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Evolution of Chinese Ghost Cities

Opportunity for a Paradigm Shift? The Case of Changzhou
Li Mingye
p. 69-78


In the late 2000s, the phenomenon of ghost cities emerged in China, including not only boomtowns such as Ordos but also “ordinary” third- and fourth-tier cities such as Changzhou. Based on a conceptual framework of China’s land-driven growth machine under entrepreneurial governance, we update the ghost city phenomenon through an in-depth empirical study of a third-tier city, Changzhou. The objective of this paper is to expand our understanding of how excessive accumulation of real estate assets has come to dominate the landscape of this type of city against the background of China’s economic slowdown. The author argues that overbuilding is due to the malfunction of the classic urban expansion model under entrepreneurial governance. In the case of Changzhou, the local government continued massive “sales” of residential and commercial land while effective housing demand was declining due to slowdowns in the local manufacturing industry and in population growth. In response to the “New Normal” advocated by the central government, the government of Changzhou redirected its land and housing policy. Nevertheless, more profound reforms are needed to change the paradigm of growth-oriented urbanism.

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Bibliographical reference

Li Mingye, « Evolution of Chinese Ghost Cities », China Perspectives, 2017/1 | 2017, 69-78.

Electronic reference

Li Mingye, « Evolution of Chinese Ghost Cities », China Perspectives [Online], 2017/1 | 2017, Online since 01 March 2018, connection on 27 April 2018. URL :

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About the author

Li Mingye

Li Mingye, who completed a doctorate at the Paris School of Urbanism, is a postdoctoral researcher at the Urban Planning and Research Institute of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano e Regional, da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Av. Pedro Calmon, nº 550 - Prédio da Reitoria 5º andar Cidade Universitária - Rio de Janeiro, Brasil (

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