in the State of Texas alone. There is a manufacturing resurgence in these areas, including numerous businesses setting up there instead of China, or moving there from China.

    • We mock the soviets, whilst at the same time believing that via our central banks we can devalue our way to prosperity.

    • China today illustrates how Communism and Fascism are very similar. Just a slight move along the political spectrum. The Fascists pretend to let people own property and keep the proceeds of their own work and entrepreneurship. But you can forget about any “rights” or the rule of law if they tell you how you are to use your property or run your business.

      Hitler said “socialising property is pointless, socialising the people is the thing”.

      China has moved from Communism to Fascism – it was not a shift of much distance along the political spectrum. The true opposite of both is libertarianism.

  4. Great post. Truly a timebomb of wealth destruction.

    For those that are talking about pop growth… I used to hold the same opinion (that world pop was inexorably rising). However, it seems that view is wrong. Nearly all developed world countries pop is declining. Most developing are breaking even or declining. Few strong exceptions. World population expected to peak around 2030 at 7Bn according to what I read, and decline from there.

    Fertility rate needs to be 2.1 to break even and its been trending down for some time. Maybe this could be the subject of an MB blog? Its a complex issue.

    • Should have added – China is the poster-child for population implosion. Due to single-child policy, in the affected generations of Chinese population, men outnumber women by as much as 18 to 1 (wish I had a source, just reflecting what I read).

        • China is having the same problems as India in terms of boys being preferred strongly; this is leading to ultrasounds and subsequent abortions (even though it’s officially illegal to abort on the basis of the sex of the foetus). As a result many of the rural regions have as many as 140 boys born to every 100 girls – India has a similar story apparently. It will be interesting to see what happens in another 15 or 20 years when all these boys can’t find girlfriends or wives!

          • might look a bit like Port Said (Egypt) did for the last couple of days !

            Fabulous Post, thank you.

            Does anyone have links for economists who have tried to
            forecast what a sustainable future world economy would look like? Will we all have to spend most of our time playing golf for example (lol)

    • “Great post. Truly a timebomb of wealth destruction.”

      Had an Argentinian family over for Xmas. A great opportunity to get a first hand account of what happens when a country defaults.

      At one point the gov’t opened everyones personal bank accounts, requisitioned all the US$ and credited the accounts in Pesos. (At around a 2/3rds devaluation to going market rate).

      I would call that wealth destruction.

      Can you blame people for wanting to secure their wealth in something tangible in place of paper?

  5. Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

    Those bullish on China – how do you explain this? China is different????

    The issue is that Hainan is not unique (aside from most properties having tourism features like golf courses). If 40% of apartments are empty in Shanghai, a city with lots of promise what is it like for cities in the hinterland? At some point this ends in massive tears.

  6. Apparently, Chinese urban population now exceeds rural population…
    .
    ..and yet they have so many empty cities ????????? Hard landing seems to be an understatement.

    • Yes, but as I said above, millions of people are still living in slums, in many cases alongside empty apartment buildings. There have even been TV documentaries on this. There is probably something on YouTube – I remember some where the slum dwellers are interviewed, and then real estate agents are interviewed re the price of the empty apartments. I can’t find it again with a quick look – I wish I could.

  7. Great post.

    This is one of the reasons why i dont believe that the Chinese economy is at all what it seems. There are other structural reasons as well.

    But you know, since we are all using GDP to measure economic activity it allows the Chinese to build a ‘field of dreams’ economy and make it seem legit to most eyes.

  8. There is no return on investment building these pyramids. Surely eventually governments doing this run out of money.

    • Yes and no.

      The apartments seem like a waste. But the golf resorts may be an ok investment.

      In the US roughly 8% of the population play golf. In China I’m guessing the % is neglible.

      Say 2% of Chinese people take up golf. Thats 25 million golfers. Obviously thats ridiculous as Chinese people don’t earn Western incomes – but still the numbers are huge.

      Wikipedia tells me China has 500 golf courses vs 17,000 in the US. And it can’t be that easy to force Chinese people to leave villages to build golf courses.

      Potentially, the golf resorts could clean up.

  9. Hardest thing for me re China is that all of this is very opaque, China has 2 trillion in USD reserves, a government owned construction company goes belly up the central banks writes off the bad debt, the CEO of the construction company disappears perhaps with a 9mm dream, and life goes on. You can run MMT if you have a CAS

    • “China has 2 trillion in USD reserves” Jack they cant just grab that money and spend it there are liabilities against that money.

      http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-11-23/wall_street/30432356_1_banking-system-chinese-government-china-situation

      This is from the article.

      [The Chinese government] doesn’t [have money], and that’s the problem. The banking system in China is extremely fragile, and that’s one of the messages we wanted to get to people.”

      “In fact, because what happened the last two crises, in ’99 and ’04, when non-performing loans went crazy in China without even a recession, the Chinese banking system was not re-capitalized like ours was, it was papered over. Going into this credit expansion, Chinese banks are sitting on lots of bonds from the so-called asset management companies set up in 1999 and 2004, and they are keeping them on the books at par, at full value. In the case of Agricultural Bank of China, which we’re short, those restructuring receivables are equal to over 100% of their tangible book. The Chinese banking system is built on quicksand, and that’s the one thing a lot of people don’t realize. When they talk about the foreign reserves of $3 trillion, what everybody forgets is there’s liabilities against that.”

      “Everybody seems to think it is a free and clear open checkbook. It’s not. That is what we have been trying to tell people. Focus on the lending system over there, because everything occurs through the banking system

      • Hi LBS,
        “[The Chinese government] doesn’t [have money], and that’s the problem.”

        The Chinese government can spend as many yuan as it likes. It is a sovereign issuer of its own currency. That is the beauty of a fiat currency.

        Could I suggest reading up on fiat currency, modern monetary theory and chartalism.

        • Not without consequences.

          I suggest those reading up on MMT actually think through the relevance of that particular theory in reality, not in some abstract theoretical world.

  10. Just to be the contrary voice for a moment!

    If we hark back the the Michael Pettis article on economic distortion due to interest rates that are too low. this looks like a typical result.
    Suppose you’re Chinese would you put your money into US Treasuries at 0% or thereabouts with the possibility (probabilty?) of major looses or would you be inclined to purchase a nice apartment on the beach in Hainan?
    I doubt holding costs are very high but I couldn’t vouch for that without checking with locals.

    Anyway just thinking out loud.
    Zarathrustra…holding costs info?

    • In big cities, levy on average is about 1 to 3 RMB per sqm per month. And I think that’s about it.

      Plus a lot of them (like one third) refuse to pay because of “various reasons”.

  11. Don’t forget it’s not necessarily private companies building and individuals investing in these residential developments. Not only would the central govt have their own construction companies, but it’s very likely that the military does too.

    There is a massive number of communist party and military members, and I have heard once individuals start moving up through the ranks they become entitled to free (or heavily subsidised) state sponsored accommodation.

    The amount of housing/apartments the govt owns over there must be staggering. Having a shedload of empty apartments with no individuals owning or living in them will therefore not necessarily affect the housing bubble, if the above is the case. They can just keep building with no real ramifications.

    I also wouldn’t be surprised if the military has its own money printing machinery as well

    • Interesting points, but I wouldnt bet much that the Chinese politico is the first organisation in history to completely avoid the problems of a massive credit-fuelled construction boom 🙂

      These things get you one way or another no matter how much currency you can print.

    • I have an old friend whose father was a General in the 4th Army. As I understood it, and I presume this is still the case, different army groups were in charge in different provinces.
      He reckoned they got a piece of everything that happened in their province. He said you couldn’t even imagine how much money his family had!

  12. Jack vs LBS (I’m no expert but some thoughts)
    LBS has to be right as far as bad loans etc in China. However I’ve always leaned towards Jack’s thinking. Their huge reserves allow them to paper over a lot without serious consequences. As someone said MMT would work fine with CAS…then again most economics works fine with a CAS
    As already posted here when you go to Japan it shows little sign of great stress and has confounded western analysts who have been predicting its demise for 20 years.
    My take is that western economists have not grasped the importance of the external account. As near as I can tell it is completely ignored in economic teaching.
    Hence the western democracies have the enormous problems we now have.

  13. Why is it that these sorts of developments are so goddamn ugly and look identical the world over? It is like all the architects in the world made a pact to design from the same handbook of mediocrity. (or no one is hiring decent architects)

    It is no wonder that most Australians don’t want to live in apartments when you see how shitty all the developments are these days. And yet somehow old pre-war walk-up apartments in Krakow or Berlin look good, have more room and are more comfortable to live in. Why can’t we build like that these days?

    • Generally apartment buildings in China look much nicer than here. Of course once you get these towering instant cities…well it’s a bit hard for us bush blokes to like them

  14. I’m kind of torn between 2 torn between thoughts on China.

    1. It’s a disaster waiting to happen as they’ve massively overbuilt

    2. Fantastic foresight for building for the future, rather than the now.

    The thought occurred to me how screwed we’d be in Sydney without the forethought of the original Sydney Harbour Bridge build. I bet people mocked them for having 6 cars using such a mammoth and costly structure, but it proved a master stroke in the long run.

    • These properties don’t have the same lifespan as the harbour bridge. Even though the harbour bridge needs to be galvanised regularly its is paid by government and is a national icon.

      If you look at these developments, I would make the assumption that they are not of top quality. They are held by residents and they are not a national icon therefore they have little importance. If you leave an apartment sitting for 1-2 years the age will start showing. If you leave these apartment blocks for more than 10 years without maintaining them they will fall apart and turn into jungles as plants start sprouting from the crevices in the walls and rain/sun burns the paint away.

  15. +1 Pingupenguin

    Modernism has many virtues but architectual beauty , designed to last the ages generally aint one of them.
    Future generations will probably dub this the ‘eye sore era’.

    • I have nothing against modernism. These new apartment blocks certainly are not that. If they were modernist and well designed they could be things of beauty. As it is they look like they were designed by a talentless undergrad.