Here are links to a pair of fascinating accounts of China’s ghost cities.

It is estimated that there are 64 million empty apartments in China at the minute with vacancy levels of 70% or more in a number of cities.  One city has been built for 1 million people and has an occupancy of 20,ooo.  Another is a new city designed for 12 million, the vast majority of which is empty.  As is one of the world’s largest shopping mall, with all but a handful of the 1500 units empty (6 years after opening).  Building continues everywhere, fuelling GDP growth (sound familiar?).  The assessment is that China is experiencing a massive property bubble that if and when it pops will have a massive knock on consequence for China’s economy and by implication the global economy.

Rob Kitchin




One of the major ‘known unknowns’ about Ireland after Nama is whether there will be any economic growth in the country during Nama’s lifespan. And such growth is needed if property prices are to rise 10% in ten years. There are many reasons for pessimism here. The U.S. capitalist economy isn’t exactly surging back to life. And even if it does, the U.S. is so riddled with debt that any recovery won’t necessarily mean demand for services or good produced in Ireland. China, to which many commentators look for signs of a global recovery, is too export-dependent and too dominated by its coastal elites to lay the conditions for a much-needed boost in demand from its rural sector – a source of demand that was critical to the success of other Asian NICs (that is, ‘success’ as measured by surging economic growth rates, if not in equality).

So, if not from resurgent growth in the U.S. or China, just how will the anticipated recovery occur? Or, is there some other reason to be cheerful? Might it be that Ireland’s European partners offer succour here? Are we on the verge of a new period in Ireland’s economic relationship with Europe? Or, as lots of people in the country expect, is Ireland just on the verge of a sustained downturn / fully-fledged long term crisis? If the latter, how can Nama expect to return a profit to Irish taxpayers? And if it will make a loss, just how much of a loss, year-on-year, are we looking at? And precisely which sectors of Irish society are going to have to pay for those losses?

Alistair Fraser