Summer Reading

If you are travelling from Shanghai to Hong Kong this summer, unfortunately, it is highly likely that you will encounter some delays to your journey. We like to combat the stress of travelling from Pudong Airport by taking a good book along for the ride. This month, Tom Carter gives us his suggestion.
Ghost Cities Of China                                                      ****
Wade Shepard
Zed Asian Arguments
For the past several years, the phenomena of China’s ghost cities – idle property developments void of habitation – have been a hot topic among Western journalists and China watchers, many whom view the country’s rapid urbanisation as unsustainable. But Wade Shepard, author of the first long-form study of the topic, hopes to dispel what he says are popular misconceptions about these empty cities.
Shepard, a native of the American Rust Belt, makes it clear from the outset that his aim is not to portray ghost cities as the epic failures of overly-ambitious property developers, as muckraking media such as 60 Minutes have, but as investments into China’s future; “seeds of modernity” intended to meet the nation’s inevitable demand for housing.
Prospective colonists have yet to take the bait, but Shepard remains optimistic. It might not be this year, nor this decade, nor even this generation, but as the author so cheekily corrects his detractors, no civilisation in the history of the world has ever been built and populated in a day.
Ghost Cities is as much of a travelogue as it is a sociological study. Shepard, an itinerant word traveller, spent several years traveling to various provinces across China in search of ghost cities, riding around on a bicycle and sleeping in a tent due to the sheer lack of services and facilities in these undeveloped areas. Who but only the most road-hardened tramp would or could do that? His haunting first-hand stories about these unhaunted cities weave a page-turning personal narrative not often found in academic texts.Tom Carter