Although it may not have the palaces of Beijing, ancient tombs of Xi’an, or sacred temples of Lhasa, Shenzhen should not be mistaken as a city without a history. After a visit to the Shenzhen Museum organized by the Campus Advisors for Orientation Week, newly arrived international students learned to dismiss this common misunderstanding. Established as a Special Economic Zone (SZE) only 38 years ago, Shenzhen certainly has a short history. But, that does not make it any less significant.
The museum is the ideal place for new arrivals to go to understand what gives Shenzhen the special identity and international reputation it now holds. With the assistance of a knowledgeable member of the museum staff, the students engaged with important artifacts and artistic creations in the museum’s permanent exhibit. Each depicts the constantly evolving story of the city.
The exhibit, titled “The History of Shenzhen’s Reform and Opening Up,” had many highlights. One of the most memorable being the hundreds of rare photographs expressing the care and attention major figures in modern Chinese history took to support the development of Shenzhen in its earliest stages. In one picture, students recognized a young Xi Jinping with his late father Xi Zhongxun, Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress from 1980-1993. Students also enjoyed the multiple life-sized figures of former leader Deng Xiaoping, known as the “architect of China’s reform and opening up.”
The exhibit also emphasizes how the successful development of Shenzhen depended on the courage and hard work of thousands of ordinary workers who migrated to Shenzhen to construct the first SZE in their county’s history. Major achievements in engineering, like the Port of Shenzhen, Shun Hing Square, and the Shenzhen Bay Bridge, are displayed in the museum. The exhibit allowed students to see and comprehend first-hand how Shenzhen transformed from a small village into a global hub of business in a matter of three decades.
Just as Shenzhen was the archetype for China’s development in the last decade, the exhibit suggests Shenzhen will continue to be the model of China’s growth for a long time to come. Devices made by global tech companies headquartered here in Shenzhen, like Huawei phones and DGI drones show how entrepreneurship and highly-skilled labor is the future of the Chinese economy.
Over 45 students from both the School of Transnational Law and HSBC Business School participated in what was the first trip PKU Shenzhen has made to the Shenzhen Museum. The museum’s location in the Civic Center of Shenzhen allowed students to be introduced to other cultural offerings of the city, including the beautiful Shenzhen Library and Shenzhen Concert Hall.
Of course, the greatest cultural offering of Shenzhen may be the wide variety of food, especially Chinese cuisine, available in the city. After the museum tour, the Campus Advisors and their groups made their way over to nearby Coco Park to enjoy some of the delicious options in the major commercial and entertainment area of downtown.
Written by Nathan Faber