We tend to think of Chinese cities in the context of expansion, but the reality is much more complex. It is true that in the last few decades Chinese cities have drawn millions of domestic migrants, emptying out rural villages. But another consequence of China’s economic miracle is often overlooked—its shrinking cities.
In 2016, Beijing City Lab, an academic network studying urban development in China, reported that more than a quarter of Chinese cities lost inhabitants from 2000 to 2010.
“Underrepresented, understudied, and underreported,” Ying Long, associate professor of Tsinghua University’s School of Architecture in China who led the study, says of the cities with declining populations.
Intrigued by the phenomenon, photographer Ronghui Chen began visiting the northeastern region