Shenzhen started out as a market town with a population of around 30,000 people, located on the route of the Kowloon-Canton Railway. In 1979, Shenzhen was promoted to city-status and in 1980 it was designated China’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ), through the initiative of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
The removal of restrictions on business, its advantageous geographical location and the development of transport infrastructure caused a rapid inflow of investment from Hong Kong and other regions into the SEZ.
In less than 40 years, Shenzhen transformed into one of the largest and wealthiest cities and a major financial and technological centre in China.
Known for its high-rise architecture, as well as the speed at which its skyscrapers are erected, there are 49 buildings above 200 meters in total in Shenzhen and another 48 are currently being constructed.
In 2016, 84 out of the 128 200-meter-plus buildings completed in the world were built in China and eleven new skyscrapers were constructed in Shenzhen, which is more than the number of skyscrapers erected in the US and almost twice as much as was built in any other Chinese city.
A few economic facts about Shenzhen:
- Shenzhen was one of the fastest-growing cities in the world during the 1990s and the 2000s
- Its GDP amounted to $284 billion in 2016
- It is home to the headquarters of technology giants such as Huawei and Tencent
- There are about a thousand active startup accelerators in the city
- Shenzhen is now one of the four largest and wealthiest cities in China
- It is sometimes referred to as “China’s Silicon Valley”
- Its population is estimated to be at least 18 million, taking into account the large population of migrant workers living in the city
Shenzhen is a blueprint for Chinese development in the last 40 years. The fact that they were able to transform a small market town into a major financial and technological centre in China in that timeframe is testimony to both their vision and capability to regenerate areas of relative economic deprivation. This is also an indication of the future direction of the OBOR initiative as economic zones, towns and cities are developed to support the vast infrastructural developments in terms of road, rail and port.