Plans for new urban areas would provide housing for 3.4 billion people — far more than China’s total population.
A new surge of urban development may create a new wave of “ghost cities” in China, as the country draws up plans to house as many as 3.4 billion people, far in excess of its current population.
Reports from both official news agency Xinhua and the independent media outlet Thepaper.cn say that urban planning in China is out of control, as each of the country’s provincial capitals is planning to build an average of 4.6 new urban districts, and regional cities look to build an average of 1.5 new districts.
These new urban areas would provide housing for 3.4 billion people – entirely out of line with actual demand from China’s population of less than 1.4 billion.
According to Xinhua, a survey of 156 local-level and 161 county-level cities across 12 provinces found the 12 provincial capitals are planning a total of 55 new districts, with one alone planning 13. Over 90 percent of local-level cities are planning new districts, the agency said.
The problem of uncontrolled development is not new: in 2013 the Peoples’ Daily criticized the trend of building new cities with the expectation that they would eventually be filled, in particular, the development of smaller cities that do not have the same potential as larger economic centers. During normal urban development, large cities absorb smaller ones as they expand, but in many cases in China they have over-expanded, building entire new cities or districts which become under-occupied “ghost cities.”
The amount of land needed for expansions is also increasing. One provincial capital in the west of China is proposing three new districts and five new cities – requiring 7.8 times as much land as the original city covers. Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan in central China, covers an area of 132 square kilometers, and is planning a new district of 150 square kilometers.