Ex-official's rare public critique of China's economy: ‘Empty houses everywhere'

Sep 23, 2023 07:31 PM IST

China Economy: At the end of August, the combined floor area of unsold homes stood at 648 million square metres.

Even though China has a population of 1.4 billion, it would not be enough to fill all the empty apartments littered across the country, a former official said in a rare public critique of the country's crisis-hit property market. China's property sector has slumped since 2021 when real estate giant China Evergrande group defaulted on its debt obligations. Big-name developers such as Country Garden Holdings continue to fall close to default.

China Economy: Chinese president Xi Jinping
China Economy: Chinese president Xi Jinping

At the end of August, the combined floor area of unsold homes stood at 648 million square metres, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed. This equals to almost 7.2 million homes based on the average home size of 90 square metres, news agency Reuters reported, adding that numerous residential projects have already been sold but not yet completed due to cash-flow problems.

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"How many vacant homes are there now? Each expert gives a very different number, with the most extreme believing the current number of vacant homes are enough for 3 billion people," He Keng, a former deputy head of the statistics bureau, said.

"That estimate might be a bit much, but 1.4 billion people probably can't fill them," he explained at a forum in the southern Chinese city Dongguan, according to a video released by the official media China News Service.

Earlier, a spokesperson at the foreign ministry asserted that the Chinese economy is "resilient".

"All sorts of comments predicting the collapse of China's economy keep surfacing every now and then, but what has collapsed is such rhetoric, not China's economy," the spokesperson said at a recent news conference.

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