(CNN) – It’s a weekday morning at Yujiapu financial district in the Chinese city of Tianjin. The government spent billions of dollars on this virtual replica of Manhattan, but look around this major intersection and see what’s missing: the people.
When construction began here in 2009, thousands of workers were building these skyscrapers, modeled after some of New York’s most famous buildings. Today, we see few signs of construction. Even the buildings that look finished sit empty.
The Chinese government denies reports this project has run out of money, but like this bridge, there’s a huge gap between their vision and reality.
China’s real estate market is declining in some areas, leaving more and more so-called “ghost cities”, often the result of wasteful construction, too many buildings, and not enough tenants.
Because real estate has been fueling China’s economic growth, a slowdown will affect a long list of industries, this empty financial district: just one alarming sign of bigger trouble for the world’s second largest economy.