(Deutsche Welle) It was 2009 when the first reports hit the Western media: China, the economic miracle, was erecting new cities at a breakneck speed all across the country. But nobody wanted to live in them. The pictures and anecdotes seemed to be a clear example of China's megalomania and looming real estate bubble. "But the full picture is more complicated than that, and every city tells a different story," Haishan Wu, data scientist at Baidu, China's ubiquitous search engine, told DW.
Obtaining that full picture has been a major challenge in recent years, a period when reports of ghost cities mounted. Data on the phenomenon has been hard to come by, since the Chinese government does not release vacancy rates for residential buildings. That's why researchers have often resorted to unusual methods to get a grasp of the situation, counting lights in apartment windows or analyzing satellite data.