Pictures Worth A Thousand Words: Coafeidian, The Chinese Eco-City That Became A Ghost Town

by Gilles Sabrie in Caofeidian for The Guardian

‘As precious as gold …’ That was how then-president Hu Jintao described Caofeidian during his visit in 2006. It was pledged to be ‘the world’s first fully realised eco-city’ – yet 10 years and almost $100bn later, only a few thousand inhabitants have moved to this land reclaimed from the sea …

China’s ‘eco-cities’: empty of hospitals, shops and people

The leftover gate from a construction site – for a road that doesn’t lead anywhere. Caofeidian eco-city, begun in 2003, is located 200km southeast of Beijing. All photographs: Gilles Sabrie

Locals fish for crabs in the Bohai Sea as construction sites stand idle in the background. Caofeidian, in Hebei province, was originally a small island that has expanded using land reclaimed from the sea.

The ‘eco-city’ was made possible through huge bank loans. Once it was half-built, these loans were halted and many projects suspended due to the rising cost of raw materials and a lack of government support.

The knock-on effects are also to be seen in this abandoned tourist resort by the shore of Bohai Sea.

A lone worker inside Caofeidian city’s mostly abandoned industrial park. He works for a company producing solar panels – a heavily subsidised industry in China that is plagued by over capacity.

Caofeidian eco-city was planned to accommodate one million inhabitants, yet only a few thousand live there today. It has joined the growing ranks of China’s ghost cities.

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