Shenzhen’s 40th Birthday!

Catch up on the brief history of China’s economic powerhouse and “Most Livable City”.

It seems that the celebrations of the 40th anniversary have been going around for a while now. Indeed, there are several reasons for the ongoing celebration in Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta Region. To clear it up, let’s get our facts straight by summarizing three main dates:

1. In 1978, the Central Committee of Communist Party of China (CPC) declares a new era of Reform and Opening-up.
Deng Xiaoping statue on summit of Lianhua Mountain, Shenzhen – Wikipedia Commons

Led by the chief architect of the reforms, Deng Xiaoping, the government aspired to introduce market-driven policies into the planned economy of China. The Committee approved the construction of an export-oriented industrial and trading zone which would be designed and implemented in the subsequent years. This was just the cornerstone that triggered what we know today as modern China.

During 2018, the 40th Anniversary of the Opening-up Reform, the celebrations of “‘Chasing the Dream: A New Chapter of Reform and Opening-up” took place in downtown Shenzhen. Magnificent light shows were depicted over the skyline of the central district of Futian.

2. In 1979, Shenzhen is officially established as a city. 
Central District of Futian:,October 2018

The name Shenzhen alludes to the topographical features of the region where abundant rivers and streams were connected through deep drains which facilitated the irrigation of rice fields. The Chinese character Shēn 深means “deep or profound” and Zhèn 圳refers to the “ditch or drains” between the fields.

In January of 1979, the Shekou Port, nowadays known for its international cuisine and nightlife as Sea World, was established as the first export processing zone. This was a decisive step towards development. It connected Shenzhen to the world. That same year, the first dynamite blast inaugurated the construction of the port.

Port of Shekou, August 2018

As of March 1st, 2019, the city of Shenzhen is officially 40 years old! The municipal government is planning several events, for instance the Woman’s Tennis Association (WTA) Shenzhen Open at Longgang and the Belt and Road International Music Festival with 21 concerts (March 24th – April 14th) from visiting musicians from over 40 countries.

3. Finally, in 1980 the first special economic zone (SEZ) was established in Shenzhen.

On August 26th, 1980 the first SEZ originally included 4 districts Nanshan, Futian Luohu and Yantian comprising a total area of 396 square kilometers (marked in red). It remained this way until an expansion incorporated Bao’an, Guangming, Longhua, Longgang, Pingshan and Dapeng. The total area of the city is now 1,997.47 square kilometers (marked in green). Today, the whole city is administrated as a SEZ.

The purpose of the SEZ was to become a sandbox for pilot market-oriented policies in the hopes that Shenzhen would lead the country’s modernization. The policies gave districts special tax incentives for foreign investments, allowed greater independence from restrictive national economic policy regarding international trade, focused on attracting foreign capital for investment in infrastructure and joint ventures, and production was largely concentrated for export-oriented goods which were driven by market forces. However, Shenzhen was only the beginning, by the end of 1981, the SEZ of Zhuhai, Xiamen and Shantou were also inaugurated.

Shenzhen has become home to tech companies such as Huawei, Tencent, DJI, ZTE, Ping An, among others. It is considered to be “China’s Silicon Valley”. It is also home to the famous electronics market located at Huaqiangbei. Now, its GDP has surpassed Hong Kong’s, and it was recently rated as the city with the best quality of life in China.

Ping An Financial Centre, August 2018

It is said that when visiting China, if you go to Beijing you will experience the past and classical ways of China, if you go to the financial hub and trade center, Shanghai, you will understand the contemporary society, and if you go to Shenzhen, you will be able to see the future through the transformation of a small fishing village into the most promising city of the country.  

The eyes of the entire world are now set on Shenzhen. It is its time to shine… Happy birthday from the Nanyan Observer at Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School!

Written by: Dany Bonfil

Photos by Dany Bonfil (unless otherwise noted)


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