Yuan Xiaomei, a community supervisor in Kangbashi, China, tears open a cardboard box and hands out brochures and promotional fans to crowd of locals. The fans are emblazoned: “To build a civilised city, we need you. Thank you for your participation.” The residents fan themselves and flip through the brochures. One woman explains to her friend who can’t read: “It’s telling you how you should act in the city. Don’t spit, don’t throw rubbish on the streets, don’t play loud music, don’t drive on the pavement.”
Ordos broke ground in 2005, and made headlines in 2010 for being China’s largest ‘ghost city’. But in 2011 the government started to move large numbers of farmers off their land, under the guise that small-scale agriculture was failing in Ordos, and into the city, with the hope their lives would improve. As for the farmland, it is to be consolidated in areas for industrial agriculture, or converted back into grassland and forest in an effort to curb the sandstorms that have been known to blight the region.
Urban Ordos is eager for new residents to occupy the thousands of empty apartments, offices, and commercial spaces, of which more are built every day.