Empty China

A collection of photographs of empty spaces in China. Together these images create a portrait of China's fading demographic superiority.

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China, which has had one of the best demographic profiles of any nation, will soon have one of the worst.
— Gordon G. Chang

My first glimpse of China's odd demographic circumstances was in 2011 while I was working alongside American English teachers at Chinese universities. On our way through Chongqing — the economic center of the upper Yangtze River region, a city with a population that exceeds 30 million people — we passed empty shopping center after empty shopping center and dozens of half-empty high rise apartments. Where do you hide 30 million people? My curiosity piqued.

On January 18 2013, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that the number of working-age Chinese shrunk by a total of 3.45 million in 2012. As the Economist noted, "In the slow-moving world of demography, that is a big turning point."

At the time I made these images, I did not know of the downturning population, though I found the idea of empty city blocks and public spaces in the most populated country on the planet fascinating. And, in seeking out those situations, have unwitingly produced a collective portrait of an idea, a shadow, as the days of China’s demographic superiority reach their twilight.


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