Ordos: A Ghost Town That Isn’t

Ordos city, a development project in Inner Mongolia that was designed to attract one million residents, has frequently been derided as a failure and a “ghost town,” with up to 90% of its construction projects empty. Yet a new documentary takes another look at the city and finds that the project has not in fact been a total disaster. Tea Leaf Nation (via The Atlantic) interviews the makers of “The Land of Many Palaces,” Adam Smith and Song Ting:

With all the negative attention that’s been directed to Ordos, has the local government — or local citizens — begun to see the new area as a failure? What incentives are the government providing to attract new?

I don’t think that the government would admit (that Ordos) is a failure. They’re still trying hard to bring people in. The government has moved its officials into the new town, and they’ve also moved some of the city’s best schools into the new town, to try to bring in young people. So high school kids — they have to go to the new town for school now.

There’s a huge campaign underway to occupy the city. They’re basically giving people from the whole region — and Ordos is bigger than Switzerland — incentives to move to the city, or they’re forcing them either by moving schools, hospitals, or other public facilities into the new city.

Our initial reaction to that was — “Oh, that’s terrible, that’s social engineering” — but the villagers that we’ve spoken to are actually really happy about this. Basically they’ve gone from being pretty poor to being quite wealthy, and they’ve opened bank accounts, purchased villas, they’ve got money in the bank for the first time in their life — they’ve basically retired with this money that they’ve been given.

Watch a trailer for the film:

And read more about Ordos via CDT.


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