Shenzhen Speed, Then What? – Xiaokang Magazine

Shenzhen’s challenge to redefine itself may not be only its own problem, but one for all of China. Translated from Xiaokang magazine (Â∞èÂ∫∑ÊùÇÂøó) by CDT:

Numbers speak to Shenzhen’s dazzling speed of economic development over the past 30 years:

– The Population grew from 30,000 to 8.46 million;

– Urban area: from 3 square kilometers to 7.3 million square kilometers in 2006;

– GDP: from 200 million yuan in 1979 to 560 billion yuan in 2006, or a 30% increase a year.

All these changes came about when the late leader Deng Xiaoping signaled his approval and 108 planning experts and architects descended upon the former fishing village north of Hong Kong in May 1980. Beijing only gave 30 million yuan as a seed fund, not enough to do anything. The Shenzhen government started leasing the land, a major reform in that era in China. In 1984, in a mere 37 months, the city built a 53-story tower, which became a symbol of “Shenzhen Speed.”

Soon a lot of first’s broke ground in the land of reform and opening: the first stock holding corporation, first man-made cultural tourist site, first listed stock, first open recruitment…

Then came challenges that concern city officials. Urbanization used 703 square kilometers of land by 2005, up from 60 in 1980. With a total land mass of 1953 square kilometers, there’s only 240 more for further development. And the city is regarded as the seventh in China with a water shortage, and experts estimate the population capacity for Shenzhen is about 11.5 million. But there are already 12 million people living here, more than 10 million of whom are temporary residents.

In 2005, Shenzhen exported $101.5 billion worth of goods, accounting for 13% of China’s total. Dependence on exports is well above 140%, more than double China’s inland average and 6-8 times that of developed countries. Excessive reliance on exports has posed great risks to the city’s continued growth. And rising housing prices, power costs and environmental pressures are further complicating the equation.

As some look at redefining Shenzhen’s role down the road as an example of China’s larger economic shift to come, its significance cannot be overstated. There are two schools of theory, one maintains that Shenzhen should still emphasize its “special economic zone” status, the other suggesting it redefine itself and focus on its geographical advantage, expanding cooperation with Hong Kong and developing along with Hong Kong.

If Shenzhen succeeds, some expect, it will stimulate the upgrade of “made in China” to “innovated in China.” [Full Text in Chinese]

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