China has replicas of Venice, the White House, the World Trade Towers and the London-like Thames town—and once you know that it does not seem like such a stretch that there would be a faux Paris in China, too. In 2007, a town called Tianducheng, located about two hours west of Shanghai, began construction of a miniature Paris. The town—built to support a population of 10,000—came complete with a 300-foot tall Eiffel tower, grey Parisian facades, cobblestoned streets and Renaissance fountains. The Atlantic reports:
While the experts scoff, the people who build and inhabit these places are quite proud of them. As the saying goes, “The way to live best is to eat Chinese food, drive an American car, and live in a British house. That’s the ideal life.” The Chinese middle class is living in Orange County, Beijing, the same way you listen to reggae music or lounge in Danish furniture.
In practice, though, the depth and scale of this phenomenon has few parallels. No one knows how many facsimile communities there are in China, but the number is increasing every day.
In Tianducheng’s case, however, things did not go as planned. Despite its charms, the residents never showed, and today, only a handful stroll those eastern boulevards. It’s not that Paris isn’t popular, but rather that the location is all wrong. Tianducheng’s developers plopped the city in the middle of the rural countryside, cut off from urban connections or public transportation, the Huffington Post points out.
Now, the ghost town mainly attracts urban decay tourists and the occasional wedding couple who come to pose for photographs in front of the Eiffel tower. But experts warn that the Paris of the East hasn’t lost its shot at becoming a bustling city of light and love quite yet. Business Insider explains:
China cannot afford to wait to build its new cities. Instead, investment and construction must be aligned with the future influx of urban dwellers. The “ghost city” critique misses this point entirely.
If and when Shanghai and China’s countless other urban hubs spill into the countryside, Tianducheng and its neo-Classical apartments will be waiting.
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