Counterfeit European cities in China

Chinese fake towns of Paris, Amsterdam, Orange County, Manhattan and even Washington, DC attract local tourists who do not have the opportunity to visit the original places

Editor / Internet Yeni Şafak
China is well known for its capacity to imitate almost everything, from luxury bags to smart phones. But the country has now figured out how to construct massive towns duplicating the cities of Europe and the United States. Chinese fake towns of Paris, Amsterdam, Orange County, Manhattan and even Washington, DC attract local tourists who do not have the opportunity to visit the original places. Moreover, homeowners from around the country show huge interest to live these fake western cities.

Here are some duplicate European and American towns and landmarks in China:

London's Tower Bridge in Suzhou

Suzhou city in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu has built its own version of London's most iconic bridge, the Tower Bridge. Though the Chinese version of the Bridge does not have a raising mechanism to allow boats to pass underneath as does the original Tower Bridge in London, Suzhou bridge offers “English-style coffee" in a café at the top of the bridge.

Moreover, the Chinese model of Tower Bridge boasts four towers rather than two, and offers glazed vertical floating walkways to maximise the scenic view.

London is not the only city to have inspired builders in Suzhou, though. Sitting about 200 miles northwest of Shanghai, the area has become well known for cloning other world-famous landmarks.

The river through the city also has its own Sydney Harbour Bridge, as well as a copy-cat Alexandre III Bridge straight out of the French capital, Paris.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge copy is smaller than the original, made from granite (thereby significantly cheaper and quicker to construct than the eight years it took 1,400 Sydney labourers in the 1920s and 30s), and has been designed as a "rainbow across the river bend," with a 100m replica steel truss arch and 327m in length (the original is 1,149m long).

Pont Alexandre III Bridge

The Pont Alexandre III Bridge, unlike its Parisian counterpart, is constructed from concrete. This replica of the Parisian arch bridge was built in 1973. It has four statues that represent wishes for peace and harmony: the Blue dragon, the White tiger, the Rosefinch and the Black tortoise. With little regard for context, as depthless, superficial, pseudo-authentic simulations, these new-old recreations have been parachuted in, as George Ritzer would argue, to “re-enchant" space and encourage commerce and consumption.

Suzhou is not the first Chinese city to embark upon urban mimicry. A simulation of Dorchester (Dorset, UK) houses 200,000 citizens in Chengdu; there is also Thames Town in Shanghai, a replica of Austria's Hallstat resort in Huizhou and the replica of the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysee square in Hangzhou.

Paris & Eiffel Tower in Tianducheng

Tianducheng, a town near the capital of Zhejiang province, is designed with Parisian-style architecture, fountains and landscape. The city boasts recognizable apartment buildings and the Parisian trademark, the Eiffel Tower. The 31-square-kilometer copycat version of Paris was built for around 10,000 inhabitants as the 108-meter tall replica of the Eiffel Tower aimed to attract local tourists. But the current population of the city is estimated at around 2,000 people.

Thames Town in Songjiang

Cobbled streets, Victorian homes, and corner pubs make Thames Town, in the Songjiang District near Shanghai, feel supremely English. Some of the buildings are exact replicas of those found in England. It was a part of the “One City, Nine Towns" project, aiming to build nine western towns in a Chinese city, which was meant to lure people out of overcrowded Shanghai to live out their European fantasies in one of nine Europe-inspired villages. The project plans to accommodate as many as 1 million people by 2020.

Anting German Town

Here's another copycat town from the “One City, Nine Towns" in Shanghai. The Anting German Town, designed by Albert Speer, looks complete with its colorful three- to five-story-high buildings, green space, canals, and restaurants. But just like the other ghost towns, the Chinese were not interested in permanently living here. Bronze statues of Goethe and Schiller stand together in the middle of the cobblestone square as they remain unknown to the locals.

Harbour City in Lingang, Shanghai

Lingang Harbour City is another German-designed town in the new city. Its style is not specifically Germanic, but the architect behind it is Meinhard von Gerkan. He envisaged an urban utopia (or “Copacabana unlimited" as he dubbed it) radiating from a 3 km diameter lake; the tagline of the project was “Born from a Drop." The Harbour City, which has faced criticism for its overly idealistic design, is the largest of the nine new towns.

Breeza Citta di Pujiang

And another “One City, Nine Towns" ghost town, the Italian town or Breeza Citta di Pujiang in Shanghai does not seem to show it's a replica of some place in Italy unlike the other European town rip-offs. The town was carefully planned to mix Italian minimalism with the traditional Chinese architecture of the hutongs and lilongs. The town resembles a modern-day Italian city. However, the result was a rather sterile area with mostly blocky apartment buildings, with a few scenic canals and green spaces.

Swedish town in Luodian

Sweden was also knocked off as part of the overly ambitious "One City, Nine Towns" project. Located outside Shanghai, the North Europe Town is meant to resemble the Swedish Town of Sigtuna and has Scandinavian influences, including a replica of Sweden's Lake Malaren and Iceland's House of Parliament. Today it is a ghost town.

Holland Village in Pudong

The windmill near a river says it all – you're somewhere in the Netherlands. A quiet town near the busy downtown Shanghai, the Holland Village is another housing project part of the "One City, Nine Towns" initiative the Shanghai Planning Commission set up in 2001. It was not quite successful because its location is too far from the city.

Florence in Tianjin

Located near the port city of Tianjin is Florentia Village, an elaborately designed outlet mall that's meant to resemble an Italian village. Not a town but a shopping mall, Tianjin Florence Town covers an area of 200,000 square meters and houses some of the world's famous brands. It comes complete with fountains, canals, and mosaics, as well as "local" shops like Gucci and Prada. Built by an Italian developer, it truly feels like Italy.

Château de Maisons-Laffitte in Beijing

The Zhang Laffitte Chateau hotel on the outskirts of Beijing is an exact replica of France's historic Chateau Maison-Laffitte. This hotel in Beijing, Zhang Laffitte, misses no detail after using the original blueprints and 10,000 photos of the building as a guide. The hotel also has a spa and a wine museum inside.

Hallstatt in Guangdong

In the midst of the Chinese province of Guangdong sits an identical copy of Hallstatt, a historic Austrian Alpine village. China spent $940 million copying the charming UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety.

Mini – Manhattan in Tianjin

The ancient fishing village of Tianjin was razed to make room for a mini-Manhattan, which developers hoped would become the financial center of the world. It was set to house a Juilliard School and replicas of Rockefeller and Lincoln Center. Previously set to be completed in 2019, construction has halted, leaving it a ghost town.