BINHAI, China — The Yujiapu financial district was built to be a bright area of commerce for the new growth area in Tianjin, China. It is even purposefully modeled after the current center of world finance, Manhattan. But due to lack of funding and participation from major international companies, the replica looks like the abandoned Manhattan of Will Smith’s “I Am Legend.”
But this kind of capitalistic neglect and calculated urban decay is perfect for the architects working just across the river on China’s replica of the Bronx.
“The thing about the Bronx is that it looks like it at one point was powered by feeding human souls into a factory, but sometime in the ‘60’s it ran out of them. So the fact that nobody wants to live here makes our replica even more like the Bronx than the Bronx,” philosophizes Xin Long, chief architect of the Bronx replica of Yujiapu.
It is unlikely the Yujiapu district will continue construction on this project, as the government financial vehicle that was funding it dropped 68 percent in revenue last year. Experts say China creates these “ghost cities” because, even though spending a colossal amount of money on them is wasteful, it does maintain a high GDP for the country.
“It doesn’t bother us that there won’t be any further funding for our project because, while a Manhattan replica might need money to keep up its appearance, the Bronx is famous for looking like a city someone started building, but then decided instead to drop it into a vat of hot acid,” says Xin.
For a time, the Yujiapu Manhattan project looked very promising. There were once reports that the Julliard School had agreed to build a school there. The Rockefeller Group and Motorola were supposed to build branches there, as well. No such love for the Bronx replica, but Xin says that’s all the better for their cause.
“I’d say if rich white people give as little of a shit as they clearly do the real Bronx, we’ve outdone ourselves, as far as I’m concerned.”