Malaysia’s ‘Ghost’ Island: Unfulfilled Dreams in the Shadow of a Chinese Mega Project

Inside abandoned Chinese-made £1billion ghost city where hundreds of empty skyscrapers are left to rot in JB, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Forest City in Johor, Malaysia, stands as a stark monument to the risks of massive international development projects. Initially envisioned in 2006 as a bustling eco-city to house 700,000 residents, it now lies largely deserted, earning the moniker “Ghost Island.” The project, a joint venture between China’s Country Garden Holdings and Malaysian partners, was supposed to be a $100 billion futuristic development on four man-made islands near Singapore.

Despite ambitious plans, which included energy-efficient buildings and luxurious amenities, less than 1% of the expected population currently inhabits Forest City. The shift from a potential hub of innovation and luxury living to an eerie expanse of unoccupied buildings highlights the complex interplay of economic policies and international relations.

The project’s downturn began with China’s implementation of stringent capital controls in 2016, designed to curb the outflow of money and stabilize the Chinese economy. “The tightening of capital controls was a significant turning point for Forest City. It directly impacted the primary customer base, which was overwhelmingly from China,” explained Zhang Li, an analyst specializing in Sino-Malaysian economic relations.

Adding to the project’s woes was a change in Malaysia’s political landscape. The election of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 2018 ushered in a period of skepticism towards large-scale foreign investments, particularly those involving significant land acquisitions by foreign entities. Mahathir publicly expressed concerns about selling Malaysian sovereignty to foreign powers, putting additional pressure on projects like Forest City.

“Forest City was caught in a geopolitical storm where its very existence became a point of contention in debates about national sovereignty and economic benefit,” noted Professor Amina Rahim of the University of Malaya’s Department of Urban Studies.

Today, the development’s vast complexes stand mostly empty. Businesses that had hoped to thrive from the influx of residents and tourists are facing grim realities. “We were told to expect a vibrant community, but instead, we are surrounded by vacant buildings,” said Ahmad Zulkifli, a local restaurant owner whose livelihood has suffered dramatically due to the lack of customers.

Authorities are now considering alternative uses for the existing infrastructure to mitigate the financial fallout. Proposals include transforming the area into a technology park or educational district, though these plans require significant investment and strategic vision.

As it stands, Forest City serves as a cautionary tale of how mega projects can falter under the weight of political, economic, and regulatory challenges. “Forest City’s predicament underscores the necessity for projects of this scale to have flexible, resilient planning and strong local integration,” Rahim added.

The ghostly silence that pervades Forest City is a powerful reminder of the complexities facing global urban development today, echoing the need for careful consideration of the long-term impacts of such grand visions.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *