Ordos is notoriously represented in media discourses as one of China’s principal “ghost cities”, with skyscrapers, apartment estates and grandiose squares largely unoccupied. The “ghost city” emerges from massive (over)investment in the urban built environment. Aware that economic and financial sustainability are in question, we nonetheless choose to investigate this issue from the perspective of social sustainability, utilizing a theoretical framework informed by geographies of home. Relatively little analysis has thus far been applied to local residents’ everyday practice and agency in making place and home in allegedly “unhomely” ghost cities. This article first examines media discourses and representations of the “ghostly” aspect of the new town in Ordos. It then investigates the ways in which local residents practice and perform their place identity and sense of home in an alleged “ghost city”. Our empirical research in Kangbashi New Town demonstrates that the discourse of ghost cities is valid in so far as we take into account the local residents’ engagement in a process of home-making from below. This sense of place is created by connecting new and old homes, and constructing an emotionally delineated place identity. We argue that the issue of social sustainability in Ordos is multifaceted, and more nuanced than it has hitherto been represented in media reports.
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