China's Empty Cities: These Satellite Images Will Shock You

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By Gus Lubin and Mamta Badkar

China's notorious ghost cities are a disaster waiting to happen, according to a new report from CBS News' "60 Minutes." Take it from the CEO of Vanke, the country's largest residential real estate developer, who tells the news program that developers are deep in debt, projects are being abandoned, and things could get ugly fast. The nightmare scenario could be like America's housing crash but worse.

"It's like walking into a forest of skyscrapers, but they're all empty," financial analyst Gillem Tulloch said of another ghost city, Chenggong. We're taking this occasion to check with satellite imagery on China's most famous empty developments. Of course things may be better than they seem. Yale's Stephen Roach argues that China is experiencing "the greatest urbanization story the world has ever seen," and that these ghost cities will soon become "thriving metropolitan areas."

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China's Empty Cities: These Satellite Images Will Shock You

This is Zhengdong New Area, the Hennan Province ghost city toured by "60 Minutes."

The central business district features a ring of significantly vacant skyscrapers.

See any people?

Nearby are housing developments with few signs of habitation.

See any cars?

This is just the start of a massive expansion meant to create a new city with a population of 5 million.

Developers are reportedly running out of money and abandoning projects midway through construction.

Meanwhile in Yunnan Province, Chenggong is building skyscrapers by the hundreds.

Chenggong already has 100,000 new apartments with no occupants.

Chenggong has empty housing developments everywhere you look.

Chenggong has two new universities, both of which look mostly empty.

Meanwhile in Inner Mongolia, Ordos is full of housing developments with few signs of life.

Check out this empty luxury development.

The construction boom in Ordos suddenly came to a halt last year.

Despite the "ghost" areas, Ordos hosted the Miss World beauty pageant in 2012 (it does not lack in impressive public buildings).

Meanwhile, in Jiangsu, there are empty housing developments as far as the eye can see.

Look closer: See anyone?

Meanwhile, Hunan Province, Changsha -- a city twice as big as Los Angeles -- is expanding rapidly to the east and the west.

A closer look at empty developments outside Chengsha.

And another one...

Out in Inner Mongolia, Erenhot was built in the middle of a desert.

While the city is mostly unfinished or uninhabited, of course there is a monumental local government building (or is that a luxury hotel?).

There are also some large empty developments in Xinyang.


Take a closer look: See anyone?

With as many as 64 million vacant apartments in China, this could be just the tip of the iceberg.

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