Shenzhen celebrating 40 successful years

Wang Yong
Celebrations attended by President Xi Jinping will afford China watchers a rare opportunity to see how the city continues to spearhead the drive to deepen reform and opening-up.
Wang Yong

Shenzhen, one of China’s first special economic zones, celebrates its 40th anniversary on Wednesday as the country carries reform and opening-up to a higher level.

In many ways, the event will offer China watchers a rare opportunity to see how the city will continue to spearhead the nation’s drive to deepen reform and opening-up and to defend the rule of law in trade and investment.

President Xi Jinping will attend the celebrations and deliver a speech, Xinhua news agency reported.

Between 1980 and 2020, Shenzhen, in south China's Guangdong Province, has morphed from a small fishing village into a metropolitan city. Dubbed "China’s Silicon Valley," the city saw its GDP surging from 270 million yuan (US$40 million) in 1980 to 2.69 trillion yuan last year, supported by robust growth in the high-tech, financial and manufacturing sectors.

The city’s “can-do” spirit has attracted such IT heavyweights as Tencent and Huawei to set up their headquarters on its turf. On Monday, CGTN (China Global Television Network) said that, on average, there are 8.5 state-level high-tech enterprises per square kilometer in Shenzhen, and nearly 300 overseas Fortune 500 enterprises have settled in the city.

What will Shenzhen do next and where will it be in the next 40 years?

Just a few days ago, Xinhua published a report from which we could glean clear clues, if not concrete details. According to the report, China has just released the implementation measures (2020-2025) of a comprehensive reform to build Shenzhen into a pilot demonstration area of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

It’s not just a new appellation. “A pilot demonstration area of socialism with Chinese characteristics” is in essence about social and economic development in a more open and equitable way. It focuses on a benign balance between market forces and administrative responsibility, between man and nature, between the city and the countryside. Ultimately, it promotes common prosperity for the people and seeks sustainable growth.

The implementation measures state that Shenzhen should have basically completed the pilot reform by 2025, setting an example for the rest of the country in system-building.

Last year, China endorsed Shenzhen to become “a pilot demonstration area of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The latest implementation measures have thrashed out more details, including delegation of more decision-making power to the city when it comes to allocating the use of certain types of land.

In an interview with Xinhua last year, Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for China-America Studies, said: “As China transitions from being a high-growth to a quality-growth economy, Shenzhen embodies the potential to once again become that magnet of reform and opening-up that it had been 40 years ago.”

Indeed. According to the implementation measures, Shenzhen will further open up its financial and shipping sectors, among others. It will also strengthen the protection of intellectual rights. But what impresses me most is an emphasis on improving people’s livelihoods and enhancing their level of happiness. 

And Shenzhen has been doing just that. In the first eight months of this year, nearly 70 percent of the city's expenditure went to education, health care and other sectors closely related to people's livelihoods, People's Daily reported on Tuesday.

Looking ahead, it's the people who will benefit most from the city's prosperity. In that sense, Shenzhen may help enrich the definition of a great city.

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