Yumen, in Gansu Province, at the gates of the Gobi desert, is one of these Chinese cities built nearby oil or mineral resources, and abandoned by authorities once these resources become scarce. A few years later, they look like ghost cities. Yumen was built in 1955 as the first oil development center in China and it reached a population of 130,000 inhabitants. In 2004, oil ressource started to drain, and the city quickly depopulated. Today only about a hundred of workers remain in this city falling apart. Workers live here, among ruins and decay, for nine months a year. They are employed to maintain the old train station and unload freight trains. They receive a monthly salary of 3000 yuans (450 USD) for this labor (minimum salary is around 1300 CNY) They live in abandoned houses, which they furnished haphazardly, as best as they could. Most of them are from Gansu Province, some have been there for two years, others do not know if they will come back next year. The main meeting place for residents is the large grocery, which is also a cafe and a billiard room. When you walk along the main street and its buildings with crumbling facades, you reach a small park with a few outdoor exercise stations, where some people also come to do their gym, or just have a chat. In the surroundings, a few mechanics are fixing their old trucks with very limited tools and equipment, while other workers walk toward a construction site where, strangely enough, a new hotel and apartment buildings recently sprung up. No resident seem to have been advised of these new projects, or the future use of these buildings. But they are very likely linked to the development of huge wind farms and photovoltaic parks in the Gobi desert, to sustain the growing renewable energy sector in China. The hundred of thousands of oil industry workers who used to live in Yumen actually left the city for Jiuquan, another city located less than 100 km away, and currently booming due to this conversion into renewable energies. Some of the workers could afford to buy an apartment in one of the residential neighborhood specially built by the Chinese government to accommodate them in the early 2000s. At the same time, the Yumen Oil Company also built a primary school and a high school.
Les Pékinois – parmi les plus âgés – ont coutume d’aller le matin dans les nombreux parcs de la ville pour pratiquer le Tai-Chi, faire de la gymnastique, du cerf-volant, danser, se connecter aux arbres…ou plus simplement encore marcher, penser, respirer et oublier la pollution aux particules fines et le smog ambiant.