A City Without a Soul

City Without a Soul

“Tieling New City is a brainchild of socialist planners”

Near the bustling industrial city of Tieling in northeastern China, there is a brand new city some 6 miles down the road called Tieling New City. The place has everything going for it. Visitors will find excellent infrastructure, government offices, schools, shopping centers and apartment complexes. Land and labor costs are significantly lower than other areas of China. Tieling New City can now hold some 60,000 residents with projections of triple that number in the near future.

The city even won a special recognition from the U.N. Human Settlements Program as an example of “providing a well-developed and modern living space.” The only problem is that Tieling New City is virtually a ghost town with almost no inhabitants. It is a city without a soul.

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Tieling New City is a brainchild of socialist planners who still run the nation with social engineering and old-fashioned communist corruption. These planners spent millions of yuan cleaning up marshland that had been used to dump untreated sewage. The logic was build first and populate later. The project also served as an economic stimulus project. With the downturn in world economy, China is trying to artificially pump up its economy by creating construction jobs, burning up money by throwing up a number of ghost cities like Tieling New City all over the country.

In typical Communist Chinese fashion, these cities are riddled with bad loans and deals crafted by corrupt officials who often trample on the rights of farmers and villagers forced to evacuate the area. This inorganic top-down manner of creating a city out of thin air is a surefire formula for building a city without a soul.

Tieling New City is truly a city without a soul. People simply don’t want to live there. There is no community life. There is no history or warmth. People feel more comfortable in crowded Tieling where they have links with friends, family and place.

Visitors cannot help but get an eerie feeling of being in a corpse-city when, at night, row after row of apartment buildings remain dark and nearly empty, save for a few residents and security guards. The industrial park is not much better. This vacant complex was built to be bustling with some 15,000 employees. Today, only two firms are there, one of which employs around 15 persons. Even with such dismal occupancy, there are still plans to double the park’s size. There is also a warehouse center on the outskirts of town that is virtually unused. Security guards seem to be the only real career opportunity in town with a future.


Despite the lack of enthusiasm for Tieling New City, the socialist planners were not easily discouraged. They came up with a set of socialist plans and schemes to move people in.

According to the Tieling government website, the industrial park created 5,000 jobs for rural workers in 2012. However, officials were soon disappointed to learn that most of the workers found places to live outside the new city. Officials then thought they found the solution when they moved many government offices from Tieling to Tieling New City. However, most government workers just commute from their old homes rather than move to the inhospitable city.

Officials went a step further by closing schools in the old city and forcing some 50,000 students to go to brand new schools in the new city. They hoped (against all hope) that parents would move closer to the schools. Alas, the parents are staying put. Despite the place’s outwardly pleasant appearance, they complain that the absence of community and services make the soulless city unlivable.

In face of such obstacles, socialist planners now believe the problem can be solved by building yet more facilities. According to The Wall Street Journal (8-9-13), the municipal government will be spending another $1.3 billion on new projects. Maybe, just maybe, officials reason, people will be attracted by an art gallery, a gymnasium, an indoor swimming pool, and another (empty) shopping center.Subscribe to Return to Order

What central planners fail to realize is that cities must either be built organically or they will be empty shells. The most important components of the city are individuals, families and communities not warehouses, industrial parks and shopping centers.

As noted in my book, Return to Order, from the exuberant element of life together in society, there springs forth “unique systems of art, styles of life, socio-political institutions, and economic models that differ from the rigid and soulless central planning and one-size-fits-all solutions so prized by socialists and bureaucrats.”

Indeed, so many fail to consider this human element which is essential to sound economy. They think, like the Chinese socialist planners at Tieling New City, that economic health can be bought by simply injecting money into an area without any link to the inhabitants. Bring back family, morals and institutions to a city and it will acquire a soul. Until then, the world is doomed to continue building cities without souls.

  • Phil Cox

    An absolute classic example of plans on paper that fail to account for human beings. Good piece!

  • poptoy1949

    Built with slave labor Communist Techniques and all of this to advance a vague Capitalistic approach. I hope it chokes them.

    • JCMR

      Read my post on Honduras (where I am currently living). “Capitalists” also use Communist techniques in our new XXI century. I hope Charter City/Ciudad Modelo — inpired by Chinese projects — yet the Plutocrats down here claim it is a neo-liberal project — crashes and burns. It hasd to if it is an inorganic creation.

  • Vimala Padmaraj

    PRAISE GOD
    When God is not given first place what can you expect but emptyness and chaos??
    Vimala Padmaraj

  • dennis best

    Yes, an excellent article exposing the fallacies of socialistic central planning. Thank you, John

  • Carol S.

    So what am I missing??!! This place looks fantastic!! They can bring their whole families to live in this place. Take over whole floors with extended family members. Bring their souls and culture with them.
    Perhaps I am too much of a military brat. Name a place, I’ve seen the airport at least. Moving into new places isn’t a big thing and considering the poverty of China; this new city sounds like the ritz! Have space for all those baby girls that are being forcibly aborted from mothers right and left. What an awesome thing they have done with an untreated sewage dump!!!! And lets not forget…our own American Gov’t elected by the people (NOT ME!!!) have made it so that we are in debt up to our eyeballs to this very same country!!!!

    • Pelham123Guy

      The online video documentary I referenced above points out that those apartments are high-priced condos. Very few can afford to live in them
      Frankly, why would you want to? Without other people around, humans are liable to go nuts.
      I get what John is saying. Cities are ‘organic” That is, like other organisms cities are either alive or dying (Detroit?). I believe the allegory (?) also holds true for Christianity. It is either growing or dying. We much become aware that it is not a static state, and that therefore, we should accept our responsibility to redouble our efforts to live our faith, pass it on and help it to grow.

    • Paul Tran

      Looks isn’t everything, People are more likely to thrive when they are surrounded by folks they grow up with, a sense of rootedness which builds community spirit. Apartment blocks are just boxes where people are crammed into and , depending on the design, they are not flexible enough for people to customize them to their own needs and impose their identity as a form of ownership.
      The new cities dehumanise and are impersonal, created on doctrines that are so far removed from all forms of humanity, hence they are soulless.

    • Ana

      The place resembles a penal colony. Nothing beautiful about it.

  • Pelham123Guy

    “cities must be build organically…” excellent observation… and it helped me to understand the term, “organic Christianity.”

    Several documentaries (here’s one: http://documentary.net/chinas-ghost-cities/ ) attest to the huge vacancies inn these cities. There is one (I can’t locate it just now) that showed the plight of a small farming community where no one wanted to leave, and were making the life of the Communist Town representative miserable, for it was his job to convince them to move to apartments that the gov’t. was building for them.

    While the Chinese government owns all the land, it does not own the houses of these farmers, and that has made life difficult for the Party. (Yeah!)

    Clearly, the key to our ‘brand’ of capitalism is faith, family, and property rights. Just as clearly, our “brand” of capitalism (‘entrepreneurship’, I think is a better term) is under assault. I pray that in the next forty months or so, that we, as a country, wake up to put a true, passionate believer in the traditional American Way in the White House.

  • Anne in OK

    Ps 126 comes immediately to mind. “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.” I am reading “Return to Order” and it is such a peaceful book. Much to think about.

  • JCMR

    And that will be the result of the Brave New “Ciudad Modelo” in Honduras imposed by plutocrats (self professed “capitalists” who act like socialst/fascist planners) who use the State to impose socialist/Statist programs. It too is “an inorganic top-down manner of creating a city out of thin air is a surefire formula for building a city without a soul.” Corruption is rampant, a coercive, state sanctioned land grab, proposed forced eviction of local inhabitants living where the social engineering will take place, and to top it off — military (Armed Forces) assigned as policemen to impose and coerce Honduran populations that may resist their Brave New World. One does not have to be a Chavista to be dictatorial. Liberalism can be so also. Mix that with the rising Protestantism that defends the State and discourages these ex-Catholics not to question the State, encourage subservience to “Caesar”, etc.

    Capitalists acting like socialist planners, and socialist planners acting like capitalists. Such Hegelian tendency can oly eventually lead to a fusuion of the two — a new elite, globalist, and anti-Christian.

    • Paul Tran

      Today’s capitalism is nothing more than just a neo feudal system which is what Marxism actually is in practice.

  • Paul

    The elite socialist planners will never learn what God-given freedoms are all about.

  • caydog

    When the Messiah comes, He will straighten out this mess. Those who have caused it will have the blinders taken off their eyes, and they will be ashamed. The only ones they have fooled are themselves. I hope that they all see the evil of their ways and repent. Come quickly, Lord. We need You!

    • yerfackingmammy

      Yeah, well, Armageddon stands between you and that day.

  • Patrick Carriveau

    Like Nowa Huta in Poland.

    • Ana

      That’s typical of the grey world of communism.

  • Dorothy

    Excellent, down to earth, common sense article.

  • Kmbold

    Sounds as though the Chinese atheistic socialist state has not done in the nation completely, as long as there are masses of Chinese using their free will to live, as much as possible, where they darn well choose.

  • Ana

    Playing the devil’s advocate here there is something else going on than just a soulless city. Many inorganic apartment complexes are built throughout the world that fill right up. I know. I lived in them in Fresh Meadows, NY., Bayside, NY. and in Louisville, KY. They are artificially made yet they were great places to live. Even Lefrak City, which despite the high hopes the builder had for the mini-city (which quickly became a slum when the city imposed a mandate that they must let to low income residents and as a result now more resembles a prison compound than a luxury apartment complex), filled right up with occupants. No, something more is going on that is very visible to the naked eye. I know that in all the places I mentioned a lot of care was taken to create inviting buildings and beautiful landscaping. Tieling New City is more reminiscent of Rikers Island, Alcatraz, and Auschwitz, than a residential oasis. The buildings are cold and institutional with too much uniformity Some of the building spires resemble guard towers. Apparently the Chinese used architects and urban planners with a limited range of experience with the outside world. Since the city resembles a penal colony, maybe the same architects who built their labor camps built the city? From the looks of Tieling it certainly appears so. If the Chinese government had looked outside of China for designers I’m sure Tieling New City wouldn’t be the cold and austere city it now has become and, in all probability, would be a very popular place to live.

  • Ray

    Great article. Now here is the place for Middle East refugees to go to. They could bring their own culture in a built up place already. Don’t need to assimilate with the current culture. They could start in this empty place. Hope China consider them.

  • Jason Molitor

    I believe building a Catholic Church in a reverent, non-communist way would draw people naturally.

  • geegee

    Why not put all the so-called refugees in Europe in these vacant places.That would solve a lot of problems.

  • y3shuA imMANu3l

    John 13:13
    “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.”

  • y3shuA imMANu3l

    Daniel 7:13
    “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.”

  • tompodm

    Is it possible that persecuted immigrants could be “re-settled” here? There are many thousands from Iraq and Syria that could populate and utilize these facilities…

  • y3shuA imMANu3l

    “My dear children, whom I LOVE, I beckon to you and pour forth this energy in order that you change your ways and start living the Immortal Life.”

    —The Father

  • Jean Cloutier

    Unless GOD build the city, they labor in vain who build it!