‘Ghost Cities’ Aren’t a Solution to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

business_ethics_highlights_2This piece is a useful illustration that humanitarian sentiment isn’t enough for acting ethically or devising sound public policy responses to human suffering. The author notes that 70% of Twitter commentary on China’s ‘ghost cities’ touts them as a solution to the Syrian refugee crisis. However, by the end of the blog post it’s clear that this is less a case of great minds thinking alike than of widespread economic ignorance encouraging people to converge on the same counterfeit conclusion. The piece provides a fascinating account of the role investment real estate plays in China—where markets in other stores of wealth are either poorly developed or actively suppressed by public policy. >>>

LINK: Do China’s ghost cities offer a solution to Europe’s migrant crisis? (by Wade Shepard for Reuters Blogs)

Do you think the Ghost Cities could be used, even as a temporary situation, to accommodate those displaced from Syria? It seems that many of the cities are just waiting for a community and here is a community that needs a city.

Even though there are between 20 and 45 million unoccupied homes across China, which account for roughly 600 million square meters of uninhabited floor space — enough to completely cover Madrid — these places are not the urban wastelands they are often posited to be. While many of China’s new cities and urban districts are deficient in people they are not deficient in owners. Nearly every apartment that goes on the market in China is quickly purchased, often at exorbitant prices that commonly range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Far from being unwanted infrastructure that could seamlessly be doled out to refugees, those arrays of vacant high-rises are actually the proud possessions of people who paid a lot of money for them.

All over the world, the value of property extends beyond the utilitarian function of being a place to live. Real estate is also a vital economic entity that presents an avenue for investment as well as a way of storing wealth — a use of property that is taken to the extreme in China.

What do you think?

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