About 45 minutes outside of Beijing are the deserted ruins of what was supposed to be the world's largest amusement park. Instead, farmers have reclaimed the land planting corn and digging wells next to spires modeled after Disneyland.
Please consider China’s deserted fake Disneyland
More pictures and text in an excellent article by David Gray.Along the road to one of China’s most famous tourist landmarks – the Great Wall of China – sits what could potentially have been another such tourist destination, but now stands as an example of modern-day China and the problems facing it.
Situated on an area of around 100 acres, and 45 minutes drive from the center of Beijing, are the ruins of ‘Wonderland’. Construction stopped more than a decade ago, with developers promoting it as ‘the largest amusement park in Asia’. Funds were withdrawn due to disagreements over property prices with the local government and farmers. So what is left are the skeletal remains of a palace, a castle, and the steel beams of what could have been an indoor playground in the middle of a corn field.
Pulling off the expressway and into the car park, I expected to be stopped by the usual confrontational security guards. But there was absolutely no one to be seen. I walked through one of the few entrances not boarded up, and instantly started coughing. In front of me were large empty rooms and discarded furniture, all covered in a thick layer of dust, along with an eerie silence that gave the place a haunted feeling – an emotion not normally associated with a children’s playground.
All these structures of rusting steel and decaying cement, are another sad example of property development in China involving wasted money, wasted resources and the uprooting of farmers and their families. It is a reflection of the country’s property market which many analysts say the government must keep tightening steps in place. The worry is a massive increase in inflation and a speculative bubble that might burst, considering that property sales contribute to around 10 percent of China’s growth.
China’s overheated real-estate market has become a source of fascination and dread for investors. With a significant share of the economy tied up in construction, and global commodity prices hanging on Chinese demand, the recent drop in property prices could prove a turning point. China Vanke, the largest developer and a bellwether for the industry, said Monday that sales in November fell down 36%, year-on-year. This marks the company’s fourth consecutive month of double-digit drops in revenues. So how much further might house prices fall, and what would be the impact on developers’ balance sheets? Is it time to push the panic button? In a new report, Credit Suisse predicts an average drop of 20% from a peak in mid-2011 to the end of 2012.20% does not sound "dire", it sounds like a cakewalk. Heck, not even 40% is dire. 70% is dire. 40% is right here right now in Shanghai.
If a 20% fall sounds dire, consider that some Chinese media outlets have begun speculating on the possibility of a much more severe correction to what is widely seen as a bubble. Some reports flout the idea of 40-50% slump, which would have huge implications for China’s political economy.
Crash in Progress, Pollyannas Proven WrongHome prices and sales plunge after China's government intentionally slams on the brakes. Some recent buyers stage demonstrations, destroy real estate offices and demand refunds of up to 40%.
Home prices nationwide declined in November for the third straight month, according to an index of values in 100 major cities compiled by the China Index Academy, an independent real estate firm. Average prices in the Shanghai area are down about 40% from their peak in mid-2009, to about $176,000 for a 1,000-square-foot home.
Sales have plummeted. In Beijing, nearly two years' worth of inventory is clogging the market, and more than 1,000 real estate agencies have closed this year. Developers who once pre-sold housing projects within hours are growing desperate. A real estate company in the eastern city of Wenzhou is offering to throw in a new BMW with a home purchase.
The swift turnaround has stunned buyers such as Shanghai resident Mark Li, who thought prices had nowhere to go but up. The software engineer closed on a $250,000, three-bedroom apartment in August, only to watch weeks later as the developer slashed prices 25% on identical units to attract buyers in a slowing market.
Outraged, Li and hundreds of others who paid full price trashed the sales office, scuffled with employees and protested for three days before police broke up the demonstration. Walking away now would mean losing the $75,000 down payment that he borrowed from his working-class parents.
"I still haven't told them," Li, 29, said of his home's plummeting value. "It will just make them worry, and it's already too late."
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