"They are building stuff that nobody really wants or needs — and there will come a day of reckoning," explained Gillem Tulloch, a Hong Kong-based analyst and managing director of GMT Research who has studied the growth of China's "ghost cities" across the country.
After years of boom, property prices in China are falling and credit conditions are tightening. Government debts have ballooned to 240 percent of GDP, raising alarm among analysts.
Read More Can China host a smog-free APEC summit?
While many economists dismiss the idea of a financial crisis in China's closed economy because ostensibly the government could turn the credit tap back on, Tulloch expressed doubts over whether Beijing can continue to defy economic gravity.
"Our leading economists in the West were lauding the Soviet-style system from the 1950s up until the 1980s," he said. "They were all wrong. I think it's the same with China."
On Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping used the APEC opening to try and reassure about the state of China's slowing economy, saying Beijing has the tools to deal with it, and that it is "not that scary."
Read MoreThanks to APEC, Beijing gets another 'Golden Week'
Meanwhile, business appeared to be brisk in Yujiapu's Mommy's Yummy House restaurant though the mood among chain-smoking diners was somber.
When asked about whether business was picking up, the waitress was dismissive. This was the only restaurant to have opened in the area, she barked.
She then brought a "Coca-Cola" to the table. The flat and counterfeit beverage was fitting: a fake coke in a fake Manhattan, in a lonely restaurant at the heart of one of the country's most expensive and ambitious developments, fast turning into its most dramatic ghost city.