YouTube notified me Monday morning of an ABC (Australia) special report on the “ghost cities” of China that sent me back down the Zhengzhou rabbit hole.
From the video below, at the 2:40 minute mark:
Narrator: Whether a city becomes inhabited or not depends on its ability to create jobs.
Dinny (“China’s Great Wall of Debt“) McMahon: A few years back 60 Minutes in the United States did a whole program about how this city was a ghost city. Within a year of that it started filling up aggressively. Reason was, the [Chinese] government threw tens of millions of dollars in incentives to Foxconn, which is the Taiwanese company that manufactures iPhones.
The city was Zhengzhou—or rather, a special economic zone within Zhengzhou—where Foxconn is the anchor tenant and Apple customer No. 1.
As Foxconn breaks ground in Wisconsin on what the President described last week as the Eighth Wonder of the World—and where he still thinks iPhones will be assembled—Zhengzhou’s story takes on new relevance.
It’s a story that was told at some length a year or so ago in the New York Times (12/29/16) and in the Wall Street Journal (7/3/17). Both good reads.
ZHENGZHOU, China—Farmer Zhang Hailin remembers the day in 2010 when he watched as helicopters flew in over fields of corn and wheat here, hovering in spots to drop balloon-shaped markers.
“Three days later, a hundred bulldozers were here,” Mr. Zhang said.
The iPhone was coming, and it wouldn’t be long before a new industrial town on the edge of Zhengzhou would be known as iPhone City.
Government officers, in sharply pressed uniforms, race around a maze of wooden pallets piled high with boxes — counting, weighing, scanning and approving shipments. Unmarked trucks stretch for more than a mile awaiting the next load headed for Beijing, New York, London and dozens of other destinations…
The well-choreographed customs routine is part of a hidden bounty of perks, tax breaks and subsidies in China that supports the world’s biggest iPhone factory… The package of sweeteners and incentives, worth billions of dollars, is central to the production of the iPhone, Apple’s best-selling and most profitable product.
It all centers on Zhengzhou, a city of six million people in an impoverished region of China. Running at full tilt, the factory here, owned and operated by Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn, can produce 500,000 iPhones a day. Locals now refer to Zhengzhou as “iPhone City.”
According to the Australian public television report, there may be as many as 50 cities in China like Zhengzhou still waiting to be inhabited. Cue the video:
My take: I can’t imagine anything of this scale happening in the corn fields of Wisconsin. But then, I know as much about real estate development as Donald Trump knows about high-tech manufacturing.