Remember the Chinese ghost city of Ordos? After visiting this unpopulated metropolis (which was built for one-million residents) in 2009, Al-Jazeera went back to find that even though Ordos was still mostly unoccupied, construction kept chugging along. But why?

Here was the scene on the street in Ordos when the news crew returned this year:

Ordos now boasts Asia's largest fountain show. Its theatre has managed to hold a few concerts this year. There are definitely more signs of life than the last time around - but still comparatively little relative to the size of the city. We came to realise just how little when our team got thirsty midway through our shoot and decided to buy water [...] We ended up spinning around and around city blocks, searching for a store selling water. Eventually we found some - but not without the feeling we had gone on a treasure hunt. There is no major supermarket in Ordos, because not enough people live in the city.

Despite being a weird empty metropolis in the middle of the desert, people are still buying up the apartments as investments — stocks and banks are seen as less favorable — and the city keeps pumping out housing units to spur economic growth. What makes this situation even crazier is that China has an overall demand for housing, but Ordos remains out of many a citizen's price range.

For a similar situation south of Ordos, there's the New South China Mall, which was profiled earlier this year on Bloomberg. Despite the fact that the mall's mostly unoccupied by merchants, one manager nonetheless gave a ridiculously rosy assessment of the mall's future's fortunes:

We've been trying hard to make money, and we're actually heading towards that direction. We still have some 200,000 square meters soon to be developed. I think we'll balance out as soon as those 200,000 square meters are open.

Yes, it appears as if the Chinese economy is one big game of Settlers of Catan: build those damn cities until you win.

[Via Patrick Chovanec]