Concerns over unsold properties have spurred fears over whether China's real estate market is a ready-to-burst bubble, but the mainland's "ghost towns" may not be all that empty.
"They're not big, huge empty cities," Tom Rafferty, China analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit, said, adding some large-scale housing projects in cities' residential districts just haven't been sold or occupied yet. "We've seen a huge growth in the urban population. They can be filled," he said.
"One of the ones I always find quite funny is Zhengzhou," Rafferty said. "It's got a population of 9 million people, but it always gets called a ghost city," he said, adding it has a low urbanization rate which will steadily increase over the coming years and a large number of industrial jobs being created.
"You can be positive about where it's going," he said.
Concerns that China's property market is a popping bubble have moved to the front burner recently, with home sales in the four months ended April down 9.9 percent, after slumping 7.7 percent in the first quarter. Property is estimated to account for around 20 percent of the mainland's gross domestic product (GDP).
But despite slowing sales, others also aren't buying into the China ghost story.
"There are pockets of sometimes serious excess, but doomsday scenarios are ghoulish exaggerations," CLSA said in a report earlier this month.