China’s penchant for low-effort copycat’ing has reached new heights (and lows) in the city of Yujiapu. After identifying the New York City borough of Manhattan as the financial hub of the planet, the government of the Tianjin Binhai New Area set out to copy its success. The results were disastrous and costly.
The project started optimistically enough, with many independent investors putting in money to be on the ground level for this New New York. Agreements were made and contracts signed. China Daily even reported that the government had struck up a deal with the Juilliard School to set up a Yujiapu-based institute. Ideas of which iconic Manhattan sights to copy were plentiful: there were plans for a Lincoln Center and even a Rockefeller Center, China-style.
But like most attempts of the Chinese government to copy the success of others, cracks soon began to appear. Literally and metaphorically. By ignoring the logistics, location, and history of Manhattan, it got almost every single aspect of New York City wrong. Soon enough investors started dropping out, deals were rescinded, housing went unpurchased, and Yujiapu became just another one of China’s many ghost cities.
The city once planned to become the ‘New Financial Capital of the World’ is dead. There’s little reason to seek out Yujiapu now, save for the startling sight of wasted energy and money, and perhaps to catch a glimpse of a post-nuclear holocaust Manhattan.