A very interesting article examining such from New Geography.
Ordos, in China’s Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia (equivalent to a province) has received international notoriety as a “ghost city.” I had already visited one other ghost city and found the reports considerably exaggerated (The Zhengzhou New Area in Henan, a commercial and residential district). But Ordos has received by far the most publicity.
It turns out that in reality the people far outnumber the ghosts, something I should have recognized when it was difficult to find a hotel room six months before my visit. Ghosts do not generally need hotel rooms. But the ghost city label is an exaggeration.
What is Ordos? Ordos (E’erduosi) is one of the more than 300 municipality level jurisdictions that constitute China and cover virtually all of its land area. Like other municipalities, Ordos is divided into districts which are translated broadly as county level jurisdictions. China has about 2,900 county level jurisdictions, compared to the 3,100 county level jurisdictions in the United States. There is an important difference, however. In the United States, with a few exceptions, municipalities are within counties and there may be many municipalities within counties. In China, counties are within municipalities.
Ordos is one of 12 municipalities in Inner Mongolia. Ordos is composed of eight districts. The Ordos metropolitan area is located in the urban district of Dongsheng and the “banner” (Inner Mongolian title for county) of Ejin Horo (the urbanized part of which is Azhen). The Kangbashi new area, to which the ghost city stories refer, is split between Dongsheng and Ejin Horo.
Contrary to the “ghost city” meme, population growth has been strong in these two districts. In Dongsheng, the 2010 census counted approximately 580,000 residents, an increase of 130 percent over the 2000 census. The population of Ejin Horo rose 53 percent to approximately 225,000 residents. Overall, these two adjacent districts represent a labor market (metropolitan area) of nearly 810,000 residents, which grew more than 100 percent between 2000 and 2010 (Image 1).
Ordos is located in the northern half of the Ordos Loop of the Yellow River, which with the Yangtze is one of China’s two great rivers. After passing Lanzhou (capital of Gansu), the eastward flowing river takes a sharp left turn to the north for approximately 600 kilometers (375 miles), then a sharp right turn back to the east for 300 kilometers (200 miles), turning south for 600 kilometers and finally turning east toward the Yellow Sea.
Overall, the population of Ordos was approximately 1.94 million in the 2000 census and had grown 42 percent since 2000. As a result, Ordos was by far the fastest growing of the 12 municipalities in Inner Mongolia. The municipality grew at more than double the rate of the capital, Hohhot (Huhehaote), and approximately seven times the overall rate of Inner Mongolia. The growth rate of Ordos was also five times China’s national 10 year growth rate of 7.8 percent.
The municipality covers a land area of 87,000 square kilometers, somewhat larger than Austria. Ordos Most of the population is in the more rural districts.
Genghis Kahn, founder of the Mongol empire (13th century), history’s largest contiguous empire plays importantly in the history of Ordos. Genghis Kahn is reputed to have been so impressed by Ordos that he wanted his personal effects buried here. The effects are buried at a mausoleum approximately 10 miles (25 kilometers) south of Kangbashi. The actual burial place of Genghis Kahn is not known, and consistent with Mongol tradition, is secret.